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Saturday, August 19, 2017

From Ec-lipse to Apoco-lipse: The Grump Old Men's Last Great Road Trip

August 19, 2017

It’s been a few months since my trip to China and I wasn’t really planning anything major for a few more months; but then I saw the light – actually the sun.   There’s going to be a total eclipse of the sun on August 21st (in two days) and I thought it would be a great idea to see it.   It’s the first in North America since 1979.  I’m probably not going to have another opportunity in my lifetime. 

The problem is that Vancouver is not in the path of the TOTAL eclipse - it’s only “almost” a partial eclipse– only about 90%.  To see the main event I would have to drive 8 hours to a point just south of Portland Oregon.    I mentioned my plans to a few of my buddies, and to my surprise they expressed interest in coming along.  The more the merrier – or so I thought.   It turns out that merry is not an operative word for this group (including me) of grumpy old men.  

There will be five of us supposedly going.  There’s Tom and his partner, Fen, who many of you will remember from my Amazon adventure, and my buddies Harry and Max.   Tom and Fen are planning to travel a day earlier in their own vehicle.

In our innocent youth Harry, Max and I used to go on fishing trips  - which usually ended up in a competitive battle to see who would catch the biggest or most fish and end up with us not talking for eleven months until it was time to plan the next fishing trip.

Initially my plan was to simply get in my car Sunday evening and drive down to the middle of the path of totality, watch the two minute eclipse then drive the 8 or so hours back home.

“Why didn’t you book a hotel?” asked Max.
“Because, as long ago as a year ago, most of the hotels jacked up their rates for the nights around the eclipse.  Besides what if the weather was crappy and I decided to bail?  I’d be out two hundred bucks or more.”
“Well now that there’s five of us we could share a room,” suggested Max.
“Sounds like fun.  Three old men in a motel 6 room.  Besides, everything for hundreds of miles is booked.”
“Nonsense,” Max retorted. “There’s always something available.  Leave it to me.  I always find something.”

A few days later Max called.
“Everything’s booked.”

Then Tom called to say he’d lucked into a house in Florence Oregon, about an hour south of the path of totality, and we could rent it for a reasonable plan then drive up to the belt of totality in the morning.

“Sounds like a plan,” said Max.  “I’m in,” agreed Harry. “Anything’s better than sleeping in a car.  I definitely don’t want to sleep in the car.”  

My only concern is that besides best of intentions some of Tom’s plans occasionally go awry.  I’m only worried that we will arrive in Florence Oregon to find that his pal’s place is in Florence Italy.

A day later Max called.
“You’ve got the time of the eclipse wrong – It’s at 12:30pm not 9:30 am.”
“No, Max.  It’s definitely 12:30pm.  I read it in the Wall Street Journal.”
“Max, the Wall Street Journal is published in New York.  That’s where Wall Street is.  New York is three hours ahead of us– hence 9:30 Pacific time is 12:30 pm Eastern.”
“Where did you hear that is was 9:30am?” he presses.
“On the internet.”
“You’re going to believe something you read on the internet over the Wall Street Journal?”
I send him links to five articles all confirming that the time will be 9:30am PDT.  

The next day  later he calls back.
“The eclipse is definitely at 9:30am”
“The articles convinced you?”  I ask.
“No.  Lenny told me.”
“Who’s Lenny?”
“Lenny’s the bagger at the liquor store.  He knows everything.”
“So you believe Lenny the Bagger over me – who actually took courses in Astronomy.”
“Basically yes.”

I’ve no sooner put the phone down when I receive an email from Harry.  Harry is sort of a glass half empty guy.
When Tom, Harry and I went gliding Harry looked up at the cloudy sky and asked, “Do you know what the worst thing that could happen to us today?”
“What?” I asked.”
“We could drive all the way up to Hope and find the lesson has been cancelled.”
“Where on your list of worse things that can happen to us  does flying into the side of a mountain come?” I asked.
“Number five,” he replied.

Harry has been reading the Wall Street Journal too.
“I read that it’s going to be the biggest traffic jam since Woodstock.  Doesn’t matter when we leave.  We’re going to be stuck in traffic – will never get there in time to see the eclipse.  We’re gonna end up sleeping in the car.  Did I tell you how much I hate sleeping in cars?”

Tom, who’s copied on the email, chimes in. 
“Harry’s right.  We better stock up on food and water.  We might not be able to get any food or water once we cross the border – everything might be sold out.
“We’re going to experience the eclipse – not the apocalypse.  I’m sure they’ll be lots of food and water available.  If you’re really worried we can pick up some snacks and drinks when we cross the border.”
“I’m taking a flat of water from home – just in case, “replies Tom.
“Won’t matter,” I point out.  “We’re going to the US.  Some guy in a pickup with a gun will just take it away from you.”
I’m beginning to have doubts about the trip.

A few later, Max calls again.
“Did you get glasses?”
“Yes,” I reply. “I bought several pairs two months ago.”
“I read on internet there a lot of fake glasses around. How do you know that you got good glasses?”
“They have the proper ISO numbers on them, and I bought them from a reputable American seller.”
“They were probably made in China,” Max replies.
“EVERYTHING is made in China, Max. I’ll send you the website.”
“It could be a fake news website.”
“What does your friend Lenny the Bagger suggest?
“Lenny’s on vacation.”
“Listen, Max, if you’re that worried you can buy your own glasses.”
“Everyone is sold out.  They’re asking $500 a pair on Craig’s list.”

“Well you can wait until Tom’s stared at the sun for a couple of minutes and if he doesn’t go blind then you can assume it’s safe to look”

…and we still have one day to go.  I’ll let you know how it all turned out

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