Ezzy's US Eclipse: final arrangements

BBC Sky at Night Magazine news editor Elizabeth Pearson is on the road trip of lifetime, making her way across the US to view the total solar eclipse.

On the sixth day of her trip, Ezzy takes in the area surrounding Mount Rushmore, as 'E-Day' beckons.

Keep up to date with Ezzy's US eclipse exploits via her personal Twitter account and BBC Sky at Night Magazine's Twitter account.

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Carhenge - it has to be seen to be believed!
Credit: Elizabeth Pearson

 

Ezzy's US eclipse: Day 6

The last few days have been spent at Mount Rushmore National Park.

The park is home to not one, but two giant stone carvings: one bearing the likenesses of four US presidents, and a second that takes the shape of Native American leader Crazy Horse, which has been under construction for over 60 years.

I had the bright idea to take some images of the starry sky over the faces of the presidents, only to quickly realise why there aren't many people doing that already.

As dusk rolled around, there was a very patriotic presentation, complete with national anthem and flag ceremony, before they lit the monument up like a Christmas tree!

 

Mount Rushmore is lit up, meaning my nightscape photo is not to be.
Credit: Elizabeth Pearson

 

However, the park hosts more than a few giant stone carvings, and so I decided to drive off to a secluded lake area where I could take in the dark skies.

I even tried my hand at a new challenge in taking my first ever shot of the Milky Way. As a first attempt, I'm quite proud!

After enjoying the park, it was time to head off towards Nebraska, where I will be catching the eclipse.

The roads are busier than one would expect for such a rural place and I passed dozens of campervans and caravans as they made their way west to their own viewing sites.

The first real sign of eclipse fever in this region was when I hit Alliance, NE, a small town that is expecting in excess of 20,000 visitors.

The town has become a hot location. Not only is it right on the centre line of totality, but it is also home to tourist attraction 'Carhenge' - a replica of Stonehenge made from scrap cars.

All around the town were fields were being offered up as campsites, people selling homemade food and souvenirs from their homes or selling parking spaces for up to $50 a spot.

But amongst the air of excitement there was an undercurrent of worry. For every field converted to a parking lot there was one cordoned off with yellow tape, as farmers tried to save their crops and land from potential harm. 

"I work at the hospital, so a lot of people there are really concerned and can't wait for it to be over," says Jim Bargen, who had set up a lemonade stand on his front lawn at the behest of his children.

"Dehydration and rattle snakes are the big concern. And food poisoning because of all the pop-up shops. All the hospital employees are on call; we weren't allowed to go anywhere. But we've got supplies in. Fluids, blood, suture kits, anti-venom. That was interesting trying to get enough anti-venom in," Bargen says.

My Milky Way shot, taking advantage of the incredible dark skies.
Credit: Elizabeth Pearson

 

Today, though, is the day before eclipse day, and that means I have to make my final plans. But there's a problem – the weather.

The clouds were beginning to roll in from the east. I'm currently in North Platte, a town right in the centre of Nebraska, where I had hoped to view the eclipse, but the forecast for 21 August isn't just clouds, but torrential thunderstorms! So, it looks like I'm backtracking 100 miles east. 

I had been planning to have a calm day today, mentally preparing for the bedlam that will be the eclipse. Looks like that's all about to change! Instead, I will be stocking up on supplies, making sure the car is full of petrol before braving the traffic to head back west.

I've decided to forego the dash to the central eclipse line.

Having seen the expected rush, I'd rather have a few seconds less of totality if it reduces my chances of getting stranded in rural Nebraska.

Looking at the options, I've settled on Scottsbluff. Fingers crossed I can make it there and back in time… and that I'm not going to be clouded out there too. 

 

Elizabeth Pearson is travelling with Hertz Roadtrippers.

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