Eclipse Trip 2017

I think, despite several setbacks, this trip might be the best birthday trip Les and I have ever taken. It all started when Les realized that the town my dad lives in was directly in the path of totality. And he planned the whole thing, decided we should take a train (something I’ve always wanted to do), booked the tickets, even called my dad and arranged for us to have a place to stay. It was much more like a birthday present than our trips usually are.

I found the train to be quite relaxing, especially on the trip from Flagstaff to Kansas City. We were on a pretty screwy sleeping schedule since the train was scheduled to leave Flagstaff at about 4:30 in the morning and we were told to get there 45 minutes in advance to get the parking situated.0818170543_HDR-01

Pulling away from the Flagstaff station right as it was getting light. Sleeping beforehand didn’t really work, but once we got on the train (about an hour behind schedule because it came in on the second track and they had to let everyone on and off at the street crossing), sleeping was really easy. I was also pleasantly surprised by the amount of legroom.

My feet didn’t even touch the seat in front of me.

In addition to more leg room and more comfortable seats than you get in an airplane or car, we also got to watch some amazing scenery, and without the stress of one of us driving.

Going by what is near their train station, the town of Lamy, New Mexico seems interesting. But I have a hunch pretty much the whole town is in this photo.
We saw quite a bit of wildlife, but I wasn’t fast enough to get most of them on camera. We saw elk, pronghorn, deer, and several buffalo in addition to all the farm animals. But I was able to catch this sunset somewhere in the boring, flat, eastern side of Colorado.
We also had a gorgeous sunrise on the trip out. By the time the sun was fully up there were powerlines and too much mist and fog to get a good photo. But I did get this lovely dawn on the Kansas River.

So the trip from Flagstaff to Kansas City was very nice, and I was completely sold on the whole travel by Amtrak thing. Of course once we got to Kansas City we hit a pretty big set back, no one was there to pick us up. My dad hadn’t answered his phone for a few days, but he had been texting me. So I did a stupid thing, I ignored 30 years of precedent and assumed he would be there. Luckily I have other family in the area, and even though it was 7:30 in the morning, I started making calls. I got a little panicked when the first 2 numbers I called were out of service. But I lucked out on the third and got a hold of my Aunt Sandy who was awake, and my Uncle Robert wasn’t working, so he was able to come get us and they let us sleep on their couch. Considering there wasn’t a hotel room in the entire state because of the eclipse, I’m very, very grateful to them.

The architect who designed this ceiling was named Jarvis, but the portals are all blue. #UnionStation #Architecture #At
Ceiling inside Union Station, we saw pretty much the entire building when we realize no one was picking us up.
A view of Union Station in one of the many mirrored buildings in downtown Kansas City. We wandered around for quite a while after getting off the train.
@newsylesbowen with the second biggest dog he's ever seen. #BigDog #NewFriend
Robert and Sandy have a giant, adorable Dog named Calvin, he’s quite spoiled.

Sandy was nice enough to loan us her car on Sunday so we didn’t end up stuck in rural Missouri with nothing to do (that’s how meth habits form), and we were able to visit with my grandmother and go through some old photos with her. We also spent some time exploring Independence since Les had only seen the Mormon history parts before.

Lots of memories in this house, and every time I go in, it’s smaller. I am amazed now that we used to all cram in here for Christmas and Thanksgiving, no wonder I was never allowed to eat sitting down.
From Instagram: Spending the day in #Independence w/@newsylesbowen, so far nothing we’ve seen hasn’t been named after this man. #HarrySTruman #DoubleNegative #IMakeMyOwnGrammarRules

Luckily the rental car situation wasn’t quite as bad as the hotel situation for the eclipse, so on Monday we were able to grossly overpay to rent a car for the day. Les was obsessive about the cloud cover, and I was adamant about avoiding crowds. We had originally set out for Marshall, MO, but the clouds moved and we nixed that. The next idea was to try Jefferson City, that way Les could check another capitol off his list. But an overheard conversation in the bathroom when we stopped for breakfast made us think twice (extreme crowds, and the people had just come from there and got stuck in traffic for more than an hour). So we went back to our roots and headed for the back roads, which led us to a conservation area in Moniteau County. The conservation area had 3 parking areas, and they were all full of people. Nothing like what we were hearing about St. Joseph or Jefferson City, but they were all but tailgating, so we turned around and headed back toward Jamestown, population around 368.

Moniteau County Road Y, I always prefer the road less traveled.
Mt. Zion Cemetery outside Jamestown, MO. If you aren’t watching the eclipse with the ghost of a civil war veteran or two, you’re doing it wrong.

One of my first thoughts when we were trying to decide where to watch the eclipse was cemetery, they usually have wide open space so we could have a good view of the sky, and a few trees for shade so we didn’t melt/have a repeat of San Diego. But it was a weird thought and so I didn’t say anything. But we drove past a few of them and Les suggested one that was attached to a large Baptist church. Where we ended up was a cemetery on top of a hill with a rarely used, vacant church building. Only one other car stopped there, and we chatted a bit, but it wasn’t overwhelming.

Quite possibly the oldest grave in Mt. Zion Cemetery, it was closest to the church, getting eaten by the roots of this tree, and only had the letters M.S.M on it.
Les’s setup for shooting the eclipse, it took quite a bit of tweaking the settings and we decided he would use the tripod since his camera is touchier with focus. Also he might have the patience to stack his images to do a progression, I most definitely do not.

Watching the eclipse was amazing, and looking at it without the glasses during totality was absolutely incredible. I don’t know exactly what I was expecting, but it wasn’t what I got. Watching the sky get darker wasn’t much different than when a cloud rolls past, but it was somewhat different. I didn’t want to change my camera settings, so I tried to capture it mostly on my phone, but that didn’t quite do it justice.

Getting darker as we neared totality.
About 8 minutes before totality, we had some puffier clouds roll in, it was a bit nerve wracking. The thin clouds actually worked out really well, and it didn’t photograph well, but watching the clouds move across with the glasses on was really cool.

As it got completely dark, the roosters on the farms all around us started going nuts, the cicadas got loud, it got noticeably cooler and it was just awe inspiring. Seeing a 360 degree sunset/rise was incredible, the cloud cover meant we couldn’t see many stars, but we did see Venus. The whole experience was surreal, and I am extremely glad we got to experience it.

Sunset/rise on every horizon. Also our rental car and the lady who thought we were from Texas because of it.
Twilight at 1 in the afternoon.

Like I mentioned in the caption of Les with his setup, we only had one tripod, and I don’t have the patience to do a ton of image stacking in Photoshop. Also, as much as I love taking photos, I am not a professional. It’s just a hobby and I was completely winging it. So I will just post all the eclipse photos here and you can make of them what you will. Unfortunately we had to get the rental car back on time and couldn’t stick around at the cemetery to watch much past totality, but I did get a couple photos after.


After we returned the rental car, we had a few hours to kill so we wandered around Kansas City for a bit.

We had dinner at a delicatessen/pub and the bartender made us forget that we weren’t still in Flagstaff.
The National World War I Museum and Memorial of the United States is located in Kansas City, Missouri. Opened to the public as the Liberty Memorial museum in 1926, it was designated in 2004 by the United States Congress as America’s official museum dedicated to World War I.
Before the torrential rains and flooding started, there was an incredible lightning show over Kansas City.

The trip back has me torn on train travel again, not only was the car we were in full of loud, inconsiderate people, there were sooooo many delays. I understand delays due to weather, and the rain in Kansas City is probably the heaviest rain I have ever experienced, and I saw the floods the next morning. But what caused the most delays was a full set of private cars that had to be attached in Kansas City and detached in Albuquerque. This process took more than an hour each time, and we weren’t able to make up any time across Kansas, in fact we got even farther behind. When we arrived in Flagstaff at almost 3 in the morning (scheduled for just before 9 the previous night) I mentioned to the conductor that I hoped the company with the private cars payed a lot for the privilege of hooking to the Amtrak. He assured me they did, but that they couldn’t build extra time into the schedule for it. So basically, if you have enough money you can inconvenience everybody relying on that particular form of transportation, I know that is true of most things, a private jet can delay your plane, a wealthy person can shut down a road, but it doesn’t seem to happen as often or be as visible as it was with the train.

We spent a lot of time looking at this door because inside the waiting room, a preteen girl was playing extremely loud music clips on her phone and not using headphones, and it echoed. We found out later her parents were in the restaurant the entire time.

Overall it was an amazing experience even if the trip had a few bumps.

PS here’s a photo of my Uncle Robert watching the eclipse with his magnifying glass, we gave him our extra glasses, and he used them some, but he was really excited about using this method. Sandy sent me this photo after and I hope they don’t mind that I’m including it here, I just thought it was cute.


2 thoughts

  1. Your eclipse shots are the best amateur photographer ones I’ve seen. Great job! Thanks for sharing your trip. ?

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