Monday, August 21, 2017

An American Eclipse

Eclipse Watchers at Sea-Tac Airport
I ran with the eclipse across America today, and what a day it was.

It just so happened that August 21 was the day I had a ticket to fly west and visit our daughters and grandchildren in Seattle  -- right along the path of the total eclipse, or just north of it.  I woke up at 4 a.m. and caught a taxi from Manhattan to JFK -- with a young African cabbie.  
     -- You want some music?  he asked as we started out.
    Sure, I said, wondering what he had in mind.  On came Bob Marley.  The reggae beat begged to be turned up.   
   Turn it up, I said.
   -- Oh. you like it?

Ignoring the timed lights on First Avenue, he peeled out at every intersection and slammed on the brakes at the next.  Hitting the highways, we went at least 15 miles over the speed limit all the way.  But there was little traffic on a Monday, so I decided to relax.  Bob Marley had bigger things on his mind.  Move .. Move ...Move.. A Movement.. of the People!

 Alaska Airlines was 30 minutes delayed but our pilot assured us we'd get to Seattle on time. He was a retired Navy Captain, and this, he said, was his "afterlife" job.  Before takeoff he came back into the cabin to brief us on the E-clipse -- that's how he said it.  It would be following us, tailing us across the west and reaching its peak just as we landed.  Still, he warned us, don't look at the sun unless you have those special glasses.  A couple of passengers did have them, but I had neglected to find some.  This was gonna be frustrating.

 Still, I had a window seat on a clear day, and I got my first look ever along the northern border of the US -- narrated by the pilot, whose interest in geology and geography sparked a running account.  We crossed Lake Erie, meandered over Canada and then across the farmland of Wisconsin.  "The Cheesehead State!" cried our captain. 

How many people get enthusiastic when sighting Bismarck, North Dakota?  He did, and I did shortly after that as the flat Midwest farmland broke into a rutted surface, then into stark Black Hills with only patches of farmland, then into a lunar waste with no towns and barely a road.  Then suddenly out of the clouds ahead a whole landscape, blue heaped upon blue, of sheer uninhabitable gorges and peaks -- the Rocky Mountains. "We're goin' over the Continental Divide!" whooped the pilot.  And now the race was on.