I've lived through a few solar eclipses now. I remember back in grade school, everyone making such a big deal about it. Turned out it was such a let down: Oh wow-- for a second or two it was almost like the sun went behind a cloud.
So I didn't put much thought into the August 21st solar eclipse. I looked it up, it was going to be a pretty good eclipse from here in Tahoe. I planned to go on with my life (sleep through it-- it was going to happen before noon, after all!)
Then, about a week before the deal, I started hearing people talk about what a big deal it was. But, meh, I've heard that every other solar eclipse, right?
The talk went on-- how long all the hotels and campgrounds had been booked in advance. How bad the traffic was expected to be.
So I started thinking, "Huh...what's keeping me from going to see this one?" Like-- really seeing it. From within the band of totality.
|David John & The Comstock Cowboys|
at the Bucket of Blood Saloon
I already had a busy weekend planned: I had some drinking and body piercing to get out of the way on Friday (yup...body piercing. No. I won't be posting photos,) a wedding reception to crash in Virginia City on Saturday-- and suddenly-- an 8 hour road trip to Seneca, Oregon on Sunday!
And that's how I ended up on my way to see the solar eclipse. And no-- I don't have decent photos. I was busy getting there and didn't think to look up tips on taking pics.
With items 1 and 2 checked off my list, I dragged my ass out of bed early Sunday morning. I threw a sleeping bag, an ice chest, and the dog into the back of the Xterra and promptly began texting the small band of lowlifes I call friends-- just to keep them in the loop. Because friends do that-- text you at 7 am on Sunday mornings to brag that they're having better adventures than you are.
|Ready to Roll!|
But I love a road trip! And I had a good one ahead of me, so what's not to smile about? All I had to do was stop by the grocery store for a few provisions (beer) and ice on the way out of town.
Now, Dog hasn't been traveling so well since we moved. He grew up in the back of the Xterra, going on long drives and lots of off road trips, but he's old now (13) and he's had a helluva year-- lost half his pack (the BF was his dad-- and my Aussie,) plus he got relocated.
Our last few long drives haven't gone so well for him, so I expected to be making lots of stops along our way. This gets awkward for us because Dog has bad hips and knees now and he can't jump in and out of the back of the X anymore...and it is not so easy for me to pick him up.
He did really well on this trip! And we've worked out a method for getting him in and out of the way-back with him having to use the ramp I got for him-- he hates that ramp! But he hates getting left behind even more.
|Stopping to worship at the alter|
of What the Fuck north of Reno
If you check out my ride report from my 2014 solo motorcycle trip, and scroll down, you'll find my deep thoughts on shoes trees and more about the BF's and my differences in interest. The shoe tree from that post is one and the same as this one.
Now that I'm the one driving the X around, I take a twisted sort of pleasure out of taking it places that the BF wouldn't have approved of-- the drive through of Taco Bell in particular! And shoe trees and other assorted weirdness I come across.
So Dog and I stopped at the shoe tree to take some pics and star at all the shoes and wonder what in the world makes people cover trees with shoes.
We had gorgeous weather for our ride-- which is good because the air conditioning in the X needs money and love that I just haven't gotten around to bothering with. (I don't notice it till I head back to the Valley in the summer time! Who needs AC in Tahoe?)
|No, really, I did see other cars.|
Hwy 395 all the way. I did most of the same stretch of road (Burns, OR to Reno) on that motorcycle trip back in '14 so I had a good idea of what I was in for.
Of course, there was all that concern about how bad traffic was going to be!
Yeah-- it was terrible! And by "terrible" I mean, this time I actually saw other cars on the road with me!
An 8 hour drive gives you lots of time to think. An 8 hour drive through nothing sort of forces you to think about stuff.
|This song always makes|
me think fondly of someone I know
Mostly, on this trip, I thought about what a long, strange trip it's been...although, probably not as long or as strange as the Grateful Dead's.
I had the iPod with me this time and I have a helluva playlist put together that's perfect (for me) for long road trips like this. Most of the songs are just good traveling music but every so often a song will hit you, you know? Send you back to a moment, remind of you of someone in particular-- good or bad.
|And this one used to make someone|
else think fondly of me.
I did have to stop long enough to figure out how adjust the speakers so the poor dog wouldn't get any deafer.
The stereo in the X is another thing that needs love and money-- I'll probably update the stereo before I worry about the AC. Maybe. We'll see.
The last time I drove this section of Hwy 395, I was on my DR650-- with the 3 1/2 gallon gas tank. It's a long stretch of road between gas stations and-- in case you weren't aware-- they don't let you pump your own gas in Oregon!
For the most part, this isn't that big a deal (to me-- the BF had major issues with it) but out here where the deserted highway boasts signs that say "Oregon Outback" with a small gas tank and short range, it means it's entirely possible to end up camped at a gas pump in front of some Mom & Pop station that closed at 6 in the evening and won't open again till 8 in the morning.
I'm actually using that as the premise for a book I'm working on, so backtracking this section is research.
This time I was able to breeze right past the Valley Falls gas station without stopping to see if the same guy still owns the place.
|I love this short section of Sand Dunes along Hwy 395|
The plan was to head into Malheur National Forest and find a spot to park for a night of dispersed camping. Fortunately, it occurred to me that I ought to get gas in Seneca before I took off into an unknown national forest with a quarter tank of gas.
My concern was that the tiny Bear Valley store and gas station was likely to get hit hard by travelers in the morning and might run out of gas. In which case-- I might be camped at the gas station till they get restocked!
Seneca is one of those astonishingly small towns that entirely too many Americans seem to think only exist in TV shows and movies. And that tiny town did a bang up job of hosting an eclipse party.
They opened up the golf course for camping, which was right next to the Bear Valley Stores. While I waited patiently in the store till someone could come out and pump gas for me, I fell in love with the place.
It was obvious that having a line at the counter was unusual. It was also apparent that the store's owner, Tonna, had a lot of friends helping her out with the extra business.
While Tonna pumped gas for me outside, we got to chatting and she mentioned that she was letting people camp in the field behind her store-- for free.
I took her up on the offer and pulled around in back of the store and got situated. I met Dave from San Francisco who was traveling in his Jeep Wrangler and was having a good road trip himself.
I wish I'd managed to get a shot of Dave with Dog-- Dog was in love with him and they had some quality time in the short period we were neighbors.
Dog and I got settled in with some dinner and cold beer in time to enjoy an incredible sunset.
|Sunset behind the Bear Valley Store in Seneca OR|
Let me warn you-- it gets COLD at night in August in Seneca! C. O. L. D. BURRRRRRRRRRR!
I was prepared-- with my beautiful, prized Western Mountaineering Versalite down sleeping bag, plus a few more blankets that I brought mostly for Dog. Which was good, because Dog wanted to snuggle and I did not want Dog's toenails anywhere near that sleeping bag!
Still, it took a long time to wind down-- because a long road trip rarely tires me out-- and get comfortable in the back of the Xterra with a dog that's used to having the whole way-back to himself!
I was up at the crack of dawn and watched the store owners get ready to start making the "genuine cowboy breakfast" that the signs out front promised.
DUDE! They let us camp in the back field for free! How could I not spend $10 for the hot breakfast they were cooking up?
Pancakes, eggs, and grilled ham. It was one of the best hot breakfasts I've had in quite awhile. I should have sprung the extra $5 and gotten biscuits and gravy too! But let's face it-- Dog already got most of the ham and eggs.
I can't eat that much!
So, with hot coffee in hand and surrounded by cheerful neighbors, I settled in with the town of Seneca to wait for the sun to be blotted out by a vengeful god.
Am I the only person who remembers the old 80's movie, Night of the Comet? Because no one got my jokes-- I did have some concerns that everyone within the band of totality might turn to dust or become zombies. I mean-- it just seems like the sort of thing that would happen on the eclipse I made the trip for. Right?
OK-- so, this total eclipse of the sun thing? VERY COOL!
There have been a few sights in my life that I went into with-- not exactly low expectations, but, not expecting to be wowed: The view of the Yosemite Valley from the tunnel, the Grand Canyon, a total solar eclipse.
All these things are things I've seen pictures of a thousands times.
You go into those things with a sort of "Yeah, I know it'll be different in person but it won't be that different...I've seen it. I know what it looks like," kinda attitude.
Each one of these things absolutely blew me away the first time I saw it in person.
This eclipse thing? WOW! Way cool!
|No seriously, I wasn't prepared to take pics! DOH!|
Way, Way, Way better than a partial eclipse.
I am so glad I made the decision to make the trip, and I am so glad I went ahead and camped at the store and shared the experience in a crowd.
It may have been a small town, mellow party, but the party vibe and the sense of celebration and community really added to the event.
Yeah, there was traffic, but it kept moving and it was fun to head down the highway with so many other people who shared the same reason for being there.
I mean...I don't know if that's how any of them felt but that's their problem if they traveled all that way just to be grumpy with the ride home.
Dog and I had just as great a ride home as we did getting there!
We thought about heading east, just to see where that road went, but I was already shirking responsibilities (NO! I took the laptop! And I was doing research, right? This was totally a working trip!) so we followed the herd and sang "Convoy" till traffic thinned outside of Burns.
I sure do love that stretch of 395 between Burns and Lakeview. Even when I have to share it with other vehicles.
|Dog needs to learn|
how to take a selfie
The ride home went too fast.
We're gonna need a longer adventure.
|The mood was cheerful and the crowd friendly as we waited for the sun to be blotted out by a vengeful god.|