Blackout Rally recap

300-plus Airstream trailer enthusiasts—many members of the Oregon Airstream Club, Greater Los Angeles and NorCal units of the Wally Byam Airstream Club—camped together at Lake Simtustus in Madras, Oregon to await the Great American Eclipse. To kill time before totality, a 3-day party was planned that included an eclipse presentation and evening telescope starparties with astronomer Brian Bellis from California, a drawing class, a geology lecture, catered meals each day, Cachaça spirit tasting at happy hour, live entertainment (Antsy McClain from Nashville!), and a “Day on the Dock” party hosted by Airstream Adventures Northwest (Airstream Inc.’s #1 dealer).

Day on the Dock included a fishing derby, water toy relay race (involving a hydrobike, kayaks, and an SUP), incredible prizes, a big ol’ freezer of free ice cream, and a “Hot dogs for Hot Shots” fundraiser for local firefighters who have been working overtime this season to prepare for the eclipse in Central Oregon. (The Oregon Airstream Club raised well over $2000!)

 

On Monday August 21 all eyes were on the sky as we gathered together to await totality, wearing our custom eclipse glasses. Several rocked tin-foil hats.

At dawn on eclipse day I glared at the thin haze in the sky, and the brownish accumulation wafting from a wildfire on Warm Springs reservation toward our viewing location. “I’m not a fan,” said astronomer Bellis, and the eclipse chasers and telescope buffs agreed that the advertised crystal blue sky of Central Oregon was not to be that day—but visibility was improving with each passing hour and everyone remained hopeful and excited.

Several telescopes were positioned to study the significant sun spot activity and the big prominences. Bellis brought a terrific “funnel projector” and an attendee made a nice pinhole headbox. Lots of folks brought colanders from their Airstream galleys to observe rows of neat and orderly crescent projections. After planning this event for seven years, it was finally going down.

The phenomena occurred on cue as 10:19 a.m. approached: sharpened shadows, eerie changes in the light, and even shadowbands—my first viewing ever, collected on a big piece of white foam core.

What a thrill and blessing to hear the gasps and cheers of 350 people when totally slid into place after a dazzling diamond ring. (Post-eclipse regret: why didn’t I make an audio recording? Hopefully someone else did.)

Something amazing WAS captured on video and in a still shot by one of the guests: during totality, a skydiver sailed right across the eclipsed sun. I hope that guy makes some good money selling the image to Astronomy magazine.

The coronal streamers were only slightly diminished by the haze, and at third contact the crowd cheered again and many brushed away a tear or two. I held it together until someone crying ran up to give me a hug. Sharing the beauty of our planet with other Earthlings and feeling our place in the solar system and the universe together always touches me deeply, and I try to carry that feeling forward until it refreshes during the next eclipse. (2019, ya’ll.)

After totality we enjoyed a catered brunch and a champagne toast delivered by special guest Thomas D. Jones, NASA astronaut/spacewalker. He delivered a fascinating presentation about the ongoing role of NASA missions, answered questions about what it’s like to live and work in space, and stuck around to autograph books and inspire kids.

Until next time, clear skies!

Above: The Oregon Airstreamers

Below: Pin the moon on the sun; eclipse style statement; eclipse cookies; ‘scope action; awaiting totality; third contact smiles; NASA astronaut Tom Jones; I’m seven for seven! (Hubs is two for two.)

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Oregon Airstream Blackout Rally

Several years ago when The Great American Eclipse hit my radar, I mentioned it to some of my fellow Oregon Airstream owners at a Wally Byam Caravan Club annual meeting.

“Hey, you guys, we should have a big rally during the total eclipse of the sun that’s coming up!” I said.

“Awesome idea. When is it?”

“2017!”

<crickets>

Down, girl, was the initial (and reasonable) reaction but when I brought it up again later it really was time to plan, and almost past time; many campsites and blocks of hotels in Central Oregon were already booked.

A team of co-hosts and rally volunteers stepped up to help organize the event, and we secured two campgrounds in a prime viewing location in Madras, Oregon.

I know what you’re thinking—sorry, the Oregon Airstream Blackout Rally has been sold out for nearly two years.

I never thought August 2017 would arrive, but here we are, and the Blackout Rally will be nothing short of epic: a weekend for 300 Airstreamers and their friends and families, packed with live entertainment, catered food, science presentations, star parties, a marina bash—and totality on the final day.

We just have to get there (and hope the dire traffic predictions are Fake News), and cross our fingers and toes for clear skies.

NASA and the Science Channel are placing their bets on Madras, as well: the location has a 95 to 98% chance of unobstructed viewing on August 21, and Accuweather is predicting 83° with “abundant sunshine”.

Review a collection of top eclipse articles and web posts on Tumblr at Second Contact.

Above: Madras, Oregon: “Top ranked viewing spot in the United States.”

Below: Early planners review eclipse data; co-host plots the Airstream trailer sites; host huddle in the marina store; lakeside campsites; marina dock; Airstreamers on site last summer; Oregon eclipse path; lovely lake locale; grill guy tests eclipse glasses; sorry, sold out!

Eclipsemageddon

Apoceclipse? Eclipsalypse? Whatever you call it, Central Oregon is in a wad about The Great American Eclipse, coming soon to a traffic jam near you.

Everyone from the Red Cross to ODOT to the Deschutes County Sheriff to the Unitarian Church are planning for the onslaught of visitors and have been busy issuing advice and warnings. Threat of wildfire is, indeed, the most dire issue. If you’re planning to view totality on the dry side of Oregon, August 14—22 might be a good week to quit cigarettes. To paraphrase Smokey: only you can prevent wildfires.

NationalGeographic.com offers these safeguards—

  • Contact 911, the local fire department, or the Park Service if you notice any unattended or out-of-control fire.
  • Never leave a fire unattended. Completely extinguish the fire by dousing it with water and stirring the ashes until cold.
  • When camping, take care when using and fueling lanterns, stoves, and heaters.
  • Make sure lighting and heating devices are cool before refueling.
  • Avoid spilling flammable liquids, and store fuel away from appliances.
  • Do not discard cigarettes, matches, and smoking materials from moving vehicles. Be certain to completely extinguish cigarettes before disposing of them.

And for chrissakes, don’t burn any trash or brush this summer. Also, be careful with anything that could cause a spark; last year, a motorhome towing a small utility trailer created a significant fire by Highway 26 when the trailer—unseen by the driver—bounced and threw off sparks that ignited the dry grass on the side of the road.

Travelers as well as locals are being warned about petty inconveniences as well. No one is really sure about the impact on the area but most expect that Bend (and certainly Madras and Prineville) will be crowded on Thursday August 17 and will remain busy until Wednesday, August 23. Folks are being encouraged to:

  • Get grocery shopping done a week or more ahead of time—not only to beat the crowd, but to give stores time to restock.
  • Pick up prescriptions and medical supplies early.
  • Get doctor and dental appointments out of the way.
  • Conserve water: don’t water the lawn or use extra water during the weekend. (I might disagree with this one. Greenery needs to stay green in August.)
  • Conserve energy: unplug appliances that aren’t in use; do laundry and run the dishwasher during off-peak hours.
  • Be prepared for slow internets, and streaming may be sluggish or nonexistent.
  • Fill up gas tanks early.
  • Get cash early; ATMs may run out of bills or be hindered by the aforementioned slow connectivity.

Overall, supplies will be limited and in high demand, traffic will be heavy, and lines at restaurants and in stores will be long—so exercise patience. Be nice, you’re in Oregon!

More on the subject in The Source Weekly.

Eclipse chat

I had fun sharing my eclipse experiences with a couple of good interviewers.

I was on the “Countdown to the 2017 Eclipse” show on Boss Radio 100.7 broadcast from the Oregon Coast—where residents will be the first people to stand in the shadow of the Great American Eclipse on August 21. Here’s a recording of that interview. (You can make a drinking game out of the number of times I say “spectacle”.)

Host of the weekly talk show, Kay Wyatt, is an astronomer who has her very own observatory north of Lincoln City in the coastal mountains. I was honored to be part of the 17-episode program that included interviews with several notable astronomy stars (pun intended)—among them, Fred Espenak (“Mr. Eclipse”) who was recently honored as the astrophotographer whose image was used to make the USPS Total Eclipse stamp.

I also spoke with bubbly Janine Pettit, host of the Girl Camper podcast —as Airstream trailering and eclipse chasing will soon overlap at the Oregon Blackout Rally in August—and with the Technology Reporter for the Bend Bulletin. “Eclipse Chaser Plans Life Around Solar Events” is actually a pretty accurate headline.

Update: I recently enjoyed a conversation with Brian Resnick, a reporter for Vox who interviewed several chasers for this fun and informative article.

 

 

The Great American Eclipse, August 2017

If you’re a North American who isn’t living under a rock you know about #TSE2017—and I could ride my bike there.

Ha ha! JK. I’m not riding my bike 21 miles. But the edge of totality falls across Redmond, Oregon on August 21, 2017 at the northernmost edge of Roberts Field airport, just up the highway from my home in Bend.

Coincidence? I think not. Even the weak Kallawalla mystic would say it’s predictable that I live in the path of totality, a quarter of a century from experiencing my first total solar eclipse.

People ‘round these parts say they remember the Northwest eclipse of 1979—no they don’t. It was clouded out. (Disagree? Let’s see your corona shot. Yeah, I thought so.)

On eclipse day I will not be driving from my house—gridlock will grip highways 97 and 26 on the weekend before August 21st and traffic to the path from all directions will be slower than the Bend Broadband wireless network.

I’ll be at the Oregon Airstream Club Blackout Rally on the shore of Lake Simtustus, the reservoir behind Pelton Dam, in a sea of silver among my fellow Airstreamers.

Below: Lake Simtustus site; position of the sun at first contact on August 21; Great American path

 

Eclipse t-shirt quilt!

Eclipse quilt front

If you’re an eclipse chaser, you probably have a t-shirt commemorating each one. They pile up, don’t they? I’ve only been to six totalities but decided it was time to have my tees made into a quilt.

Yes, this is a thing. Any repetitive behavior that generates t-shirts—marathon running, attending the Sturgis rally, visiting Hard Rock Cafes—can be commemorated with a quilt made from the associated shirts you never wear but can’t bear to part with.

HOW AWESOME DID THIS TURN OUT? I was planning to sew it myself, but realized after I cut the shirts into squares that I had neither the skills nor the tools to proceed. Enter Master Quilt Maker Diane Ottenfeld of Bend, Oregon—a lovely local lady whose number I got from the fancy quilt shop in town.

Diane specializes in creating custom t-shirt (and necktie) quilts, and quilt completion and repair. She finished the quilt I started and worked with me to select the background fabric to tie it all together: blue—for the sky and sea—and yellow for Sol.

Eclipse quilt back

For the back she used a fabric souvenir banner I found in a village market in Madagascar in 2001. And look how the stitching on the Egypt square is a flaming sun.

Here’s her contact information. You’re welcome!

Diane Ottenfeld

541-318-7425

dddianeo@gmail.com

Superbloodmoon bust

bloodmoon

Telescope positioned in the driveway? Check. Camera charged and lens changed? Check. Wagon full of filters, extension cords and PowerTank? Check. Drink poured? Check. And…no moon. Where are you, moon? I doublechecked her position with StarChart and—after arguing with a neighbor who said he just saw it out his window and it’s rising in this direction not that direction—I concurred and moved the whole awkward shootin’ match to the back yard. Still no moon.

After much hiking around our tree-lined property we finally glimpsed the dim, fully eclipsed moon, almost completely obscured by the tall pines to the northeast. Crap.

What’s that old adage I just made up? “The worst night for astronomy can turn into the best night for drinking.” The evening was mild, the rest of the universe was on glorious display, and the moon finally rose between two trees shortly after totality, letting us enjoy a few minutes with the telescope.

No time to experiment with the camera—the bright white crescent at the bottom was rapidly pushing away the red eclipse and Ms. Moon was hurrying to move behind another tree. (Why do I even try? Others capture these events beautifully. Nerdist published some pretty shots.)

I barely had time to try a lunar sketch. Guess what? Drawing a supermoon is not super easy. I wasn’t using the scope drive so the damn image kept MOVING out of the viewfinder, and juggling the red flashlight on my iPhone, my eyeglasses, three drawing tools and a pad was like a Mr. Bean episode.IMG_7095

Well, I have eighteen years to practice.