The New York Times hyped it like crazy. So did my friends. “The eclipse is the thing, man. We gotta go!”
I thought little of it until I was driving home to Toronto and, on a manic whim, instead of sticking to Interstate 80, I veered down 81 toward Virginia and the eclipse.I calculated that I could get as far as Roanoke, Virginia, which I learned through my app would have 92% coverage, and that sounded like something indeed, far more intense than 84%, which is all I would have had if I stayed my course.
Electronic signs began to appear at the side of the road. Solar Eclipse today 12-4pm. No stopping on shoulder or ramps. The interstate was heavily traffic, trucks lining the right lane as far as I could see, but it seemed right. We were all journeying down together, a convoy, to see this astronomical event. I listened solely to Off the Sky, brooding electronic music, perfect for the approaching darkness. I reached the Virginia border, only 234 miles to Roanoke. Only. Ten minutes later, I realized that was well over three more hours of driving which meant another three hours back. I was getting in deep. I focused on the music and the historic moment to come – the sky darkening, animals scattering, humans collectively moaning. It was going to be something, to be sure.
I gassed up less than a hundred miles away, ready to talk to the cashier about the moment to come, but she and a man from Texas were talking in amazed terms instead about the cost of cigarettes in New York. “$15?! That’s two meals for me! Who would be dumb enough to pay that?”
Back on the highway, it got suddenly dim. I looked up. Just a cloud. I drove madly – I needed as much coverage as possible! – until 2:35, five minutes ahead of the full 92% and pulled into a gas station. A van pulled in and two bikers. I looked up. The sun looked the same. I went into the store and bought a can of Chipotle Pringles. The woman looked tired, bored, completely uninterested in this remarkable event. I went back outside. The light began to dim. It cooled quickly, at least 10 degrees below the high of 95. Two people came around behind their van and donned polarized glasses and looked up. Another took a picture of them. “Eclipse!” I looked at my watch. It was 2:41. It had passed. Had I missed it? I wasn’t sure. I was going to borrow their glasses but was afraid they might be the unsafe kind and so looked into the sky again. It was getting hotter, brighter. Yes, it was over. It was eleven hours – a eight-hour detour in the end – to get to Toronto. I listened to nothing for a while, just the tires clicking over the asphalt. And I thought about the next eclipse, only seven years away. I can hardly wait.