To my surprise, I was awestruck – and humbled – when I witnessed the great solar eclipse yesterday in Humboldt, Nebraska.
Staring into the sun with my special eclipse glasses, I was amazed to see the bright orange blob (the sun) being slowly but steadily overtaken by a black blob (the moon) – and at the same time, down on earth, to feel my own environment changing, with the wind picking up, the sky darkening, the confused birds flying by and sounds of night at 1 p.m. When it got dark and stayed dark for a minute or so and then brightened my friends and I were stunned. We’d been told to expect this – so that shouldn’t have been a surprise – but maybe what was stunning was that it happened, just as expected.
The journey was half the fun! Four of us left Des Moines in the dark during a downpour at 4:30 a.m. and headed south and west on back roads toward “the path of totality,” hoping to avoid the crowds expected on the major interstates — which we largely did (until our trip home). En route, we bumped into the occasional fellow eclipse chaser – two women from Minneapolis; a bunch of young Mennonite guys from somewhere in Missouri – and made a few stops, including at the infamous Ax Murder House in Villisca, Iowa (one of the state’s stranger tourist attractions) and Brownville, Mo. (a pretty old town along the Missouri River that I’d like to explore more). Our original destination – Falls City, Nebraska – had rain and cloudy skies so we drove further north and east until we found clearer skies in what turned out to be Humboldt, Nebraska.
We joined a few other cars parked on a gravel service road above the county road, next to the Humboldt water tower. Like other groups, we unloaded our lawn chairs and picnic goodies and waited for the show in the sky. It was fun to meet fellow travelers from Kansas, Iowa and Minnesota and especially a nice young guy from Japan who had come to the U.S. for three days, specifically to see the eclipse. (He had some serious binoculars, spoke good English and was fun to talk with.) We hit some traffic on the way home but the Nebraska state troopers helped when and where they could and switching to back roads in Iowa helped. Such an adventure!