I geek out about many things.
The need for an apostrophe before the last “s” in a word (singular possessive: “the cat’s kittens”) or after (plural possessive: “the cats’ kittens”). A perfect cup of hot tea. Any episode of Star Trek TOS (The Original Series, for you neophytes). Terrific historical fiction and non-fiction. Almost anything science-related and explainable in lay-person terms … including this year’s nationwide craze over the first total solar eclipse to traverse the continental United States since 1979!
I toyed with totality for a whole year. All (excuse the pun) the stars aligned: the eclipse took place on third week in August, our usual time for family summer vacations; my son’s camp ended the previous Friday; and the eclipse was going over the East Coast!
Planning the excursion was similar to the writing and editing process for any article or blog. Once deciding upon a topic – in this case, viewing the solar eclipse – map out the salient points. Research the details and commence writing. When finished, read through to make sure all details appear and edit for errors, conciseness and clarity. Next put the piece aside for a short time; then scrutinize the copy one last time to finalize for publishing.
What Specifics to Cover? Or: Details, Details.
My original destination idea: Oregon! (I know, I know … the eclipse ends on the East Coast. But my husband, Ken, and I had talked previously about exploring the West Coast with our son, Ethan.) I found a town close to the ocean and in the path of totality, with plenty to see and do. Ken, however, nixed that idea straightaway. (Him: “I’m not traveling five hours to see an eclipse.” Me: pouty face.)
So! I regrouped and revised: South Carolina. Specifically, Charleston. Two-hour direct flight? Check! Historic downtown, museums and associated sites? Check! Golf courses (for Ken and Ethan – that’ll be a museum day for me)? Check!
With my family in agreement and a mere month and a half before the big day (August 21), I procured tickets for a direct, somewhat reasonably-priced flight to Charleston, plus a one-room suite in a nearby hotel. (Suites generally have a separate, closed-off “living room” with a sofa bed – important if one doesn’t want to go to bed at 9:15 p.m. like their 10-year-old.)
Writing Research: Finding Resources in Surprising Places
The next and possibly most important task, even more so than travel plans: procuring eclipse glasses! I researched safe, NASA-approved versions that met the “ISO 12312-2 international safety standard,” ensuring full protect of the eyesight. I decided to splurge on three plastic sunglass-like versions (instead of the flimsy cardboard variety) – two that would fit over regular optical glasses for Ken and I, and cool wraparounds for Ethan.
In this purchase again I was so, so late to the game. After a lot of internet investigation, I secured three eclipse glasses from Astronomical Society of the Pacific, clear across the country. (Thank goodness for prevalence of online marketplaces like the “AstroShop.”) Whew!
On August 20 we arrived in Charleston, South Carolina. But the final edits to our eclipse odyssey were looming! Namely, where exactly in the city to view the eclipse. Originally, I signed up to attend an Eclipse Meetup in downtown Charleston. But the night before leaving home I discovered we were wait-listed … and there were 362 people ahead of us!
With the help of a hotel concierge, two possible alternatives emerged: an “Eclipse Baseball Game” at the minor league Charles RiverDogs stadium, or on the (decommissioned) U.S.S. Yorktown at Patriots Point in nearby Mt. Pleasant.
A quick family editorial conference deleted the baseball stadium option in favor of the battleship due to several concerns (assigned seats, restricted movement, possible neck strain). The morning of August 21, 2017, we confirmed tickets were available and were then on the road by 11:00 a.m.
Ready to Publish: Unexpected Delays and Final Form
On the U.S.S. Yorktown, my family and I geeked out with three thousand other giddy eclipse watchers. There was plenty of room to spread out on the expansive deck to see the “Eclipse on a Warship,” as the event was billed. Using our backpacks as pillows, we lied down flat to take it all in.
Though an unforeseen haze lasted throughout that day, we got lucky. There were enough breaks in the cloud cover to see the moon’s path across the sun, the eerie daytime darkness of totality when the sun’s corona is visible, and the Baily’s beads or “diamond ring” effect heralding the first bright rays’ return.
And, like the writing and editing of this blog post, my family’s 2017 eclipse odyssey was over over and published, both in our memories and the following videos!
My (highly amateur) video of totality and the diamond ring effect:
Ken’s (equally amateur, multiple-ways-oriented) video, recorded at the same time: