Experiencing the Eclipse in Oregon

By Sandra Eddy
Special to the Palisades News

We began planning for the August 21 Solar Eclipse eight months ago on New Year’s Day.

We first looked to a friend, who lives on the Oregon coast and has a guest cottage. But her cottage had been booked for the Eclipse since August 2016, and she recommended going inland because of coastal fog. So, the search began.

My husband Ron and I looked at places in Wyoming, Kentucky, as well as St. Louis where we have friends, and various other spots because one thing was certain, we were going to be in the path!

In April, Ron started making multiple reservations for cars, hotel rooms and seats on airplanes as all were filling up fast. We wanted to make sure that we had options.

I kept bugging my step-daughter and son-in-law to consider going with us and bringing the 6-and 9-year-old grandkids.

Palisadians Marge Gold (left) and Sandra Eddy and watched the solar eclipse from a winery in Oregon. Photo: Bob Gold

Finally, in early May the decision was made. My son-in-law found a winery just outside of Salem in Willamette Valley wine country, in the path of totality, that had organized a weekend event for 1,200 lucky participants.

He reserved a campsite for their family for Sunday night and got event tickets for all of us for the Monday Eclipse viewing party. Shortly after, we had plane tickets to Eugene, hotel reservations and a rental car. I breathed a big sigh of relief. As long as the weather cooperated, our once-in-a-lifetime experience was on the calendar.

After arriving in Eugene about noon on August 20, we drove straight to the winery on back roads, avoiding I-5 completely. Zero traffic. Beautiful scenery. And the Eola Hills Wine Cellars location was perfect. Everyone was welcome. From the tiniest babies to the most senior citizens, no one felt left out.

The lecture on Sunday by a very funny science professor gave us some additional insights to the eclipse. His handout was informative and I used it many times as I helped to educate other first-timers. Sunday was like a dry run but you could feel the excitement and anticipation in the air. We drove 60 freeway miles back to our hotel in Eugene (no camping for us), and Sunday evening brought back childlike emotions; it felt like Christmas Eve and waiting for that incredible gift that I was expecting from Santa the next morning.

Sleep was impossible.

After hearing so many scary predictions about traffic, we left our hotel at 5:30 a.m. for Salem, leaving time to arrive before 9 a.m. “kickoff.”

We got on the I-5. Zero traffic. As we approached the totality zone, there was a very small amount of traffic that ended near Albany, which was dead center for totality. Driving through this area, we saw hundreds of cars parked at a freeway. A rest stop offered free coffee and farm fields were crowded with cars and campers.

What we anticipated being at least a two- to three-hour drive from Eugene to the winery took 90 minutes. We were enjoying breakfast and that first cup of coffee by 7 a.m.

The day’s most important decision was to find the best viewing spot. The winery was large enough that 1,200 people were scattered all over and no area looked crowded, but with an entourage of 14 (including two friends from the Palisades, Bob and Marge Gold), I was concerned that it would be impossible for us to come to a consensus. Luckily our 9-year-old grandson Asher pointed to a spot on a hill and said, “What about that spot? Is it for VIPs?” (He had seen the VIP wrist bands and knew that they offered some extra perks.)

He found an official, pointed to the spot and asked if it was for VIPs. The answer was “No,” so we all made the short hike to ‘our’ perfect viewing location, which we shared with about 20 other people.

I was amazed that even with so many people, the venue felt cozy, friendly and warm. People recognized us from the day before. For the hour before the eclipse began, people shared stories and information. At 9:05 a.m., “Glasses on” was announced over the loudspeaker and we all started watching. The sharp shadows, the cool breezes, the sunset-like hue on the horizon, the gray shadow flying by just before totality, the diamond ring, and then the moment we had been waiting for: “Glasses off ” at 10:17 a.m.

The next minute, 56 seconds were other worldly. There were many gasps, “oooh’s” and “ah’s.” But then, it got very quiet. Some people talked softly with their friends, but mostly it was magically quiet while all eyes were on the eclipse. Even the kids were still. Venus was the brightest ‘star’ and Mercury was also visible, but the sky was not as dark as I had imaged it would be. The corona that I observed was subtle, with a strand of red ruby ‘beads’ across the top that caught my eye. The black intensity of the moon in front of the sun was incredible. They say the moon was traveling 2,000 miles per hour but it seemed to be standing still. Then, like magic, the moon started to move again. The diamond appeared and totality was over.

I did not hear “Glasses on” and was watching as the moon continued on its journey. Then, I looked around and saw that I was the only one without my glasses. Quickly, I put them on. I said to people around me, “That was two minutes? Really? How could that have been two minutes?” Yes. It was one minute 56 seconds to be precise.

To me it seemed funny that many people immediately started talking about the barbecue lunch, even though it was still too early and there was an hour left of the eclipse. Planners must have anticipated this because food started to appear.

People continued to watch and eat while talking about chasing future eclipses. Would they go to Argentina in 2019? Carbondale in 2024? Everyone was hooked. We all drank the eclipse Kool-Aid—or was it wine?

By 1 p.m. we were exhausted and exhil- arated at the same time. We checked GPS and it appeared some degree of Carmageddon was in fact happening on I-5 going south to Eugene and north to Portland.

Luckily, the back roads were wide open. The solitude of the countryside and only a few cars was exactly what we needed to re-enter civilization and get back to the airport. I will never look at the sun or the moon again without thinking of those two minutes.

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