Friday, May 18, 8 pmMe: The eclipse is this weekend CC: We should go see it Me: Haha, yeah, right CC: Seriously. Why not? Me: We'd have to drive for like 6 hours to get there CC: Are you doing anything else?
Which is how CC and I ended up going to Nevada on Saturday. We had a route
planned out scrawled on a Post-It to get to Las Vegas. We followed it almost perfectly, except for me missing an exit and taking an impromptu trip through Arvin and Tehachapi.
The detour only added about, oh, an hour to our journey, but looking on the bright side (as we tend to do) we got some excellent paletas (Mexican ice cream pops) at the gas station in Arvin. Do not ask me where Arvin is, because I'm not sure I could ever find it again even in the unlikely event that I would have a reason to try.
CC, prepared for adventure
I recommended the Super 8, mostly for the neighbors, which include both the Little White Chapel and, directly in view of the motel lobby, the incredibly busy Elvis Wedding Chapel, which specializes in costumed theme weddings. There was a long line out front of people wearing togas and witch hats and what-have-you, all waiting to get hitched.
As we were checking in, the desk clerk shared stories of weddings she has seen from her unique perch behind the counter. Like the guy who went and bought massive amounts of alcohol and got drunk in the parking lot while his bride got made up and dressed. He then proceeded to puke on the bride's dress - who married him anyway.
"I told her not to do it, but she did it," said the clerk. "They don't listen, then they're back the next day."
The "back the next day" part refers to getting a divorce, the site for which conveniently located on the same property. Ah, the sanctity of marriage is alive and well in Sin City.
Because we are complete party freaks, during our time in glittering, crazy Vegas, we went to the Arts District for a nice bistro paella dinner (complete with poetry reading and live music); we went to church; we went to Chinatown for dim sum and to the 99 Ranch Asian market - but we never set foot in a casino.
We got out of control with a crisp glass of Yeawood Sauvignon Blanc. It was a party in my mouth. We also did not order beautiful girls sent to our room in 10 minutes, though many people tried to convince us to do so.
almost get thrown out of
On Sunday, we headed out to the full eclipse zone, which was in a band beginning about 55 miles outside of Vegas on Hwy 15. The area surrounding Las Vegas is the kind of landscape where you aren't surprised that they did nuclear tests, because if you had to put a nuclear test somewhere, that is exactly where you would put it, too. It is so dry and desolate and empty that you'd look around and think "Well, a 50 megaton explosion can't hurt THIS!" (Sorry, Nevadans. I'm sure you love your state. But wow. There really is an excessive amount of desert out there).
There is no town 55 miles outside of Vegas, so we headed some more miles out to the nearest town, Mesquite. The town was boring and hot. How boring and hot? We went to a big community park that had zero other people there (in the middle of a weekend Saturday) AND it had artificial turf because it was too stinking hot for real grass.
We looked at each other and drove another 45 miles to St. George, Utah, where we knew an eclipse event was taking place.
We were laughing all the way at how nutty we were, driving 8 hours to see an eclipse. But onward we spun, only vaguely realizing how screwed we were going to be when it came time to drive home later that night.
The county water district in St. George (which was blessedly red-rocky and gorgeous after the Nevada wasteland) had opened its doors to eclipse-watchers. The water district building is located on the side of a ridge, with ample second- and third-floor balconies. Hundreds of people showed up.
There were a couple astronomers with big telescopes, getting their geek on and showing us the view. One apologized because all the sun had to offer prior to the eclipse was sunspots, which still seemed pretty exciting to me. US Park rangers were on hand to explain the nature bits.
They were showing space films and had exhibits up - all well-organized, as is the rest of the state. Leave it to Mormons to organize stuff. There's a reason their state symbol is the industrious honey bee.
Everyone was in festive mood. The eclipse itself took about an hour, maybe more. First, you could just see a tiny nibble out of the sun, then a crescent that grew bigger and bigger. We were glad we took welding glass to look through, because there was no way to see what was going on by glancing at the sun. I don't know if you have noticed, but that thing is bright.
We pulled out of St. George about 7:30 Utah time (6:30 Los Angeles), saying goodbye to our newfound friends. I drove for a couple hours to Primm, where we switched drivers. CC lasted about 45 minutes until she began to yawn every few minutes. I knew I'd have to take the wheel back.
We could have stopped and spent the night somewhere, but I had work the next day and I didn't want to be late for a stupid reason like taking too long from coming back from an eclipse viewing. At a certain point, I decided to just gut it out. Midnight, 12:30, 2 a.m....the road wove on an on, just us, a few other psychos and a whole lotta trucks. My eyes grew heavy. My legs ached, public radio droned on and on.
I almost gave up a couple hours from home, but I bit my tongue to keep myself awake and drove on with a buzzy head. At 3:15 a.m., we finally pulled up at CCs house and by 3:30, I was at my home and in the shower, washing the road grit off so I could sleep for 3 hours or so before getting up for work.
Totally nutso. Totally fun. Would do it again in...another 11 years or so, which is good, because that's when the next eclipse will be here.