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  1. #11
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tustin, California, United States
    Posts
    273

    Default Day 3

    An earlier start was necessary today, considering the impending time change waiting for us at the Indiana state line the moment we hop back on I-74. It took about 90 minutes to reach Indianapolis, but before heading downtown, since we were already passing it on the way, decided to make a pit stop (pun intended) at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, billed as the largest racetrack in the world, and home to the annual Indy 500. We're not auto racing fans, but still felt like it was something for a quick peek regardless, taking a few pics of the track and grounds.

    Next up, the capitol building. It was a bit of a challenge parking with one way streets and construction, but before long we ascended up the steps, through security, and into the bowels of this historic structure. I deem it to be one of the more impressive capitols I've seen with its architecture. It was in between official tour times so had to do with walking around ourselves, gawking at the decor, taking a peek in the Senate/House chamber galleries, and posing in front of the Governor's office. An hour is all that's needed for the curious.

    Two blocks to the east of the state house is a super tall Soldiers and Sailors monument, surrounded by a ginormous roundabout. We would have been happy to stop and check this place out, but our timing was sour being the lunch hour, with no convenient parking spaces. Oh well, time to go up and out. Interstates took turns leading us out of the city, from I-65 south to I-70 east to I-465 north, and finally the start of I-69 north.

    We thought our time in Indiana was complete, but brochures at a rest area led us to reveal one more stop for the day. Apparently the famous 1950s actor James Dean grew up in the small town of Fairmount, IN. Mom was one of his biggest fans so it only seemed like common sense to drive 5 miles off the interstate. The James Dean museum and gallery was discovered here, with the guy running it to give us a map with all the highlights of the town and anything James Dean related. We only had time to check out the north side, taking pictures of the house he grew up in, the church he attended, the motorcycle shop where he used to hang, and of course his final resting place in the adjacent cemetery. Mom was thrilled to find this diamond in the rough attraction.

    OK we're REALLY done for today. Back on I-69 to continue north (finally coming across road construction, although not as inhibiting as past trips), eventually crossing into the state of Michigan and landing a hotel in Coldwater, MI minutes later, just after 5:00pm EDT.

    So far, so good!
    Last edited by Kinless; 08-15-2017 at 03:47 AM. Reason: small state correction

  2. #12
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tustin, California, United States
    Posts
    273

    Default Day 4

    I haven't been to Michigan in 12 years (since RT01), Dad hasn't been back in 45 years, and Mom has never been. Time for some exploring!

    A brief downpour scraped by during our hotel breakfast, but that's the only rain we've seen on the entire trip. For the most part, weather has been exemplary and well-timed. I only hope that lasts through eclipse day.

    It's back on I-69 north from Coldwater, MI, and continuing upstate to yet another capitol city, Lansing, MI (three states in a row!) courtesy of I-496. We pulled up to the front of the capitol just before 10:00am EDT, looking just as impressive as the last few. Luckily we arrived right in time for the next tour, and since no one else was waiting, it turned into a private tour for the three of us. Stephanie the guide took us to multiple floors for a comprehensive walkthrough of the architecture, assembly rooms, and office of the governor (the highlights I planned on looking for anyway, tour or no). We only needed an hour for the skinny. This was the farthest north we travel on this trip.

    Back down we go continuing east on I-496, and over to Hwy 127 south to return to the interstate that eventually leads to Detroit. However as an aside, we stopped in Grass Lake so Dad could visit some 1st cousins not seen in many a year. We spent 3 hours having lunch and shooting the breeze over at their multi-acre property. After that it was a refuel and back on I-94, leading us to our next hotel in Allen Park. The Best Western here is victorian-themed with an overwhelming number of vintage automotive pictures up and down the hallways (fitting, seeing as where we were) and an excellent in-house restaurant.

    One more day of Michigan to come...
    Last edited by Kinless; 08-16-2017 at 05:33 AM.

  3. #13
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tustin, California, United States
    Posts
    273

    Default Day 5

    I'm not sure if the time change finally caught up with us, or if it was that nighttime cocktail, but we were all conked out until after 7:30am EDT. We did need the extra sleep, that's for sure, but didn't end up leaving the hotel until 10:00am, unfortunate on a day with so much to accomplish!

    Luckily our next destination was just a few miles down the road. We pulled into the parking lot of the Henry Ford museum. There are so many other nearby attractions to visit besides just the museum, you could easily spend a few days trying to knock everything out. I purchased online tickets the previous day for two of those things, the museum itself and also the adjacent Greenfield Village. Since the latter was outside, I thought better to get that out of the way first before high temperatures of the day came around.

    Greenfield Village is a mishmash of authentic old houses/buildings/structures that represent what it would have been like to walk the streets of an eastern colonial town before and during the industrial revolution. There were several districts each displaying different factions such as agriculture, crafts, railroad, mechanical/electrical, and of course the history of Henry Ford, including the actual house he lived in. It was a big place, probably too big for my folks, as it was a struggle to walk these long distances. We kept it simple and went in short legs with sitting breaks, mostly sticking to just the crafts, railroad, and Henry Ford sections, which alone took about 90 minutes. There are also rides in horse carriages, trains, and Model T Fords, but that was an extra cost on top of the tickets.

    Now that it was getting warm we headed inside to the air-conditioned museum. This was also a lot of potential walking so we kept to select exhibits we wanted to see, mostly the automative areas, beginning with the first Ford models from the turn of the century to today. There were no shortage of vehicles young and old, standard and racing. We also found a Civil War exhibit containing the actual Lincoln Rocker that Abe himself was sitting in when assassinated (and even found out the story why Ford had it and not the Smithsonian in DC). This was close to a 2 hour stretch. We spent an additional 30 minutes cruising the gift shop (of course) but kept purchases light.

    It was almost 2:00pm when we finally left. Dad had lived here in Detroit during the 1950s so we were now driving to a few places he remembered from those days. Interstates 94 and 96 helped us find our way near downtown. The house he used to live in was no longer there (just an empty lot now). We also went over to Bell Isle (found on the Detroit river straddling the US/Canadian border) and found the large fountain there, with great views of the Detroit skyline. Finally we decided to use the tunnel to cross under the river, into Windsor, Ontario, Canada (bring $10.00 and your passports if you plan on doing this). We spent about 15 minutes just driving up and down the main roads while looking at the local residences. Trying to find a local park to hang out for a few minutes ended up as too challenging by itself, so I gave up and headed back over the Ambassador Bridge to the USA. Yay, we made our roadtrip international!

    We stopped at the Michigan welcome center for a quick bathroom break, and found out from the guide that I-75 South (which I was going to use) was closed for some miles due to bridge construction. The alternate route was a surface road back to I-94 and bypassing the closure with US 24, which of course had to land right during rush hour. What great timing.

    Eventually we got to the open portion of I-75, using that to head away from Detroit, and across the border to Ohio. But it was another stretch on US 23 until reaching the town of Marion, OH, arriving at 7:30pm (but still before sunset). The Ponderosa Steak House, a buffet joint that just opened in the last 10 days, was our meal.

    Pretty sure that was the last of our crazy days on this trip. We'll be ratcheting down after tomorrow...

  4. #14
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tustin, California, United States
    Posts
    273

    Default Day 6

    Another late start, but that's all right, there's just one thing on the agenda today. We left our Marion, OH hotel just before 10:00am EDT, and arrived at the capitol in Columbus, OH an hour later. US 23 would be the artery of choice today for getting around. Luckily there was underground parking directly below the capitol so it wasn't much effort to find a spot and take the elevator up.

    We made it just in time for the 11:00am tour. Including us, a group of 10 was formed and we were once again taken around all the highlights, including the rotunda and assembly chambers for both Senate and House. Mom had to use the elevator most of time due to the plethora of stairs, but there was still plenty to see even with that handicap. The governor's office was in a separate building so that had to be skipped. Otherwise, it's just like the last few capitols, but still interesting to see the unique architecture for each. At the end we were led back to the basement with some select exhibits and of course a gift shop, which comes in real handy when trying to finish your state shotglass collection.

    Sometime after 12:00pm, Columbus was a memory as we continued south on US 23. We found a place to fill up as well as shooting back and forth over the bridge for Ohio and Kentucky state line signs to capture. Not much else was happening on this leg, other than taking 4.5 hours to reach our destination. We finally arrived at Dad's friend's in his birth town of Mayking, KY just before 6:00pm. We appreciate them putting us up for the next few nights.

    Time to do some local exploring and visiting. Since we're not driving too much, I may or may not bother with daily updates, at least not until eclipse day. Will let you know how it all turns out.

  5. #15
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Location
    Las Vegas, Nevada
    Posts
    10,259

    Default

    How close to the total eclipse will you be on this trip?

    Going to memorable for millions of people, no matter what.

    Mark

  6. #16
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tustin, California, United States
    Posts
    273

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Sedenquist View Post
    How close to the total eclipse will you be on this trip?
    Spring City, TN will be less than a mile from the eclipse centerline, so pending clear views we will enjoy 2 minutes 40 seconds of totality. They're calling for partly cloudy skies with 20-25% cover, so it'll be a crapshoot as to whether a wayward cloud drifts in at the wrong place/time.

  7. #17
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tustin, California, United States
    Posts
    273

    Default Days 7-9

    Just posting a brief recap of our family visits.

    On Friday we kept to local Mayking, KY visiting cousins and other extended family. Minimal driving.

    On Saturday we visited one of Dad's old streets he lived on and remembered from the 1950s. We also crossed over into Virginia and headed to Keokee, VA for a family dinner. That makes 7 states visited so far.

    Today, Sunday, we went with our hosting friends and drove through the nearby towns of Whitesburg, KY and used Hwy 119 to explore south as far as Cumberland, KY. We've all been here before, but a number of years ago. Hardly anything was open since they actually observe Sundays around here. We treated them for dinner in appreciation for their hospitality. Other than doing a prep fuel and getting ice, no mileage on our minivan.

    Eclipse day is going to be insane. No idea how traffic or cloud cover will turn out, so our route will be very dynamic. We'll be observing Google Maps traffic on the fly and make sure to avoid major cities or interstates (I-75, I-40) should they turn red on the map. If our luck holds, it'll be a 4-hour trip.

    If.

  8. #18
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tustin, California, United States
    Posts
    273

    Default Day 10 (Eclipse Day)

    (Warning: long post. Go brew your coffee for this one.)

    We had bid farewell to our Kentucky hosts the night before, since we didn't want to wake them sneaking out of the house at 4:45am EDT, promptly racing down Hwy 119 toward the Tennessee valley. I was concerned about the masses holding freeways hostage, but the paranoia about being stuck in gridlock was for naught, with smooth sailing all the way through using US 25E crossing into Tennessee, and with assurances from the GPS it was still the fastest route, used interstates I-75 and I-40 through Knoxville, TN to find our way to the primary road of the day, US 27.

    We arrived in Spring City, TN by 9:00am (amusingly enough they marked the eclipse centerline just outside of town). The crowds were visibly starting to pick up, so I dropped my folks off at Veteran's Park to the south and went into town to find parking. Let me tell you that Spring City was well prepared and organized for today's special event. They had multiple areas of designated parking all throughout town, running school buses as shuttles and police controlling traffic flow. I found a spot, secured the minivan and hauled my photo equipment onto the bus, meeting the parents back at the park around 10:00am.

    There were a few hours left to kill. Luckily Dad found a shady spot under a tree, near a concrete basketball court for my tripod setup (and near portable toilets for them). A nearby church group was gracious enough to lend us a folding chair for mom (since I'm a terrible planner like that) while Dad and I made do with a beach towel on the grass and picnic supplies to keep us fed. By the time 1:00pm rolled around, thousands were at the park enjoying the festivities. Many were local southerners (who are always super friendly) but we talked to quite a few out-of-state travelers as well. Some seemed to be thrilled that we were from SoCal. I could see thunderheads rearing up on the horizon to the east, but luckily that's where they stayed.

    And so it begins.

    Contact 1 (C1) where the moon first touches the sun started at 1:03pm, mostly uneventful and not much to see at this point. I was using automated software on my laptop to control the camera so I didn't have to fiddle with it during totality, but somehow I ended up becoming the unofficial commentator with the local crowd since the software's countdown to events was spot on. We spent the next 90 minutes all taking peeks through our solar glasses at the increasing bite of the moon. Although 20-25% cloud cover was predicted, there was hardly anything beyond a few light wisps. Excellent!

    Minutes before totality started, crickets and frogs began their nightly routine, and daylight softened to the point it looked like a 5000K LED light dimly shining down on us. As I was telling everyone to take off their glasses/filters at 15 seconds before, those mysterious shadow bands shimmered on the ground, which in itself was exciting. The whoops and hollers from the crowd amplified as we reached totality (C2) at 2:31:36pm.

    The halo. Oh the halo was so magnificent I couldn't help but join in on the whooping. The automated software was doing its job so I didn't have to worry about the camera. Basked in the dim twilight, train horns started sounding off, fireworks were being launched to the side, and several planes in the sky could be seen circling around the town. The planet of Venus was easily visible, and a 360° view of a sunset horizon made for a spectacular moment. It was an absolute true epiphany for me.

    Totality lasted 2 minutes, 40 seconds. The diamond ring of the sun peeked out (C3), with more shadow bands on the ground as the moon began uncovering our solar friend. Everyone was still in amazement from what they just witnessed. (I reminded everyone glasses/filters back on at 15 seconds after just in case.) I let the software take a few more shots of the partial down to 90% covered before calling it done. Buses were lined up to take people out of here but we were too busy packing up to catch any of them. We said our goodbyes to the people around us (they all appreciated my commentary and countdowns). The line of vehicles out of the park was predictably at a standstill. By the time another shuttle came around over an hour later, the last of the eclipse (C4) was finishing up the entire 3-hour event. Getting back to the van, we stopped at city hall but they were out of their T-shirts so we walked out with only eclipse-themed postcards.

    Northbound US 27 was a complete mess, even with the traffic cops doing their best. Luckily we were heading south so it wasn't a problem getting out of town. I thought we had it made.

    Ohhhhhhhh no. The next town of Dayton, TN introduced us to a whole new meaning of gridlock. Turning to Google Maps showed miles and miles of deep red all the way down US 27 to Chattanooga, TN. After crawling 12 miles in an hour, enough was enough and it was time for action! I turned off onto a backroad (the street was literally called Back Valley Road) and bypassed all that traffic noise, while at the same time enjoying the countryside and lined trees along this simple path. Within 20 minutes I reached Hwy 111 and used that to sidestep over to the adjacent north-south highway, crossing back over into Central Time and thankfully gaining that extra hour back.

    The rest of our Tennessee time was spent on US 127 and Hwy 28, avoiding Chattanooga altogether. We spent a few moments on I-24 west and promptly switched to US 72, carrying us to our destination state of Alabama. The sun wasn't done yet, as it set in front of us while traveling westward. We stopped at another Steak 'n Shake in Huntsville, AL for dinner, and finally arrived at my uncle's in Madison, AL at 8:45pm CDT. A 17-hour day.

    Easily one of the top 5 memorable experiences in my 12 years of tripping. Mark your calendars for April 2024 and plan it now. It's totally worth doing.

    We're spending this week with my uncle who I haven't seen in years, so with more family time abound, updates will be light until we're on the road again.

    Oh, and here's some of my pics for you, courtesy of Solar Eclipse Maestro (or view the high-res versions on my Flickr):












  9. #19
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    7,110

    Default Brings back so many memories

    Thanks for sharing that great experience, and the pics. Brings back so many memories of about 35 years ago when we had a totall eclipse downunder.. That was long before digital cameras and the internet. We took the children well away from civilization and any artificial light pollution, to a remote area in the hills northwest of Melbourne. I have never forgotten the noise all the wildlife made in their confusion.. The sun gone in the middle of the day! It was pitch dark ..... other than that circle in the sky - like your fifth photo. It also made me wonder how civilizations coped with such events, thousands of years ago. You can't blame them for having thought the world was coming to an end.

    Thanks again - much appreciated.

    Lifey

  10. #20
    Join Date
    Mar 2016
    Location
    Phoenix, Arizona
    Posts
    335

    Default

    Very nicely done! Next best thing to being there...thanks for sharing!

    Rick

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