On January 1, 2017 I sat on a beach in Ocean City, Maryland to watch a spectacular sunrise and pondered to myself about the opportunities I would have to travel throughout the year. Little did I really know the extent that I would actually travel over the year and I’m grateful that I’ve had a wonderful year of seeing more of this beautiful country.
Beginning with that glorious morning in Maryland, over the course of the year I have driven nearly 15,000 miles on road trips, many to visit family or be with family, but all of the trips have been wonderful. Some have been close by doing what I refer to as “staycation“ trips in Kentucky. But, throughout the course of the year I have been to 19 different states and have seen a plethora of places and things. Many of the trips included time with my wife, my children and my grandchildren. That makes things so much better and enjoyable!
In July we had a family reunion. It was the first in five years and all of my 10 grandchildren and all my five children were here at one time or another and even my sister and her husband and daughter came up to visit. During that time we also visited my extended family in Cleveland, Ohio. So, travel was not the only joyful thing. Family is the best.
The following photos tell just a small story of the past year. I have already posted some of the things in more detail and have five or six others in the works about specific places. But here are just some of the places and things form this past year. ENJOY THE RIDE!
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.
During the month of May I made several trips to West Virginia to assist a friend in need. Also, during Easter Weekend (2017) I had occasion to take my wife to northern Virginia near Shenandoah National Park and on my return started my treks along US Route 60 in West Virginia, what they refer to as the Midland Trail. On subsequent visits, I tried to hit US 60 in the western part of the state as well.
The Midland Trail crosses some of the most rugged and beautiful terrain of the Mountain State and extends for approximately 100 miles from White Sulphur Springs in the east to Charleston in the west. The trail is believed to have been originally carved into the mountains by buffalo and native peoples. In 1790, George Washington ordered the trail cleared. The trail came to be traveled by stage coaches and soldiers in the Civil War.
Along the route there are a number of scenic stops, some of which I had time to stop for, and others which I didn’t. But the rugged hills of West Virginia along this route made for a scenic drive, even if I didn’t stop.
My first venture on the Midland Trail came on Easter morning as I headed home from Shenandoah National Park. It was then that I actually decided to hop off of Interstate 64 and onto US 60. There wasn’t much in White Sulphur Springs, so I continued on to Lewisburg. Like White Sulphur Springs, Lewisburg is known for its sulfur springs and their curative powers. It is also home to the immaculate and world famous Greenbrier Resort.
To prove they are the “coolest” town, they even have a huge fiberglass snowman at one of the businesses.
I found this guy at Brabble & Shores Insulation. It is a classic Roadside America type of thing…perfect for the silly selfie! That alone makes this town a pretty cool place in my opinion.
Always on a quest to document old covered bridges, I came across the Herns Mill Covered Bridge, which was begun in 1879 and completed in 1884. The bridge is approximately 54 feet long and 10.6 feet wide and is open to travel. Many renovations were made in 2000 — concrete abutments and steel I-beams, guard walls, portal timbers, a new metal roof and siding — to ensure the cover bridge’s longevity.
From Lewisburg heading west there are a number of small towns to pass through. My next stop on the trail was at Sam Black Church. It is one of the few towns I have encountered that actually is named after a church building.
The building was built in a classic Gothic style in 1902 and was named named in honor of Rev. Samuel Black, a circuit-riding Southern Methodist preacher. It is a small one story building with a gable roof. It features a square, open bell tower with a hipped roof.
The building was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1999.
Continuing west I came to the uniquely named town of Charmco, WV. At 2,408′ in elevation, it is a mountain town. It remains today as a coal mining town. I liked the “charm” part of the name (reminded me of the Amish town of Charm, OH). However, it turns out there is really no charm intended. The community was named for the Charleston Milling Company in 1933.
I traveled through Rainelle (and, ironically was deluged by a rainstorm so kept going). I eventually made my way to Lookout, WV, which was supposedly named because the Native American tribes used the elevated location as a lookout point.
I added another unique flag to my collection of “non-flag” flags that I come across when traveling. This one was made of stones and sat next to the Post Office parking lot.
I am always on the lookout for flags represented in other media and have found a couple of dozen in the past few years.
Then of course, there are the old retro Mom and Pop motels that can be found along an old US Highways. The Midland Trail Motel is one of these. (Route 60 is actually longer than Route 66 and has many similar features.) A little trivia from Wikipedia: traveling 2,670 mi from southwestern Arizona to the Atlantic coast in Virginia. Despite the final “0” in its number, indicating a transcontinental designation, the 1926 route formerly ended in Springfield, Missouri, at its intersection with the major US 66. In fact, US 66 was almost given the US 60 number.
One of the most “touristy” places along the Midland Trail is found near Fayetteville, WV. This is home to the New River Gorge and the massive New River Gorge Bridge. This is a steel arch bridge 3,030 feet long over the New River Gorge. I visited the bridge a couple of times in the past and so didn’t want to stop on this trip due to time constraints.
Of course, where there are National Parks or National Bridges, etc., there are always the Tourist Traps. The “Unbelievable Mystery Hole” is one of these. We stopped there in 1995 on our drive through (but it was closed). When I drove by this time it was also closed. But it has all of the quirkiness.
Bottom line, the place claims to be a gravity defying hole and draws tourists who want to have a “can’t believe your eyes” experience. It is just funny to me that it so happens to be close to a National Park site (as many of these great experience places are.”
After passing by the Hawk’s Nest State Park, which offers some spectacular views (we actually stayed there in 1995), I continued on my trek into Gauley Bridge, where the Kanawha River is formed at the confluence of the New River (which formed the gorge) and the Gauley River.
This is actually another scenic location with a beautiful view of the beginnings of the Kanahwa River and a very nice waterfall – Cathedral Falls. At a drop of 60 feet, the falls are considered to be one of the highest and most scenic waterfalls in West Virginia. What’s better, they are literally located right alongside US 60. Definitely worth a visit.
I didn’t see many murals on this trip, but there was a nice one on the side of a building in Gauley Bridge. The only actual mural I saw on the Midland Trail until I was in Charleston.
From Gauley Bridge, US 60 follows the route of the Kanawha River. Another nice set of waterfalls can be seen at Kanawha Falls in Glen Ferris, WV. The drop of these falls is only about 15 feet, but it is a wide and loud waterfall.
After my brief stop at Kanawha Falls, I continued into Charleston on the winding highway. It really was a beautiful drive. And it is always a treat to see the golden dome of the state capitol building.
Part 2 will be posted soon and is all about the Charleston area. Part 3 will then be posted about the portion of Route 60 from Charleston to the Kentucky border.