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Eclipse 2017

Posted by on August 24, 2017

Hey Guys!! We’re interrupting our regularly scheduled blog post to bring to you a special post about our #eclipse2017 experience! If I added this post to the end of the post que y’all wouldn’t see it until October sometime. I thought y’all might like it sooner rather than later.

I’m not going to get all scientific on you and explain what an eclipse is and what happens and all that jazz. No science class today. This is just a recounting of our eclipse day experience for anyone who’s curious! We traveled to the Omaha, NE area to visit with some friends so we were very near the path of totality.

Our day started at an extremely early 5am. For those of you who know us or have followed along for awhile…y’all know just how early this is for us. So…early!! And it was raining. Rain is not how I had envisioned our eclipse day starting off, but I remained steadfastly hopeful that the clouds would clear at the right time.

National Parks are kind of our thing. We can’t get enough of them. So, we thought it was fitting that we watch the eclipse at a National Park that happened to be in the path of totality! We ended up at the Homestead National Monument of America in Nebraska with about ten-thousand of our closest friends. We arrived super early and actually got a parking spot about 3/4 of a mile from the park on a dirt road in between fields of corn.

The city of Beatrice, NE and the National Park did a fantastic job of organizing the chaos. We arrived at the NP right after 8am and the parking was already turning into a nightmare.

We weren’t the first ones there, but we were early enough to have a decent choice of spots. We wanted to be close enough to the stage to have some entertainment, close enough to the food trucks in case we got hungry, and Porta Potty Lane wasn’t too far either.

We claimed our real estate for the day, the boys got started on their Junior Rangering, and we checked out our eclipse glasses to make sure they worked. The NPS created a special booklet, patch, and badge for the eclipse! What?!? Our little Junior Rangers were stoked until we found out the Park had run out of the booklets the day before. But! They gave them the regular Junior Ranger booklet for the Park and told them they’d still get all of the eclipse goodies on top of the usual badges. Score!

The boys finished in record time. We were a little nervous the NP would run out. The boys are officially Eclipse Explorer Junior Rangers now!

Our little area of the NP was starting to fill in. It was still pretty early here. Close to 10am. We decided to grab some food so we would miss some of the later lines and so we wouldn’t be fumbling with food when the show started at 11:37am.

See the three orange shirts in the photo above? They were with a school. They staked out a huge section of real estate near us for one of the schools. They spent a good hour shooing people out of their space. It was kind of funny to watch. They got all kinds of reactions. Everything from total acceptance to out right irritation.

Around 10:30am the Color Guard came out and the National Anthem was sung.

 Aaannnnd…then the clouds rolled in.

I’m guessing it was one of the news stations getting video for the evening news in the helicopter. I didn’t have my good camera out yet because of the clouds. I was afraid we’d have a downpour and even though my camera is weather resistant, I didn’t want it all set up if we had to make a mad dash to some shelter.

Speaking of my camera…Guys, I totally procrastinated with eclipse prep. I realized too late that I don’t have a good lens for taking up-close shots of the sun…and…I couldn’t find a solar lens to save my life. After much searching and dead ends, we found the stuff to MacGyver together something that would allow me to take photos of the eclipse without ruining my sensor or my eyes.

We could see the rain coming. We hoped it would just skirt around us.

It was close to the start of the show when the rain caught up with us. We’d come prepared.

We rigged up some solar filters for the boys’ phones. We knew they’d want to take pictures and videos of the eclipse, but we weren’t sure if it would ruin the sensor in the camera. We got a batch of the bad solar eclipse glasses (the ones that were recalled) and figured they’d probably be good enough for a phone so I cut the eye pieces out and used electrical tape to fasten them to the cases. When the boys wanted to take shots of totality they just slipped the cases off.

I’d downloaded the Solar Eclipse Timer app a few days before. It worked great! It would talk to me and let me know before each stage of the eclipse happened so we could try and watch for it when the sun wasn’t covered by clouds. You can see in the photo above that first contact was at 11:37 for us.

We missed first contact by a few minutes, but the clouds parted enough for us to see what was happening. There was still some very thin cloud covering in this picture.

The handy dandy app let me know it was almost time for totality. It really was a great help in keeping track of time and stages of the eclipse!

Bill Nye came out right before totality to share in the moment with everyone.

Confession:  I took the “solar filter” off of my lens before it was officially safe. With the cloud cover that we had…I kind of figured it’d be ok. I still didn’t look directly into the sun while snapping the pic. I was struggling to keep my lens in focus. Remember, I didn’t have the right lens or the right filter for the eclipse.

I was starting to panic that we’d miss it because the cloud cover was getting worse.

I still had my “solar filter” off  messing with my camera when the clouds parted and we caught sight of totality.

I’d just gotten my camera back into focus and aimed at the right spot. I didn’t get any good shots of the crowd during totality. I was too busy trying to get a decent shot of totality. I did get some video though…so I’ll add that at the end of this post!

Totality was over and most people started to leave. We didn’t mind the mass exodus. We stuck around trying to get a few more shots of the rest of the eclipse, but the clouds were being difficult.

Eclipse 2017 was pretty much done here. You can make out a very thin smidge of the moon in the lower left edge of sun in the photo above.

We packed up our stuff and headed over to the Education Center on the other side of the NP to catch a special lecture from a NASA scientist. And to find a bathroom that didn’t have 200 people waiting in line for it. I’d guess 3/4 of the people at the park had left or were trying to leave by this point, but there were still a few thousand milling around.

The lecture was very cool. It was about our planet…not just about the eclipse. The huge globe was interactive and was in constant motion. Our little science nerds loved it!

After the Education Center we were done! We started the trek to the car only to run into these guys. It was close to 4pm by this time and the eclipse had been over for about two hours. All of the people you see in the photo above were standing in lines to catch the shuttle bus back to where they’d parked. That 3/4 mile hike back to our car suddenly didn’t look so bad.

We stopped at Hickory Road BBQ & Catering Co for a celebratory meal of smoked meat. We enjoyed everything we got! So good! If you’re ever in Lincoln, NE it’s definitely worth a stop!

We ended up with some pretty cool loot to go along with all of our memories of the eclipse.

The National Park Service even had a special cancellation stamp made for the event! We collect cancellation stamps at every National Park we visit. Sorry the photo is a bit blurry…

We ended our day with some friends. Ben & Jerry. All in all…I’d say our #eclipse2017 day was a success! We’re already planning for the next eclipse! Who wants to meet us and have a big eclipse party?!

Here’s a quick video of the day!

You will now be returned to your regularly scheduled blog post.


p.s. It took me six different states to finally find the Keep Caramel and Cookie On flavor of Ben & Jerry’s.

p.p.s. I bought all of the pints they had.

p.p.p.s. I’m not sharing.

2 Responses to Eclipse 2017

  1. Sue Stark

    what a fun day for all of you! We also love the national parks and try to go to all we can when in different states. Love that you share this with all of us back home!

    • Jennie Simpson

      It really was a fun day! I think being there with sooo many other people enhanced the experience for us. We will be hitting 29 NPs during our next loop! What’s your favorite NP so far?

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