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The Eclipse of 2017.
We watched a little black hole get punched into the sky where the Sun used to be. The Sun dimmed, and then seemed to wink out in an instant, to be replaced by a ring of dim white fire in a darkened sky. People applauded and a start, a kind of surprised noise of wonder, went up from the thousands in the park watching with us.This is what we had all come to see, but we were still startled by the suddenness and intensity of the experience. Then there was cheering and applause. People are strange - applause? But then, what else would you do. In the few minutes the event lasted, the temperature dropped noticeably and quickly. Some say by twenty degrees (from 95 to 75). I can't say for sure; I brought no thermometer. Everyone started, people shouted, and pointed. Then it was over, and we all looked at each other as if to ask, "Did you see that; did it really happen?" Then we wondered if we really saw it ourselves. We had gone to a strange place in the universe; but now it was back to Earth - and time for the long drive out. At the moment it happened, everything else seemed silly and irrelevant - race, politics, opinion - all foolishness. Every once and a while the universe reminds us of how things really are. Then we quickly forget and things get back to normal.

We had left the house around midnight. My mom, brother Chris, and his three kids were traveling down, along with myself. The midnight departure was just to be on the safe side. The full eclipse would not occur until 1:20 PM, and it was only a 7 - 8 hour drive. But things happen. Our first stop, just inside Illinois, was one of those travel centers that spans right across the freeway. We had a cooler full of snacks, drinks, and sandwiches for the trip, and for picnicking during the eclipse. Yet we did need gas. I wanted to keep full, because there were reports that with so many visitors, the areas around the eclipse were short of supplies.
Our next stop was Mainline Station, a rest stop around Loda Illinois. At this point, the rest stops, and the freeway were starting to get a bit crowded, especially considering it was around 3 in the morning. We were probably half way to Carbondale. Pretty much every parking space was taken, and some had started to park off on the entry and exit ramps.
Inside, this was like any other modern rest stop. We had restrooms, maps, snack and beverage machines, and places to sit and relax. Note that despite all the cars outside, it is relatively empty inside. I assume that most of the people are in their cars catching a few winks before continuing on.
The aisle of death. Soda is probably the worst thing you can put in your body - other than maybe drain cleaner. Still, it tastes so good, and that caffeine jolt in the middle of the night is so badly needed.
A fellow photographer reminds me that, as spectacular as it will be, the eclipse is not the only thing going on. He has stopped to record the huge lightning blooms of a large storm front which seems to be following us south.

Finding the ideal spot. And it truly was ideal. We arrived around 8 AM, just as the Giant City State Park was opening. After about fifteen minutes driving its scenic roads, we spotted a picnic area with lots of parking left.
Arrived at a great spot, better than we could have hoped for, considering the crowds. There was a playground, rest rooms, lots of shade, picnic benches, and plenty of parking - at least at first. This was a public picnic area at Giant City State Park, just south of the incredibly crowded city of Carbondale. There was now a five hour wait until the eclipse really got going, but there was plenty to do here.
The kids had fun at the playground, along with a bunch of other kids. They were not bored. There were things to do, food to eat, and lots to drink.

By about 10:00 AM, the parking was full, and the grounds were filling up.

Outside of our picnic area, the park awaited. There were special events and displays about the eclipse, a very nice nature pavilion, and the usual woods, trails, and facilities of the park. The place is worth a visit on its own merits.
This telescope was specially set up to track and record the progress of the eclipse. It was one of a number of such stations set up all over the country.
Food and drinks were available. So were T-shirts, badges, stickers, and leaflets.
About this time, the first indications of the coming eclipse are beginning to show on the upper right hand corner of The Sun.

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