We’ve Been Mooned – 2024 Version

After watching the total solar eclipse from Newport, Oregon back in 2017, I was determined to make it to this eclipse. If for no other reason depending on where I went I would get a four-minute eclipse rather than the one minute I got.

My initial plan was to go to the northern Dallas suburb of Allen, Texas to my aunt’s house and watch it with her. When I started checking the weather models a couple of weeks ago, things were starting to look cloudy. It then alternated between clear and cloudy leading right up to the last Saturday when I planned to leave. So I decided to take my Plan C option: to go to southeast Missouri to Poplar Bluff right near the bootheel.

I was going to sleep in Springfield, MO Sunday night and then make my way along US Route 60 east to Poplar Bluff to see the four minutes, nine seconds of totality. Since most of that route was going to be in the path of totality, I figured if I got stuck in traffic (which I counted on happening), I wouldn’t miss a thing.

It turned out the anticipated traffic jams didn’t happen. Sure there were what I assumed to be more traffic than normal, but we were going at least the speed limit through the hills of the Ozarks. I was shocked. I ended up in Poplar Bluff by 11am and had no idea where to go. I just figured I’d be stuck in traffic. So I found a park, drove out there and since all of the parking spaces were already taken I parked on the side of the road.

As you can see there were just a couple of wisps in the sky, but I was vindicated in my last minute plans. I was under the shade of a tree, there was a cool breeze blowing, and I knew once the eclipse started it would cool down around 10F. I only wished I had a better internet connection.

There was a family that were right behind me who thought I was taking really shitty pictures of the eclipse with my phone through my eclipse glasses, but I showed them which settings you needed to get something halfway decent:

Again to describe the darkness is difficult because it’s the sort of thing that only happens in an eclipse. Things dim, the shadows get weird, the birds shut up while the cicadas take over. But it’s not like a normal sunset, or storm clouds blocking the sun, or anything you know. In the final seconds before totality, I wanted to film what happened as the darkness really descended quickly, but I ended up filming totality by mistake.

Again tears came out. Even though this was my second time witnessing this, it didn’t diminish how amazing it was. While in Newport, OR in 2017 I only had a minute to bask, this time I had over four minutes. So I got my good camera with the f/300 lens and took this:

It wasn’t dark enough to see anything more than Jupiter and Venus in the sky, so I just spent the time alternately looking at the eclipse and looking at my surroundings. Then just like that, it ended far too soon.

While my first instinct was to run to my car (the black car in the lower right in the picture above) to beat traffic, there was one problem: while I thought the spot I parked on was grass, it was actually mud. A lot of mud. And I was stuck. Fortunately I called Enterprise right when I got there to schedule the tow truck. I worked with them to get to the park about an hour after the eclipse in hopes to let the cars leave. It took a little longer, but I managed to get out, go to a car wash to power wash the mud from the wheel wells and get to Texarkana, TX.

As great as it was to see this a second time, I think I will leave it at that. Unless I happen to be very close to the path of totality in the future, I won’t be chasing eclipses again. I don’t want them to lose their luster. So that’s it.

I ended up heading back towards Dallas and had lunch with my aunt and got back to LA on Friday. Yes. LA to SE Missouri and back in six days. Solo. I have other thoughts on this trip, but I’ll write about those later.