I’ve always wanted to see a total solar eclipse, but until now I never had the opportunity. I’ve caught a number of partial solar eclipses over the years, and quite a few lunar eclipses. This year’s “Great American Eclipse” was perfect: it passed close to Portland, where we have family, and we could visit friends on the way up.
By the time I reserved our hotel there was nothing left inside the path of totality, but we could still get an expensive room in Portland. I reserved that immediately for the nights before and after, then a motel for a few nights before so we would have time to visit, then we planned out the trip up and back.
Driving Into the Path
The morning of August 21, we got up at 5:30 to drive south into the path of the eclipse. We didn’t actually make it out the door until at least 6:30, and the parking attendant had lost our key (fortunately we had two, and they did eventually find it that afternoon), and then we got lost trying to find an ATM in case we had to pay a ton to park in someone’s field (one way streets and bridges and driving into the early morning sun), but we got on the road toward Salem by around 7:15/7:30, with our eclipse glasses, water, snacks/emergency food, and a very sleepy 6½ year old.
The threatened traffic jam carpocalypse didn’t materialize. There were slowdowns, sure, but nothing we hadn’t experienced on the way out of LA. Our nav system (which J. calls the “map lady”) sent us onto a side road at one point, and we drove through the countryside a while before getting back onto the interstate.
The kiddo had a day off from school in mid-March, so I took a vacation day and we all drove out to the desert to see the spring wildflowers. After the endless suburbia of Los Angeles, northern Orange County, and Corona, we drove past hills green from the winter rains, then into the similarly-endless suburbs of Temecula. It’s been years since I took Highway 79 south, and the city has grown a lot, but after a few miles the strip malls and housing developments disappeared, the road shrank to two lanes, and we drove through green hills with oaks, bushes, and the occasional patches of poppies, mustard and lupins. Fences, dirt roads and gates indicated ranches and wineries. Continue reading
When I was a kid, motels still advertised “COLOR TV!” on their signs to entice weary drivers to choose their facilities over the next one down the road. I’m pretty sure color TV was standard by then, but the signs remained.
These says, every motel I drive past has “Wi-Fi” on the sign, for the same reason.
Except it’s not quite the same. I mean…can you imagine if color TV was included with every room at the Motel 6, but you had to pay extra for it at a business class or nicer hotel?
That would be kind of silly, wouldn’t it?
Maneuvering around toys on the living room after four days by myself in a hotel got me thinking about clutter. Traveling forces you to pare down your belongings for the duration of the trip. What fits in the suitcase. What’s easy to pack up again (if you’re going to more than one place). But it’s really an illusion enabled by two things:
- At the end of the trip, you go back to your life. Anything you leave behind is merely deferred, not eliminated. Which is good, because even if you have extra stuff, you probably don’t want to be reduced all the way to a suitcase for real.
- The travel economy enables you to skip a lot of things that you’d otherwise need supplies (and time) for: cooking, cleaning, repairs, etc.
Yeah, it feels like you’re simplifying your living situation for a few days…but that’s because you’re paying for someone else to do all the maintenance work.
I started writing this on an airplane about to take off. In the time between my outbound flight and return trip, United took advantage of new FCC rules to draft a new policy allowing passengers to continue using (if I can remember the phrasing) “lightweight personal electronic devices set in non-transmit mode.”
I did have to stop as a matter of practicality during the takeoff itself, and being in a window seat I spent a lot of the next few minutes staring out the window.
Something I found interesting on the way up is how similar open space and water look at night from far enough up when you’re near a city, especially if the city just stops…especially at a natural boundary like a range of hills. In both cases you have a brightly lit region next to completely dark area. It’s only when you can identify patterns like docks, or roads through the empty space, or occasional lighted areas (though they could be boats) that you can really tell.
If you’re low enough, you can sometimes see the reflections of lights in the water. That made for an interesting illusion on the flight in. I’m not sure which bridge it was across the San Francisco bay, but it’s lit by regularly spaced white lights underneath the roadway. For some reason it looked like the lights were moving along the bridge as I flew past it, like the pulses in a Mac progress bar.
Something else that struck me: most areas along the California coast, seen at night, appear as darkness with islands of light. Greater Los Angeles is light with islands of darkness.
No wonder I can hardly see any stars these days.