On August 21, 2017 a total solar eclipse can be seen across America, from coast to coast. This is the first time, as far I can remember, to witness a total solar eclipse. For those of us that lives in Chicago, the closest and best place to view totality is in Carbondale, Illinois which is roughly 5 hours from Chicago.
On the eve of the solar eclipse, my friend and I began our mini journey. We packed up our cameras, solar glasses and snacks for our long way drive. We first make a stop at St. Louis to see the famous Arch Gateway; there were so interesting things happened there. First and foremost, we were lucky enough to find a parking spot near the iconic Arch and best of all, the parking was completely free on Sunday! And things starts to get quite interesting from there on. First, the south entrance of the Arch was closed for remodeling, then with conflicting decision to go up the Arch, we were told that ALL tickets were sold out for the day. Thirdly, there was plenty of soap but no water nor papers to wash/ wipe hands after bathroom breaks, we have to grab some paper from the only food vendor on shore and washed the soap off in the Mississippi River. And Lastly, on our way back to get our car, we were shocked to see the shattered glasses on the ground surrounded our car. Lucky enough, after carefully examined the car, the glasses were in one piece attached to the car, unharmed. The mystery of how and where the scattered glasses came from was unknown. I was pretty sure it wasn’t there from when we parked. But overall, it was quite a view of the iconic Arch and the famous Mississippi river. The busy helicopter ride was only $37, although the ride did not last long.
The next morning, we start heading out to Carbondale, Illinois before traffic hit. Roughly half way through, we were struck in traffic. The way the traffic was moving, we thought we will be there after the Eclipse. There was indeed a lot of cars but the traffic is not as bad as we thought as we exit each town. I believe we arrived approximately 2 hours before totality so my friend gave me a tour of Southern Illinois University campus and her history as a student there. It was amazing how vivid she remember the events and the places she ever stayed and experienced. Initially, we planned to view the eclipse at the campus lake, however, we decided to find a spot at any ground since the moon is starting to cross over. Around 10-15 mins (maybe a little bit more) from Totality, a huge cloud (enough to last over 30 mins or more) happen to pass over the eclipse. There’s boos from the crowd. Around 1 minute or so, announcement was made to stay positive all over the campus. Miraculously at totality, the sun just pierced through the hole of the huge cloud where we can all witness that special moment. The whole place suddenly turn dark for 2 minutes and 42 seconds and everyone was cheering. It was very touching, I was shaking especially when taking those special photos at that moment; I really call it a miracle. Life lesson: do not give up, there’s always hope.
On our way back to the city, which I failed to realized was the heavy traffic. EVERYONE is going home at the same time and imagine the population that came to Carbondale. We were struck in traffic for almost 11 hours which normally takes 5 hours. After seeing the non moving traffic at I-57, we took reroute back to take the local, which is also bad but not AS bad as I-57. On our way back, we were both sleepy and tried our best to keep each other awake. Worst of all, midway through the drive, we were hit by a heavy storm where it was almost impossible to view the road and my cell phone was completely out of battery. Kudos to my friend who drove the entire trip and bring us back in one piece.
The Next Total Solar Eclipse in 2024 at Carbondale, Illinois. See you there!