Deciding to head to Boise to visit our newest grandson and catching the first total eclipse of the sun crossing the United States in 99 years was a great decision. I had read about what viewing a total solar eclipse was like, but nothing can beat being there.
Boise isn’t far enough north to see a total eclipse, only about 99 percent, so we had to drive 60 miles to Weiser, a town about the size of Winters, that was in the middle of the eclipse’s path. As the moon passes in front of the sun, it leaves a shadow about 70 miles wide and if you are in the middle of the path, the eclipse lasts a little over two minutes.
Weiser was expecting about 20,000 people, though I’m not sure that many people ventured down the road to be there. People are pretty good at finding ways to take advantage of a once in a lifetime event, and Weiser pulled out all of the stops. The high school set up a campground and your rent included use of the gym showers, and the FFA had a $5 breakfast. The city park was full of vendors selling everything from T-shirts to fudge.
The town is spread out and school buses were put into service as shuttle buses, moving people around town from schools to the city park. We paid for parking, which came with porta-potties, but there was plenty of parking on city streets. The city was prepared with bathroom facilities, and people at almost every corner directing traffic and answering questions. When I commented about how well prepared they were, the answer was that they have an annual fiddle festival every year that attracts 15,000 people. They were used to big crowds of visitors and this was just another opportunity to showcase their city and make a few dollars for service clubs, the city and schools.
We left early on Monday morning, expecting a lot of traffic on the way to Weiser. The freeway was a little busy, but nothing unusual according to our son, Robert. The two-lane country road was busier, but at 7 in the morning, very manageable. We found our parking space and walked around town waiting for the big show.
There were people from all over the United States and everyone was excited about the eclipse. Several had been to other eclipses around the world and had their fancy cameras and telescopes all set up. A few had pinhole cameras to go along with the special paper, plastic and aluminum solar glasses that we all had purchased.
Using solar glasses, you can look directly at the sun and watch as the moon moves across the sun. Nothing changed for the first 30 minutes or so, but as the sun was being completely blocked out, shadows started getting fuzzy as the sunlight was bending around the moon. The temperature started dropping and you could look at light shining through tree leaves, leaving images of the partial sun.
As the moon covered the sun, you could see darkness approaching from the west. Venus appeared, as did a few stars. The oohs and aahs came from everywhere. There was a black hole covering the sun with a thin band of light on the edges. After two minutes the sun peaked out and quicker than it had started it was light again.
Driving out of town was like leaving a professional sporting event — bumper to bumper with cars merging from everywhere. As we sat in traffic talking about what we had just experienced, you could hear rosters crowing. Morning was here, again, and they weren’t going to remain silent.
It took an extra hour and a half to get back to Boise but I was already thinking about seeing the next total solar eclipse in the United States in 2024. I hope my relatives in Texas have room for their California cousin’s family.
Have a good week.