Monday, August 21

Here’s what Julie (@jkercher6) wrote about her experience on eclipse day:

We woke with a flexible plan. We would go to St. Clair unless the weather indicated clearer skies in Chesterfield. We would go early, 3-4 hours, in case we needed to move somewhere else, likely south. We had already filled the hotel room refrigerator with lunch food, drinks, and sparkling wine. We had a Styrofoam cooler to keep it in, necessary with the temperatures in the 90s. Kevin was anxious, worried that we would miss it again, but I thought we were doing everything we could and, beyond that, it was fate.

The sky was clear when we woke. We ate the free breakfast at the hotel. I had granola with yogurt, sliced almonds, and dried cranberries. I also had some skyr (my new favorite breakfast food from our Iceland trip) that he bought at the store the day before. The breakfast room was packed with people, lots of families, significantly different from the next day which was 6 or 7 business people. After double checking the weather report, we packed up and headed down the highway. Traffic was light, surprisingly.

We drove to the old airport because it was recommended in the St. Clair website, but when we got there, a sign said no public parking and a man confirmed that it was no longer an option due to a decision by the FAA. So we turned around and headed toward town, looking for another possibility but trying to avoid going all the way into town because we had not reserved a parking space. We stopped at Burger King, just before the highway to use the bathroom, but soon realized that this was a good option. People were already parking with their eclipse glasses, there was no charge, easy access to bathrooms, and it would be easy to get back on the highway. Except for a sign reserving employee parking, there seemed to be no restrictions and the employees were so busy with all the customers they didn’t care if we didn’t buy anything (although we would have if necessary). After the lot filled up, people started parking on the dirt next door.

After first contact (when the shadow becomes visible), we found a spot in the grass. It was right next to the entrance but it didn’t matter. We had a good view of the area as the traffic died down and more and more cars parked in every spot that was legal and some that were not. We ate some of our lunch and kept checking the shadow as it got bigger and bigger. As the light diminished, the automatic lights came on at Burger King and the neighboring gas station. As it got cooler, the temperature display on one of the signs went down from several degrees. The sun was high enough that it hurt my neck to look for too long. Kevin told us to watch for Bailey’s beads and the diamond. We didn’t see the beads but the diamond flash was huge and bright. Then Kev said “glasses off!” and I took mine of a little hesitantly. There were gasps from the crowd. It was a beautiful circle of light (even better after I removed my sunglasses, which I forgot I had on). My eyes teared up as I looked at it, not from the light but from the emotions I was feeling. It was so amazing. The only light was the corona, white wisps flaring off from the dark moon circle. The cicadas started chirping. We saw one star and then another. The sky was so much bluer than I expected and there was no color from the sun or moon. But the color was all around us, like a 360-degree sunset. It went on for 2 minutes and 39 seconds. Then it was time for the glasses again and we saw another bright diamond.

As the moon moved on, we went to the car and opened the sparking wine. The cork flew across the parking lot. The crowd dispersed quickly and the road for backed up with all the traffic. By the time we left, the highway was backed up too but we didn’t have anywhere else to go. We got what we came for, and more.

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