I have spent a great deal of time lately on what I am calling “eclipse frenzy.” My brother asked me three years ago if I wanted to watch the total solar eclipse with him in Jackson, Wyoming, in August 2017. I said sure, but mostly because I enjoy the cocktails that they serve at my favorite resort in Jackson. In my head, I envisioned us going on a nice little day hike; my husband would carry all my hiking stuff; and my brother would set up his crazy-fancy telescope on a deserted mountainside. After a well-executed day in nature, we would mosey on up to the bar back in Jackson.
At some point last year, my brother asked me if I should start arranging for a hotel. I told him he was an idiot and you don’t book rooms more than a year out. I told him to stand down and that I was the travel pro. He has asked this question several times over the past few months, and I just rolled my eyes at him.
Fast forward to August 2016. I tried to book a reservation for anywhere in Jackson Hole for August 2017, and there was NOTHING available except a room at a rudimentary motel for $400 per night. The travel agencies, astronomy clubs and tourists from AROUND THE WORLD booked up every room two years ago. The City Council in Jackson received a memo years ago from astronomers letting them know that all hell would break loose in Wyoming in 2017 and they’d better buckle up. Did anyone send me this memo? NO. So, I had to admit to my brother that I was WRONG. (Might I add that he is the kind of brother that one does not want to admit is “right” under any circumstance?) I had to further explain that I could not fulfill his order for two rooms at a nice “resort-like” lodge, and that, in fact, all of us would be sharing one room at a not-so-nice-motel for $400 per night. A motel that was not “in walking distance to nice restaurants,” but was far from town on a highway. Very dark day, indeed.
My husband rescued us by finding out that the National Park Service had refused to release all of their rooms to the travel agencies, and that some rooms would become available on a first-come, first-served basis at 8 AM on a specified day. My husband and I both spent 3.5 hours battling busy signals (who knew busy signals still existed??) to get a room in one of the national lodges. We are all sharing a room (me, my husband, my brother, and nephew), and it will cost $400 per night, but it is in the middle of the national park; it does NOT have queen-sized bunk beds like our last room; and it does not have “motel” in the title. Much better.
It was a particularly victorious outcome, because the motel that I had so snottily dismissed called me to say that my room reservation, and those of 63 other poor unfortunates from the same day, was a mistake. There were no rooms available, because, of course, their rooms had all been booked for two years.
To read more deep insights on the eclipse, see: Wyoming Solar Eclipse 2017: A Watch Party with Mimosas? and Preparing to Go Dark: Eclipse 2017.