This past Monday was the solar eclipse in this country, and it swept across our very state, which was fun for the kids to experience.
In February 1979 there was a solar eclipse that came through Washington State, where I happened to live at the time. To be honest, I don’t remember much about that day – I was just shy of 10 years old and didn’t give a hoot about an eclipse.
But for 2017 I decided to try and make it memorable for CootieGirl and CootieBoy. A few months ago I reserved a parking spot at the SC State Fairgrounds in Columbia, SC. In early June I bought 5 pairs of eclipse glasses for $10 on Amazon. I told my boss I was taking Monday, August 21 as a vacation day. I was going to take the kids out of school (it was only a half-day anyway).
But then Amazon recalled my glasses, saying they had not been vetted. I threw them out, only to discover via an article on NASA that my glasses were NOT counterfeit after all. But by then our trash was at the dump, so the glasses could not be recovered. And by that point, there were NO glasses available to be had ANYwhere for a reasonable price.
Fortunately, I found out that a local restaurant was giving away glasses for free with any purchase of $5 or more, so Denis and I took advantage of that deal and were able to snag four glasses (and some yummy food) a few days prior to the eclipse. Crisis averted!
By Sunday, August 20 night everyone on the news was warning drivers to take precautionary supplies on the road (Drinks! Snacks! Toilet paper! Extra can of gas so you don’t run out!), to leave incredibly early and prepare for gridlock on the highways.
That night my daughter also said she wanted to go to school and didn’t care about the eclipse at all. "So if the three of us leave on Monday morning and head south, you won’t get upset when you get home from school at 1 p.m. and discover you are all alone and will miss it?"
She hesitated a moment and said, "Okay, yeah, I’d be upset.
At that moment I made the executive decision that we’d wait until the kids got home from school and then hit the road and go as far south as the horrible! no good! traffic! would allow us to go.
On Monday morning I got a message from a friend who left at 5:30 a.m. to go to Columbia, saying that they experienced no traffic at all. By noon Denis and I were consulting our GPS apps and saw that all the backroads heading south were pretty much clear. When CG and CB arrived home from school we promptly hopped in the van and began heading south on the backroads.
Sure enough – no traffic. And I mean NONE. Occasionally our route would cross over I-77, which was supposed to be a nightmare! of! gridlock! only to find it almost empty.
By 2:20 p.m. we had arrived in a quaint little town called Winnsboro, SC, within the path of totality. We easily found a parking space near Main Street (just one block from a local ice cream shop!). And just like that – the eclipse began.
It started getting dark, but not a typical "dark at sunset" dark. It was eerie and indescribable. Even with the sun 99% covered, we could still see clearly everything around us. I quickly turned on the song "Total Eclipse of the Heart" on my phone. And then the sun was 100% covered. And the sight was downright magical.
CB and I kept saying, "That is amazing!" because we had no other words to say. We could hear everyone around us cheering, so we cheered too. Even CG, who was in full crabby teenager mode driving down, had to admit it was visually appealing.
And after a minute or so, the diamond ring appeared in the sky, and suddenly it was like full day again – but this time with cicadas chirping all around us, signaling dawn had arrived.
We locked up the van and headed to the ice cream shop for a celebratory cup, and then began the trek home. Fortunately, since Winnsboro is north of Columbia, the traffic we experienced driving back north to home was relatively minor and we pulled into the garage at 4:30 p.m.
All in all, a great day and we’re so happy to have taken a chance on driving to the totality zone. We’ve already put on our calendars a trip to San Antonio, TX for the April 2024 eclipse. We’re not going to become crazy eclipse chasers, but if the path of totality in the US includes cities we wouldn’t mind visiting, then what’s the harm?