Some of you may have read my post Eclipse Frenzy 2017, where I shared the collective insanity surrounding the total solar eclipse that will be visible on August 21, 2017, in the United States. Since I wrote that post in September 2016, I have been anxiously awaiting an announcement of eclipse viewing events. For some of us, this will be a once-in-a-lifetime event. The last total eclipse of the sun in the continental United States occurred 38 years ago.
Although the eclipse will be partially visible from a broader geographic area, there is a narrow “zone of totality” that will stretch in a thin arc across the United States from Oregon to South Carolina. This means that the sun will be completely covered by the moon in this zone for approximately two minutes. My brother, nephew, husband and I are going to be in the zone of totality in Jackson, Wyoming.
I was speaking to a Wyoming resident recently, and he told me that Wyoming , which has 600,000 residents, is anticipating 400,000 visitors for the eclipse. August 21 will be their biggest tourism day in history. By far. Although I cannot confirm his statistics, it is safe to say that Wyoming is preparing for a tourist onslaught.
So, here is the question: Where are we actually going to SEE the eclipse? My group collectively has spent thousands of dollars at this point for our four-day trip to Wyoming, and we have gone through extraordinary lengths to organize it. I do not want some pathetic, tree-blocked view of the sun. Or, worse yet, what if I accidentally end up in the bathroom during the big two-minute apex of the eclipse? It seems improbable, but these are the kinds of things that happen to me. We need a plan!
My brother is the big astronomy fan. As I revealed in the last post, my husband and I only signed up for the journey because we enjoy drinking cocktails at the Four Seasons Resort in Teton Village, Wyoming. We had NO IDEA what was involved. Really, neither does anyone else. Did I mention that this is a once-in-a-lifetime event? Now that we’ve been put through travel planning hell for this eclipse, I am all in. I am going to rock this!
Fast forward to this week. The Wyoming Stargazing Society announced that they will be hosting an eclipse fundraising event for $595. It sounds pretty spectacular, and it includes a live feed from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA); real astronauts; parking or hotel pick-up; breakfast; and mimosas. The Four Seasons resort is also hosting a private viewing party at an indoor/outdoor restaurant for $405 per person, which includes a NASA live feed; commentary by an acclaimed astrophysicist; breakfast by the Four Seasons chefs; and mimosas. Both options guarantee a lift up the mountains, the prime viewing spot for the eclipse.
I am not going to lie. I am “frugal” and these are pricey events. Here are the considerations:
- I do not want to battle thousands of other people for limited spots on trams or chair lifts to get to the top of a mountain. Think of the last scenes from the Titanic sinking. That’s right — more people than lifeboats.
- We could take our chances, stay closer to the ground, and just figure out where to go when we arrive. For instance, we can take our car and wrangle for a place on a highway pull-out.
- We could gather in a park for free with thousands of our new astronomy best friends. I am sure it will be a festive, intellectual good time. I am not kidding, even though it probably sounds as if I am being sarcastic. I am a nerd, and I love other nerds. I just don’t know how organized this gathering could possibly be under the circumstances.
My group huddled and determined that there is a time to be cheap, and there is a time to crack open that wallet and let the moths fly out. We purchased our fancy, non-refundable, eclipse watch tickets from the Four Seasons today. Seriously, this will be the first time in my life I chose the Four Seasons because it was the cheaper option.
Here comes the cliffhanger. Here comes the dilemma. If there is too much cloud cover, we will have paid thousands of dollars for this trip to watch the solar eclipse on NASA-sponsored TV. There is no way to know now if we will have clear skies.
If we do not get lucky with the weather, my brother insists he will leave his $405 tickets behind and drive, with thousands of others, until he reaches a break in the clouds. My husband and I will pick up our tickets; ride up the mountain; watch the eclipse on NASA TV; and drink mimosas.
To read more about eclipse planning, see Preparing to Go Dark: Eclipse 2017.