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RV Trip plus Solar Eclipse, Aug. 2017

Hi -- here's our latest "trip report" and some photos.

We started out from San Jose the end of July. First stop was a visit with Fred’s Uncle Dan in Placerville, near Lake Tahoe. Then, we headed across the Nevada desert to the Shakespeare Festival in Cedar City, Utah (near Zion Nat'l. Park) for our annual week of plays and visiting friends we see once a year. Next, we drove north to Wyoming: the plan was to travel through some of our favorite scenery, looking for wild animals along the way, particularly the beautiful pronghorn antelopes. We saw many! We spent a few days at Grand Teton N.P. The air was quite smokey due to several wildfires in the west and northwest states. The park rangers were preparing for the crowds which they were expecting to arrive the next week for the eclipse -- the Tetons were right on the path of eclipse totality. Our next stop was Yellowstone N.P. and the requisite tourist visits to Old Faithful and some weird boiling pools. Fascinating geology! This is a land of big animals, like elk, moose, and bison. We didn't see any wolves or bears this visit.

Then we started driving west across Idaho, going through favorite areas like Sun Valley, the Sawtooth Mountains, and the Salmon River. Our route took us past Craters of the Moon Nat'l. Monument, so we decided to check it out. We ended up staying 2 nights; we walked up a cinder cone, hiked through a huge lava tunnel (tube), and talked to some NASA scientists who were testing new instruments that can be sent to other planets to sense stuff (?) under the surface. The lava fields are vast; it was another fascinating geology lesson. Before leaving beautiful Idaho, we stopped at a RV park near Boise to do laundry and check email -- we were off-the-grid most of our trip.

It was now a week ahead of the eclipse, and time to get serious about where to be stationed for the big event. We had reservations in Bend, but that was off of the path of totality. Arriving in eastern Oregon, we took US26, a 2-lane, winding highway that happens to be along a lot of the path of totality. The big crowds from the coast were heading to the Madras, Oregon, area north of Bend. Madras was first noted by scientists 3 years ago as one of the best places to watch the eclipse. Everything near there had been reserved over a year ago. We planned to find a good spot to camp for a few days, away from the crowds if possible. We came upon Prairie City, a tiny town right on the path of totality, with a tiny RV park. All of the available sites in that park had been reserved by November 2016. But, to our great good fortune, a site became available!! We booked it for a week, even though we didn't stay there every night -- there were near-by areas to explore. One such gem is the John Day Nat'l. Monument, with one of the richest fossil beds on earth. There is an impressive palaeontology research laboratory connected with the visitor center, and we took the docent's tour through the exhibits that show 50 million years of global evolutionary events. We didn't expect to find such a modern scientific activity and display out in this remote area.

Finally, it was Monday morning, August 21st, the day of the “Great American Total Solar Eclipse.” The weather was clear and warm. We gathered our glasses, binoculars, cameras, set up our camp chairs, and got acquainted with the 3 men in a nearby site, doctors from Seattle with hi-tech camera gear. Slowly the moon covered the sun, and a cheer went out from everyone at totality. It felt like the earth stood still, and it was magical. Then the moon continued on its way, and in less than 3 minutes, the sun began to come out again. Total time of the eclipse, from first contact to last contact, was about two hours. We noticed that the temperature had dropped about 10 degrees during totality. Note: the last total solar eclipse to travel across the continental United States was in 1918, and the next one will be in 2045, so we are glad we were able to catch this one!

Most people started back home that day, but we stayed until Tuesday so the traffic could clear. (A few days earlier, while we were exploring around Bend & Madras, we were stopped in a traffic jam for 3 hours. There was a 5-day festival a few miles east of us in the hills near Prineville, Oregon, and the first of 50,000 people were arriving that day.) So, to avoid the crowds heading back to the coast, and since we had never seen the far north-eastern parts of Oregon and California, we drove US395 south toward Reno and the turnoff for Lake Tahoe. It was a good choice: the scenery was beautiful, interesting, sparsely populated, and with enormous ranches and farms. Our last camping night was near the summit of Mt. Rose, where the views of the entire Lake Tahoe basin take your breath away. (Why wasn’t Lake Tahoe made a national park!?) We stayed a couple of days back in Placerville with Uncle Dan, easing our way back into civilization before driving home and into the Bay Area congestion and traffic.

It was a great trip: one month and 3,680 miles of fun activities and beautiful scenery. The Winnebago performed flawlessly, and got 16.6 mpg overall. We have now cleaned up and re-stocked the RV, all ready for our next adventure.

Happy Trails,
Fred & Lynn

August 2017 RV Trip

Home away from Home

100% Solar Ecilpse August 2017

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