Solar Eclipse, 2017

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Travelogue: Total Solar Eclipse in Missouri, August 2017

By Roger W. Reini

By day:
August: 18 | 19 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25

This is a story of a trip to Missouri to see a total eclipse of the sun, among other things.


For years, I’ve read stories about total eclipses and expeditions to the various parts of the world to see them.  There were at least two partial eclipses visible in the Houston area in the late 1970’s, one of which was total, albeit someplace else. We set up our telescope to view the partial phases. There was one time when I noticed that the sun and sky were noticeably darker than they should have been at that time of day. And in 1994, there was an annular eclipse that went right over Detroit. I took off that day from work, set up the telescope for that, and got some pictures of it via the solar projection screen. I think the sky got perceptibly darker then, too.

Now here’s something about an eclipse I did not see nor could have seen, for it took place several years before I was born. There was a total solar eclipse on June 30, 1954; the whole of the Copper Country was in the path of totality. My parents came from there; could they have seen it? I think my mom was in Detroit at the time and would not have seen it. My dad could have seen it, since he was finishing a term at Michigan Tech in June and wasn’t inducted into the Army until December. Maybe my uncle Richard saw it. Sadly there is no way to ask my dad or uncle, for they are both deceased. My aunt Marie was 10 at the time but has no memory of it. I suspect nobody saw it, though; historical data courtesy of shows that it was foggy around 6 and 7 AM, which is when it would have been visible. Also, my dad never mentioned anything to me about seeing a total eclipse; if he had seen one, I think he would have said something.


I’m not sure when I first learned about this 2017 eclipse; it may have been in an ad for the Mitsubishi Eclipse, of all things. But I knew that I wanted to see it. This would be my easiest opportunity to see a total eclipse. I mentioned it to my uncle Bill, who wanted to see it too. He mentioned it to his niece Alice and suggested that her son William might want to see it.

We decided on traveling to Missouri to see the eclipse. Initially, I was looking at package trips that went to several locations: Oregon; the national parks in the west; even one focusing on the music cities of New Orleans, Memphis and Nashville. But those were a little pricy for my liking. So we ended up planning our own excursion. The closest part of the path of totality to Detroit was in Kentucky and Tennessee, but I preferred somewhere farther west, away from the humidity of the Gulf of Mexico, and far less likely to be cloudy. I made some hotel reservations in Kansas City as a contingency plan, but that turned out to be the main plan. We would stay in Kansas City near the airport, which was in the path of totality, but we would plan to travel to St. Joseph, Missouri, which was right on the centerline of the eclipse.

Several years ago, I’d obtained a solar filter for my 35 mm cameras. It screwed into the front of the lens. And in April of this year, I ordered a pair of 10x50 binoculars and a set of solar filters that go on the front of the binoculars. The filters worked well on the binoculars.

In July, we started to step up our preparations. We determined what we needed and wanted to bring. Did I have everything I needed? I hoped so. At one point, I couldn’t locate the charger for the batteries for one of my cameras; I ordered a replacement from Amazon. I had one chair but decided to get a second one, for we would need four. I saw that Best Buy was carrying items for safely viewing the eclipse; one of those items was a kit containing plastic solar filter glasses and a camera filter. I already had eclipse glasses, but I thought that a spare camera filter would be a good idea to have, so I got that kit. Now the filter was just a card that you put in front of the lens, but as a spare, it would work. Around the same time, I finally decided that it was time to invest in a GoPro.

The Trip

Thursday August 17

Today was the day before our departure for Missouri. I had a full day of work today, although I wasn’t in the office all day; I worked from home in the afternoon because I had a meeting with an engineer from Yazaki, one of the big wire harness manufacturers, whose main offices were some 3 or 4 miles from my condo. After the day was done, I started to step up my preparations. I ran my dishwasher without anything in it, for it is prone to seizing up if it sits for any length of time. I brought home a popcorn chicken meal from Sonic and proceeded to watch a replay of the opening day of a cricket Test match between England and the West Indies. I’d gotten interested in the sport shortly after buying an Apple TV device, checking out the WatchESPN app, and deciding on a whim to see what was available under cricket.

I checked the settings on my cameras and reviewed how to adjust them; I would need to do that on Sunday and Monday. I got my LL Bean canvas bag and filled it with the food I’d be bringing for the trip and for the event. I continued packing my suitcase, although I couldn’t finish packing it today; there would be some things that would have to be packed tomorrow. By now, it was nighttime, time to relax a bit. I put on another cricket match; this time, it was a short-format T20 match in the Caribbean Premier League. When that had wrapped up, I started reading the ebook version of a new biography of Thomas Jefferson which had been recommended by the hosts of The Thomas Jefferson Hour. Then I turned on the stream for Minnesota Public Radio’s Classical MPR station and listened to that as I fell asleep.


Friday August 18

Although I didn’t have to go to work today, I still got up at my regular time. The steam of Classical MPR was still playing; it was carrying Music Through The Night, hosted this evening/morning by Andrea Blain. I did my normal things that I would do on a Friday morning, up to a point, that point being that I had to finish packing, which I did.

I went to McDonald’s this morning to bring some breakfast, one of their breakfast burrito meals; as I ate my meal, I was watching the BBC World News channel (I do watch or listen to more international news than most Americans, I’d say). Then I changed my key ring for one with fewer keys on it. Since we’d be using my uncle’s minivan for the trip, I didn’t need my car “key” (actually an electronic key fob); all I needed was my house key. Then I waited for my uncle to call and say that he was on his way; as it turned out, my aunt made the call (she was staying home). It was now time to make sure that I had everything, but my checks revealed that I was in fact missing something: one of the tripods didn’t have its mount insert, the one that attaches to the camera. Without that insert, the tripod was useless. I looked everywhere but couldn’t find it, so it had to stay home.

I turned on live coverage of day 2 of the England-West Indies Test cricket match and watched that until I heard a knock at the door. It was my uncle Bill. Time to bring out my stuff and load the minivan. Time to turn off the TV and set the A/C at 78 so that it would not be ridiculously hot when I got home next week. We pulled out of the driveway around 9:30; our trip had begun!

Bill said there had been an accident on I-94 west of Ann Arbor, so to avoid that, we went south to Toledo. There was construction there, but once we got through there, we had few difficulties. We headed southwest on US 24 to Fort Wayne. On the way down, we were listening to Michigan Radio, the largest public radio service in Michigan — first the BBC World Service Newshour, then a program called The 1A, dedicated to the First Amendment. We stopped at a Love’s truck stop just across the border in Indiana for a restroom break and a lunch break at McDonald’s. We kept on searching for the public radio stations en route (this helped reduce any anxiety from not having satellite radio available) and listened to Here And Now and Fresh Air.

We made an unplanned stop at Fry’s Electronics in Fishers near Indianapolis. Bill was looking for an appropriate power supply to power the VLF radio receiver he would be constructing as part of the Eclipse Mob propagation experiment for the eclipse. He didn’t find one but did get some heat shrink tubing. When we left, I was behind the wheel (I’d actually been driving since a rest area visit on I-69) and drove us around Indy (the city, not the speedway) before stopping at another rest area. Here, we switched roles again, for I now had to make a hotel reservation for the night. How far could we go? We figured Effingham, Illinois was a good stopping point, so I made a reservation for the Days Inn there.

The drive on I-70 through western Illinois was uneventful, and the drive into Illinois started out that way. As I was checking something on my iPad, Bill pulled over onto the shoulder. I wondered why, but then I saw why: a police car was heading by at high speed with lights flashing, followed by a fire truck. There had to have been an accident up ahead, we figured. Soon, we were in a slowdown on the freeway, and then we could see what was happening: there had been a bad accident on the other side of the freeway. One semi truck was in the median, the side of its trailer ripped open. Another semi hauling two trailers had one of them crushed and ripped open, with debris strewn all over the roadway. Then came cars that had been badly crushed; there had to have been very serious injuries, perhaps even fatalities. Traffic on that side was backed up for miles; further west, police had closed the freeway and were diverting traffic to the parallel US 40.

By 5:45 Central time, we were in Effingham. We had a hard time finding the hotel, but by going around the block and checking the map on my iPad, we found it. It turned out that the signs on the hotel buildings were not visible from the roadway. The room was comfortable enough. For dinner, we walked over to a nearby Denny’s. I got a spicy dinner skillet that was very good but proved to be too much food for a Friday night dinner. Then it was back to the hotel. I read for a while, while Bill worked on building the receiver. At first, he could not find a capacitor; without it, the receiver would not operate. We could have found it at Fry’s, but that was too far away to go back. Fortunately, we found an electronics store in the St. Louis area. Then Bill found that capacitor, which had been hidden by another part. But it turned out that he still needed to go there to get a different capacitor, which was not included with many of the receiver kits. He continued to work as I turned in for the night.


Saturday August 19

I woke up for the day around 6 and started to read for a bit. Bill’s alarm went off shortly thereafter. One thing I did was to look for news reports on last night’s accident. I found them: 2 semis and five cars had been involved; one man had been killed; and another man was under arrest for distracted driving. We went to the breakfast bar area for our morning meal; I had some raisin bran, some small buns, some yogurt and some orange juice.

We got underway around 7:55 and filled up the gas tank in the minivan before proceeding on our way. Gateway Electronics opened at 9 AM, and we didn’t want to get there too early. Now we were going to take I-270 around the north side of town, visiting a Missouri visitor center along the way for tourist literature and a bathroom break, but as we approached St. Louis, we saw that westbound I-270 was completely closed. We would have to go through downtown St. Louis. After stopping at a Pilot truck stop near Granite City, we continued into Missouri. We actually drove north of downtown, allowing me to take some pictures of it. As we drove along I-70 in the city, I thought that some of the scenery reminded me of Detroit. The similarity was helped by a sign for Grand Boulevard, which is a major Detroit street (although it’s normally known as West Grand Boulevard or East Grand Boulevard).

The Apple Maps program directed us to Gateway Electronics with little difficulty, although we did have trouble finding it in the office park where it was located. The store was a standard electronic parts supply store, something not seen too frequently these days. Bill found the capacitor he needed, along with a screwdriver that would be necessary to adjust the receiver. We also picked up maps of the path of totality in Missouri. Soon, we were on our way again. And not too long after leaving the St. Louis area, we were in the path of totality.

Many of the electronic road warning signs had messages about the eclipse, but by the time we encountered them, it was too late to take a picture of them. I did get some pictures of them with my iPhone, although in some instances, most of the sign’s content was not visible. The signs must have been flickering in a way that the eye could not see but the camera could.

At one point, I was checking something on my iPad, probably a map, when I noticed the WiFi icon. That meant it had an Internet connection, yet I had not turned on my MiFi portable hotspot. I felt in my pocket for it and pulled it out; it was indeed on. The power button must have been inadvertently pressed in the pocket, so I turned it off. But then it immediately came back on. I turned it off again, but it turned back on. The only way to stop it was to open it up and remove the battery. Would I need to get a new MiFi? I didn’t yet know.

By now, it was lunchtime, so we stopped at a Cracker Barrel restaurant in Columbia. Stopping at Cracker Barrel had been a tradition for us as we went to the annual Dayton Hamvention; it looked like we were establishing a similar tradition for traveling to eclipses. The food was good, as always; it was comfort food. I had one of their sampler platters: chicken and dumplings, country ham, and meatloaf, along with mashed potatoes, corn and fried okra.

We conintued our trip west, listening to some public radio shows I’d never heard before, Reveal was focusing on the aftermath of the Charlottesville disturbance, while To The Best Of Our Knowledge had a story on dark matter. We didn’t get to hear that whole story, though, as we drove out of range of the station carrying it. Later, we pulled off to swap drivers, and I got behind the wheel to take us to the hotel. This was my second time driving in the Kansas City area; the first time had been in 2008 on the way home from Colorado. My iPhone was giving us directions and was sitting on the top of the instrument panel. That may have been a mistake, for when I went to consult it later, it was displaying an overheating warning. Once it cooled down, though, it resumed working perfectly.

In the mid-afternoon, we arrived at the Hyatt Place Kansas City Airport, our home for the next three nights. After checking in, partially unloading the car and unpacking, we were settled in. I worked on this travelogue, while Bill set up the table as an electronics workbench and worked on the very-low-frequency radio receiver that was part of an eclipse experiment. At one point, we would have left for the airport to pick up Alice and William (Bill’s niece and great-nephew, and thus cousins of mine via marriage), who were flying in from New Hampshire; however, their plans had changed, and they would be arriving after midnight on a later flight. So no airport trip for us, but we still needed to get some supper. We went to a nearby Wendy’s and got salads; I also got a large chili.  Afterwards, we stopped at the nearby Walmart to get some oil for the minivan, then it was back to the hotel. I did some reading, while Bill continued to work on the receiver. When I went to bed, he was still working on it.


Sunday August 20

I heard some thunderstorms during the middle of the night. Having them today was OK, but not tomorrow, not eclipse day! I don’t know how long Bill stayed up working on the receiver, but it must have been pretty late, for he didn’t get up until after 9; I’d already been awake for a couple of hours. Fortunately, breakfast in the lobby was served until 10, so we were able to partake of the Hyatt Place’s nice breakfast bar.

While Bill was asleep, among the things I did was check the weather forecasts for eclipse day, not just for St. Joseph but for Kansas City and Columbia. The forecasts were looking rather iffy. We had a paid-for parking pass for Rosecrans Memorial Airport in St. Joseph, but would we give up on that and go to another place instead? We wouldn’t make a final decision until later that night.

For a while, Bill thought that a voltage regulator chip had burned out in the VLF receiver. A replacement chip might be available at Micro Center, and we planned to go there later in the morning. However, it started functioning again, so that trip was cancelled. Unfortunately, other problems developed, and he was unable to get the receiver to work properly. Given more time, perhaps he could have, but there was no more time. He gave up on the project and decided to concentrate on experiencing the eclipse.

By now, it was around 11 o’clock. Bill called his niece Alice to see what she and her son were up to. They had made it into town overnight and had just gone to a car rental agency downtown to get a rental car ($100 cheaper than picking it up at the airport!) and were now eating breakfast at a Waffle House in town (not the Waffle House by us, up near the airport). We drove off to meet them there. By the time we arrived, they were nearly finished with their breakfast. So we had lunch. It had been some time since I’d eaten at a Waffle House; the closest one to Detroit is south of Toledo, Ohio. But my lunch was good. William had grown tremendously since I’d last seen him three years ago; he was now 14 and was pushing 6 feet in height.

We discussed what we were going to do for today. There were a few ideas kicked around, but we decided to visit the American Jazz Museum for our first stop. That happened to be located in a historic black district in Kansas City on 18th Street and Vine. It wasn’t too far from the corner of 12th Street and Vine, immortalized in the Leiber-Stoller song “Kansas City”. The Wilbert Harrison recording of the song mentions it, but the Beatles’ version doesn’t. No matter. It took Bill and I a while to find a good parking spot; we eventually found one a block behind the museum.

The museum was a good overview of top jazz performers, with exhibits dedicated to Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker, Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald. Other exhibits covered various aspects of music (melody, harmony, percussion, etc.), while another exhibit showed historic film and video clips. Another exhibit showed various music playback devices, including the fanciest 8-track player I had ever seen.

Alice, William and I were waiting in the video viewing area while Bill was still looking at the other exhibits. William said that sometimes, he confuses Louis Armstrong with Neil Armstrong. Ah, youth!  I do not know if he was joking or not.

Now when I was making plans for this trip, the jazz museum had been on my list. Also on my list was the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, paying tribute to the baseball leagues that arose when African Americans were kept out of Major League Baseball. It turned out that that museum was in the same building as the jazz museum, so we got to see them both. After seeing the introductory movie, we caught up with a tour being given by a museum volunteer, and he did a good job. In the gift shop were memorabilia of many of the famous Negro League teams, including hats of the Detroit Stars. I bought one of those hats, which were very generously sized.

Next, William wanted to visit a model train exhibit at Union Station, so we drove over there. Union Station was a very nice facility, and the model train exhibit was a very nice exhibit with elaborate setups. There were four or five sizes of trains running on the various tracks, which apparently is unusual. Most of the attractions at Union Station closed down at 5. We had thought about eating at a nearby barbecue restaurant near where Alice had parked, but before Bill and I could reach the parking garage where our car was, she called us back. There was a very long line at the restaurant, so we decided to return to our hotel near the airport. Unfortunately, it took Bill and I 40 minutes to exit the parking deck, thanks to automated payment kiosks that didn’t work very well. I was concerned that we might encounter similar gridlock on the way to St. Joseph or wherever tomorrow.

When we made it back to the hotel, Alice and William were waiting for us. We decided to walk to the nearby Cracker Barrel for dinner. This time, I had the meatloaf for dinner, along with the same side dishes as yesterday, but instead of a Diet Coke, I had a Diet Dr Pepper. The meal was good. Back at the hotel, we discussed plans for tomorrow. The forecasts for nearby areas were still iffy, so we decided to head up to St. Joseph and hope for the best. William identified a potential back way to the Rosecrans airport in case there was gridlock on I-29. Then it was off to bed.


Monday August 21

I had a very hard time getting to sleep. I know I got some sleep, although I didn’t get much sleep. In some ways, it was almost like Christmas Eve as a child; there was that similar sense of anticipation that interfered with sleep. I woke up around 4:30 but didn’t immediately get out of bed. I heard Bill filling our cooler with ice from the hotel ice machines. We turned on the news to catch the weather and traffic reports; the traffic was good, the weather less so.

With the breakfast bar opening at 5:30, we were able to go down and have a meal before we left. I went fairly light on the meal, not wanting to be desperately needing to use the restroom while stuck in traffic. Afterwards, I went outside for a look at the sky; there were a few high clouds overhead but heavier clouds to the north and west.

At 6:45, we left our hotel and drove up to Alice and William’s hotel to pick them up. We were on our way by 7. If William had had his druthers, he would have slept in longer. But we adults wanted to get there as early as possible to avoid tie-ups, so there we were.  The clouds increased as we drove north. We didn’t encounter any backups until we exited I-229 onto US 36, the road that would take us to the airport. In order to get to the airport, we had to actually cross into Kansas and then re-enter Missouri. In the airport, traffic moved steadily as we went to our designated parking area.

When we parked, I had to use the restroom. There was a porta-potty very close to us, so I got in line. It took around 15 minutes for me to be able to go, but once I did, I was able to help set up. It was 8:40 and partly sunny. We set up the chairs and put up a tarp that gave us a shaded area in front of our vehicle. It faced south.

While I was waiting to use the porta-potty,  a t-shirt vendor came by selling souvenir shirts of the eclipse. Bill got one and asked if I wanted one; I said yes, if they had my size (they did). So I would have a souvenir of the eclipse in St. Joseph.

Later on, I took some pictures of the area and went over to the viewing area on the north side of the levee. There were other vendors there, as well as several more porta-potties with a much more quickly moving line. In the distance, I could see several satellite dishes in the RV camping area; news trucks, I figured, although they could have been for science teams.

For three hours after our arrival, there wasn’t much to do. I tested my solar glasses a few times by looking at the sun; they worked. I did the same with the filters on my binoculars; they also worked. Then around 11:40, I heard someone give out a whoop and yell “It’s begun!” Yes, the eclipse had started. A few minutes later, I could see that a notch had appeared in the sun’s disk. I took a picture of it. As it turned out, that would be the only picture I would take of the eclipsed sun, as the clouds moved in shortly thereafter. For most of the rest of the next 90 minutes, clouds would obscure the sun. There were occasional opportunities to see it, but they were few and far between. I’d brought a telescope, but I didn’t bother to set it up. The conditions were too unpromising for me, and rain was a definite threat.

And then the rains came. We got everything underneath the tarp and then went in the car to wait it out. Some viewers didn’t want to wait; they started to leave the grounds before totality. We were going to stick it out until then, though. But we (well, mainly Bill) did take down the tarp. No need for a sun shade anymore. For some 20 minutes, we sat in the car with the windows open; I was getting a bit soaked from the rain, but it would be too warm if we closed the windows. They would fog up on us.

Five minutes before totality, the rains stopped. It was still mostly cloudy, but I thought I saw a little bit of clearing. I observed that it was noticeably darker than it should be at 1 in the afternoon, even with the heavy cloud cover. Then we heard some cheering: the clouds had parted enough to allow the sun to be seen. We got out of the car and got our eclipse glasses. The clouds provided some natural filtering, which was good because I couldn’t see anything through the glasses. I got my cameras ready: my DSLR and a GoPro. I started the GoPro running, and I started describing what I was seeing.

I looked up, and I saw the thinnest solar crescent I had ever seen in my life. I had never been this close to an experience of totality. With the borderline conditions, I made a decision: I would not attempt to take still pictures of the eclipsed sun. Instead, I would concentrate on capturing the overall experience with my GoPro. So I put the DSLR back in the car and kept on shooting video. I kept up the commentary, and I could hear occasional comments from Alice and William, who were close by. Bill was farther away; if he said anything, I could not hear him.

And then it started getting dark. The combination of the nearly-eclipsed sun and the clouds made it look like 7 or 8 at night. And then it got even darker, like 9 at night. And then it got even darker! Although I couldn’t see it directly, totality had arrived. Above us, the sky was very dark, just about pitch black. Where there were holes in the clouds on the horizon, it was still light, but it was the light of sunset or sunrise. I pivoted in place, holding the GoPro in front of me, to take in all of my surroundings. I heard a car horn honking. I’m sure the temperature dropped, though I couldn’t tell the drop due to the eclipse from the drop due to the cloud cover. I even decided to take two pictures of the surroundings with my iPhone.

And then I noticed an increasing cheer coming from the crowd. What was happening? I looked up, and there it was: the totally eclipsed sun peeking through a hole in the clouds. It was a round black hole in the sky, surrounded by a small corona. I pointed the camera slightly upwards, hoping to catch some of the view. Since you can’t zoom in with GoPros, I didn’t know how it would turn out. I hoped something would come out on video. And then the clouds returned, and it was gone. But it was still dark; totality was still happening. A little after 1 in the afternoon, and it was darker than twilight, darker than a real bad thunderstorm about to descend on you. I could see how spooky or even terrifying this must have seemed to people unaware that an eclipse was happening, and even more so if it was cloudy, like what we were experiencing. The wrath of God? Repent or else? I could see why they might have thought that. I noticed a plane flying; its night lights were on, as they should have been.

And then I noticed it was getting lighter. Yes, indeed, the sky was getting brighter. And it would continue to get brighter, no matter how badly we wanted this surreal darkness to remain. It was no longer night; it was back to late evening conditions. The clouds prevented us from seeing the diamond ring and Baily’s Beads effects, but soon, we could see a thin crescent on the other side of the solar disk. Totality was over. We didn’t get to see much of it, but we certainly experienced the total solar eclipse.

We all agreed that we had had a wonderful experience. Sure, it would have been better had there not been the clouds and rain, but we did see what we came to see, even if it wasn't for as long as we would have liked. I had my video, and William had captured some good shots of the totally eclipsed sun. One person who had been near us saw William’s photos and asked for copies of them, giving him his business card.

The partial phases of the eclipse were still taking place, but I wasn’t paying much attention to them. Instead, I was focusing on saving the video from the GoPro to the laptop. That way, we could watch the eclipse video while we were waiting to leave the airport. And in an 8-minute, 40-second video, I had captured the key experiences of totality. Furthermore, I did capture that brief glimpse of the fully eclipsed sun.

As you can imagine, it took some time to leave the airport. But eventually, we did get on the road back to St. Joseph. Traffic was good for a while, but it slowed to a crawl where I-229 merged with I-29. And then William checked Google Maps and noticed a major backup on I-29 heading back to Kansas City. Were there any back roads we could take to avoid it? Yes, there were! William with his phone, and I with my iPad, were able to find a route that would lead back to the hotels that avoided freeways altogether. Interestingly enough, the route took us through Dearborn — Dearborn, Missouri, of course. This Dearborn was 200 times smaller than the one in Michigan (in terms of population), nor did I notice any Arab-owned businesses or any mosques. Soon, we had reached Ambassador Drive and dropped off Alice and William at their car. They were going to a different hotel for tonight but had left their car at the first one. Bill and I returned to our hotel. There were some downed tree limbs in the street, so thunderstorms must have passed through the area.

Back at the hotel, I started to identify the pictures I had taken with my iPhone and downloaded to my laptop. But when I tried to download the pictures from my DSLR, I found that I couldn’t. The camera wasn’t being recognized. Did it have anything to do with my shooting in RAW format? Further investigation would have to wait until after supper. We met at On The Border, where I got my usual combination plate (chicken tortilla soup, a cheese and onion enchilada, and a chicken tinga enchilada with green chili sauce, along with beans and rice). We also ordered Guacamole Live, where fresh guacamole was prepared at our table. That was good. And after a mishap with my meal where the wrong dishes were brought out, I enjoyed my meal.

After our supper, Alice and William went bowling, while Bill and I returned to our hotel to watch a NOVA special on today’s eclipse. Back at the hotel, I tried a different cable to connect my DSLR to my laptop; it worked, and I retrieved my pictures and identified them. I uploaded my eclipse video to Facebook; it took a while for it to be uploaded and processed! As 8 o’clock approached, I turned on the TV to PBS, and we got ready for the NOVA special. But at the top of the hour, we didn’t get NOVA. Instead, it was a special PBS Newshour report: President Trump was announcing new policies relating to American involvement in Afghanistan. NOVA didn’t start until a half-hour later. Then the local broadcast was plagued by technical difficulties, including rain fade. Also, some 10 minutes into the program, it restarted from the top. But at 9:30, the program ended, and we’d missed the last 10 minutes.


Tuesday August 22

Today, we would start our return to the Detroit area, but we weren’t hurrying back. There were plenty of other things to do en route.

Even though I didn’t have to get up early, I did. I woke up around 4:30 and did some stuff on my laptop. My uncle got up later, some time after 6. We finished most of our packing and took some of our stuff down to the car, and then we had breakfast. When we checked out, we didn’t leave town right away. No, we were going to meet Alice and William at the Kansas City Zoo, which was in the southern part of town. We had little trouble getting to the area of the zoo, but thanks to flooding in that part of town, the routes computed by our mapping programs couldn’t be followed. I used one of them to direct us down another street, but we encountered a driver who warned us to turn around; it had flooded but wasn’t closed. We eventually found a route that would take us to the zoo, where Alice and William were waiting for us.

The zoo was also affected by flooding; the African exhibit was inaccessible, and the trains and trams that went around the zoo were not running. Still, we got to see well over half of the zoo. I recall seeing a polar bear, the penguins, sea lions, meerkats and lemurs, a Sumatran tiger, orangutans, a solitary elephant, a red kangaroo and a tree kangaroo. I saw some camels do a stand-up act; they were laying on the ground and stood up. We had lunch at the zoo; it was OK. By the time we reached the gift shop, it was nearly 2 PM. Alice and William would be heading for the airport to return to New Hampshire. We said our goodbyes, and then we set off for our next destination.

And what was our next destination? We’d be staying in Columbia for the night, but first, we stopped at a park along the Katy Trail, a rail-to-trail conversion. In the town of New Franklin, there was a roadside monument commemorating the Santa Fe Trail.  Bill had seen the monument a few years ago when biking on the Katy Trail. Six people were honored there, but the only one whose name I recognized was Kit Carson. Afterwards, we went into Boonville to stop at the A&W for a root beer float, and then it was on to Columbia. We were staying at the Hampton Inn, and it turned out that right next door to it was the same Cracker Barrel where we’d stopped for lunch on Saturday. We didn't feel like driving anywhere else, so we walked over there for another meal. It was a good meal, but after going there three times in four days, we’d had our fill of Cracker Barrel.

After dinner, and back in our hotel room, I uploaded my eclipse video to YouTube, and then I identified the pictures I took today.


Wednesday August 23

We got up around 6 this morning and took our time getting ready. There were no urgent time pressures on us today; we didn’t have to be home until Saturday, although we were targeting to arrive home by Friday.

After partaking of the Hampton Inn’s breakfast buffet (I had oatmeal, yogurt, and 2 muffins), we got ready to leave. When I put my clip-on sunglasses, though, I noticed a bad scratch on the left side. It must have gotten scratched by one of the cables in my pocket (I had been carrying USB cables for charing my iPhone/iPad and for my MiFi, and I also had a cable for getting the pictures off of my DSLR). They originally came from Amazon, so before we got out of the parking lot, I had ordered two more pairs. They were scheduled to arrive Friday. They were still usable, although the scratch was annoying.

When we got under way, we headed east on I-70 toward St. Louis, but that wasn't our destination. We were heading near the town of Bonne Terre and St. Francois State Park, which were south of St. Louis. My uncle wanted to visit an old family cemetery in the area, and it was best accessed legally from the park. We got there by taking I-70 to I-64 to I-270 to I-55 and then US 67. A couple of hours later, there we were at the park. We went to the park office to get some information on where exactly the cemetery was located and how to get there.  There was an access road where we could park and walk in.

We found the access road, parked by the gate, and started walking in. The road was a slightly paved two-track, which turned into a one-track, and then it ended. Ahead was a big expanse of uncleared land. We started walking through it, but the going got too rough for me. This was not my ancestral cemetery (Bill was an uncle by marriage), so I decided to turn back. We both had very good phone coverage, so we could contact each other if necessary. He pressed on, while I started back.

That access road had been sloping downward, so it was a bit of a climb returning to the car. When I got there, I opened up the windows and kept up with e-mail and social media while keeping occasional watch for Bill. After an our or so, he called; he’d found the cemetery and had taken several pictures. At the same time, two park officials drove up. It was Mary and Butch, who had helped us at the park office and were checking up on us. They volunteered to drive down the road and pick my uncle up. That was certainly a timesaver! We thanked them for all of their assistance, and then we set off.

Our next destination was the old Chain of Rocks Bridge across the Mississippi River north of St. Louis. This had been part of old Route 66, but it hadn’t seen motor vehicle traffic in several years; it was now a hike-bike trail. I had visited here several years ago, but it was Bill’s first time to see it. We got caught in a little St. Louis rush hour traffic getting to the bridge. When we finally got there, I directed Bill to exit on the Missouri side, for that was where I had parked when visiting the bridge before. But the parking lot was blocked off. What had happened? After turning around and finding a spot to park on the side of the road, we found the answer: parking was now on the Illinois side. Back into the car we went, and soon we were crossing the Mississippi on the modern equivalent of the bridge, then drove down Old Chain of Rocks Road (part of old 66) to reach the old bridge. I’d never been on this stretch of the road before; we had to use another one-lane bridge to reach the Chain of Rocks Bridge.

The Illinois side was in good condition, and we started walking the bridge. This was a narrow bridge, with two lanes that could have accommodated Model T’s and Model A’s. The bridge was notable for having a bend in the middle, something that would never accommodate 70 mph traffic. There were two benches on the Missouri side of the bridge; it would have been nice had there been more bridges elsewhere on the bridge. Still, after some photo opportunities, we made it to the other side. We were back in Missouri. While we were there, we saw a group of bike riders ride the bridge to Illinois; we saw them come back a short time later. On the way back, we noticed a plaque in memory of two young women who had been brutally raped on and then thrown from the bridge back in 1991 (their murderer was executed in 2005).

We soon made it back to the Illinois side. We’d successfully made the bridge walk in and out. Were we ready to make the annual Labor Day walk of the Mackinac Bridge? Perhaps not. But we were ready to find a hotel for the night. Using my apps on my iPad, I found the Hampton Inn in nearby Edwardsville. There weren’t any nearby restaurants, so we asked at the front desk for some recommendations. They gave us a sheet listing the restaurants in the area. The one that appealed to us was the Pasta House, where we ended up having a nice dinner there. We both had spaghetti and soup. I wasn’t able to finish my dinner, so I had it boxed up to take on the road.

Back at the hotel, I downloaded the pictures I had taken today. At the same time, we watched a NOVA program on the Voyager space probes 40 years after their launch. And then it was time for bed.


Thursday August 24

I had a fairly good sleep overnight, getting up around 6:30 in the morning. I took a shower, and then my uncle and I went down to the lobby to have breakfast. Now we could have pressed hard on our drive and made it home today, but we wanted to drive historic Route 66 and see the sights that we could see.

I didn’t note the time that we left the hotel — it was between 8 and 9. We set off through Edwardsville. I had a Route 66 guidebook with me, and I was using that along with the road signs for the historic route (and occasionally consulting the iPad) to follow the route. In several places, the old road paralleled I-55; in other places, we could see remnants of the pavement for an abandoned section of divided highway. There was one stretch where we were stopped for several minutes by a road crew applying oil to one lane of the road, forcing cars to take turns on the other lane.

As we drove through Litchfield, we stopped for a break at the Walmart and for a brief pass-through of the Salvation Army Thrift Store. Bill found a few things, not all of which he was necessarily looking for, and then we were on our way again. Our next big stop was in Springfield, where we devoted much of the afternoon to Abraham Lincoln. We spent a couple of ours at the Lincoln Presidential Museum, which covered his life: his early years, his presidency, and his death at the hands of John Wilkes Booth. I became a member of the museum, at least for the next year, and I picked up a couple of books from the gift shop.

When we left the museum, we drove a few miles to the west to the cemetery that contains Lincoln’s tomb. The tomb was a magnificent obelisk occupying a prominent place in the cemetery, as would be expected. The interior of the tomb was open; in some ways, it reminded me of the San Jacinto Monument, at least in terms of decor. In the rear of the chamber were the resting places of Lincoln, his wife, and three of their sons (Robert was buried at Arlington).

By this time, it was fairly late in the afternoon. We decided to stay at a Days Inn in Bloomington. Unfortunately, in following old Route 66, we found ourselves unable to easily make it to the motel. It was adjacent to a freeway exit, but we couldn’t easily get on the freeway (not that we really wanted to, anyway). With difficulty, we found our way to a Walmart near the motel. That was where we picked up some items for supper to go along with my leftover spaghetti from last night. Our hotel room had a microwave; in fact, I selected it because it had a microwave. The spaghetti was good. Later on, I downloaded the pictures I had taken today. Then it was time for bed.


Frday August 25

I woke up around 6 today and did some reading and checked my e-mail. When my uncle got up, we headed out to the lobby for breakfast. While eating breakfast, Bill called up my eclipse video on his iPad (which, several years ago, had been my iPad) and watched it. CNN was on the TV in the background; one of the stories was tropical storm Harvey, which had now become category 2 hurricane Harvey and was threatening the Texas coast. Little did I know then what Harvey would soon do to south Texas and then to the greater Houston area, my hometown region.

We got under way before 8 and picked up Route 66 in town - or should i say “towns”, for we went through both Bloomington and Normal. Later, we arrived in Pontiac (Illinois, not Michigan), where we planned to spend a few minutes seeing the sights (multiple murals on the downtown buildings), including a Route 66 Museum. We ended up spending closer to two hours there, seeing not just that museum but a local military museum, recognizing the servicemen and servicewomen from the area who had served from World War I to the present day.

We had spent more time in Pontiac than planned, and that would delay our arrival at home. Still, we continued our drive up old 66. Once or twice, we passed Amtrak passenger trains heading south to St. Louis or possibly beyond. There weren’t too many large towns that we passed through until we reached Joliet. Here, we left Route 66 and started following the Lincoln Highway. Well, we were following US 30 more than the Lincoln Highway. It took quite some time to get across that southern part of Chicagoland, especially because we were trying to avoid the night that is I-80/94, but after an hour or so, we made it.

We decided to head up Highway 49 up to I-94, then take the freeway up to US 12, then take that across the state to home. We stopped for gas in Three Oaks, and I drove from there to Coldwater, where Bill took over for the rest of the trip. We found a busy roadside cafe called the Somerset Cafe, where we had dinner. Then we continue up US 12 through Clinton, Saline and Ypsilanti, and around a half-hour later, we were at my condo in Westland, unloading my stuff from the car. Bill still had another hour or so to g, but I was home. Most unpacking could wait until morning, but  set up my laptop and iPad and turned on the Weather Channel.



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© 2017 R. W. Reini.    All rights reserved.

Written by Roger Reini
RevisedSeptember 2, 2017