About a week or so ago, we decided we would for sure try to chase totality. We did. We saw about 2 minutes and 40 seconds of totality. We spent days in the car. We fought terrible traffic. We spent over our budget. Was it worth it? I will give a very detailed answer below, but the short answer is oh heck yea. We are already planning our 2024 trip to Texas. Seriously, start planning folks.
Ok, story time. The plan was pretty loose and flexible. I really wanted to go to Hopkinsville, Kentucky because they had the longest totality in the country. As I was researching, I thought, eh, is it worth trying to go to THE best spot? And I came to the conclusion, yes, it totality is. 😀 I figured, we should at least try. Even if we hit craziness 20 miles out, we’d still be able to find a spot. The plan was to go, try, and see what we found when we got there.
We woke up around 3 a.m. Sunday morning. Showered, packed, and hit the road around 5 a.m.
Bret was determined to get everything out to the car in one load.
We would have made it too, if we hadn’t had two cups of coffee to carry out.
We had smooth sailing driving through Maryland. We had some great conversations as we drove. When the sun started to rise, we stopped for breakfast, and then found a spot to stop and watch. We tested out our eclipse glasses here too. It was really helpful to watch the sunrise this way!
As we continued on, we came to a little rest stop I always think about stopping at, but never do.
I’m glad we did this time, because the views were amazing.
While Bret was driving, I was scanning Facebook and noticed a friend had found pumpkin coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts. Bret loves pumpkin, so I found the next one, and we planned on stopping. As we got closer, I checked the app, and unfortunately, they didn’t have the pumpkin coffee yet. Bummer. So I decided to get Bret pumpkin something anyway!
It was a sorry looking set of pumpkins, but still delicious.
One thing I love is KFC. I had mentioned a week or so before that KFC was one of my favorites to Bret. He got off at an exit with the intention of getting gas, and me taking over the driving. He was having trouble passing to get in the turn lane and we missed the gas station. I jokingly said, well, we could go to the KFC. No no, I’m just kidding. Turns out, that was his plan all along. He had been thinking we HAVE to go to a Kentucky Fried Chicken….IN Kentucky. It turns out it was one that offered a buffet and we of course partook.
As we were driving, we saw this awesome castle! We pulled into the parking lot and it turns out it’s a B&B and a wedding venue. We didn’t go in because at this point we weren’t exactly dressed for the occasion.
As we got closer to Hopkinsville, we were very surprised to find very little traffic. I was expecting a lot worse. So we made our way downtown, found free parking after a little searching, and walked the downtown area. There were lots of booths set up, and just a great vibe. It was so neat to see a small town getting so much attention and business. I knew I wanted to get some kind of souvenir, and I’m a big “I’ll know it when I see it” shopper. I passed a kid with THE perfect shirt, and after asking where it was found, I got one for myself.
Absolutely THE perfect shirt for me and to remember the occasion.
At this point, Bret wanted to return some phone calls, so we found a Wal-Mart to chill for a little bit. It didn’t look like a “parking overnight” Wal-Mart, so we searched for a Pilot/Love’s/Flying J, and parked. We ended up getting pretty good sleep in the car that night. It took a few hours to get settled, but I think we got about 5-6ish hours of sleep, which is pretty unreal for sleeping in the car. But around 5 a.m., half a dozen police cars drove by, and that was that. We got some coffee and had a short conversation with one of the employees. He told us this festival didn’t get a lot of attention the day before, and we thought, huh, that was one we thought about checking out, so let’s go. I’m SO glad we had this conversation!
We left to chase the sunrise, and found a great spot to watch.
On the way back past the truck stop, we saw signs that said no overnight parking. Oops! We did NOT see them on the way in. But thankfully, we weren’t kicked out. I did hear of some folks that were trying to stay at a Wal-Mart (presumably the one we left), and were asked to leave.
We got breakfast at McDonald’s, hung out about an hour….before being asked to leave. I was kicked out of a McDonald’s. That hadn’t happened before!
The little festival we went to was the Kelly Little Green Men Days Festival. The festival started a few years back to commemorate an alien encounter….on August 21, 1955….that’s right, 62 years ago exactly, we were watching the eclipse. Come to find out, that encounter was some of the inspiration for E.T. We only had to pay $5 for parking, and that also got us a ticket for the raffle….for an Eclipse car. (Good marketing idea right there!) That was the cheapest we saw for parking all around.
We found a great spot under a huge tent, and talked with some new friends, and periodically checked the progress of the moon.
I wish I had gotten more pictures of this, but we got a few crescent shadows pictures.
15-20 minutes before totality, things got really weird. It was much darker, and almost hazy. It was like the colors were desaturated. It felt like that odd calm before a storm. Or before a tornado.
Our shadows also looked weird too. They seemed stronger, more solid.
When totality hit, and that burst of light occurred, I was struck with awe. I laughed, I cried. I was overcome. So much happened in an instant.
Now, I’m a big “take a quick picture, then enjoy the moment” type. I really try to enjoy the moment. So, out comes my phone, swipe to camera….nothing. Try to hit home and put in my password…nothing. Bret’s telling me to put my camera away, and I’m stressing. Seriously phone? Seriously??? I just wanted that one picture!
That one picture was of the 360 sunset, especially the clouds behind us, thankfully, my dear husband got it.
And way way way too fast, it was over. My initial reaction was extreme disappointment. That was it? That fast? How can it be over already? WHAT?!!? And all around me, people are saying that was amazing, that was the greatest thing ever. And I had that sick feeling of, why didn’t it move me more? Why didn’t I have that reaction? It’s funny, but Bret knew immediately what I was thinking. As we made our way to the car, and on the road, I started to process everything. I won’t say I wanted to talk myself into believing it was amazing, but I wanted to think about why I had that reaction. I remembered that feeling of amazement, wonder, and awe. I have that moment in my mind. That will not change. As we made our way through back roads to avoid traffic (or some of it), I had a profound thought. What we just experienced was something some people will never experience. It was something that others wish they had seen. Something they wish they had traveled for. And we did it. We thought, let’s go check it out, and we did. This is a theme in our lives. We take chances, we take trips, we have very little regret in our lives. And I was just undone. I started crying. So, sure, I was a little disappointed initially, it was just so fast, but I have no regrets about going. I adore that moment of totality. I think I also had a very different expectation of the darkness. Later that day, Bret had a conversation with a friend. He mentioned that the briefness of totality was like skydiving. If you haven’t gone before, basically, you get about a minute or a minute and a half of free fall. That’s it. Sure, there’s the floating portion after, but even that is only a few minutes. Once he said that, it even further cemented the experience. And is a great reminder about cherishing moments when we experience them. There are so many in this life that are so brief. And I have to say, I am now an umbraphile (i.e. one who chases eclipses). I’m already planning future trips. If you are at all interested, do it. And it is worth seeking the longest totality you can find. The 2024 times in the US are so much longer. Start planning now friends. Seriously.
Now, this next part is the worst part of the trip. The traffic. Oy. It was bad on the highway, so we took smaller roads. The few times we thought it might be clearing up on the highway, we were way wrong. I think we figured it took us 4-5 hours to go 200 miles. But, we got to see some beautiful places. Ha ha, and we FOR sure can scratch Kentucky off of our map! We are now standing at 38 states. 12 more and the international travel begins!
We found a hotel around 9:30/10, and I’m so glad. We were sooooooooooooooo dirty. It was nice to take a shower, relax, and sleep in a real bed.
We hopped back on the road around 10 a.m., and made great time coming back.
We stopped for lunch in West Virginia at a cute little BBQ place.
This is what they call a cow patty. Chocolate cake and peanut butter, covered in funnel cake batter. Delicious!
When we got off the exit, we saw a sign for a glass factory tour at the Blenko Glass Company. We totally lucked out, because they were just about done for the day. It was absolutely magical watching them create things out of glass.
On one of the info panels was this quote:
“it must be done quickly without a moment’s hesitation because the glass is only workable when it is hot.”
This is so true of so much in our lives….and a PERFECT description of watching an eclipse! Ha ha, and forget looking at the sun, looking in the kiln is pretty bright too! We should have brought in our eclipse glasses.
After we finished watching, we wandered around looking at displays and trying to find something in the gift shop. I really wanted a cup or coffee mug, because I would actually use that pretty regularly. I settled on a magnet, and went to the cash register. While I was paying, I noticed a beautiful glass holding the pens. I made an offhand comment about how it was the perfect cup. The guy was a smart businessman, and said, my boss says everything has a price, do you want it? Well sir, yes I do! It was a great lesson in “Don’t ask, don’t get” and I will remember it well when I use the cup….which I did while drinking my morning coffee.
So is it worth it to chase totality? Yes, definitely.
What would I do differently? Or, what will I do the next time? I will have a hotel the night after the eclipse…and I will be within walking distance of it. Trying to leave when everyone else left was not fun. I’m guessing we didn’t see as much traffic coming in because everyone arrived at different times. But everyone left at the same time. Oy. I will go for the longest totality again, if I can. I will remind myself of the things you’re supposed to do (look around, look down, listen for the animals, etc). I will keep my phone away. I will try to set reasonable expectations. And I will realize I’ll probably forget it all, and just have the experience I have.
Did you see totality? What was your experience? Let me know below!
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