Friday, April 12, 2024

Chasing the 2024 Solar Eclipse - Part 1

We've been excited for the 2024 Eclipse for years now! It's been on the back of everyone's mind since we flew out to Missouri to watch the 2017 Eclipse

This year, the Eclipse is traveling across the US from south to north, from Texas to Maine. And look at all those major cities it is going through! 

The kids were so little for the last one! 

They don't really remember it, except from my previous write-up. Alli was 1 and Ian was 3! Can't blame them I suppose. But this one, hopefully they'll remember, now that they're 8 and 10! 

And so, for months, Theresa has been planning to get us into the path of totality, where the moon will completely block out the sun, and not just a percentage of it. 
Looking at a map of typical cloud cover months in advance for the month of April, Texas looked like a pretty safe bet! At 180 days out, both Jacob and Theresa were booking campgrounds for the RV to be able to park right in the totality path. 
Our plans changed slightly to flying out to Texas instead of driving, but 2 weeks before the eclipse, Jacob left Florida to get him and his rig out there. His brother and his wife are also driving from Minnesota to stay with him! 

The Friday before the eclipse (happening on Monday) we all headed to the airport! 

Goodbye sunny Florida! 

Just a short flight over to... 

Wait! A moose? This doesn't look like Texas. Where are we? 

Portland Maine!?!

In the days leading up to the eclipse, everything we were seeing was showing cloud cover all along the path of totality. Jacob's brother joked that we'd need to bring our passports so we can head into Mexico and have clear skies. There is one other direction we can go though. 

All of us were on our phones, looking at updated weather predictions, through multiple reporting agencies to find the best possible location to see the eclipse without any clouds in the way. Up north is looking pretty promising!

And so, just a week before the eclipse, Theresa did what Theresa does best. She went into planning mode and rebooked all our flights, hotels, rental cars, and more to Maine!

Just 2 days ago they had a giant snowstorm that dumped inches of snow everywhere. Those cloudy skies will hopefully be clearing up soon. 

After arriving in Portland Maine around 5:30pm on Friday, we stopped at a few places for some road snacks. 

These Trader Joe's cookies used to be our favorite, but back in November they changed the recipe to remove the coconut. On a whim, I checked these and discovered the coconut is back! Hopefully that's for all Trader Joe's and not just the ones up north! 

Grabbing Chipotle before we hit the road. 

Because just because we're in Maine, doesn't mean we'll see the eclipse. We've got to get closer. It's a 2 hour drive from Portland to Bangor Maine. 

Once we got closer we stopped by Walmart for a few more necessities since we like to make our own meals. All through the store are buckets and wet floor signs while the snow on the rooftop melts. 

Brr! It's freezing here but we made it to the hotel! 

Thumbs up on the cookies now. 

The next morning we had breakfast in the room. Warm soup and a favorite Maine milk that we tried the last time we were here. Strawberry was the kids' favorite flavor! Definitely trying that again. 

Theresa liked the coffee milk previous. I saw a new flavor to try! Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Donut! 
It was... not very good. Alli and Theresa tasted it, saying it was "weird". Not a fan. Sadly I still couldn't find any Maple or Blueberry Milk. 

It's Saturday (2 days to the eclipse) and we've got another road trip ahead of us! 

Depending on how close you are to the center line of the eclipse, you'll have different durations of totality. Right around 3 minutes and 24 seconds is the most we can hope for here. If we go all the way out to Houlton, we'll have 3:20 and be in a pretty good size city. 

So, we drove nearly 2 hours from our hotel get there. 

These clouds can start thinking about moving on please. 

Here we find an official Eclipse Star Park where lots of festivities will be happening on Monday! 

I took this photo later in the day, but we were just the 3rd car here. It's a pretty small parking lot.
One of the big reasons we're here though is that the National Park Service is having a Junior Ranger event today in Houlton and the kids can earn a special Junior Ranger Eclipse Badge! That's worth driving 2 hours for, right! 

So cold. 36F outside. 

Us Floridians don't have much in the way of cold weather clothing. Instead we'll be dressing in layers. 2 jackets, 2 pairs of pants. Unfortunately it was only after getting off the plane that I noticed both kids chose Crocs as their shoes, and we didn't bring any backup shoes for them. Oops. 

It was really nice of the S.W. Collins Lumber Yard to have this tent and all the heaters set up. It helped us get out of the wind!

Hello Rangers Crystal and Rebecca! We're all ready to learn about eclipses! 

A model showing how the earth and moon rotate around the sun, and sometimes things line up just right where the moon blocks out the sun. 

Trying to match the definitions of the different celestial events to the pictures. 

How big is the earth compared to the sun? Can't trick this kid. He asked for something small, like the size of an ant. And he was right! The earth is so small compared to the sun. 

It's only because the moon is close to us that it can block out the entire sun. 

One of the recurring themes we keep seeing is how everyone is stressing eye safety. So many different groups are giving out solar glasses for free, and making sure to warn against possible counterfeit ones. There were hundreds of pairs of glasses free to anyone who needed them. 

To earn that Junior Ranger Badge, we'll need to finish a workbook. 

I took photos of each page of the booklet. This one was used for an Annular Eclipse (in 2023 where the moon blocks the sun but doesn't cover it fully) and for this Total Solar Eclipse. 

Hey, they got Bill Nye the Science Guy to help out! 

Learning about how different cultures interpreted the eclipse. And found an editing mistake that got left in the book. The Rangers said we get bonus points for finding it. 

It's starting to fill up here! 

Ranger Rebecca checking over the kids work. 

And Ranger Crystal reading through their stories. 

Alli was more scientific about what happens. 

But Ian got creative! His story is called The Portal. 
The Portal.
Once every great while, a portal opens up to take the sun to a fiery dimension for a few short minutes to restore the energy of the dimension for the creatures that live there. 
Love it! Nice and creative! 

Swearing in two Junior Rangers. 

Ranger Crystal was also taking photos, possibly for use on their website in the future. We'll have to keep an eye out! She was nice enough to send them to me! 

Sweet! A new Junior Ranger badge! 

It's my first time seeing one of the bags that all the badges come in! Now I can find out a little more about them!
Steamer Lane Design is the one who makes these badges! They are made from American Grown, Sustainably Sourced Wood (love the wood badges compared to the plastic ones. They also make them in their giant facility (an old Wrigly Gum factory) that is covered with 2000 solar panels! These badges are engraved using Solar Power! Cool!

Thank you Ranger Crystal and Ranger Rebecca for spending part of your day with us! 
I asked how they were planning to spend the eclipse. Ranger Rebecca will be hosting an event in the city of Island Falls (30 minutes away). Ranger Rebecca is going to hiking through the woods, breaking a trail up a mountain and waist deep in snow!  

Despite the tent, Theresa's toes are frozen and she's warming them on a heater. 

Thanking the S.W. Collins Company for coming out and setting up the tent. Alli grabbed a few coloring pages too. 

We're still trying to decide where to watch the Eclipse, so we stopped by the city of Island Falls to see what the conditions were like there. There's a community center with a large baseball field out back where Ranger Crystal said people would be setting up. It's covered in snow right now, so I'm sure it'll be a little muddy on Monday. 

The community center. 

Ah, a nice gym inside. And it was warm! 
Well we've got some decisions to make about where we're going. 

Back to Bangor Maine where we stopped at Walmart to pick up a few more things to be a little more comfortable on Monday. Big fluffy blankets!

And some cheap camping chairs. These chairs will be donated when we leave. 

Theresa found us a "table" to wrangle all our gear and to put things on while we're sitting out. 

So fluffy! 

These blankets will be coming home with us! 

Just because we're in Maine doesn't mean it's all going to be beautiful skies. Theresa pulled up a cloud cover chart and saw that Houlton is still expected to have 13% cloud cover on Monday. Hmm. Millinocket is only 60 minutes drive and will have 4% cloud cover. They're also closer to 2:55 minutes of eclipse versus Houlton's 3:20. We'll have to keep an eye on things. 

Look who is here! 
Jacob! After changing up all our plans, he and his brother changed everything too! We discussed the pros and cons of each location, weighing the eclipse duration, drive time, facilities, and more to finally come up with a decision of where to go. 

It was a late night of planning and doing last minute research. We've done everything we can do at this point. Here's hoping the weather really cooperates and we don't have any external circumstances that will mess up our plans. No car troubles, road closures, or anything else!
The next morning Theresa (just like the old Disney World commercial) told me that she was too excited to sleep! And looking at the morning forecast, the sky in Houlton has cleared up too! 
Totality here we come! 

1 comment:

  1. Lots of "playing it by ear" to make the best decision...not easy to do when unpredictable weather is involved, but things looked encouraging Monday morning. It was definitely very cold in Maine...tent+heater=Welcome! easy to freeze those toes without the proper socks and shoes (can't imagine how Alli's & Ian's feet must have felt!) Great job on the Junior Ranger badges, Alli & Ian...even awarded bonus points for finding that mistake, too...very informative booklet on Ian's succinct and creative "The Portal" (what an imagination!) Kudos to Steamer Lane Design for using Mother Nature for the badge source (American-grown wood) and production process (solar). Good to see that Jacob and his brother were able to change plans last-minute, too. EOM