Five eclipse stories — from finding love, to getting stoned at the big event, to spending 15 years preparing.
We have five eclipse stories for you.
Love eclipse style. Rocking your soul, eclipse style. How two young guys plan to have a complete eclipse experience, and more.
Eclipse Story No. 1: Love.
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- How Seattle and the Northwest celebrated the last total solar eclipse
She grew up in Denver and remembers when she developed her interest in astronomy. Stephanie Anderson was 8.
At the library, she came upon “Asimov on Astronomy,” by the prolific science writer, Isaac Asimov.
“Maybe the cover looked cool, I don’t know. His writing was very accessible to an 8-year-old, beautifully explained in nice, small chunks,” she remembers.
By her high-school years, “Yes, I fit into the description of being a science nerd.”
Anderson, now 39, majored in physics and math at Metropolitan State University in Denver. To pay for college, of course she worked at a telescope store.
On July 22, 2009, there was a total solar eclipse. But it couldn’t be seen in the U.S. You had to travel somewhere like northern India or central China.
She got a three-week job as a guide for an eclipse tour to China. The 180 people on the trip would get to see the eclipse at Mount Emei, a well-known Buddhist site.
Mark Anderson, 48, is a Seattle software engineer.
In 2009, he was in a high-stress job and had gotten through helping a friend who died after not getting a liver transplant in time. The friend had left behind a young daughter.
It had all left Anderson emotionally drained.
Then he saw the advertisement for the eclipse tour. Anderson signed up.
It was a 12-hour flight to Beijing. He couldn’t help but notice Stephanie.
“I liked her immediately. We talked most of the flight,” remembers Mark.
Says Stephanie, “It was a great first date, having that relaxed setting.”
The tour began and you know how these romance things go. Tentative at first.
They went together to a silk market.
“It rained cats and dogs,” says Mark.
Who cares if they got drenched?
“It was great,” says Stephanie.
Things got a little more intense a week into the tour. They were in an unsteady cab.
“I’m not a smooth operator,” says Mark. He leaned in and kissed Stephanie.
He was nervous. “What if she hated me? That would have been bad.”
But you know about kisses. The fundamental things apply.
They kissed again at the big moment of the eclipse.
It didn’t matter if the mountain was totally clouded over.
Mark said to Stephanie about their relationship, “I kind of think this has potential.”
Back in the U.S., they flew back and forth between Seattle and Denver every two weeks. Then Stephanie moved here. They married on July 29, 2011.
Stephanie now co-owns Cloud Break Optics in Ballard. You bet it’s a telescope store.
She’s also president of the Seattle Astronomical Society.
For this year’s eclipse, Stephanie and Mark have flown to Casper, Wyoming, for Astrocon 2017, a convention for astronomy fans.
“Eclipse tours for singles. I think it’s a great business idea,” says Stephanie.
Eclipse Story No. 2: Taking you higher.
Dale Giesen, 30, is a Seattle pastry chef.
His twin brother, Matt, is flying up from San Francisco, and the two will drive to Salem, Oregon.
“I figure we just drive early Monday, leave at 1 a.m.,” says Giesen.
Has he read the stories about massive traffic jams?
And what is Plan B in case they get stuck on Interstate 5?
“If you have a Plan B then you already have admitted defeat,” Giesen says.
He summarizes, “Have not made any solid plans as to where yet, but we plan to get stoned for it.”
He adds, “It’s perfectly legal, even in Oregon.”
Eclipse Story No. 3: 15 years of planning.
The eclipse has been on the bucket list for Tim Baker, 50, who works in the procurement office of the King County Housing Authority.
“I just love astronomy, ever since I was a little kid and watched the NASA moon launches. It’s like way cool,” he says.
So for years he’s been planning and planning.
Baker had even booked a room in Portland for him and his wife, Cheryl Layton, who doesn’t share his excitement.
“She’s nonplussed about it,” says Baker. “But she’s a good wife, goes along for the ride.”
Then Baker decided to book a flight for them to Kansas City instead of driving south.
“We heard about the traffic nightmares. And half of Kansas City is in the totality zone, and it’s also got at least nine highways leading out of the city.
I’m figuring traffic jams are not gonna be monumental,” he says.
Baker is packing on the plane a DJI Phantom 3 Professional Quadcopter Drone with 4K UHD Video Camera with hard shell case. ($1,159 on Amazon).
He’s going to launch it 1,000 feet up in the air to take a video of the eclipse’s moon shadow on the ground that’ll be moving at 1,500 mph.
“I’ve been waiting for this thing for 15 years,” he says.
As for Layton, he says, “I’ve been telling her the birds stopping singing, and you get to see the corona of the sun. I think once we get there she’ll be blown away.”
Eclipse Story No. 4: At 59, she wants her world rocked.
Says Mary McGhee, a registrar at the Pacific Maritime Institute in Seattle, “The first thing I’ve got to say: Why travel when right here in Seattle we’ll have a 92 percent eclipse?
“Because everything I’ve read, everybody I’ve talked to who has seen a total eclipse of the sun, says that you will never, ever see anything else remotely like that few moments of totality. It will rock your world in ways you cannot imagine until you’re there and it’s happening. People say it was a profound experience that affected them on a very emotional level.”
McGhee began making plans three years ago.
She and seven friends rented a vacation home in Sunriver, about 60 miles from Madras in Central Oregon, one of the eclipse gathering places. They have a campsite reserved in that town.
“We are not serious eclipse-chasers. We’re not scientists, or astronomy buffs. We’re just average people who don’t want to miss an opportunity to see something not at all average,” she says.
“I thought my creaky knees and achy back had put my camping days behind me.
“ I’ve heard all the dire predictions about the traffic, the hordes of people, the overwhelmed local stores and services.”
She’ll cope, says McGhee.
The next solar eclipse seen in parts of the U.S. will be in 2024, and then in 2044.
“I just don’t think I’ll have a lot more chances, you know?” she says.
Eclipse Story No. 5: Dad plans retirement around eclipse.
Pete Hummer of Sammamish was a Metro bus driver who retired June 30 at age 65. He holds a degree in meteorology from New York University.
He timed his retirement to make sure it coincided with the eclipse.
Five years ago, says Hummer, “It became an obsession and I started planning.”
He bought solar filters for a telescope, binoculars and cameras. He practiced taking photos of the sun. He began watching satellite images for cloud and smoke conditions. He began contacting family and friends.
This weekend, about 25 people will settle into three tents and trailers at a site in the foothills of the Boise National Forest.
One of his daughters, Adrianna Hummer, lives in Boise and is a protection specialist with the Idaho Rural Water Association.
She’s the one who located the viewing site.
“My father has always been a man of few words. Now, however, I find myself engaged in conference calls, daily email and even text messages from my dad. I talked to him on the phone two days this week! A milestone in our family,” Adrianna says.
She remembers her childhood as her dad kept a weather journal (he has precipitation records going back every day since 1988) and star charts.
“Many nights I spent in the backyard with my dad, displaying what I considered great patience as my father searched for interesting heavenly bodies to show my siblings and I in his telescope,” remembers Adrianna.
She says the two of them drove into the Idaho mountains to find just the right viewing spot.
“He wrote down mileage when we left the house, mileage at each potential viewing location and camping location, as well as elevation (he brought an altimeter) and Lord knows what else.”
Now she and her brother, Phillip, who lives in the area, have set up tents and the big gathering is beginning.
“Will all this planning pay off?” says the dad. “Absolutely.”
Says Adrianna, “Lucky for me the next solar eclipse is not until 2024.”