Eclipse Trip – Day 5

The final day begins with a headache.  Woke up with a headache.  I think maybe the fragrance in the area triggered it.  We have until noon to checkout but we don’t to spend all morning in Reno.  I had planned that we’d take I-80 to Sacramento then highway 99 down California through Fresno, Bakersfield and then highway 58 to connect up with highway 395.  But, that would add a least an hour to our drive making it 9 hrs.  Both Adrian and I didn’t want to add more time.  So, we planned for the boring, but quicker route straight down highway 395 half of which is our typical drive to go to Grandview.

First, we wanted to see what was open for breakfast and play some games at the carnival area. Well, nothing but the pizza shop was open for breakfast, disappointing.  The Midway carnival area did not open until 1pm.  Still some of the games were available and we spent the $10 of found money.  Adrian hit it big on a couple of games but, we could not turn in our tickets because everything was closed. Disappointed again.  We left with a pile of unclaimed tickets.

Headed out of Circus Circus looking for a McDonald’s for breakfast.  After negotiating the one-way streets, found the downtown McDs but it looked sketchy.  Looked up other McDs and found a better one outside downtown.  We ate and used McDonald’s WiFi to finish downloading a movie for Adrian to watch.  The McD’s wifi was faster than Circus Circus’s.  After fueling the truck for the journey, we got back on I-80 east, backtracking, to connect to highway 395.  Google Maps routed us a weird way through Carson City a little bit in what I guess it thought was quicker than staying on the highways that ends.  At least we drove through Carson City our second state capital.

I’d been on highway 395 to Reno before but it’s been a while.  I forgot how mountainous it is going through the Sierras near Tahoe and Mammoth.   We drove though a few intense downpours while in the mountains.  Near Lake Topaz and the California border, we got stuck once again by road paving.  The road was sectioned off into one lane and we had to wait again for the opposing traffic to pass through.  It seemed to take a long time to pass through the mountains but it was pretty.  We stopped at gas station in Lee Vining after passing by Mono Lake; Adrian’s second visit by Mono Lake earlier in the summer with the Scouts.

Onward we pushed on through the mountains with until finally, near Bishop, the mountains stop and the desert begins again.  Having enough gas, we push on from Bishop, Big Pine, Independence and finally stop in Lone Pine for a gas and lunch.

The rest of the drive is the typical drive through the desert that we take when going to Grandview for astronomy.  We stopped at Kramer junction for a bathroom break.  By the time we go to Adelanto, it was sunset and getting dark.  The Cajon Pass was typical traffic and we came down without any issues.  The last bits on the 215 and 210 until home.  The dogs were very happy to see us.


Eclipse Trip – Day 4

Starting around 11:30am, it’s time to start the trip home with today’s destination being Reno, NV.  The first step is to get back on I-84 and head back towards Boise.  But oops, I started off going the wrong way as I missed the onramp.  No big deal, I only had to go up the freeway for about 4.4 miles then turn around and back the other way.  I saw the Lime factory from the freeway.  Continuing on through the hills of Oregon, that I wasn’t paying much attention to when arriving, there’s a large lake to the left as we head back.

I added a destination for a stop and lunch which Adrian is not aware. We pass through farmlands.  We are mainly in Oregon as we are on the west side of the Snake river.  Google maps takes us through the farms on country roads.  It’s as if we are lost but trust Google until we arrive at Adrian, Oregon.  Adrian (the boy) is excited by the place.  We stop at the only restaurant in town a rural place populated by the locals.  We both have hamburgers and they are good, tasty and juicy.

After Adrian, OR, we continue down the main road we were on.  At first, my phone had no data connection so it could not calculate directions.  As we continue, I try telling Google to map to Reno Nevada. Eventually Google hears and plots a course; it says it will take 9+ hours.  This is a lot longer than I anticipated but since the data connection are spotty, I go with it.  Passing from Oregon to Idaho, the time jumps an hour ahead. Our next major connection is to get on highway 95 and head south through Idaho.

On highway 95 we encounter traffic.  I am sure that highway 95 does not see this amount of traffic on a normal day.  The landscape is desert with mesa mountains in the distance.  We navigate the traffic, making our way past slower vehicles passing using the oncoming lane.  We pass from Idaho to Oregon again but this time the time does not change as this county in Oregon is on Mountain time.  There are several small towns that dot the highway.  I decide on stopping at Jordan Valley for fuel.  It’s at a bend on highway 95 and is very busy.  I find a spot to fill up at the only gas station (another Sinclair) and since we are in Oregon, the attendant/mechanic has to pump the gas.  There’s a tour bus or two stopped at this area and there are lines outside to the restrooms, so we skip that.

Back on the road, with a full tank, we don’t have to worry about the other stations having long lines.  Next stop, we McDermitt, NV.  I hadn’t realized that McDermitt was in Nevada thereby missing opportunities to  pick up an Oregon refrigerator magnet while in Oregon.  There’s not much to McDermitt but a casino/restaurant and a Texaco (with long lines).  In the casino/restaurant, it says that the restrooms are for customers only so we go to the restaurant for a couple drinks to go. The restaurant has WiFi so I connect and check the route.  LOL Google maps only heard the “Nevada” part of my destination to Reno, NV.  Therefore, it was routing us to the middle of Nevada and that is why I was going to take 7 more hours.  I know we needed to get on I-80 heading west so I wasn’t too excited when then route time was so long.  I figured we were heading in the right direction anyway.

Back on the road.  After the eclipse, this trip seems to be getting longer.  The next major town/city and our next stop is Winnemucca, NV.  We stop at a City Gas station, fuel up and stop to get some waters and to use the restrooms.  I found a $10 bill in the gutter near my truck.  Thinking of either gambling it, buying a drink or playing games with it when we get to Reno.  Right out of Winnemucca, the this road work that takes away lanes on the freeway and slows us down.  There’s not much to see or report from the I-80 mostly desert.  Near Fallon, NV, there is more road construction this time stopping traffic as they are paving the road and it down to one lane letting traffic pass one direction at a time.  By now the sun has set.

By now it’s night and the day is getting long.  There’s a town, Fernley, that lights up the road.  After Fernley, the landscape changes from desert to mountains.  The mountain pass has industrial buildings on either side probably mining.  After the mountains we finally see the casinos of Reno while passing through the connected city of Sparks.

Circus Circus Reno NV
from the Circus Circus website

We find our way to Circus Circus and check in.  The clerk asks us if we want a lower or upper floor.  Adrian wants an upper floor and we are sent to the top, 23rd floor.  We have to park across the street and walk the overpass back to the hotel.  It’s a bit of a pain to make our way back to the lobby to go to our room.  It’s an OK room with two nice beds, large bathroom and a view of the non-downtown side.  One of the things I notice is that the room seems to have a perfumy smell like an air freshener is turned on.  I can only tell that it might be coming from the hallway.  The room’s walls are thin, we can hear the neighbors.  When we go down to get dinner, the only restaurant open is a pizzeria.  It’s OK but I would have liked more choices.  But after the long day, it feels good to finally rest.

Eclipse Trip – Eclipse Day

Well, today’s the day.  Monday, August 21, 2017. 6:00 am.

I couldn’t sleep well during the night.  Felt like I woke up every hour.  A combination of nerves and excitement.  Decided to get going at 6am Boise time so that we had enough time to pack up, eat breakfast the hotel and be on the road with plenty of time to spare incase there was traffic issues.  The hotel clerk said it was a busy morning with people starting to check out as early as 3am.

We took the I-84 west towards Lime, OR.  The traffic I was anticipating did not materialize.  The interstate was completely clear up to our turnoff.  Adrian slept in the back for a little bit.

At the turnoff, traffic slowed down a little bit.  This was the orange and red indicators on Google Maps.  But, traffic moved as cars found their destinations either in the small town of Huntington or further up the road, pulled off to the side.  We stopped near Lime, pulled off to the side of the road near the turnoff that would take you up to the Lime abandon factory.  We got there with over an hour until first contact.  Got there before the Sun had risen above the nearby hill. But we got there. So we just rested until it was time and the crowds continued to arrive.

Lime OR
Lime, OR representing SBVAA

Adrian and I setup our chairs on the hill above the truck.  First contact arrived at 9:10 am, PDT (now in Oregon, we were back on Pacific time).  We watched the moon make its march across the sun using the eclipse glasses and eclipse binoculars.  I also used a pinhole projection.  The day was warm and a breeze started to pick up during the eclipse.  When the moon covered about 50% of the sun, the temperature started to drop but the daylight did not seem any less intense.  By 75% coverage, the wind had slowed or stopped and the daylight started to show signs that it was not as bright.

I’d never been in an eclipse greater than 80%.  The last near total was back in 1991 I think and we had close to 80% then.  The closer it came to 90%, the darker the daylight became.  Someone was playing Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon album. People to the left and right of us were excited.  Adrian was excited; so was I.  I keep the solar binoculars so that I could watch the last bits of the sun.

People yelled and were excited as day turned into night.  I removed the binoculars to find the a black hole was covering the sun and the sun’s corona extending like a halo about the black circle.  It was not uniform.  I remember the upper right extending more than elsewhere.  It seems bigger in the sky with our eyes than a cell phone camera can capture.  The hills, cars and freeway behind us turned to night.  They were still truck and cars traveling on the freeway during totality (still cannot believe that).  We could see some planets near the sun: Venus and Mercury.  Tried to take some photos with my cell phone but the cell phone could not resolve the moon’s darkness in front of the corona.  Posted are my cell phone pictures and an image I found on the Internet that best reproduces what I saw with my eyes.

In 2 minutes and 10 seconds, it was all over. This time I was watching the eclipse unaided and filming on my camera.  The moment of totality’s end was equally exciting as the beginning seeing the “diamond” as the first gleams of sunlight break through.  The darkness, turned to subdued lighting like a big LED was shining from above. Then the sun’s normal intensity started to take over.  As the sun came back out, the temperature started to rise and the wind picked back up.  Adrian went to the truck soon after.  Other cars took off as soon as as totality ended.  The reverse was the same as the beginning.  I  stay on hill to watch the eclipse’s end up until about 15%.  I watched in the binoculars as the moon slowly revealed a group of three sunspots near the sun’s center.  After that happened, I packed up to start the trip home about 11:15am.  We still have a long day of driving ahead.

Eclipse Trip – Day 3

Rest.  Today is a day of rest, no driving for long stretches.  Only driving for short adventures.  It is also a day to sleep in a bit before the eclipse tomorrow and we do.

After a nearly missing the 9:30am breakfast, Adrian and I lounge around in the hotel for the morning.  By 11:15am, we are off to go see a movie at a local theater.  Neither of us had the chance to see Spider-Man: Homecoming.  Having been released over a month ago and being a 12:00pm movie, the theater is occupied by us and two other families with children.  It is an entertaining movie with a good combination of humor and action.  Two thumbs up.

Next lunch and a nearby Sonic drive-up.  Adrian’s not too hungry having had too much Coke during the movie.  Despite some complaints, we continue on, I’m not telling him where we are going.  We travel to the heart of Boise to the state Capital.

Boise State Capital Building
Stylized version, looks like a postcard

Since it is a Sunday, there is no official business taking place today but there are a lot of tourists.  The first and lasting impression I have of the capital, there’s an awful lot of marble in this building.  Practically all the walls, floors, ceilings.  There are 5 floors to explore that include the House and Senate chambers, Governor’s office and legislative offices.  The ground floor has historic information on Idaho while the top floor has reproductions of “Winged Victory” and outside, the Liberty Bell.  It was an interesting place to visit and spend the afternoon.  Adrian said so too.

Before heading back to our hotel room, we head down the road a little bit to explore a nearby lake.  The lake is Lucky Peak Lake but we did not get that far, we stopped at the Lucky Peak Discovery Picnic area. It’s a place by the Boise River for afternoon visits, playing in the water and further down the road, launching boats.

The plan is to wake up early tomorrow morning.  6am Boise time.  So back at the hotel to take it easy.  We swim and relax in the spa for a little while.  Eat McDonald’s for dinner.  I fuel up the truck for tomorrow and explore the nearby outlet mall which turns out to be sparsely populated but I found a swim top.  Shower and pack up what we don’t need in the morning.  I research the expected traffic but cannot find anything concrete.  We try to go to sleep at 11pm.  It is difficult.  Both nervous and excited for tomorrow.

Eclipse Trip – Day 2

Leaving Ely, NV.  Stopped at a Sinclair /  dinosaur gas station and our first McDonald’s breakfast.

Ely Post Office
Ely Post office and convention hall

Got back onto highway 93 from Ely and headed north again through small farms and the mountains / hills to the right.  About an hour into our journey, we came to a stop, literally. Road work on highway 93 trimmed down the highway to one lane.  We had to stop for about 15-20 minutes for the southbound traffic to be let by then we were let through.  We got out of the truck and stretched.  I talked to an older gentleman who was on his way to Wyoming to see the eclipse.

Highway 93 road work
Stopped on the 93 for road work

After the stoppage, we continued on highway 93 to Wells, NV, a town at the crossroads of highway 93 and Interstate 80.  We stretched, used the restrooms and picked up Dunkin Donuts then back on the 93.  This stretch was mostly typical desert dotted with interesting bridges in which the desert roads went over the highway.  I was planning to stop in Jackpot, NV, the last town in Nevada but our fuel was good and we rested earlier in Wells.  Onward into Idaho we went!

At first Idaho looked like Nevada desert but about 30 minutes in, farms started to pop up here and there until eventually the scenery changed to all farmlands on a country road.  This continued until we could see Twin Falls in the distance and we knew a major city was near.  We stopped at a Walgreens in Twin Falls to stretch and evaluate our position on the map.  I was looking for the next gas station and where to meet the I-84 to Boise.  Picked up our Idaho potatoes refrigerator magnet.  On our way to the I-84 interchange and fueling at a Flying-J, we pulled off the highway at Perrine Memorial Bridge to look at the Snake River gorge.  It’s an impressive cut into the earth with the greenish-blue river fall below.  Found out later that Evel Knievel tried to jump the Snake near here. I should have done more research beforehand.

Last stretch to Boise seemed the longest for an hour and half.  Starts our with farms, then less farms and more desert and then desert, desert.  The land is flat with mountains / hills in the distance but they are flattened on the top.  I guess those are mesas.  I had considered going to Craters of the Moon National Park but that would have taken 2 1/2 hours to get there then back to Boise and it was already late afternoon.  Some other time I guess.

We arrived at our Best Western Northwest Lodge in Boise (outskirts of Boise) around their dinner time (Boise being an hour ahead).  We found a local restaurant  Flatbread Neapolitan Pizzeria in a Victoria Garden’s style shopping center that includes a library.  Tried out the indoor swimming pool & spa and called it a night.

Library! At Bown Crossing
Library! At Bown Crossing

Eclipse Trip – Day 1

(Dated – 8/30/2017) Oops, it’s been over a week since the eclipse and I haven’t posted anything yet. I cannot believe it’s only been that amount of time since so much more has happened since like hurricane Harvey and the flooding in Houston.  But for posterity, I’ll recount the eclipse trip.

— Day 1 —

Adrian and I headed out of Redlands, CA on August 18 about 10:30am. After a quick stop at Arco for gas and the library to drop off eclipse glasses, we set off with the first milestone being the Cajon pass. The first challenge awaited with a typical Friday traffic through the pass.  My truck does not like stop and go traffic with its tendency to overheat but having just had the coolant system flushed, it did great.

Traffic along I-15 was crowded, slow and probably normal for the main road to Vegas.  It slowed down a couple of times along the way and really slowed as we passed by Las Vegas.  I was thinking of stopping at the In-n-Out near the Strip but I missed the exit and the traffic was bad.  We ended up stopping at an In-n-Out in north Vegas, where finally the traffic eased off.  We fueled up at our first dinosaur gas station a.k.a. Sinclair and headed back on the road.

The drive out I-15 took us by the Vegas Speedway and we sighted two jets flying from nearby Nellis Air Base.   The next adventure was to take highway 93 north through Nevada.  I’d been on the I-15 this far before but had never taken the 93.  I thought we would go through miles and miles of brown desert and some of it was, but there was a also farms and green desert plants.  We stayed on highway 93 for a while then Google routed us onto highway 318 which as first was slow as we moved through some small farming areas but later picked up again.  Some spots on highway 318 took us through large hills and a canyon.

highway 318 rest stop
Rest stop along highway 318

Eventually highway 318 dead ends into highway 6.  We took a right onto highway 6 and started into mountainous country.  Previously I knew that our destination, Ely, got snow because Google street view shows it but I was not thinking that Nevada had mountains.  Ely is about 6,000 feet so yes, it can snow in the winter.  I was a little concerned on this last stretch that we were running low on fuel.  It took nearly the full tank to go from Vegas to Ely.  Google Maps again routed us through a residential section of Ely first before depositing us onto the main drag and out destination, the Hotel Nevada and Historic Gambling Hall. The room was small and showed wear but it was a restful night after a long day’s drive.  Adrian and I ended up eating at a Chinese restaurant across the street instead of the advertized Denny’s inside.

Hotel Nevada
Hotel Nevada, Ely