Kane County To Carbondale: Eclipse Was 'Totally' Worth the Drive

Kane County To Carbondale: Eclipse Was ‘Totally’ Worth the Drive

Honestly, this is the best photo I took of the eclipse in Carbondale, and I’ll tell you why. You get at least a little idea of how dark it was. You can see the glow of my college buddy’s wristwatch, some of the “sunset” effect and get at least a little feeling of the “eeriness” of the moment.

So, Mr. Kane County Connects editor, was it worth the six-hour drive to Carbondale, the miserable 100-degree heat and the massive, nightmarish traffic jam that turned that six-hour drive into 14 hours for the return trip — just for 2 minutes and 40 seconds of “totality”? Was it worth depriving the Kane County community of not one but two issues of the daily KCC e-newsletter? Was it really all that much better than the 80 percent eclipse we had here?

Yes. Yes, it was.

Because those two minutes or so were unlike any experience in my lifetime.

This is the best I could do to show the eclipse via camera. You can see the partial blocking of the sun by the moon at the edge of one of those blasted clouds.

There was more than a little drama, as well. About 20 minutes before the totality at 1:21 p.m., a dark puffy cloud blocked the sun. It stayed that way and seemed as if it would not move.

Over the public address system, the announcer says it’s 10 minutes to totality. Still no sign of the sun. People are frantic, realizing they are going to miss the event. Some start to run into the vast grassy field, hoping they somehow can get to a point past the cloud.

Then, just seconds before the big moment, the cloud shifts just enough for the sun to peek through. The announcer says the totality has started, you can remove your glasses now. And there it is, and all you can say is, “Wow, that is so cool.”

All of a sudden, it’s dark. The temperature drops about 20 degrees. You can see Venus shining like a star in the daytime sky. There’s a sunrise/sunset effect surrounding you on every horizon.

The cicadas — which are as loud as a symphony orchestra at night in Southern Illinois — start their mad chirping to the point where you almost have to hold your ears.

And in the sky, now safe to view by the naked eye, is that image you’ve seen 1,000 times in the past few days. The perfect black orb surrounded by a corona that looks like a glow from all the angels in heaven.

This is an illustration, but it really does look a lot like this.

Did I weep like Tom Skilling and many genius scientists in attendance? No. Will my witness of this cosmic event forever change my life? Nope, sorry. Religious experience? Uh uh.

Was it an epiphany? Maybe, kinda, sorta.

It is simply experiencing the natural world in a way you’ve never experienced before. In many ways indescribable. A truly “you had to be there” thing.

I took a few pictures with my cell phone, but there is no photographing this event. All you get is a bright blotch on the screen, even during the totality. I learned afterward that there are ways to photograph it, of course, but the process is complex and beyond my skill level. A solar eclipse is not a point-and-shoot event.

That said, I’ve included some photos and captions here, simply to share.

As I mentioned above, the traffic was awful, agonizing. Illinois’ infrastructure just isn’t made for 200,000 people leaving one place all at once. It took four hours to get back to our motel in Mount Vernon — a drive of about 40 miles from the Southern Illinois University campus in Carbondale.

And the heat and humidity was the kind that makes people dripping wet and miserable. We had a big breakfast but skipped lunch, got caught in the traffic jam, and didn’t have dinner until around 9 p.m., so we were hungry and frustrated and cranky by the time we limped back to the wonderful and accommodating Drury Inn & Suites.

But I had seen and felt something that I will (hopefully) never forget. With my daughter and my dear friends.

And I can testify to the good citizens of Kane County that the Southern Illinois solar eclipse of 2017 was “totally” worth the trip.

This is what an eclipse photo looks like prior to (and after) the totality, when you’re using a cell phone. I also tried covering the lens with the NASA eclipse glasses eyepiece — with no luck.

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