First day of fall. What better a day than to showcase the cover art for my new book!! Thanks to my good friend Antsy McClain for the concept and artwork! Titled “Less Beaten Paths of America: Unique Town Names,” it will cover dozens of unique places I have visited. Get in on it by showing your interest — send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and get on the list! Preorders sometime in mid-late October! Making a Kindle version too!! Enjoy the Ride!
This is part two of my Midland Trail series and this post will focus on West Virginia’s Capital Charleston. During most of May I spent a great deal of time in this lovely river town while visiting a friend of mine who was ill and eventually passed away. That is another story.
During my time in Charleston, I took the opportunity to drive around the town and get photos of the unique Capitol Building, a few other buildings, murals and other things. The town certainly does have its own unique personality.
Charleston is the capital and largest city West Virginia. It is located at the confluence of the Elk and Kanawha Rivers in Kanawha County. The city apparently got its start in the late 1700s and historical conjecture indicates that Charleston is named after Col. George Clendenin’s father, Charles. Col. Clendenin acquired the deed to the area in 1786. Charles Town was later shortened to Charleston to avoid confusion with another Charles Town in eastern West Virginia, which was named after George Washington’s brother Charles. Daniel Boone was a resident for a time and served on the Virginia House of Delegates.
A short drive around the area near the Capitol Building provides the opportunity to see a few murals, one of my favorite things to look for. Here are a few murals in the area…but I don’t think I found them all yet!!
Another mural I came across was on the back side of a convenience store in an alley.
Murals aren’t the only public art in Charleston. As noted in their website Public Art in Charleston, the town has promoted art works including murals and sculptures for over 13 years. While driving around town I came across one sculpture that looked oddly familiar. Titled “Hallelujah,”, the piece below is by artist Albert Paley, who made four massive sculptures entitled “Odyssey” in Council Bluffs, IA (see my post here).
Another interesting sculpture, very close by is the “Festival Delle Arti” by artist Harry Marinsky. This whimsical work of art is likely appealing to children (and adults with the hearts of children!).
More scenes from downtown Charleston include some buildings and signs. Really a fun place to visit.
I found Charleston to be a wonderful town…lovely bridges, a nice river, beautiful buildings and artwork.
It all started last Wednesday (August 16) when I found out that I would not be continuing as a Japanese interpreter at Toyota in Georgetown, KY (It was a short term contract and was not renewed). I realized at that time that I would have Eclipse Day off and the opportunity to go witness the solar eclipse in its totality in southwestern Kentucky. Needless to say I was overwhelmingly thrilled!
Excitement mounted as I invited my granddaughter Autumn to join with me. The first thing I did was to look for solar eclipse glasses. It was a fruitless attempt on Amazon.com at this late stage of the ball game. It was also fruitless in Lexington as dozens of stores had been sold out for a couple of weeks. Finally, m ly daughter located somebody via Facebook marketplace and picked up a couple of the cheap cardboard glasses for eight dollars a piece or two for $15. At least I knew I would have eye protection to witness the event!
My next great effort was to find a solar eclipse filter for my Nikon camera. This too was fruitless. Everything was sold out including the Mylar filters. What a bummer!
Despite all of this, I knew that with my Nikon I would be able to at least take photos of the full eclipse and the Corona. So I decided I would settle on that and try to do what I could with my iPhone.
Being a travel blogger and having been to many huge events in the past, I knew that the town of Hopkinsville would be an absolute circus. The small town of 30,000 was expecting anywhere from 100,000 to 150,000 visitors from around the country and around the world. So, since I did not have filters, I decided that I would also take some time in Hopkinsville and the surrounding town of Cerulean to get pictures of the solar eclipse “circus.”
Over the weekend I found out that my granddaughter Autumn could not join me on this trip due to a scheduled volleyball game and so I realized I would have to do it alone. Another bummer, but I would manage.
Finally, it was Monday morning — Eclipse Day. I took my wife in to work early so that I could get on the road and hopefully avoid the massive traffic. My daughter Marissa, with her husband and three children were already on their way to Hopkinsville and then onto the Land of Lakes to witness the eclipse from there.
It was a beautiful morning and a nice clear day for driving. I full well expected loads of traffic along the way, but the Bluegrass Parkway out of Lexington was not too busy. However, when I arrived at Interstate 65 near Elizabethtown, due to both the eclipse traffic and all of the construction work, there was a big traffic tie up there and I was held up for about 20 minutes.
Ironically, on the loop from Interstate 65 I was able to see a field of sunflowers which brightened my day and was kind of a sign for today! Yes indeed, the sunflowers were a sign to me that all would be well.
As I drove down the Western Parkway in Kentucky heading towards Hopkinsville, I actually saw cars from 20 different states and from the province of Ontario in Canada. I was certain that most of them were headed in the same direction I was, namely to the epicenter of the best viewing location of the eclipse on the globe.
I decided to take a back road in to Hopkinsville in hopes of seeing things along the way. I did. Twice along the way I had to stop at restrooms and the lines in the restrooms were almost as long as the lines on the freeway. And all of the individuals at the restrooms were from out of state and were headed to Hopkinsville. How ironic…
Ultimately, I made my way into Hop-town and indeed, it was a circus-like atmosphere. People had their seats in parks, on the streets and everywhere you can imagine. There were thousands of people in the town. Like a carnival, there were rides and there were numerous food trucks offering everything from funnel cakes to BBQ.
But parking was at a premium. Along the road I saw signs offering parking for the eclipse anywhere is from $10 upwards of $100. In Hopkinsville itself, parking was $30 in the downtown area unless you wanted to risk parking in one of the unmarked business lots. Following are a few scenes.
Sometime in the past couple of Hopkinsville added a nickname to the town calling themselves “Eclipseville USA.” There were welcome signs with that name as well as a nice Photo Op board downtown and a mural near their donut shop.
I drove around town to capture a few scenes of people taking photos, looking up with their glasses, their solar t-shirts and some of the other unique signs in town including those of churches. It was a fun little adventure, but I did not plan to stay in Hopkinsville for the actual eclipse.
A few of the Parking Signs along the way…..
Instead, I headed north to the small town of Cerulean, which, ironically means a deep sky-blue color. This small hamlet was the point where the sun, moon, and earth line up most perfectly during the eclipse, that is the “point of greatest eclipse” with an eclipse duration of two minutes and 40 seconds, making it the “point of longest duration.” Being the actual epicenter, NASA had a facility set up there as did all of the news stations with their satellite trucks. There were dozens of tents and thousands of people gathered on numerous farms in the area to witness the spectacle.
Wherever possible, I tried to capture images of the people gazing up, or in their variety of solar eclipse T-shirts. This was a day of celebration for everybody. I would imagine that it was probably the most photographed event in the history of the world and I was a happy participant in this event. Here are a number of shots of people from all over the world with all kinds of equipment and glasses.
I stopped by one of the farms that was selling a T-shirt so that I could at least have a T-shirt in remembrance of this event. Yes, I am the dumb tourist that likes to have T-shirts to remember events.
Not wanting to pay $30/40 to park my car, I had decided that I would head to a little place called Tiny Town, about 30 miles east of Hopkinsville. Unfortunately, due to traffic, I realized I would not be able to get there in time to set up and witness the eclipse. So, I settled at a little church right off of Interstate 24 near Cadiz that was taking a $10 donation for parking. Almost everyone gathered there were members of their church. They had a nice large parking lot and there were maybe fifty people there. I could see the fast food restaurants over on the Interstate from this spot.
These people were really friendly and I was really grateful that I was able to find this location to enjoy the last few minutes of the eclipse and then the totality.
I made a makeshift filter for my iPhone using the second pair of glasses that I had. That seemed to work OK, but the iPhone just did not have the zoom capability to pick up the eclipse as it was happening. Here’s a couple of the best shots I could do.
As it got very close to the end and to full totality, I watched through my glasses and finally got my camera ready to capture the fill eclipse. I was overwhelmingly pleased with the results!!
Everything happened so fast! As the totality began, the sky looked weird and kind of eerie. The street lamps all automatically turned on and the sky out on the horizon all-around had turned pink like sunset. Suddenly, it was dark. Not dark as night, but dark enough for the stars to come out and some of the planets to be seen. Above was this amazing scene of a big black circle with a white wavy halo around it. I could look at it with my naked eye and was awestruck by the beauty and the amazing nature of what I was watching. The people in the church parking lot all let out a great cheer when it hit totality.
During the time before the totality and after the totality a teenage boy that’s a member of the church had come over to talk to me and asked me where I was from and wanted to share his pictures with me and me share mine with him. I showed him the photos I was able to take with my Nikon as seen above.
Amazing as these photos might be, they don’t even come close to what was really seen with the naked eye. Around the edge of the moon on the inside of the Corona I could see colors with my naked eye. And there was a strange glow in the air. It was phenomenal and most likely a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me. Honestly, words cannot describe the experience.
My daughter Marissa was down there and also noticed the unique shadow effects. This is a picture of my granddaughter Joselyn with the unique moon-shaped shadows just before totality.
After that finished, rather than watching the eclipse continue on, I immediately moved photos from my Nikon onto my iPhone, got them ready for upload and put them on Facebook so that all of my friends on Facebook and around the world could see what I had seen. I wanted to share this amazing experience with the individuals that would not get to enjoy the same experience and wanted to do so as quickly as possible.
As with any event of this huge nature, the next challenge would be the return trip home. I dictated this entire post to my phone while driving home on the Western Parkway. There were many moments of total parking lot style stopping as well as slow going. It REALLY had become a Parkway!!
The majority of the vehicles on the road heading east were from out of state and I am certain that most of them had come from Hopkinsville, Russelville or Land Between the Lakes where they had witnessed the same spectacle that I had. As I sat in my car, I saw cars from New Jersey, Ohio, Massachusetts, Maryland, Texas, Ontario, West Virginia, New York, Pennsylvania and Indiana.
This was one of the most grand spectacles that I have ever experienced in my life. I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to witness one of the amazing features of nature and one that happens so rarely. I’m grateful that my children and grandchildren in Washington were able to go to Salem, Oregon and see it there. I wish that my wife, my other children and grandchildren could’ve experienced it. Maybe we can catch the next one on April 8, 2024. Indianapolis will be in the path of totality and the eclipse will last for a whopping 4 minutes. I am getting ready for it already!!
And this is my report on the Great American Solar Eclipse of 2017.