April 11, 2024

Walk Like an Eclypstan

Timothy Birdnow

So the wife and I planned a trip to see the eclipse (we saw it back in '17 but wanted to catch it again) and there was no room at the inn - or any inn. We started trying to plan this thing eight months ago and were at the point of giving up when a motel down in the little town of Pilot Knob (where there had been a big Civil War battle long ago) and this was in the zone of totality so we loaded up the truck and we moved to Pilot Knob (kind of a reverse of the Beverly Hillbillies.)

I had wanted to go to my cabin, which was in the totality zone and in fact in the best part of it. But it's still a mess and without power or water my poor wife, who is disabled, simply would have to stay home.
So a motel in the beautiful Arcadia valley had to suffice.

My plan was to drive down to Van Buren, in the sweet spot, then drive back up to the motel (about an hour away). It didn't pan out that way.

Everybody in America decided to go there too.

I eschewed the interstate because of reports of traffic snarls but it did me no good. We rode the broke the entire way, rarely getting above 35 mph and stopping frequently. It should only have taken two hours but it wound up taking five. At one point I had to stop to use the bathroom and there were eight other road warriors - obviously more folks from St. Louis - waiting to go. This in a little one horse town by the roadside.

It soon became obvious my plan of going to Van Buren wasn't going to fly. Frankly, I wished I could fly myself before long. My legs were cramping from the endless gas to brake to gas cycle. My eyes felt like boiled onions which had been left on way too long from watching the taillights ahead coming on and going off in an endless cycle.

After hours of driving we came to the quaint little French town of Caledonia (one of the oldest towns in Missouri) and it looked like the battlefield at Fort Davidson I mentioned earlier at the peak of combat; people EVERYWHERE! I pressed on, hoping to get to our motel before the event began; time was growing short.

We didn't make it; we reached Elephant Rocks state park and the cops had the parking lot closed. It looked like the Biblical description of Armageddon, with every people, race, and tongue being present. But there had been a patch of roadside available facing north so I turned around and grabbed that. Got out the lawn chairs and Cath and I were just in time for the big show.

It was quite inspirational. I can see how ancient peoples would think it some sort of angry display from whatever gods they worshipped.

I made the mistake of taking off my glasses thinking we'd hit totality and one amazing starburst ray was visible (and unfortunately hit my battered eyeballs for a moment before I could tear them away.) Then it was as if someone used a dimmer switch and turned the light off.

Truly an amazing sight!

As soon as it was over everyone got in their cars and left without ceremony. We turned around and drove into Pilot Knob (the opposite direction from the crowd) without incident, and settled into our motel room.

This little country motel was jammed full and we tried to get food from the restaurant on site. They were running out of EVERYTHING. No salad, many of the other things out as well. We took the food we were able to get back to our room and ate it there.

The rest of the trip was rather disappointing. We explored a bit but found nothing really to do the next day. It was raining non-stop the whole time. I was looking for a winery that was supposed to be somewhere around there but never did find it.

The bad thing is we were fairly far away from our room and I developed double vision. I had to drive that way! It always looked like there were two cars coming and one was passing the other in my lane. I'd describe how it feels for you but I think you have an idea; like riding a rollercoaster that might fly off the rails at any moment.

I don't know if the double vision was caused by fatigue (I had pushed them very hard) or the momentary sunlight but whatever it was it mainly troubled me on the road. Went away once I got out of the car for a while.

So we spent the rest of our second day watching television and listening to the rain and waiting for my double vision to subside.

I also had not one but four blood sugar crashes in those two days. I'm diabetic and take insulin and it's a fairly dangerous thing to crash like that. I kept drinking Dr. Pepper (which was available from the soda machine by our room) and I would come back but go down again. Spent the whole trip eating sugar I didn't want.

Next morning I awoke and my back was out too. I've gotten used to sleeping in an easy chair and a bed is just too flat. This one was too soft too. I was hunched over worse than Quasimodo, in the shape of a question mark.

So we spent the morning packing and waiting for my double vision to clear and my back to unwind itself and hoping my glucose levels didn't tank.

The drive home was also rather perilous; it was raining, mostly a heavy soaking rain, and at one point we hit a fog bank that was thicker than the current POTUS. I needed a fog horn! Fortunately for me I had been getting lots of practice driving without that pesky sense of vision the last few days! Cathy sat silently next to me, reciting the Rosary in mortal fear. But we made it home alive, so what the heck!

I'm glad we did this even if it was a brutal trip. I sincerely doubt we'll be alive for the next eclipse.

But it illustrated to me the fact that that SOB Old Man Time is catching up with us. It's sad to admit it but I fear we aren't much able to do these kinds of things any longer.

At least my vision has returned to normal. And I slept quite well last night in my Lazyboy.

Posted by: Timothy Birdnow at 09:26 AM | Comments (2) | Add Comment
Post contains 1118 words, total size 6 kb.

1 My dear brother Tim: you DO know that what kept you alive was Cathy reciting the Rosary, of course. Otherwise the two of you would have been toast. Or steak tartare. I'm very happy you are both back home safe and sound, and am thanking the Lord for that too.

Tomorrow I shall urge Martha to read your account of the trip; right now she is of course in bed. We played a gig tonight and have another tomorrow... well, I'm operating on flex time here, writing on the 12th but talking about the 11th. Our "tonight" gig was accompanying our favorite chorus at the Knights of Columbus facility in Bloomington, and just after we set up the keyboard we had to vacate the room while a meeting took place, including lots of prayers. We played better than we had in years. Cause and effect?

Posted by: Dana Mathewson at April 11, 2024 11:51 PM (TKj+x)

2 Dana, I know that is true. In fact I'm alive today because of prayers by Cathy. I would have wound up dying the week I went into the hospital in 2011 without her.

Prayer works.

So you played better due to the prayers? Can't say for sure that was the reason but it certainly didn't hurt.

Posted by: Timothy Birdnow at April 12, 2024 07:53 AM (4GjOt)

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