When I first look up at the sun through those funky glasses,
it appears as if someone had taken just a nibble out of a cookie.
|A door in Springvile|
We’re in Springfield, South Carolina, a small town south of
Columbia. Savannah is only going to
experience a partial (97% of the sun covered) eclipse. The path of totality was passing by just 70
miles north of here, so it’s time for a road trip. Since the weather forecast is calling for
clouds and rain along the coast, and Interstate 95 is flooded with folks
further south trying to make it north, we decide to forgo the interstate and take
the backroads. Leaving Savannah on
Georgia 21, we follow the river northwest, driving among the tractors pulling
containers in and out of the port. At
Springville (Georgia, not South Carolina), we turn north on Highway 119 and
cross the Savannah River. A few miles
north of the river, 119 merges into US 321 and we head north. Attempting to work our way both far enough
north to be in the path of totality and far enough west to avoid the coastal
clouds, we take US 278, driving through pine forest and the occasional field of beans, corn or cotton. We stop in Barnwell, the gateway to the Savannah River Site (a
Department of Energy Nuclear operation) and pick up a quick lunch at Burger King. Then we continue
heading north, taking State Road 37. After Elko, which is in the path of totality, we look
for a good place to watch the eclipse.
There are clouds, but also large clear areas in the sky. We pull into the small town of
Southern Railroad used to run through Springfield, but the
tracks were no longer there. Somehow, a
caboose had been left behind and the swath of land that once were tracks is now
a long park. The rail beds have been
paved over as a walking and bike path and a pavilion was built next to the caboose.
We find a shady spot to park, get out of the car and after putting on the solar
glasses, take a peak and see that the moon was slowly doing its magic. Totality is a little over an hour away. A few others also stop and we all gather in
the park in the center of town.
An African American man is there with his wife and
children. We get to talking and I learn
he’s from Springfield. He tells me the train
stopped running around fifteen years ago.
Then he points to another park and said we should come back the Saturday
before Easter as the town holds a bull frog jumping contest. I mention Mark Twain’s story, but I’m not
sure he even knows whom I’m talking about as he goes on about how far some of
the frogs can jump. He then points west
and tells me about a town with a Chitin festival and how the whole town stinks
during the festival. “I think I’ll skip
that festival,” I confide. Then he starts telling about another town where
there was a poetry festival. “Really,” I
say. “I might be interested in that,” while thinking that this doesn't look like a hotbed for literary activities. He continues, describing how folks walk around gnawing on large drumsticks. I realize he was saying “poultry”
and not “poetry.” “You got to come back,”
the guy says. “All these little towns
have festivals.” The man is proud of his place in the world!
I take another look at the sun and the bite into the cookie
is larger. The cookie monster is busy;
or the moon is doing its magic.
We decide to walk around the town, all three blocks, with a
desire to see the sights and hopefully find relief from the gnats flying around
us under the trees. They are annoying but thankfully are not the biting type. Most of the businesses are closed. The diner is only open Thursdays through
Saturday. The pharmacy closed for the
eclipse and, in front of the store, had sat a skeleton in a lounge chair. The bank is open but doesn’t look very
busy. Just off Main Street is a convenient
store that seems to be doing a fair amount of business.
When we got back to where everyone is congregating, we join
the group on the pavilion. Looking back
at the sun, it appears as if the cookie is half eaten. The pavilion provides little relief from the
gnats and even though the sun was slowly disappearing and it’s noticeably cooker,
it’s still warm and when not looking at the sun, the shade helps. A large cloud begins to make its way toward
the sun and we wonder if we should relocate further west, but the cloud seems
to vaporize as it got closer to the sun.
We meet some folks from Savannah, a guy who’d driven a motorcycle up
this morning from Gainsville, Florida, another couple from Jacksonville.
|Just before totality |
The next time I look, the sun is about three quarter’s
gone. The family from Savannah’s dog is noticeable
agitated and we discuss if it’s because of the eclipse or because he thinks it’s
almost night and he hasn’t yet been fed. Looking away from the sun, the sky is a darker
blue. The clouds are only seen on the
horizon. I walk down to where there are
trees and see hundreds of crescents reflecting through the leaves on the
|reflections on the ground|
Slowly, more and more of the sun disappears. The cookie metaphor no longer applies. Looking at it through the glasses, it no
longer appears as a cookie about eaten for the rim is so thin it would
crumble. Folks begin to claim space on
the ramp leading up to the pavilion.
Insects begin to sing.
Streetlights turn on. Cars
driving through town have their lights on.
Then it happens. Very
quickly the rim of the sun seen through the glasses disappears. A few specks appear for a moment and then it’s
gone. You can see nothing in the
glasses, so I remove them and WOW. The
corona is visible, flashing out from behind the moon, in a metallic bluish color. We hold our breath for it is incredibly
beautiful. I don’t even bother trying to
take a photo. Looking around, a few stars and planets are visible, but there is
not enough time to orient myself as to which is which. I keep looking back at the dark block crowned
with the corona. Then, way too soon, the
sun begins to reappear with just flecks at first. We put back on our glasses and watch as the
rim appears on the opposite side. We
began to clamp and cheer in acknowledgement that we did it, we witnessed the eclipse
and it was incredible.
|Reflections on the hood|
We watch the sun through the glasses for a few minutes, but
the excitement is over. People began
packing up and soon everyone is heading home.
As I walk back to the car that’s parked in the shade of trees, I notice
the crescents covering the hood and take my last photo of the eclipse. We decide to take what is quicker way back
and head off east toward I-95. A few
minutes after leaving Springfield, clouds have covered the sky. Twenty minutes later, we’re in a
downpour. When we get to 95, we realize
that we made a mistake as the traffic heading south is at a standstill. We opt for US 17. We’re back home by 6:30 PM.
|Downpour on the drive home|