Traveling in Wyoming, this reporter observed the solar eclipse on Aug. 21 in a “totality” zone, about an hour out of Jackson, Wyoming. Newspapers, the Internet and radio hosts had spent weeks preparing locals for the big event and the deluge of cars and onlookers. T-shirts and glasses were sold everywhere, gradually climbing in cost as the day came nearer.
The day before, law enforcement started managing cars and making sure there would be easy exit in emergency situations. Small towns filled with grocery shoppers buying beer, flashlights, ice and groceries. There had been some fear of food supplies and gasoline running out but on the morning of the eclipse, the small town of Pinedale, Wyoming was slightly busier than normal, but calm.
We were told traffic was chaotic in the tourist town of Jackson, but out in the country, it wasn’t bad. Outside of Pinedale, cars just pulled over onto frontage roads or any pull-outs they could find. Kids crawled on top of their family campers, couples set up chairs and donned their eclipse glasses, ready for the event. Somewhat like an old-fashioned drive-in theater, cars were clustered together waiting for the show.
Out on the deck of a family cabin, we got ready, sharing scientific facts and wondering about how long “totality” would occur (about two minutes) and when things would be back to normal daylight (about an hour).
The mood changed with the light as the glare of the day softened. Glancing up periodically, the sun was shrinking until it became a tidy crescent. It darkened and the temperature dropped suddenly. There was a chill and we were deep in the moments of the eclipse. Then a sliver of the sun appeared and we gradually worked our way back to normal daylight.
There was something fascinating about the process and the exact timing of it all. Everything happened at the moment we had read about in local media.
Peering through our plastic glasses, it seemed so far away, yet so punctual and predictable. We gathered for a few snacks, critiquing the photos and videos on our phones. There was something comforting about watching something so momentous and almost dangerous seeming together and then to be able to share a meal, safely, calmly talking about our reactions to the event.