Monday, August 21, 2017
We had been told yesterday that the park might be open by 4:30 am, so we set our alarm for 2am, which comes mighty early. I tried, unsuccessfully, to console myself with the thought that it was 3am back home, not so early after all. Oh well. We were on the road by 2:30, and we were definitely not alone. We could see plenty of cars in front of and behind us.
Mark had identified an alternate entry into the park that we decided to try. This meant leaving the Interstate about 20 miles south of Glendo and taking some country roads. As we approached the town of Guernsey, it was lit up like they were expecting a UFO visit, ala Devil’s Tower in “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.” I doubt those lights are dark sky compliant, and I don’t know how anyone in that town can sleep at night. Our son and his wife were staying at a ranch about 15 miles away, and they commented that the lights from Guernsey interfered with their star gazing.
We stopped by the ranch to see about parking there, but it was 4am, and no one was up, so we continued on to the park. It is very dark in most of Wyoming, Guernsey excepted, and we came frighteningly close to several deer before seeing them. The back entry to the park is a gravel road, a very dusty gravel road, that twists through about 6.5 miles of ranch land, all posted “No Trespassing,” and all unlit. We saw a number of vehicles and campers parked along this road – our backup plan was to park here as well if there was no access to the park. Fortunately, there was access – YAY!
We found our spot a little before 5am. There was still plenty of parking available. The park limits the number of campers to prevent crowding, plus this was at the far end of the park road. It was obvious that most of the others had been there all night, as many were sleeping in their cars. We kept the lights off and did our best to be quiet.
Waiting for the Sun
After the sun came up, and people started stirring, Mark set up camp. It was a lovely location, with a low rise where we could have an unblocked view of the activities. Mark had several cameras to set up. He was determined to capture as much of the event as possible. He even set up a white background to capture what are called shadow bands, thin, wavy lines of alternating light and dark that can be seen moving and undulating in parallel on plain-colored surfaces immediately before and after a total eclipse.
The show started at 10:30 am and lasted until 1:13 pm. Totality lasted almost 2.5 minutes. I did take photos, but they weren’t very good. I was surprised to find that my phone took better photos than my camera did. Hmm, time for a new camera? I will only share a few of my shots. In fairness, I didn’t take the photos of totality – those came from our son, who, as you can tell, is a much more skilled photographer than I am.
We did see the shadow lines. We also notice that shadows of normal objects became fuzzier as we approached totality. There was a noticeable drop in temperature as the eclipse event progressed. At totality, we could see some of the brighter stars and planets in the sky. It wasn’t truly dark, more like dusk. It was an exciting show, and we’re happy we could experience it here at Glendo State Park.
We packed up and left the park, again using a back road, but one that was a little straighter. We connected with our son and daughter-in-law at the ranch where they spent the day, and decided to go to the nearby town of Guernsey for lunch. The first few miles weren’t so bad, but when we reached the first turn at Hartville, traffic was already backing up. We visited with one of the volunteer firefighters who was helping to direct traffic, and he told us that the interstate was backed up for miles. We decided to go north to Lusk for lunch while our son charged his Tesla.
When we reached the supercharger at Lusk, there were four cars charging, and a half dozen waiting in line. It seemed like a good idea to grab lunch and come back later when the line would be shorter. Hah! It was twice as long when we came back. We left them there and started heading north. Traffic flowed smoothly until we hit I25 near Glendo. The traffic in town was backed up several miles just waiting to enter I25. I read later that there were an additional 217,000 vehicles on the roads in Wyoming yesterday. We saw them, actually we saw the same few travelers for hours. We heard their arguments, watched them exit their cars to visit the ditch, compared their dust to ours, and commiserated over their flat tires, empty gas tanks and full bladders. We were monitoring our fluid intake so we could last. I was so glad I had my GoGirl just in case.
In the first hour, we made 5 miles; in the second, almost 20; and in the third, Mark plotted an alternate route (50 extra miles, and 3 hours less driving. We weren’t the only ones who chose this alternate, and most of the others were in a big hurry to get home. I chose to take my time (5-10 miles below the speed limit) since I’d been up over 20 hours already, I wasn’t familiar with the road which wound around a lot, it was very, very dark, and I was watching for wildlife that might jump out in front of me. I was happy to let the others pass me, even hugging the side of the road to give them more room, but a few drivers were less than appreciative, flashing me as they approached (probably gesturing as well.) At one point, I saw two cars behind me racing each other to be the first to pass me. After they did pass, they continued to race each other, jockeying for position. Were they Teslas, using ludicrous mode? Scary! I was more than grateful to pass the driving off to Mark after that episode.
We got back to our hotel around 1am. The interstate was still very busy at that time, mostly Colorado residents, anxious to get home before work I suppose. We’d been up for 23 hours. It took us over six hours to drive from Lusk to Cheyenne, normally about a 2.5 hour drive. We spoke to others the next day who stayed on the interstate and whose drive took about three hours longer than ours. Thanks, Mark, for plotting a new course.
By the way, our Prius has an interesting safety feature that we weren’t aware of. If it detects that your driving is less than safe, perhaps you are drifting in and out of your lane, or your speed is erratic, it pops up a message asking if you need to take a rest. The answer was “YES,” but there was no opportunity. We envied the RV drivers who could simply pull over and take a break.
Although we complained excessively about the traffic, it was worth it. It’s sort of like giving birth – horrible when you’re going through it, but easily forgotten in the joy of the result.