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 April I participated with nearly 2000 other bloggers worldwide in the “Blogging from A to Z Challenge” which is now in its 7th year. This was my second year to participate and this year’s theme for my series was “Wanderlust.” As a “Travelographer,” my posts tend to be photo heavy. I travel and take loads of photos. This is my way of sharing the wonders of the back roads of America.
Following are links to the complete A to Z set. Just click on the banner for each and letter and enjoy the posts and the photos. I hope all readers will Enjoy the Ride as much as I have enjoyed sharing it!
I am enriched by people. They inspire me, they teach me, they bring me joy.
I have often been told that I have never met a stranger. And it’s true. I am unabashed around people. Whether it’s joking with a person in line at a grocery store or interacting with the person at a table next to me in a restaurant, I always feel comfortable.
The same goes with my travels. I have been blessed to have met hundreds of unique individuals from all walks of life.
The diversity of people enriches us.
Unlike my other posts in this series, I am stretching far beyond the boundaries of back roads in America. This post will take the reader to Japan, the Philippines, Canada and beyond. As a tour guide in Flagstaff I got to interact with 100s of nameless tourists from all over the world. Working in Japan in the late 1980s, I met more unique folks from the far corners of the earth.
First off, there are the “random people.” The people I have photographed on the streets while traveling. Here are a few, including some from the Philippines during my trips there in 2007. From the loneliness of street people, to the unique shots I would see from the car as I drive by in some small town, these people add color.
For years, I have worked and often traveled with singer/songwriter Antsy McClain to many parts of this country. I have been blessed to meet many wonderful musicians, some very well known, others not so well known. Many I have gotten to know well…not as musicians, but as people.
Many of the musicians I have met are genuine. They are such neat people…not pretentious at all. It is nice to talk to them about life. One of them, Bobby Cochran, who played guitar for Antsy for a few years, was also the lead guitarist for the band Steppenwolf in the 1970s. I saw him as a fan back in 1975 and never imagined I would be traveling on the road with him talking religion, politics and life.
Another Antsy fan I met in Lethbridge, Alberta. Crafty Jack is a carpenter and master luthier. I spent two days with he and his sweet wife “Little Debbie” back in 2008. He taught me and my son about guitar making and took us on a nice adventure to Vulcan, Alberta to learn about Star Trek. Also, while in Lethbridge we enjoyed a dinner with him and Debbie in a converted water tower. What a trip! Our visit with him was out of this world!
I have spent time with Crafty and Debbie in California and also on a cruise to Cancun. We strolled the historic site of Tulum in Mexico together. So blessed to know these great folks.
Along the way I have become close friends with many Antsy fans. These “Flamingoheads,” as they are called, are also a diverse and lovely flock of folks. Some have become lifelong friends.
A couple of these Flamingoheads took great care of me on a visit to California in 2015. “Christmas Carla” and “Princess Ione” provided housing, touring and transportation for nearly a week. I got to know them, not as fans of Antsy, but as the real people they are with their unique life stories.
My travels across Canada and the US have led me to others. Take, for instance, Oliver Zuder, a BBQ pit master from Ontario. I met him at Camp 31 BBQ in Paris, Ontario in 2013 and we became friends soon. I went to BBQ competitions to watch him and his brother Davor make people smile with satisfaction.
In the past couple of years, Oliver has started a new BBQ business called Uncle Sam’s BBQ, also in Ontario. We keep in contact and my mouth waters every time I think of him.
Crisscrossing the country I have met and chatted with cafe owners and shop owners. Their colorful stories enrich.
I have also had my brushes with celebrities in my travels. As a tour guide in Arizona in 1983, I once met Alice Cooper in a restaurant parking lot in Sedona. We talked Golf and politics for 30 minutes. No selfies, no autographs. Just two people chatting. On another occasion, I was attending a solar conference in Kobe, Japan in 1991. At lunch I sat with some other non-Japanese from Norway. We chatted a while and then I was introduced to Morten Harket, who I immediately recognized as the lead vocalist for the group A-ha (Take on Me). He happened to be a huge advocate of solar energy. We talked about many things. No pictures or autographs. Just enriching conversation.
One of my fond memories was being on the road for three days in Kyushu, Japan as the personal guide and interpreter for Olympic gold medalist Nadia Comaneci. I spent hours listening to her harrowing escape from the Communist regime in Romania. Though a national hero, she was also a prisoner to dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu. Fascinating stuff.
Back in August 2010 I watched the first episode of the TV show Swamp People. Already an avid traveler and travel writer, I became fascinated with the show, which featured Gator hunters in Louisiana. One of them, Troy Landry, was quite a character. I told my wife “one day I am gonna track him down and meet him.” In 2015 I did just that. I visited his bait shop and crawfishing facility in Pierre Part, LA. He happened to be there buying loads and loads of crawfish from fishermen. We talked and chatted for 30 minutes or more while he worked. Friendly and outgoing, and totally good natured, he told stories of Gator hunting, told me about the crawfishing business and the let me “choot him” in a selfie.
On another roadtrip, this time into Iowa, I visited the small town of LeClaire, on the Mississippi River. This was the home to Antique Archaeology, the Antique shop made famous by the hit TV Show American Pickers. While there in that hot July afternoon, I was told that Danielle Colby, one of the cast members, was around and was always happy to meet fans. She is the tattooed friendly gal that works with the pickers on the show. During my visit, I learned that she had her own business creating unique clothing and had a shop across the street. I went over there and we chatted about her work, her roller derby hobby and her work as a burlesque dancer. She welcomed a selfie too.
Not so famous, but just as unique, was my opportunity to meet 80 year old Clyde Wynia, the creative mind behind the amazing Jurustic Park in Marshfield, WI. This former attorney turned his welding passion into a unique menagerie of metal creations, including giant dragons and small spiders. He gave me a personal tour and told some amazing stories.
I also can’t forget to mention my encounter with “the one and only JFK,” James Frank Kotera, the Twine Ball Man of Lake Nebagamon, WI. (See full story and video HERE.)
My travels have also led me to chance meetings with individuals with similar interests. And social media, especially Facebook, has extended that opportunity.
On a trip to Wyoming in 2013, I stopped at a place called Hell’s Half Acre. A unique geological formation, it was a must see photo stop for me. I struck up a conversation with a young hot shot photographer named Derek Ace, from Madison, WI. We hit it off and I got his contact info. Derek and I have been Facebook friends ever since and I have been enlightened and enriched by his amazing photography, especially his desert works and his off the chain shots of abandoned buildings, rusted cars and sundry other forgotten treasures left behind. See his Rural Ruins page for some great photos.
As an avid blogger of quirky things, I had a chance virtual encounter via the web of Texas Travel blogger Tui Snider. We exchanged notes about offbeat and quirky places in Texas and soon became good Facebook friends. On a subsequent trip to Texas in 2013, I finally met this amazing individual and her husband Larry at their gothic-accented home in Azle. Besides quirky things, Tui is also fascinated by the paranormal and has also become quite the expert on cemetery gravestone symbolism. She has published numerous books and articles. I count her as a dear friend.
Through Tui I have met ghost tour guide Shelly Cumbie in Denton, TX, who has provided many fascinating stories. I have also become a virtual friend of writer, blogger and podcaster Teal Gray.
Teal has actually done a live podcast interview with me on her internationally syndicated podcast. She also recently write an article about my travel blogging and photography for the Dallas Entertainment Journal (see the link here)
The podcast can be heard in its entirety here:
Even my local staycation trips have led me to fascinating new friends, such as local bird and nature photographers and enthusiasts. See some great photos by the members of the Jacobson Park Photographers Group which I started on Facebook. (see the site)
I have also had the opportunity to meet local chefs that have been on Food Network competitions such as Cutthroat Kitchen or Guy’s Grocery Games. Ranada Riley, co-owner of the Lexington Diner, was one of these. Her “amazing” hairdo and unique cooking style have made her a local celebrity. But there is so much more to her beyond the cooking, whether it be her faith, her love for life or her diverse lifestyle. Meeting her in person and then following her life through social media has been a great adventure.
What more can I say? People bring me great joy and it is so fun to meet new folks every week!