I hope by now you are planning to drive north next week to witness the Great Eclipse 2017. It all happens Monday morning, August 21, about 10 a.m.
It’s surprising to hear from many readers and friends about all the plans they’re making to experience this once-in-a-lifetime event. One friend is driving to a remote camp in Montana, another couple is flying to St. Louis to meet East Coast family and make it a family affair. Most are headed up I-5 to Salem.
Easiest access for those of us living in California will be somewhere along the line in Oregon starting in Newport and extending quickly through Salem, Madras, John Day and finally over to the Boise, Idaho area.
Earlier this week, the Oregon state police announced they anticipate more than 1 million out-of-state visitors by Monday morning. My guess is it will even exceed that number. Apparently many plan to drive into Oregon early Monday morning. I can visualize a virtual parking lot from Portland to Medford. Imagine a 300-mile traffic jam!
Interestingly, the Oregon police have the greatest concerns over coastal highway 101, since it is mostly two lanes. From my view, a coastal location is likely to be cloudy, so that’s a bad bet on both fronts.
We plan to go out to the Eastern Oregon desert, somewhere around the town of John Day. The John Day Fossil Beds National Monument is expecting 100,000 people on eclipse morning. All this serviced by some very basic two-lane roads with little or no services available.
Our strategy is to be at least 50 miles away from this mob, and my biggest concerns are availability of gas for the car and how to avoid the colossal traffic jams after the eclipse concludes. I have visions of travelers stuck in Oregon for days.
We plan to camp out Sunday night in the back of the SUV. Hotel rooms have been sold out for more than a year in those regions close to the eclipse path all the way across the country.
So, if you are going, here is my best advice:
▪ Be in the exact place where you plan to watch at least the night before. Stay put unless your area clouds over, then you’ll have to dash for clear skies because clouds are the eclipse watchers worst enemy.
▪ Watch for the stars to appear. In the last moments before darkness you will see Venus trailing the sun, as well as the bright star Sirius out in front. The mighty Orion constellation will appear just before the moon covers the entire bright sun. Seeing an array of winter stars in the August sky is a great thrill for all of us amateur star gazers.
▪ Make sure you have plenty of gas. Stations in Oregon will be jammed, and likely will run out before everyone has departed.
▪ Have plenty of water, ice, food and other necessities. Stores could run out early, restaurants will be overwhelmed.
▪ Avoid direct view of the sun, except for the 2 minutes of total eclipse. Special glasses are being sold by various outlets, and a No.14 welder’s glass will also protect your eyesight.
Most important, by all means try and see it live and in person. Eclipses are truly amazing, and nature has no better astral show to present. Just be prepared.
On another note, recently I wrote a column about the great value for senior citizens, the National Park Service Seniors Lifetime pass for just $10. Well, get it quickly, if you are 62 or older.
This exceptional deal, thanks to a recent Congressional Budget Act, increases in price on August 28 from $10 to $80. Still a great deal, but not as cheap as you can get if you hurry.
One of my readers went out to the Knights Ferry park office and obtained the pass right here in our own backyard. They are also available in any national park or national recreational area
Dick Hagerty, an Oakdale real estate developer active in non-profits. Send comments or questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.