Into the Totality

As the entire United States knows, we recently had a full solar eclipse go across the US. I live close to Portland and we were in the 99.5ish percent of the eclipse. A 40 mile drive would take me into the totality. I had always wanted to see a total eclipse, and this seemed like the perfect chance.

Except I kept hearing horror stories. There are around 5 million people in all of Oregon and an extra 1 million were going to come for the eclipse. Traffic would come to a standstill. Stores would run out of food, and gas stations would run out of fuel. Dogs and cats would start living together. It would be total anarchy! Much better to stay home and avoid all of this and watch the 99.5% of the eclipse visible from my back yard.

But I also heard there was a HUGE difference between 99.5% and being in the totality and experiencing a full solar eclipse. So I woke up at 4:00 am and took three of my kids down to Woodburn, OR just a little bit inside of the totality.

We were on the leading edge of traffic, so we didn’t have too horrible traffic. I heard the drive times get longer and longer on the radio as we drove, but by that time, we were south of Portland and ahead of the wave. We went down to a place called Bauman Farms because I saw they were opening up their fields for any eclipse viewers to come and watch.

There were only a few people there when we got there, and by the time the eclipse started there were several hundred. We got to watch the sun rise as we waited.

When the Eclipse started, we put on our glasses. I was rather surprised by how it looked through the glasses. I didn’t realize it would make the sun a perfect circle that we could watch get smaller and smaller. I’m not sure what I was expecting – just stronger sunglasses essentially. But by the time the eclipse had started, I had taken my sweatshirt back to the car because it was hot. As the eclipse progressed, I wished I had kept it with me.

Gradually the light started to fade to a strange dusk-like dimness I had never really seen before. The temperature dropped. I heard it would drop 10-15 degrees, but it felt like more than that. I was cold by the time the full eclipse happened, and it takes a lot for me to be cold. My kids were freaking out and looking all around and we could hear people in the crowd getting excited too.

Then the totality hit. It got much darker and cooler quite suddenly as the moon’s shadow passed over us. All around in every direction we could see what looked like the orange of a sunset or sunrise. I took off my glasses and looked directly at the eclipse. I saw the sun’s corona and what they call the diamond ring when it looks like a solitaire engagement ring up in the sky.  I somehow missed baily’s beads and I was too overwhelmed to look and see if I could see any stars. It is hard to explain, but the entire experience was amazing and like nothing I had ever seen before. I can understand why people in history freaked out when a full eclipse happened. It would be really unnerving if you didn’t know what it was and that nothing bad would happen from it.

If the eclipse had stopped at the 99% I would have been like, meh, that was cool, but no big deal. When the totality hit, it was a completely different experience. I am so glad I took the chance to see this when I could. It was only 48 seconds long where I was at, but it was an experience I and my children will remember for a lifetime.

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