Category Archives: eclipse

Eclipse Travel Recommendations for MN & IA

You can still get an inexpensive hotel room to view the total eclipse!  It’s also possible to make a last-minute road trip!

Path of Totality. NASA image.

Path of Totality. NASA image.

This page has been updated through August 18.  At this time, hotel rooms under $100 are still available for reservations in Omaha and neighboring Council Bluffs, IA.

 In addition to advice for making advance reservations, this page also now includes advice for making a last-minute road trip the day of the eclipse.  If you are reading this on Saturday, you can still get a hotel room for the eclipse.  If you are reading this Sunday night, you can still drive to see the eclipse.

On Saturday night and Sunday, I will post updates with Nebraska traffic conditions.  Those will be posted near the top of my blog main page, which you can access with this link.

Quick Links

August 21 Solar Eclipse Planning

The eclipse is just a week away, but visitors from Minnesota and Iowa can still get reasonably priced accommodations to see it.  There are still hotel rooms in Omaha for under $100 a night, and from there it’s just a 50 mile drive to see the eclipse on Monday.  But rooms are filling up.  Three more hotels just became unavailable over the weekend.  Because of expected traffic patterns, Nebraska is probably a better choice for visitors from Minnesota and Iowa, even though Missouri is slightly closer.

As of August 15, there are still hotel rooms in Omaha, and I recommend making a hotel reservation or camping Sunday night.  A list of campgrounds is available at this link.  But many visitors will decide to see the eclipse after it is too late to make reservations.  Therefore, I am including this information for those who decide make a one-day trip from Minnesota or Iowa to see the eclipse.  This will be a long drive, but it is both possible and worthwhile.

The Bus from Des Moines

One option for visitors from Minnesota and Iowa is this bus from Des Moines.  This special eclipse bus leaves Des Moines at 4:00 AM and arrives in Lathrop, Missouri, a few hours later.  The return bus arrives back in Des Moines at about 6:00 PM.  Lathrop is expected to be very busy, and I would recommend bringing a backpack with food and beverages for the day.  The bus fare is $50 per person.  If seats on this bus are still available when you read this, it might be a very good option, even if you are driving from Minnesota.  As of Friday, Aug. 18, it appears that seats on the bus are still available.

Last-Minute Road Trips

If you plan to drive directly to the eclipse in a one-day trip, plan extra time, as traffic entering Nebraska and within the state will be very heavy.  You will need to drive at least as far as Lincoln, NE, and arrive before totality begins at about 1:00.  (See below for possible destinations, but as long as you get west of Lincoln, you will be able to witness the total eclipse.)  The normal drive time from Minneapolis to Lincoln is 6 hours 34 minutes.  The normal drive time from Des Moines to Lincoln is 2 hours 54 minutes.  However, you will need to allow much more time.  There are only four highway bridges crossing the Missouri River between Council Bluffs, Iowa, and Omaha, Nebraska.  These could become bottlenecks.  In addition, there will be heavy traffic between Omaha and Lincoln, as Omaha residents move into position to view the eclipse.  While it is impossible to predict for sure, I would allow an extra six hours.  This will ensure that you arrive before the biggest rush, it will allow you to drive further west, which will allow more viewing time, and will allow you time to find a good viewing spot.

I expect that traffic between Minneapolis and Des Moines on Interstate 35 will be slightly heavier than usual, and that will become heavier as you drive west toward Omaha on Interstate 80.  Then, I predict that you will encounter extremely heavy traffic as you approach Council Bluffs and Omaha.

This means that you should leave Minneapolis by about 11:00 PM Sunday, or leave Des Moines by about 4:00 AM.  Monitor current road conditions during your drive with a traffic app, or by listening to radio stations such as WHO Des Moines (1040 AM) or KFAB Omaha (1110 AM).  (Cell phone apps might be unavailable due to extremely heavy usage.)  You will be able to hear both of these strong radio stations throughout southern Minnesota and Iowa, and they will alert you to the possibility of having to take alternate routes.

Possible alternate routes  include:

  • Taking Interstate 90 west to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and then south on Interstate 29 toward Omaha.  If traffic becomes heavy near Omaha, you can take other highways southwest toward the path of totality.
  • Driving to Sioux City, Iowa, and crossing into Nebraska at South Sioux City, and then driving southwest on state highways until you reach the path of totality north of Interstate 80.

I recommend filling your gas tank in Council Bluffs, Iowa, before you enter Nebraska.  There may be long lines at gas stations in Nebraska.

Also, bring a cooler with food and beverages for the entire day.  There may be very long lines at restaurants and stores.  If you need any last-minute items, buy them in Iowa.  Also, bring a printed map of Nebraska, or download the map to your mobile device so that you can view it even in the case of internet outage.

If you are too tired to drive home after the long drive, hotel rooms will probably be available in Nebraska on Monday night.  If not, there will be rooms available in Iowa.

Basic Travel Planning Information

NASA eclipse imageThe total solar eclipse will take place on Monday, August 21. If you live in the Midwest, then it’s extremely unlikely that you’ve ever seen a total eclipse, unless you happen to have visited Winnipeg in 1979. That was the last total eclipse visible in the United States, and was visible in the Pacific Northwest before moving through North Dakota and into Manitoba.

If you remember seeing an eclipse in the United States after 1979, then what you saw was a partial eclipse. The difference between what you saw previously and the August 21 event is literally the difference between night and day. During a total eclipse, such as will take place in August, the sky goes dark, stars come out in the middle of the day, and the sun’s corona is visible.

During a partial eclipse, even one that is almost total, such as 99%, you might not even notice if you didn’t know about it in advance. You’ll probably notice that it’s a bit darker outside, but the effect will be the same as a hazy or partly cloudy day. If you make a pinhole viewer, then you can see that the eclipse is taking place. But if nobody told you, you probably wouldn’t even think to look. I’ve experienced multiple partial eclipses. They’re somewhat interesting, but not really that big a deal.

On the other hand, a total eclipse is a big deal.  Some people travel to remote parts of the earth and spend tens of thousands of dollars to watch them. Some people fly their Lear Jet up to Nova Scotia to watch the total eclipse of the sun. It’s dramatic, and for most people, it’s a once in a lifetime experience.

Where to See the Eclipse if You Live in Minnesota or Iowa

On August 21, you won’t have to visit some remote corner of the world. You won’t even have to fly your Lear Jet up to Nova Scotia. You can easily drive to view the eclipse, but you need to do a little bit of advance planning, and you need to do it now.

As you can see from the map above, the path of totality does not pass through Minnesota.  In the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, about 80% of the sun will be obscured.  If you know what to look for, you’ll notice it , and it will be moderately interesting.  But frankly, it won’t be a very big deal.  You’ve probably seen it before, and you’ll probably see it again.

Similarly, viewers in Iowa won’t see anything very interesting.  Most sources don’t even list Iowa as being within the path of totality, although this is not quite correct.  A tiny piece (about 450 acres, specifically, Ivan Woltemath’s soybean farm) in the extreme southwestern corner of the state, will experience totality for a few seconds.

If you live in Minnesota or Iowa, you’ll need to travel to view the eclipse.  If you make your plans now, it will be a very low cost trip, since inexpensive hotel rooms close to (but not directly inside) the area of totality are still available, starting at about $53 per night.

The Best Itinerary from Minnesota and Iowa

For eclipse travelers in other states, other viewing locations will be more convenient.  But for those in Minnesota, most of Iowa, western Wisconsin, and the eastern Dakotas, I have mapped out the best strategy.

If you look at a map, the closest viewing spot from those areas appears to be near St. Joseph, Missouri.  This is the closest spot in terms of distance, since it’s about 400 miles from Minneapolis or 200 miles from Des Moines.  However, as I explained in an earlier post, this is actually a poor choice, because there will be a major choke point along Interstate 35 near Lathrop, Missouri.  If you head for the St. Joseph area the day of the eclipse, it’s very likely that you will be caught in an apocalyptic traffic jam on Interstate 35.  Also, every hotel room near St. Joseph has been booked for months, and it’s impossible to find lodging.

Another choke point, predicted to be even worse, is located in northeastern Kansas, at a point on U.S. Highway 75 near Sabetha, Kansas. Highway 75 is parallel and close to Interstate 29 as it heads north through northwestern Missouri and southwestern Iowa. Therefore, I predict that northbound traffic along I-29 will also be monumental the morning of August 21.

Fortunately, those of us in Minnesota and Iowa can avoid both of these choke points and still find hotel rooms close to the area of totality.

MSPtoHomesteadMy recommendation for those coming from Minnesota or Iowa to view the eclipse is to drive to Omaha on Sunday, August 20. You can still reserve a hotel room in Omaha the night before the eclipse, and the prices are still very reasonable. You will not be within the path of totality, but you will be very close. On Monday morning, you can drive west on Interstate 80 about 50 miles to Lincoln. In Lincoln, you will be able to view the total eclipse. Traffic along Interstate 80 will probably be quite heavy, but you will be able to divert yourself completely away from choke points on Interstates 29 and 35, shown in red on this map.

The route shown on the map takes you to Homestead National Monument of America, which is one of the better viewing spots in Nebraska.  Homestead is planning for the large crowds, and it will be one of the locations from which NASA will be doing its live broadcast.

Path of totality within Nebraska. NASA image.

Path of totality within Nebraska. NASA image.

If you follow this recommended itinerary, on Sunday, it will be about a 400 mile drive to Omaha from Minneapolis.  On Monday morning, you can drive about 50 miles to Lincoln, where you will be able to view the eclipse.  Lincoln has a number of events and viewing areas planned, which   are listed here.  For better viewing, you can head south from Lincoln to  Homestead National Monument.  Or, you can continue west on Interstate 80.  The interstate more or less follows the path of totality, so every mile you drive west gives you a little bit more totality when the total eclipse begins at about 12:58 PM.  Most towns along the interstate have special viewing areas prepared, and you can find a listing at neclipse17.com.

You will have a lot of flexibility as far as actually viewing the eclipse.  Any legal parking spot close to Interstate 80, west of Lincoln, will allow you to view the total eclipse.  Even if millions of visitors descend upon the state, finding your viewing spot shouldn’t be a problem.  Instead, the problem will be finding lodging.  All hotel rooms directly within the path of totality are now completely booked.  At this point, unless you want to sleep in your car, you’ll need to stay in Omaha Sunday night and then make the relatively short drive to your final viewing spot on Monday morning.

Omaha Hotels Available Sunday Night

Fortunately, hotel rooms are still available in Omaha on Sunday night, August 20, and it’s only a 50 mile drive to view the eclipse the morning of August 21.  The following information was updated on August 14 and was current as of that date.  Some of these hotels are now unavailable, but by clicking on one of the links and checking availability for August 20, you will see a list of other available hotels.  As of Friday, August 18, rooms were still available in Omaha under $100, although some of them are in neighboring Council Bluffs, Iowa.  If staying in Iowa, allow extra driving time, since there are only four bridges into Nebraska, and these might be a bottleneck.

Click on the link for any of the hotels below and check availability for August 20.  Even if that hotel is full, you will see a list of other available hotels. 

If no rooms are available, you can also stay in Sioux City, Iowa, or South Sioux City, Nebraska.  From there, you can drive Monday morning southwest on U.S. 30 about 150 miles toward Grand Island, which is an excellent viewing location.

The following Omaha hotels have rooms available Sunday night, August 20, under $100:   Econo Lodge West Dodge ($60), Sleep Inn & Suites Airport ($67), Hotel RL by Red Lion Omaha ($85), Comfort Suites Omaha (no longer available), Super 8 Fremont NE (no longer available as of 8/13), Motel 6 Omaha (no longer available as of 8/13),

The following Omaha hotels have rooms available Sunday night, August 20, under $200:   Magnolia Hotel Omaha ($148, use coupon code TRAVEL8),  Country Inn & Suites By Carlson Omaha Airport ($101),  Hotel Deco XV ($125, use coupon code TRAVEL8) , Holiday Inn Express & Suites Omaha South – Ralston Arena ($150).

By following the links above, you can secure an inexpensive hotel room and view the eclipse!

If you’re an attorney and want to earn Continuing Legal Education credit as part of your eclipse trip, please visit my Eclipse CLE page.

 



Eclipse Radio Experiments

NASA eclipse image

Solar Eclipses & Radio Propagation

If you’ve ever tuned the AM radio dial at night, you know that the sun has an effect on radio propagation. At night, you can hear stations from hundreds of miles away, even though those stations can’t be heard during the daylight hours. This is because the signals are either absorbed by or reflected by various layers of the ionosphere, and these layers behave differently in the presence of sunlight.

Radio propagation through the ionosphere. NOAA image.

Radio propagation through the ionosphere. NOAA image.

In general, lower frequencies (such as the AM broadcast band) work better for long distances at night, and higher frequencies work better during the daylight hours. Observations made during other eclipses show that the brief period of “night” during totality does have an effect on the ionosphere, and this has an observable effect on radio propagation.

This eclipse will allow for the collection of a huge amount of data, and it is likely that this will contribute to a greater understanding of the ionosphere.  This is because there are now automatic data collection tools such as the Reverse Beacon Network (RBN).

The Reverse Beacon Network is a collection of radio receivers operated by amateur radio operators all over the world.  They are constantly monitoring large portions of the radio spectrum and “skimming” the signals.  Other networks listen for different transmission modes, but the Reverse Beacon Network is constantly listening for CW (continuous wave, or Morse Code) transmissions.  Whenever it hears “CQ” (a general call) or “TEST” (a test transmission), it records the call sign of the sending station.  The network stores this data for later download, and also makes it immediately available for display on the internet.

RBNscreenshot

The image above is a screenshot from the Reverse Beacon Network taken today.  I sent a transmission in Morse Code consisting merely of the words “TEST DE W0IS.”  That transmission was picked up by several of the skimmers in the network, and the information was almost immediately displayed on the internet.

As you can see, my signals were picked up by skimmers in Alberta, Ontario, Pennsylvania, New York, and Kansas.  The numbers on the chart (snr, signal to noise ratio) show my signal strength at each location.

Radio propagation is sometimes more of an art than a science, and it’s somewhat surprising that my signal was heard at these distances at the time of day I did the test, about noon local time.  The pattern shown here is more typical for later in the afternoon for the frequency I was using (7 MHz).  Typically, at midday, I would expect to see more hits within about 400 miles, and fewer at the distances shown here.

But on the day of the eclipse, comparing the reports throughout the day should show what effect the eclipse is having on radio propagation.  I expect that before totality, the propagation toward the west coast will be enhanced, as areas starting in Oregon experience “nighttime.”  After totality, I expect propagation to be enhanced toward the east as the path of totality moves toward South Carolina.

While I might change my plans, I think I’ll concentrate on 40 meters (7 MHz) during the eclipse.  Lower frequencies such as 160 meters (1.8 MHz) or 80 meters (3.5 MHz) will have more dramatic effects, but the necessary antennas are much longer.  Since I’ll probably be viewing the eclipse from a fixed location, I should be able to set up a full-sized dipole for 40 meters (66 feet of wire, fed in the middle) without too much difficulty.  If we need to move quickly and use a mobile antenna on the car, then I’ll probably switch to 30 meters (10 MHz), since the mobile antenna starts to be more efficient at higher frequencies, but 10 MHz is probably still low enough to see some eclipse effects.

You’ll be able to monitor my signals yourself in real time by following this link, which shows the most recent times my signal has been picked up.  On the day of the eclipse, I expect the map to show reception on the west coast in the morning, moving toward the east coast in the afternoon.  (Since RBN won’t have any way of knowing that I’m not at my home location, the graphic display will incorrectly show my signal as originating from Minnesota, even though I will be in Nebraska.   When the data is analyzed later, it will show my location correctly.)

The data I generate will be part of a larger project, the HamSCI 2017 Eclipse Experiment.  After the eclipse, data will be collected and analyzed by researchers such as those at Virginia Tech.

How Hams Can Participate in Eclipse Science

To increase the amount of radio signals to analyze, a contest named the Solar Eclipse QSO Party is scheduled to take place on August 21 from 1400-2200 UTC (9:00 AM to 5:00 PM Central Daylight Time). Participants in this contest will submit their logs, and data will also be skimmed automatically by networks such as RBN.  If you are an amateur radio operator, I encourage you to participate in this event.  Even if you are not near the path of totality, it is likely that radio propagation will be affected for thousands of miles.

How Anyone Can Participate

AMRadioPicFromDotGovIf you are not licensed, but you own a normal AM radio, you can also participate and collect valuable ionospheric data.  As noted above, AM signals propagate much greater distances at night, and the eclipse will have an effect.  Some night before the eclipse, tune through the dial and note which distant stations you are able to pull in.  Write down the call letters, frequencies, and locations of the stations.

If you need help identifying the stations, the easiest way is often to wait to hear the call letters of the station and Google the call letters to find the location. Or if you missed the call letters but heard the name of the city, try Googling the frequency and city.  For example, a search for “780 AM Chicago” will confirm that you’re tuned in to WBBM.  You can also search the official FCC database, either by frequency or call letters, at this link.  Also, this listing at the FCC website shows the strongest AM stations at most spots on the dial.

During the daylight hours, but before the eclipse, tune to those spots on the dial again to ensure that you can’t pick them up.  Also, some frequencies might have stronger local stations on during the day, which might cover up the weaker more distant signals.  It will be best to concentrate on frequencies where you hear nothing during the day, although the distant signals could very well overpower a closer station.

On the day of the eclipse, tune to those same spots on the dial and see if you can hear the stations.  You will probably find that they come up out of the noise when the path of totality passes over the station, or when the total eclipse is on a straight line between you and the station.

For example, I would expect that when St. Louis sees totality, KMOX (1120) will be booming in for hundreds of miles.  Similarly, when the total eclipse makes it to Nashville, then WSM (650) will be heard in most of the eastern United States.

Also, listen for some stations on the other side of the path of totality.  For example, when the eclipse is over Missouri, I would expect that listeners in Oklahoma and Texas might be able to hear stations such as WCCO (830) in Minneapolis or WHO (1040) in Des Moines.

Before the eclipse, identify some stations, both close to the path of totality, and on the other side of that line.  Find stations that you can normally pick up at night, but not during the day, and then listen for those stations to come up out of the noise as the eclipse shadow moves into an optimum spot.

For most people, the best radio to use will be your car radio.  Most car radios have good AM tuners, and they usually have the advantage of having a digital display so that you can tune to exactly the right spot on the dial.

For more information on this experiment and how you can participate and submit your observations, see this article at Sky & Telescope magazine. A good starting point for learning about tuning in distant stations on the AM dial can be found at Wikipedia.

If you don’t want to be tethered to your car radio, another alternative is to buy a radio similar to the ones shown below.  These radios, even though inexpensive, will provide good AM reception with a digital read out that will allow you to quickly tune various stations.  Some of them also have shortwave, which will allow you to do more elaborate observations, as explained at the Sky & Telescope article.

(In addition to radio experiments, it’s important to have a portable radio if you want to receive weather and traffic information during the eclipse.  Due to the large number of people traveling to the path of totality, it’s quite possible that cellular and data networks will become overloaded in many areas.  Having a radio with you will allow you to learn where the breaks in the clouds are, even if your smart phone is without a signal.)

Radio propagation has been studied during most eclipses in the 20th century.  For example, during the 1945 Victory Eclipse, research was done by researchers in recently liberated Norway, and German installations were even quickly re-purposed to do this research.  Because of the huge amount of data that will be collected, thanks to technologies such as RBN, this eclipse promises to add to the understanding of the ionosphere, and it’s quite possible for citizen scientists such as you and me to contribute.

For more information on the eclipse, see my earlier posts.



Plan For the Eclipse Now!

NASA eclipse imageWe’ve been warning now for a few weeks that to make your eclipse experience more pleasant, you need to plan now! It’s still possible to get a hotel room or campsite relatively close to the path of totality.  However, in most areas, it’s now necessary to book your lodging in outlying areas and plan to drive to your viewing spot the morning of August 21.  We’ve already posted about the potential for gridlock that morning, so you’ll want to plan your route carefully.

As of just a week ago, many more hotel rooms were available.  For example, until just yesterday, it was possible to book a hotel room in Charleston, SC, for about $100.  (And a couple of weeks ago, you could have booked the same room for $50.)  But that changed today.  Here’s what you see now if you want to book a room in Charleston:

CharlestonHotel

Eclipse glasses are also becoming more difficult to find.  During a 2015 partial eclipse in England, there was a shortage of the glasses, and as we predicted previously, it looks like there will be a shortage here as well.  There are two major U.S. manufacturers of the special glasses, which are necessary to safely view the eclipse before and after totality.  One of those manufacturers is Rainbow Symphony, and here’s what their website displayed today:

RainbowSymphonyScreenshot

The glasses are still available, and it’s likely that Rainbow Symphony will soon be open to new orders.  In the meantime, you can order yours on Amazon, as I did.  They have the Rainbow Symphony glasses, as well as glasses from the other American manufacturer, American Paper Optics:


In addition to those quantities and styles, Amazon has many other buying choices, which you can view at this link.  When buying glasses, be sure to look for the ISO certification.  The normal retail price is currently about $2-3 (the links above are for larger quantities.)  There are cheaper uncertified glasses available, but I’m personally not willing to take the risk.  It’s still possible to get the glasses, and if you need larger quantities, I’m sure the Rainbow Symphony website will be back in business soon, as is American Paper Optics.  But if you wait until mid-August, then it will probably be too late!  Get your eclipse glasses now!

Another good source of ISO certified eclipse glasses is American Eclipse Glasses in Torrington, Wyoming, right in the path of totality.  This is a small business that realized there was an opportunity, so they had the glasses custom manufactured and certified.  They have great deals, especially if you need only a few pairs and can’t find them locally, because their shipping charges are extremely reasonable:  The glasses are $3 each, which is about the going retail price.  However, shipping is only $1.03 for the first pair, and then only 3 cents for each one after that!  If you can’t find them locally and need one or two, I recommend you visit their website.  

Or better yet, their prices are even lower if you order in bulk.  On August 21, your friends and neighbors are going to want glasses, but just like in England, there won’t be any available.  You can give them away to your unprepared friends and neighbors, or you can sell them for a fair profit.

Similarly, it’s now a lot harder to find a hotel room now than it was just a week ago.  And it will keep getting harder.  For links to available hotels, please see my constantly updated pages for the western U.S. and eastern U.S.  I also have links of available eclipse campsites.



Planning for Eclipse Gridlock

C3 Hotel & Convention Center

OneTubeRadio.com eclipse headquarters.

The official eclipse headquarters for OneTubeRadio.com is the C3 Hotel & Convention Center in Hastings, Nebraska. If you happen to be in Hastings for the eclipse, please stop by and say hello. We’ll be viewing the eclipse, and participating in some citizen science regarding radio propagation. We’ll be posting more details in coming weeks.


Quick Links


We’ll be staying in what looks like a very nice hotel with an indoor pool. While we haven’t decided on our exact viewing location, the hotel parking lot appears to be perfectly adequate. The cost of the hotel room was very reasonable, and we’re paying the normal nightly rate. Since Hastings, Nebraska, isn’t normally a major tourist Mecca, the normal nightly rate is quite low.

However, if you decide that Hastings, Nebraska, is where you want to be, there’s a zero probability that you’ll be able to find a hotel room within a hundred miles (although there are still a handful of hotel rooms available in some cities in and near the zone of totality.) We made our reservations last August, but now it’s too late.

How Many Last-Minute Eclipse Chasers Will There Be?

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1911 Eclipse Crowds. Library of Congress.

1911 Eclipse Crowds. Library of Congress.

There has been very little media coverage so far of the eclipse, and most Americans probably haven’t heard about it yet, or have only vaguely heard about it. It seems likely that there will be a lot of media coverage in the week or two immediately prior to the eclipse. And many Americans will realize that they live within driving distance of the eclipse, and that the eclipse is a big deal. I predict that millions of them will decide, perhaps on the spur of the moment, to go see it.

According to Michael Zeiler of GreatAmericanEclipse.com, 174 million Americans, 53% of the population, live within 400 miles of the total eclipse. I happen to be in that category, since I’m just under 400 miles. At his website, Zeiler makes some estimates as to how many of those people will decide to get in their cars and go visit. To come up with an estimate, he makes some assumptions, and those assumptions sound reasonable to me. Zeiler estimates that persons living within 200 miles of totality will have between a 0.5% and 2% probability of deciding to go visit.

This certainly seems reasonable. Think of a group of between 50 and 200 people that you might know. Think about the people where you work or where you go to school. If there was an eclipse 200 miles away (normally, about a four hour drive), do you think that there is one person in that group who would take the day off and go see the eclipse? Obviously, I’m in that category myself. I’m even an early adopter, since I made my hotel reservation last year. Most people will be late adopters. They’ll see posts on social media a week before. They’ll start hearing about it in the news. And some of them, like me, will decide to go see it. And I think one person in 200, or even one person in 50, is a very reasonable estimate of how many such people there are.

Zeiler adjusts his estimates as people are further away from the total eclipse. For people in my category (200-400 miles away), he cuts the estimates in half. He estimates that the probability of their deciding to go is between 0.25% and 1%. Again, think about a group of people you know, such as people at work or school. Do you think that if you took a group of between 100 and 400 people, that there is one person who would drive 400 miles (normally, about an 8 hour drive) to go view the eclipse? That seems like a reasonable estimate to me.

As the population gets further away from the eclipse, Zeiler’s estimates go down. For example, he estimates that those 400-600 miles away have a probability between 0.125% and 0.5% of going to see the eclipse.

All of these estimates sound relatively conservative to me. Again, it’s not too hard to imagine that out of a group of 200 people, one or two will decide to take the day off from work to see a free event that’s being heavily hyped on social media.

But the effect of even this small percentage deciding to see the eclipse is quite staggering: If these conservative assumptions are correct, then between 1.85 and 7.4 million people will go visit the path of totality.

Where WIll the Visitors Go?

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Where will these people go? They will probably drive to the closest point where the total eclipse will be visible. They’ll look at a map, determine the closest point, and then figure out the shortest route to get there.

In my case, the closest point where I can view the total eclipse is near Lathrop, Missouri, population 2086, just northeast of Kansas City. I go to Google Maps, where I am told that it’s a 403 mile drive from Minneapolis to Lathrop, and that it normally takes just under 6 hours. So in theory, I can get up early the morning of August 21, drive to Lathrop, Missouri, and view the eclipse. Then, I simply turn around, and get home by early evening.

But there’s a problem. A lot of other people will be descending on Lathrop, Missouri. It’s the closest spot for me, because it is where Interstate 35 intersects the path of totality. But it’s also the closest point for 12.5 million other people who live close to Interstate 35, including most of Minnesota and Iowa, as well as parts of Missouri, Kansas, and Oklahoma.

Here is Zeiler’s map showing the shortest travel route for these people to the eclipse, and every single one of those people has a preferred destination of Lathrop, Missouri:

Caption goes here.

Map courtesy of Michael Zeiler, www.GreatAmericanEclipse.com.

If one percent of those people decide to make a day trip to view the eclipse, then there’s a good chance that many of those 125,000 people will descend on Lathrop, population 2086.

That’s not quite as bad as it sounds, because those people don’t need to drive all the way to Lathrop. They’ll be perfectly happy being on a 70 mile stretch of highway north and south of Lathrop. That works out to 1785 people per mile. If we assume that there are two people in each car, that means 893 cars per mile. Since the freeway is two lanes, that’s 446 cars per mile in each lane. That’s about 12 feet per car. But according to Wikipedia, a full size car is about 16 feet long.

This means that if Zeiler’s predictions are correct, there could be a monumental traffic jam of greater than 70 miles, meaning that some Americans will miss the eclipse because they’re stuck in traffic just a few miles away from the path of totality.

And Lathrop, Missouri, is not the worst choke point. Zeiler has idenified many others that will be traffic nightmares the day of the eclipse, since they represent the point where major highways cross the path of totality. Lathrop is only the ninth worst. The largest choke point is where Interstate 95 meets the path of totality near Santee, South Carolina. This represents the closest point for most of the Eastern Seaboard. If anyone in New York or Philadelphia or Washington or Miami wants to visit the eclipse, then Google Maps will send them to Santee, South Carolina. For 74.6 million Americans, Santee, SC, population 740, is the best place to go.

For example, if you live in Jacksonville, Florida, and want to see the eclipse, then Google Maps will send you to Santee and tell you that it’s 240 miles and you’ll get there in 3-1/2 hours. But Google Maps will potentially also send 74.6 million other people there.  There will be a traffic jam.

Then How Can You See the Eclipse?

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Does this mean that you should skip the eclipse? No, it does not. It doesn’t even mean that you shouldn’t make a day trip. After all, even in the worst case scenario, most (but not all) of the people stuck in the traffic jam on Interstate 35 near Lathrop will be stuck within the zone of totality. For those people, the traffic won’t be moving anyway, so it won’t really do any harm to get out of the car and look when the eclipse happens. And almost certainly, some of the people stuck on the freeway will take an exit as soon as they are within the path of totality and find a legal parking place on some other road.

But if you do decide to make a last-minute trip to view the eclipse, you’ll need to allow much more time than it ordinarily takes. If you don’t have a place to stay (and unless you act fast, you won’t have one), I think the best strategy is to leave Sunday and plan on driving through the night. Take turns driving, and sleep when you can.

I also encourage you to avoid the choke points, most of which are located along major north-south interstates. For example, from the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, it seems that Nebraska is a much more convenient destination, even though it’s more miles. Nebraska’s main choke point is in the extreme southeast corner of the state, and actually lies mostly in Kansas, since most potential visitors from Texas and Oklahoma will be routed to this point. Notably, a full 252 miles of Interstate 80 are within the path of totality. So even if you get stuck in a 252 mile traffic jam, you still won’t miss the eclipse.  But you do need to plan your route, and do your best to avoid the inevitable choke points

How Else to Prepare

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The other thing to remember is that the communities in the path of totality may have seriously underestimated the number of people coming. Lathrop’s Wikipedia page optimistically states that “plans are in the works for Lathrop to host observers that come to Lathrop to view the eclipse.” But I wonder whether Lathrop (population 2086) is really prepared for 125,000 people.

Apparently, a solar eclipse festival is being planned for Lathrop, but according to the festival’s website, they still need volunteers, food vendors, and local land leases for camping, viewing, and parking. They do have buses scheduled from Des Moines and Kansas City.

Those buses will certainly help, but the Des Moines bus leaves at 5:25 AM and is scheduled to arrive at 8:00 AM.  It will probably make it in time for the eclipse, but if Zieler’s predictions are correct, it might not.  I predict that it will not arrive as scheduled at 8:00 AM.   (Update 8/13):  Since I originally wrote this post, I see that the organizers have changed the Des Moines bus departure time to 4:00 AM, which I think was a good idea and means that it will get there in time for the eclipse.)

The massive number of potential visitors to a small town highlights another point: It is very likely that there will be shortages of gasoline, food, water, and toilet facilities. If you are making a last-minute trip (or even one like mine that’s been planned for months), it seems wise to bring enough food and water for yourself, without having to rely on potentially strained local resources. Also, fill your gas tank before you leave home, and keep it topped off. It seems very likely that gas stations will run out of gas at some points close to the line of totality. At the very least, there will be long lines as those 125,000 visitors decide to fill up their tanks.

Since you don’t know exactly where or when the gas will run out, it’s a good idea to keep your tank as full as possible.  I would fill it up when you’re a hundred miles away, and then again when you’re 50 miles away.

Make Travel Plans Now!

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Vista Inn & Suites Airport EastIt is still possible to make hotel reservations in and near the zones of totality. This is especially true in the eastern United States, where you can still get hotel rooms. I have links to available hotel rooms at this link. The situation in the western U.S. is much more tight, but some hotels are still available at this link.

Camping is now the only option in some areas, and will be soon in most other areas. Temporary campgrounds are being set up in many areas. I don’t think the current number of campsites will meet the demand, but there are quite a few campsites where you can make a reservation, guaranteeing yourself a spot. Even if you don’t normally camp, knowing that you have a safe place to sleep will allow you to make a much more leisurely drive on Saturday or Sunday, before the huge crowds arrive. Even an inexpensive tent and sleeping bag and a reserved campsite will be preferable to the uncertainty of having to sleep in your car in an unknown parking lot or at the side of the road. Since camping reservations are still available, this seems like inexpensive insurance. I have links to available campgrounds within the eclipse area, many of which are taking reservations.

Eclipse Opportunity for Churches and Non-Profits

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Black-church-clip-art-free-clipart-imagesFinally, the possibility of large numbers of unprepared travelers seems like an opportunity for churches, schools, organizations, and even businesses within the eclipse area. If you are within the area of the eclipse, it seems quite possible that your area will be besieged with persons in need of food and lodging. While licensing requirements might not allow you to go into the hotel or restaurant business for profit, you can potentially provide a valuable service to eclipse travelers. Thousands of people might be grateful if you gave them a place to park, a safe place to sleep, food and water, and a place to view the eclipse. And frankly, most of those grateful people will probably be inclined to make a donation to your organization.

It seems to me that if your place of worship in the eclipse area has a parking lot, a fellowhip hall, a kitchen, and a restroom, then you should be prepared to extend your hospitality by using them. It might not be necessary. But if you make some minimal preparations before the eclipse, then you would be prepared if the need arises. The main preparations would be to have some of your members be willing to volunteer, and perhaps purchase enough non-perishable food to feed a large group of people.

If I were doing this, I would stock the church kitchen with pancake mix, syrup, spaghetti, canned spaghetti sauce, and powdered drink mix. It would not provide a gourmet meal, but it would give your unexpected visitors a filling breakfast and lunch if the local restaurants and grocery stores are overwhelmed by the crowds. And, of course, don’t forget the coffee.  Even if you don’t need to house anyone, a coffee pot set up outside the church will be a welcome sight to many visitors, and the accompanying basket for free-will offerings will probably fill up rapidly.

If I am right, then all you’ll need to do the night before or the day of the eclipse is to have your pre-arranged volunteers come to the church (where they can view the eclipse along with your visitors). If the town is gridlocked and unprepared, then all you need to do is put a sign out front reading, “Sleeping Space and Meals: Free Will Offering.”  And if I’m right and you tell the chief of police or mayor, “we can take a hundred people,” then I think you’ll have their gratitude as well.  If you are in the eclipse area but off major highways, then an announcement on local radio stations may allow you to take the pressure off overwhelmed neighboring communities.

If I am wrong, you have little invested, and you can donate the food items to the local food shelf.  But I think I’m right, and if I am, you want to be in a position where visitors to your town can tell you, “I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in.”

See Also:  Omaha World Herald article.



Eclipse Campgrounds


Eclipse Camping Links

Most of the following campsites and dorm rooms are still available as of August 6.  Many of the campgrounds are temporary campsites with limited amenities.  In most cases, you’ll need to make reservations by phoning the owners.  This list is being constantly updated with new sites being added every day.  If you discover that any of these are no longer available, please let me know.  Also, if you have a site to add, please let me know.

Post-eclipse update: Most of the following links were temporary campgrounds for the 2017 eclipse, and many links will stop working. A few phone numbers were included on this list, but I have removed them.  The lesson for the 2024 eclipse is that plenty of campgrounds became available at reasonable prices, and there’s no need to pay too much for lodging.

If you are new to camping, see my page with advice on camping with inexpensive gear.

A few of these links are to Facebook posts, and you’ll probably need to be logged in to Facebook to view them.

Note:  I don’t have any direct knowledge of any of these links, other than what they have on their websites.  Please contact the owners directly and ask any questions before making reservations.  The sites listed here range from very expensive “glamping” locations to inexpensive spots to pitch a tent in someone’s back yard.  Some will take self-contained RV’s only and no tents.  Others will take tents only and not RV’s.  So do your homework! Most of the listings explain whether or not toilet facilities are available.  If you’re not sure,  be sure to ask the owner.

Oregon

Idaho

Wyoming

Nebraska

Kansas

  • Robinson, KS – tent sites on football field
  • Summerfield, KS – Campers, $30, tents $15, for reservations call 402-xxx-xxxx. Taco bar benefit supper Sunday evening, 50+ campsites.

Missouri

Illinois

Kentucky

Tennessee

Georgia

North Carolina

South Carolina

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Other Eclipse Links

Here are some links with more information regarding the August 21, 2017, solar eclipse:

General Eclipse Information:

Radio Links

Since radio propagation is affected by solar radiation interacting with the ionosphere, the brief period of “night” in the middle of the day can have measurable effects on radio signals, and some of these effects are not completely understood.  For that reason, there are some opportunities for citizen science by amateur radio operators during the eclipse.

I haven’t decided exactly how I am going to participate, but what I will probably do is send some beacon transmissions which will be picked up by stations of the Reverse Beacon Network.  This will allow me to participate with relatively little attention required by me while I watch the eclipse, but I’ll be able to review the data later and see how the eclipse affected my radio signals.

I will make this information available live during the eclipse, and you will be able to monitor how the eclipse is affecting the propagation from my transmitter.  At this point, I’m considering doing these experiments on 30 meters (10 MHz).  Effects will probably be more pronounced on lower frequencies, but higher frequencies will allow a more efficient antenna.  I think that 10 MHz probably represents the best compromise, but I’d welcome any input.

The following links include information on radio experiments to take place during the eclipse:

 

 



Eclipse Boy Scout & Girl Scout Camping

In earlier posts, I posted regarding hotel availability, with updates for the western United States and eastern United States for the total eclipse on August 21. I also have links regarding where to get your eclipse glasses , which you will need to safely view the eclipse before and after totality. In general, hotel rooms are still available (but going fast) in the eastern U.S., but are very scarce in the western U.S.  Also see my list of over 100 eclipse campsites.

If your family is involved in Scouting (and in some cases, even if you are not), one option for camping in the path of totality might be Boy Scout and Girl Scout camps. The following camps have special camping events scheduled for the eclipse weekend. Some of these are open only to troops, but a phone call might allow your scouting family to join in with a local troop. Other events are open to individual scouts and their families. Other events are open to the public. If you still need a camping spot, one of these might be your best option.

These are the eclipse scout camping opportunities I’m aware of. If you know of others, please let me know.  They’re listed here from west to east:

Oregon

Camp Pioneer
Cascade Pacific Council, OR
Weekend event for Boy Scouts, Venturers, Explorers

Idaho

Camp Bradley
Snake River Council, Idaho
Event appears to be open to public

Grand Teton Council, Idaho
Various events

Wyoming

Teton High Adventure Base
Great Salt Lake Council, Utah
Teton Eclipse Adventure

Camp Laramie Peak
Longs Peak Council, WY
Solar Eclipse Weekend at Camp Laramie Peak

Girl Scouts of Montana & Wyoming
Camp Sacajawea
Casper, WY
Wyoming Eclipse Event for Girl Scouts

Nebraska

BSA Cornhusker Council, Du Bois, NE  SOLD OUT
Camp Cornhusker, viewing and camping, open to public.

BSA Overland Trails Council
Doniphan, NE
Camp Augustine, viewing & camping, open to public

Nebraska Girl Scouts
Camp Cosmo
Grand Island, NE
Solar Eclipse Camporee for Girl Scouts & Families

 

Missouri

Pine Ridge EclipseFest
Greater St. Louis Area Council, MO
Weekend event for Boy Scout troops

Illinois

Girl Scouts of Southern Illinois
Carbondale, IL
Total Eclipse of the Heartland for Girl Scouts

Kentucky

Pfeffer Scout Reservation
Lincoln Heritage Council, KY
Weekend event for Boy Scout Troops and Cub Scout Packs

Kentucky 4H Camp for Ages 9-18

Tennessee
Boxwell Reservation
Middle Tennessee Council
Great Eclipse Campout

Camp Buck Toms
Great Smoky Mountain Council, TN
“Be Totally There” for scouts & scout families

Georgia

Camp Rainey
Northeast Georgia Council
Scouts, Family Members, and the Public

South Carolina

Indian Waters Council
Columbia, SC
Camp Eclipse 2017 for scouts and families

The BSA is offering an eclipse patch that scouts can earn.



Last Minute Eclipse Hotel Options for Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, and Nebraska

Update:  As of August 4, inexpensive rooms were still available in:

  • Kennewick, Washington
  • Ogden, Utah
  • Rapid City, South Dakota
  • Topeka, Kansas
  • Omaha, Nebraska

None of these cities is within the path of totality, but these are probably the closest hotels with rooms available. Traffic is expected to be very heavy, and you will need to leave your hotel very early Monday morning, or even Sunday night, to reach the path of totality.  For more information on anticipated driving conditions, please see my eclipse gridlock page. To make reservations, click on the individual links below.

For hotels in the eastern United States, see this link.  

At this time, camping is probably a better option for most of the western United States.  Many campgrounds are available in all areas, many at reasonable prices, and you can make reservations to guarantee yourself a safe spot to stay and view the eclipse.  For a list of camping locations, see this link.   If you are new to camping, I have a page with tips for beginning campers and suggestions on the most inexpensive way to get the equipment you will need.

For those planning to view the eclipse on August 21, 2017, hotel rooms are filling up fast. If you plan to travel to view the eclipse and want to stay in a hotel, you need to act fast. Yesterday, I listed inexpensive hotels which still have rooms available in and very close to the eclipse area. Those rooms are still available in many cities, extending from Lincoln, NE, to Charleston, SC. You can see a sampling of available hotels at this link.  I have more information about the eclipse, including where to order your eclipse glasses at this link.

If you live in the eastern half of the United States, you are probably within a day’s driving distance to view the eclipse, and nearby hotel rooms are still available. However, this is no longer the case if you live in the western half of the United States. There might be one or two reasonably priced hotel rooms left, but I can’t find them. West of Lincoln, Nebraska, it is no longer able to make a hotel reservation within the eclipse area, unless you want to spend hundreds of dollars per night.

Fortunately, however, you do still have some options. There are still a few hotels within a few hours drive of the eclipse. You can drive close to your final destination to a reasonably priced hotel, and then get up early on Monday morning and drive to where the eclipse will be visible. None of the hotels listed on this page will allow you to view the eclipse from the hotel. But for those in the western U.S., the cities listed below are among your last options to stay in a hotel to view the eclipse. These are suggestions for bases for your eclipse voyage as it passes through Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, and western Nebraska. All of these cities are relatively close to the path of totality, and have good road access for the final leg of your journey on the morning of August 21.

The hotels on this page are outside the total eclipse, some of them significantly so.  Travel times to view the eclipse from these hotels might be significantly greater than normal on the morning of August 21.  This is particularly true on north-south interstate highways such as Interstate 5 and Interstate 15.  If you plan to stay at any of these hotels on Sunday night, you will need to leave for your final viewing position very early, probably in the middle of the night Sunday night.  For traffic predictions, please visit my “Planning for Eclipse Gridlock” page.

For all of the cities listed below, I have a link to one hotel that still has rooms available. Most are $100 per night or less. In most cases, additional hotels are available. By clicking on the link, you can view other hotels in the area.

Portland, OR/Vancouver WA

Hotel rooms are no longer available in Portland, OR, or Vancouver, WA.  Late cancellations might be possible (some eclipse chasers booked hotels in two cities).  The hotel shown below was the last hotel in Portland with inexpensive rooms available.  You can click on this link and check availability for August 20.  If any rooms are available in any area hotel, they will be displayed.

Note that Portland is more than 30 miles from totality.  You will need to drive south the morning of August 21.  Traffic on Interstate 5 is projected to be extremely heavy, since visitors from Portland and Seattle will pour into the area.  The normally short drive may take many hours.  You will need to leave Portland very early the morning of August 21.

Value Motel

Value Motel

 


Umatilia, OR

Umatilia is also north of the path of the eclipse, but provides relatively easy interstate access. You can take Interstate 84 137 miles to Baker City, OR, or continue on to Lime, OR, which is right on the center line for maximum viewing. You can also head south on US 395 through the Umatilia National Forest to Mt. Vernon, OR.

Update August 4:  Hotel rooms in Umatilia are now completely booked.  Rooms are still available in Kennewick, Washington, which is a 162 mile drive on Interstates 82 and 84 to Baker City.  As of July 9, rooms were still available at this hotel for about $64 per night:

Super 8 Kennewick

Super 8 Kennewick

 


Ogden, UT

There don’t seem to be any hotel rooms available in the state of Idaho anywhere close to the eclipse path. The best option for viewing from Idaho seems to be Ogden, Utah, which is about 170 miles south of the eclipse. From Ogden, you can take Interstate 15 to Idaho Falls, ID, which is close to the center line.  Note that traffic on I-15 is expected to be extremely heavy, because this will be the closest route to the eclipse for much of the southwestern United States.  You should plan to leave Ogden very early.  Plan ahead and prepare, since it might be necessary to leave Ogden on Sunday and drive all night.

As of June 20, rooms were available in this hotel for about $55 a night:

Motel 6 Ogden, 21st Street
Motel 6 Ogden, 21st Street


Buffalo, WY

Hotel rooms are no longer available in Buffalo, WY.  Late cancellations might be possible (some eclipse chasers booked hotels in two cities).  The hotel shown below was the last hotel in Buffalo with inexpensive rooms available.  You can click on this link and check availability for August 20.  If any rooms are available in any area hotel, they will be displayed.  Buffalo is about 113 miles from the path of totality.  You will need to leave Buffalo early the morning of August 21.

Lake Stop Resort - Caravan Park
Lake Stop Resort – Caravan Park


Rapid City, SD

All hotels in western Nebraska seem to be completely booked. But if you stay in Rapid City, it’s a 156 mile drive south on US 385 to Alliance, NE, which is right on the center of the eclipse’s path. As of June 20, rooms were available in this hotel for about $76 a night:

Motel 6 Rapid City
Motel 6 Rapid City


Topeka, KS

From Topeka, you can drive north about a hundred miles on US 75 to the path of totality.  There might be heavy traffic on US 75, due to this area being the closest route for most of Texas and Oklahoma.  Other north-south highways are available, so bring a map and be prepared to use alternate routes. Rooms are also available in nearby Manhattan, KS, and Junction City, KS.  The following Topeka hotel has rooms available for under $40:

Motel 6 Topeka Northwest

Motel 6 Topeka Northwest


 

Omaha, NE

If you need a hotel to stay overnight for the eclipse, Omaha is probably one of the very best choices for cities with available hotel rooms.  Omaha is about 50 miles away from the path of totality.  The advantage of Omaha is that the traffic into the eclipse area, even though heavy, will probably not be nearly as bad as other areas.  This is because Interstate 80 runs east-west through the zone of totality, and there are few population centers with this highway as their main route to the eclipse.

If you are traveling by air to view the eclipse, Omaha is probably one of the best choices.  Fly to Omaha on or before Sunday, rent a car, and you will be able to drive to the eclipse Monday morning.

From Omaha,  drive west 53 miles on Interstate 80 to Lincoln. For best viewing, you can continue on Interstate 80 to Grand Island, or head south on US 77 to Beatrice.  Another option from Omaha is to drive south on Interstate 29 toward St. Joseph, MO.  While there will probably be heavy traffic northbound on I-29 from Kansas City and points further south, there will probably be less southbound traffic.  As of June 20, rooms were available in this hotel for about $50 a night:

Travel Inn Omaha
Travel Inn Omaha
 (Use coupon code TRAVEL8).



Eclipse Hotel Update

Update:  This page will not be updated after July 29.  As of that date, inexpensive rooms were still available in:

  • Omaha, Nebraska
  • Kansas City, Missouri/Kansas
  • St. Louis, Missouri
  • Nashville, Tennessee

To make reservations, click on one of the hotel links below and search by date.  If that particular hotel is unavailable, you will see a list of any other available hotels in the area.  Most remaining hotel rooms are close to but not inside the path of totality.  Therefore, you will still need to drive the morning of the eclipse.

Campsites are still available within the path of totality, and you will find a listing at this link.


 

Please note that some of these hotels might be near the path of totality, but not directly in it. So you might have to make a short drive from some of these hotels on Monday morning.

And to avoid shortages, don’t forget to order your eclipse glasses while they are still available and at a low price.  For more information, see my earlier post.

Update:  I also have links to available campsites, for both tents and RV’s, at this link.  For hotel options in the western U.S., please visit this link.

Lincoln, NE

Update (July 4):  The last hotel room in Lincoln is now gone.  Your best option is now to stay in Omaha and drive west on Interstate 80 early the morning of August 21.  Drive at least as far as Lincoln, but for best viewing, continue west to Grand Island or south to Beatrice.  Rooms were still available at the following Omaha hotel for about $50 per night:

Travel Inn Omaha
Travel Inn Omaha

 


Kansas City, MO:

As of July 18, hotels in Kansas City are filling up, and many of the hotels previously listed here are no longer available. Most rooms in Kansas City, MO, are full, but rooms are available in Kansas City, KS. Most of the remaining hotels seem to be otside the area of totality, and you will need to drive north or northeast the day of the eclipse. Note:  these hotels are close to, but might not be directly within, the eclipse path of totality.  To view the total eclipse, you will need to move to the northeast of Kansas City.  Extremely heavy traffic is expected, particularly on Interstate 35, and you will need to leave the hotel very early on the morning of August 21.  For more information on traffic predictions, please visit my Eclipse Gridlock page.

As of July 18, the following hotels are available under $100:

Arrowhead Inn

Arrowhead Inn (Use coupon code TRAVEL8)

American Motel Kansas City, Kansas


American Motel Kansas City, Kansas

 

 


Columbia, MO

Update (July 17):  The following hotel is no longer available, but by following this link and checking for availability on August 20, you will be able to see  a list of other hotels with rooms still available.

Budget Inn

Budget Inn


Jefferson City, MO:

Update (June 28): All hotels in Jefferson City now appear to be completely booked.


St. Louis, MO:

The following hotels are close to, but not necessarily within, the path of the total eclipse.  The path of totality is located southwest of St. Louis, and to view the total eclipse you may need to drive southwest the morning of August 21.  Traffic may be extremely heavy.  For predictions of eclipse driving conditions, please visit my Eclipse Gridlock page.

Motel 6 Hazelwood
Motel 6 Hazelwood

Crosslands St. Louis - Airport - N. Lindbergh Blvd.
Crosslands St. Louis – Airport – N. Lindbergh Blvd.
 (Use coupon code TRAVEL8).


Nashville, TN:

Update (July 18): As of today, rooms in Nashville are 96% booked, and only a few rooms under $100 are available, including the following:

Knights Inn Nashville - Antioch

Knights Inn Nashville – Antioch

Americas Best Value Inn-Nashville/Hermitage

Americas Best Value Inn-Nashville/Hermitage

 


Anderson, SC

Update:  As of July 7, all inexpensive rooms in Anderson are booked, although there are a handful for about $200 per night.  Inexpensive rooms remain in Greenville.


Greenville, SC:

Motel 6 Greenville SC

Motel 6 Greenville SC
 (Use coupon code TRAVEL8)


Columbia, SC.:

Update: As of July 17, no hotel rooms are available in Columbia, SC.  The following hotel was the last to have rooms available.  By clicking on the link, if any other rooms in the area become available, they will be listed.

Days Inn and Suite Airport West Columbia

Days Inn and Suite Airport West Columbia

Charleston, SC.: 

Update:  As of July 12, all hotels in Charleston appear to be booked.

 

 

 



Get Your Eclipse Glasses and Hotel Rooms Now!

Path of Totality. NASA image.

Path of Totality. NASA image.

On August 21, 2017, a total eclipse of the sun will be visible as it passes across the United States from Coast to Coast. This is the first time an eclipse has been visible from coast to coast since 1918. I have seen partial eclipses, and they are a somewhat interesting phenomenon. However, I have never witnessed a total eclipse of the sun, and my family plans to travel to Nebraska to view it.

The total eclipse will be visible only on a band about 70 miles wide stretching from Oregon to South Carolina.  If you are not within this band, you might not even notice the eclipse if you’re not watching for it.  But within this band, the sky will become dark, stars will be visible, and only the sun’s corona will be visible.

During the approximately two minutes of totality, it is safe to view the sun with the naked eye.  But even if only a tiny portion of the sun is visible, then it is necessary to use eye protection.  Therefore, if you are planning to view the eclipse, two things are necessary.

1.  Get Your Eclipse Glasses!

First of all, you will want to get a set of eclipse glasses, such as the ones shown here.  With these glasses, which cost about $2, you will be able to safely view the eclipse if you are not in the path of totality, or if you want to look at the sun before and after totality.

During a 2015 partial eclipse in England, there was a shortage of the eclipse glasses.  In the days leading up to the eclipse, thousands searched in vain to find a pair, but there were none available, or they were available only at grossly inflated prices.  These glasses are still readily available online at reasonable prices.  I recently purchased 10 pairs of the glasses shown here, and they were shipped to me in about a week.   The total price for 10 pairs, including shipping, was about $17.  I’ll post a review in a few days, but they appear to be well made for what they are, and they have the appropriate ISO safety certification.

Unfortunately, I don’t know anyone else who has ordered in advance.  I suspect that, just like in England, there will be a huge demand at the last minute.  Stores won’t have them, and it will be too late to order online, or online suppliers will also run out.  Therefore, I strongly recommend that you order now while they are still available.  The set of ten that I ordered can be ordered from the following Amazon link:

Numerous other options are available on Amazon at this link.

In the Twin Cities area, I am only aware of these stores selling eclipse glasses.  They are:

2.  Make Your Hotel Reservations!

The other item you will want to consider is traveling to view the eclipse.   The partial eclipse that will be visible in most of the United States is certainly interesting, but for most, the total eclipse, visible only in a 70 mile wide band, is a once in a lifetime experience.  Most Americans are within a day’s drive, and it’s certainly worth the drive.  Surprisingly, some hotel rooms are still available, even though many cities along the path have been booked solid for months.  My family will be staying in Hastings, Nebraska, although that city is now completely sold out.

If all else fails, I would recommend simply driving to the path of totality, and sleeping in your car if necessary.  However, rooms are still available in many cities on and close to the path of totality.  The following table will give you some idea of what is available.  As you can see, the last hotel room in Casper, Wyoming, is a modest motel going for $800 a night.  But even though rooms are filling up fast, the following table gives you some idea of what is available.

This table shows availability at Hotels.com, as of June 16.  As you can see, many cities still have bargain hotels available.  This will certainly change as the eclipse gets closer, so. I encourage you to do as I did and make your reservation now.

I have included a link to the least expensive hotel in the city.  In some cases, this hotel might be a few miles from the path of totality, so you will still have to drive to the location of the eclipse.  But by booking a nearby hotel, you will make the process much easier, since you won’t have to worry about driving all night or sleeping in your car.  This chart shows availability for the night of August 20, the night before the eclipse.  The time of the eclipse will vary by location, but will be around midday on Monday, August 21.

As of today, inexpensive rooms are still available in Lincoln, NE, Kansas City, MO, Columbia, MO, Jefferson City, MO, St. Louis, MO, Paducah, KY, Nashville, TN, Greenville, NC, Columbia, SC, and Charleston, SC.  But I guarantee that will no longer be true in a couple of weeks!

Before I made my own hotel reservation last year, I did check on campground availability.  At that time, the campgrounds I checked were already sold out.  However, you may wish to check on campgrounds, including state parks on or near the path of totality.  (See the list of Nebraska State Parks at the end of this post.)

The links below are to the least expensive hotel in the area, as of June 16.  There might be other hotels that are more suitable or closer to the path of totality.  But this will give you an idea of what is available.

For constantly update hotel information, please visit the following posts:

City Lowest price City Percent Booked Link to Least Expensive Hotel
Salem, OR Not Available 100.00%
Jackson, WY Not Available 100.00%
Casper, WY $801 96%
1st Interstate Motel
Glendo, WY Not Available 100.00%
Alliance, NE Not Available 100.00%
Grand Island, NE Not Available 100.00%
Lincoln, NE $43.00 76.00%
Americas Best Value Inn Lincoln Airport
Kansas City, MO $42.00
Super 8 Lenexa Overland Pk Area
Columbia, MO $43.00 78.00%
Frontier Motel
Jefferson City, MO $50.00 Almost 100%
California Motel
St. Louis, MO $39.00
Motel 6 Hazelwood
Cape Giraredeau, MO Not Available 100.00%
Carbondale, IL Not Available 100.00%
Paducah, KY $180.00 98.00%
Wingfield Inn
Nashville, TN $50.00 72.00%
Super 8 Nashville Downtown
Greenville, NC $44.00
Days Inn Washington NC
Columbia, SC $42.00 74.00%
Budget Inn Express-columbia
Charleston, SC $60.00 93.00%
Econo Lodge North

 

Nebraska State Parks

It does not appear that there are any reservable campsites at Nebraska State Parks in the path of totality. But the following Nebraska State parks have sites available for reservation as of June 16. Most of these are north of the path of totality, some as much as a hundred miles or more. But for those visiting Nebraska from the north, one of these parks might be a good option, since you can camp there, and then drive to view the eclipse Monday morning.

  • Branched Oak SRA
  • Calamus SRA
  • Chadron SP
  • Eugene T. Mahoney SP
  • Fort Robinson SP
  • Fremont SRA
  • Lake Wanahoo State Recreation Area
  • Lewis and Clark SRA
  • Louisville SRA
  • Niobrara State Park
  • Platte River SP
  • Ponca SP
  • Rock Creek Station SHP
  • Two Rivers SRA
  • Willow Creek SRA



Lunar Eclipse of July 15, 1916

A partial lunar eclipse took place on this date one hundred years ago, f July 15 1916.  The eclipse was notable for the effect it had on Sir Ernest Shackleton’s Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, an attempted crossing of the Antarctic continent.  The expedition consisted of two parties.  One party, led by Shackleton aboard the Endurance, was to make the crossing from the Weddell Sea.  This party was the most famous, since after the loss of the ship, the party had to travel to Elephant Island, then to South Georgia island, and finally make a dangerous land crossing to a whaling station on the other side of that island.

 A man, fresh-faced with dark, brushed-back hair, seated among a group. He is wearing a naval officer's uniform with a high, stiff collar

Aeneas Mackintosh, Ross Sea party commander. Wikipedia image.

The other party was to enter the continent from the Ross Sea, and was led by Aeneas Mackintosh.  This party would head inland and establish depots for the party making the crossing.  In 1916, five of this party were stranded, and needed to reach the relatively safety of a hut at Cape Evans.  An attempt was made in May, but the ice was too thin.  They had to wait for colder weather, which also meant darkness.  The weather was bad during the full moon of June, but on July 15, conditions seemed good.  But when the moon rose, the men were surprised to find that it was about to be eclipsed.  Fortunately, even though the eclipse continued for two hours, it was only partial, and enough light remained to make the journey.

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