It was an event memorialized with a Facebook event my friend Phil Hord created years ago, just so we’d all have it on our calendars. A total eclipse of the sun that raced across the United States at an approximate diagonal from Oregon to South Carolina, passing directly through the center of Wyoming, just a few hours north of our home in Boulder, Colorado. But “just a few hours north” meant that literally hundreds of thousands of Coloradans were planning on heading up to Wyoming for the 2 1/2 minute phenomenon and I wasn’t interested in participating in the biggest traffic jam in Wyoming history.
Here’s NASA’s map: notice the eclipse goes neatly through Kansas City on its route:
Knowing our family had an apartment in Kansas City that was sitting empty that week, my pal Steve, my girls and I decided we’d head due east and make it a multi-day adventure without hassles, campgrounds and sleeping bags on the ground. It worked out great – and the day before the eclipse Steve and I had a lovely afternoon exploring the Nelson-Atkins Gallery, one of the best art museums in the United States. That night we all watched the terrific 1997 Jodie Foster film Contact in my never-ending attempts to inspire my girls with women who are smart and strong.
The following morning, eclipse day, August 21, 2017, I woke up to… heavy rain. Deluge-level rains. Oh, this wasn’t good, and even when the rain eased by mid-morning the sky was streaked with clouds and the forecast was dicey. Would we have come all the way to Kansas City just to miss the darn eclipse?
We tried to take a pragmatic view of things, and lo and behold, as we got closer to totality (1.07pm CST) the sky cleared so that by noon it was cloudless. Very, very good timing, and we lay on lounge chairs at the apartment complex’s pool area, approved eclipse glasses on our faces, and watched the fantastic phenomenon of the moon gradually eclipsing the sun:
After about an hour of the moon gradually eating more and more of the sun’s disk, it became the slimmest of slivers. As we reached totality, the clouds began to return, and by totality +10 we could view the sun’s sliver directly, no glasses needed, because the clouds were quickly getting thick and dark. Second half of the eclipse was mostly blocked, but that hour or more leading up to totality and the moment when we saw it completely occluded? Fantastic and amazing.Within a few hours it was a heavy thunderstorm with flash flood warnings, but for once, the weather had cooperated perfectly!
Since I couldn’t get any photos to turn out from my iPhone, even crude ones, I’ve borrowed one from NASA and, with permission, republish one from my friend Chris Knight, who was up in the Wyoming crowds with some pretty fancy photo gear. First, NASA:
This is not quite what we saw (no clouds, for one thing!) but it’s a great photo. And then there’s Chris’ photo, which is well-nigh fantastic:
Definitely more dramatic than our eclipse viewing from the pool area in Overland Park, Kansas, but great reminders of the celestial phenomenon that, yes, was worth a day’s drive in each direction to view.
And, since I’m sharing our adventures with you, was worth the frustration of finding out I’d drive over some nails and actually trashed a tire on my two month old Mazda CX-5. Here’s a photo of the nails in my tread:
The good news is that the car tire pressure sensor worked and I was able to drive it to a local tire repair place before it was completely flat, not end up stranded on the side of the highway, 40 miles from a service station that wouldn’t have had the right size tire anyway. Weird to get nails – not just a nail, but multiple – in my tire when I have no memory of driving through any construction area, but… so it goes.
And thus ended our great Kansas City eclipse adventure, August, 2017. A great show from nature and a fun few days in Kansas City with some of my favorite people on the planet!