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Our Eclipse Trip (Part 7 – The Eclipse!)

(Continued from Part 6)

This was a typical view of clouds on the 21st.

So, the morning of the 21st, we started getting stuff set up.  There was to be less than 20% cloud cover, a light breeze, and overall a good day for the Eclipse.  The cloud cover was in the form of mostly light cumulus clouds that were sliding from the south-south-west, but had big chunks of blue sky between them.

Our eclipse-viewing set-up.

We had brought a small 90mm refracting telescope that I fabricated a projection screen onto.  Using the 90 degree prism diagonal adapter, the image of the sun was easily visible on the small screen.  I had tested it in Buffalo on both the sun and the moon, so I was sure it would work well for all the lighting conditions of the eclipse, without a sun filter.  Well ahead of time, I took this out to the cleared space just south of our site and set it up.

The projection screen on the telescope, for those of us without the lovely steampunk goggles that allow you to look at the sun …
No, that’s not all dust on the lenses, those are sunspots!

I was really happily surprised that the screen worked as well as it did, as we were able to make out sunspots before the eclipse was even near approaching. I was able to leave the image up for a couple of minutes before the sun would track off and I’d have to readjust the telescope so the image would be visible, but that was no problem (except for a couple of times when a big cloud went over).

Here comes the moon …

Slowly, over the course of an hour, accompanied by drinks and popcorn, we watched the sun slowly disappearing as the moon slid in front of it.  Mostly we watched on the projection screen, but occasionally we’d sneak short looks with the solar glasses, to see it in  as unaided a manner as we could.

(Light) Clouds won’t stop us!

Even when the light clouds passed over, we were still able to see the progress, though the dense clouds were just too much.

Here’s the sun about half-way gone …

Slowly, but steadily, we watched the moon make it’s way across the sun’s face, and were able to look across the campground and watch people enter the park for the viewing they had set up at the visitor center/museum.  There were some people congregating at a campsite farther along our loop, but otherwise, we had the campground area to ourselves. (Which is really how we like it.)

And this is what a half-gone sun looks like without a telescope …

One of the things I was really surprised at was how bright it continued to be, even as the moon was covering up the sun.  It wasn’t until the very last 5-10% of the sun was getting covered that it made very much of a difference.

A tiny sliver of sun left …

But finally, the moment was upon us.  The ‘crescent sun’ kept getting smaller and smaller.

But still plenty of light for reading …

But there was still plenty of light for reading, even if it wasn’t full-strength sun.

But as the last little bits of sun were covered up, it got dramatically darker.

I had also turned the bus’ dashcam on.  Here’s the video of the eclipse from the bus’ point of view (sped up to double-speed).

The eclipsed sun as the camera saw it …

We did try to get a picture of the sun being eclipsed, but due to the humidity in the air, it wasn’t as dramatic as we’d hoped – the light was getting refracted back into the darkened area.  As such, instead of a nice dark area in sky, like we saw with our eyes, the camera picked up a dully glowing donut of sorts.

The crescent sun is on the other side now!

And then, the sun, slowly came back.  We had one diamond show up on the projection screen, but it was gone too fast to get a picture. And then it was like we were back to just standing in the sun, much as we had been waiting for the eclipse.

The sun is almost all the way back …

And slowly the sun came back and it was just like every afternoon we’d had up to that point.  But it was an amazing thing to witness, and surprising as to how long it actually took for the eclipse to be noticeable, and how quickly it returned to normal (at least to our unaided eyes).

(More of the trip in Part  8)


Our Eclipse Trip (Part 2)

(continued from Part 1)

We planned out our meals, assuming that there would be days when it would be too hot to want to cook over the fire, but leaving room for a hot meal too.  My wife had shopped just before we left, and had looked for some steaks to take with us.  The store, however, had some ribs that were on sale (50% off!) so those were what came, along with some hamburgers, luncheon meats, hummus, snacking vegetables, cheeses, frozen pizzas, bagels …  The list went on.

The regular canned & dry goods pantry.

Luckily, our fridge is pretty big, and everything we wanted to take that needed to be kept cold fit.  We also had a bunch of canned goods, soups, beans, tomatoes, spam (of course), herring, you name it.  I usually keep a stock of those on the bus, but we added in some more soups and things.

By 11:00 am, we were all packed up, the house was secure (after being locked and alarmed and then me realizing that ALL my directions were sitting on the kitchen table!) and we started off. It was a pretty nice day, and after a quick weekend trip to Sprague Brook Park the weekend before (as a sort of shakedown trip) I’d filled the tank, so we were all set.

Except that the inverter wasn’t working.

Rolling farmland and countryside as seen from a moving bus …

I didn’t think it was a big deal, and we just kept going.  Along through New York on I-90, the speed limit was 65 mph, which is the top end for the bus, so that was fine.  It was a hot day though, and the temperatures kept creeping up over 200, so I feathered things a little to watch that.

I was also watching the output from the backup camera that I had finally installed.  It does a nice job, the static lines on the screen indicating about 1′, 3′, 5′, and 12′ from the rear bumper.  It also has a large field of view as I mounted it just up above and to the side of the rear door. (It was a little odd at first though, as the 140 degree fish-eye picks up the break and signal lights!)  The screen is nice, because if I turn the power to the camera off with a handy dash switch, it goes to sleep until it gets a signal form the camera.

But I had plenty of time to get used to the camera and watching temperature gauge along in New York. The I-90 through Pennsylvania, though, had sections of the 90 that had a 70 mph limit, which meant that I was holding some of the trucks back (especially on some of the steeper hills where we lost speed).  I really felt badly about that, but we continued on into Ohio.

Which also had 70 mph speed limits.

And the hills got steeper, so our average speed dropped some more.

Many people don’t realize that there’s a major watershed divide in Ohio, and as we headed south from Cleveland, we were heading uphill toward that.  Using a really cool website called, I’ve been to find out the grades of the possible routes that we’ve looked at to travel on.  The route from Buffalo to Cincinnati is interesting as we start out in Buffalo at about 600 feet above sea level, and end up at about 485 feet above sea level at Cincinnati, but hit altitudes of almost 1400 feet along the way.

North of the red line goes to the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence River, and south of it ends up in the Mississippi.
Altitude and slope of the route between Buffalo on left) and Cincinnati on right).

Just for interest, the first peak on that altitude graph is just east of Erie, PA (1259′), with the next lowest point being just east of the Pennsylvania/Ohio state line (677′), followed by the low point at the I-90 and I-271 interchange (648′).  The next high point was near Woodmere (1193′), but when we got to where 271 crosses the Cuyahoga Valley National Park it was lower (968′), only to rise again when we got to the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River/Mississippi River Watershed boundary, just south of Medina, OH at about 1216 feet.  Then it was down again near Burbank (920′), and finally up to the highest point of our trip near Lexington, at 1391 feet, before our next low point just south of Lou Berlinner Park in Columbus (707′).  Another climb after we were out of the city brought us to the next high point at Exit 58 for Bowersville (1078′), then the next low near Mason, OH (762′), the next high point near Landon (871′), then finally the low of the Ridge Road Exit where we got off for the night (588′).

So, just looking at our starting and finishing altitude for our first day, we went down 12 feet, but if you look at even just the major high and low points along that day’s route, our ups and downs total some 5210 feet of altitude change!

And by the time we hit Jeffersonville, we were near a quarter tank of fuel, and decided to stop at a Love’s for fuel.  As per all of the travel stops that I’ve been to, I expected that the diesel pumps to be set for easier access for large vehicles, and away from the gas pumps.  Accordingly, Love’s has a banks of diesel pumps, and all the trucks are lined up right there, so I pull the bus in.  We wait for 10-15 minutes for the trucks ahead to fill, clean their windshields, and finally move ahead, and try to run our cards in the automated pumps.  Not a single one of them is accepted, they’re all declined.

I go through a minor panic, and my wife runs in to find out if there’s something wrong with the card reader.  And she has to wait on line for several minutes to find out that ALL of the pumps in those banks only take corporate cards, not regular credit cards.  If we want to use a regular card, we have to go to the one pump mixed in with the gas pumps that dispenses diesel. Which I was able to do.  And finally we got filled up and were back on the road.

Anyhow, we have friends who live not far from the Ridge Road exit in Cincinnati, so we got to drive down some lovely quiet little streets to get to theirs. We had talked about parking in front of their house on their dead-end street, but there were too many cars, and the exhaust pipe of the bus scraped about half-way up the slope of the entrance to their driveway, so backing in there didn’t work either.  So it was a multi-point turn (made much easier by the back-up camera) to turn around head the bus back out on their small street where we parked in the lot of a small apartment building at the end of the street that was in renovations (and our friends knew the manager who said it was okay).

We were treated to a great meal and a tour of their house (all the cabinets were hand-made by our friend Jeff, and they’ve stripped and refinished all the original woodwork, so it was great).  The rain which had been forecast for our trip had been spotty as we got close to Cincinnati, but really let loose once we stopped.  But at that point, it didn’t really matter, we were tired and ready to sleep.

But …

Without the inverter running (and since I don’t have the LP plumbed for the fridge yet), our fridge was a big cooler.  We had some worries, but there wasn’t much we could do right then, so we just left the doors closed.

The first day of the trip was done, and tomorrow would be a Kentucky day …

(continued in Part 3)




A Day without Skydiving

So, my wife wanted to go skydiving, and when she mentioned it on Facebook, she got another of our friends who wanted to go skydiving  to jump with her, and two more who wanted to go watch.  Our son wanted to go, and of course, I was going  to be there, and as the subject of getting there & carpooling came up, I offered the bus.

All was arranged, snacks and champagne were gathered, and we set off.  The location of WNYSkydiving was at the Pine Hill Airport, basically an hour away.

Unfortunately, the winds were too strong, and the jump was aborted, though our two jumpers didn’t get the notification.  So we ended up having a nice picnic in the bus, and heading off to Batavia, NY in order to enjoy the offerings of Oliver’s Candies, both in their ice creams as well as in their candies. especially to pick up some of the thin, colorful ribbon candy that have just entered their seasonal production.

And the trip was nice.  We skirted the edges of the Upper Stafford Marsh area along the way, making it a bit more scenic.

And after Oliver’s, we headed back home along Route 33 (which doubles up on the way as we passed Corfu).  But, being a nice, sunny day it’s a nice view (even at 4x speed).

Overall, it was an uneventful trip, likely to be repeated in May when the Skydiving season restarts.