The last time I saw an eclipse was February 1979. I would have been eight years old and my memory of it is hazy. I remember standing outside my elementary school watching the moon eat away the sun through makeshift cardboard box viewers. I remember the strange twilight’ish color of the middle-of-the-day sky, but I don’t remember much else. Wikipedia tells me that my hometown experienced around 80-percent of Totatility and I thought that was pretty cool. I also thought the 1979 eclipse prepared me for this past August’s total solar eclipse. I was wrong.
We began discussing witnessing the August Total Eclipse this past winter. We had planned to view the eclipse while boondocking on Federal Land in eastern Oregon, but changed our minds once we realized how popular the eclipse was predicted to be. Also, after Chris @13Roads mentioned the possibility of meeting up for Totality at some hippy-dippy eclipse festival in central Oregon, we jumped in with both feet.
With no real idea of what we were in for, we quickly purchased tickets for a dry camping site at Madras, Oregon’s SolarTown. SolarTown was part of the town’s bigger Solar Festival, which was expected to draw over a hundred thousand people to this high plains Oregon farming community.
As the eclipse drew nearer, the plan began to build speed and momentum as several additional Airstream Families jumped onboard. Ultimately, we would meet up with four other Airstream Families. This small traveling community made the experience even more enjoyable and infinitely more memorable!After a summer of milling about the Rocky Mountains, we departed Colorado on Saturday, August 12th and took five days to drive the 1,160-miles to Madras, Oregon. We spent our nights on the road at Colorado National Monument in Fruita, Colorado; Salt Lake City, Utah; Mountain Home, Idaho; and finally in Prineville, Oregon.
Our first night out of Avon, Colorado was spent just a few hours down I-70 at Colorado National Monument. Planned strictly as an overnight stay, we ended getting much more out of Colorado NM than a place to park. We spent two nights in Salt Lake City and used the time to stock-up on groceries, get haircuts, and enjoy the conveniences of civilization (much needed after a couple of weeks in the Vail Valley).
Between Salt Lake City and Oregon, we spent one night in Mountain Home, Idaho, following a prolonged lunch stop at the Minidoka National Historic Site outside Jerome, ID. Finally, the night before our arrival in Madras, we staged ourselves 45-minutes south in Oregon’s Prineville Reservoir State Park.Our final night on the road to the Eclipse was spent at a full hook-up site in Oregon’s Prineville Reservoir State Park. Only 40-odd miles south of Madras, Prineville put us within easy striking distance of SolarTown and, even more importantly, set us up with full water tanks and empty grey and black tanks for our five days of dry camping in a farmer’s field.
[Prineville was our first experience with an Oregon State Park and we were impressed. We had heard great things about Oregon’s State Parks and the three we’ve visited have lived up to the hype—BZ Oregon!]
On Thursday, August 17th, after a leisurely lunch at a brewery in downtown Prineville, we arrived at the SolarTown queue around 2:30pm. Obviously, Madras had put a lot of planning into this event, but like every special evolution there were opening night jitters. Given the state of the line trying to get into the SolarTown camping area, Madras’ initial plan did not survive first contact with the enemy. We arrived at the back of a line of several hundred RVs that stretched about 2-miles. It was obvious that the organizers were a little over-whelmed. After ninety minutes of sitting the line finally started to slowly move after some behind-the-scenes organizational adjustments. All told, we spent about 2-1/2 hours sitting in line. The wait was about what I had expected. It was clear that the organizers were doing their best, but preparing for something this big is always challenging. From our vantage point, everyone around us remained fairly good-natured and took the chaos in stride. As I sat there, I found it valuable to reflect back on our lives prior to the Big Big Trip—a few years earlier, during our high stress, high op-tempo lives, dual income lives, this type of entropy, combined with a 2-1/2 hour wait, would have had me steaming mad and weaving a “tapestry of obscenities…” that would still be hanging over the high desert of Madras. 1
1 A Christmas Story
By 8pm on Thursday, all five families were parked and settled-in for Monday’s total eclipse. We spent the next three days hanging out around the camping area, lightly exploring the surrounding locale, enjoying the many delicious food trucks, and spending quality time with some like-minded full time (and one part-time) Airstreaming families. The kids had a blast playing with each other and running amok with their Nerf guns and a homemade ball of slime. We never ventured into the actual “SolarFest” festival at the Madras Fairgrounds because of the cost, the hassle of dealing with the traffic (or the wait to get on the buses into/out of town), and the fact that we were having such a good time just hanging out at SolarTown.On Saturday we decided to break up the monotony and headed to Cove Palisades State Park with the Alumalarkies so the kids and the dogs could play in the water—it was a good distraction from the hot and dry field we were camping in. Daytime temps were in 80s and 90s, but luckily at night it dropped down into the 50s. It was quite pleasant and with strong, all-day sunshine, solid prior planning, and a strict water-conservation regime, we had no problems managing both electricity and water. Our prior boondocking experience set our total no-facility dry camping limit at four days. We purchased water, utilized the available shower-trucks when we could and easily made it to Day 5, with room to spare. Although, this experience has us seriously thinking about a Composting Toilet…
Overall, the atmosphere was wonderful. Our fellow eclipse campers were all super-friendly. Almost everyone cleaned-up after themselves and we saw absolutely no unpleasantness anywhere. Given current events, my fellow SolarTowners gave me a renewed sense of faith in our shared humanity. The eclipse felt like a truce in the current pseudo-culture war raging on over the airwaves of TV & radio and in the ether of social media.
By Monday morning, we were ready for the big show. We awoke early to prepare for the eclipse—Anna made eggs and banana bread; I prepared Bloody Marys and Mimosas. The show started with First Contact a little after 9am and totality occurred about 10:19am.The show up to Totality was pretty cool and similar to my memory from 1979. However, Totality was definitely the highlight! I can’t describe what it was like to see the Corona and the Diamond Ring that we had heard so much about in the weeks leading up to the eclipse. I could go on-and-on about the beauty and majesty of the Total Eclipse, but we have all seen and heard enough about it. Suffice it to say that it was one of those things in life that didn’t disappoint. I only have a few photos I took during the eclipse because I wanted to just be in the moment with Anna and Owen (plus, I couldn’t compete with Sean and Shannon!) Part of me was hoping for some type of life changing epiphany at the moment of Totality—something that would finally make clear where we should settle and what I should do when I grow up, but none appeared. Maybe that was the epiphany?!?! Frankly, I still haven’t digested the whole Totality thing. It was amazing and the one thing I do know is I can’t wait to experience another one! I guess I’ll have to wait until April 8th, 2024 to get that feeling again. Hopefully, I’ll have a better handle on it by then!?!? We spent the remainder of the day talking about what we had seen and what we felt. We watched our fellow SolarTowners pack up, head out, and then sit in traffic for hours. We also slowly started enjoying the return of reasonable cell connectivity. On Tuesday morning, we awoke to a relatively empty field and slowly hooked up our rigs for departure. By late-morning we were headed south towards Eugene and our rendezvous with Anna’s family. In the past 15-months, we’ve seen and done some amazing things on the Big Big Trip, but the Total Solar Eclipse of 2017 has definitely been the highlight. More than just the syzygy of the Sun, the Earth, and the Moon, it was the syzygy of five-fulltime Airstream families that made the Eclipse so memorable and special. Special thanks to the Alumarkies, Nemo_and_bubbles, 13roads, and Upintheairstream for sharing this amazing experience with us and making it so special.