Should we go? Nothing else on the calendar, so...road trip! Gotta get in the zone!
Where to go? Altanta has over 5 million people and a good number of them might decide to head out to see the eclipse. The closest spots were up I-985 and into the mountains or up I-85 to the South Carolina border. Sounded like a recipe for traffic!
We joined forces with some friends, got out a map and decided on Abbeville SC. Why Abbeville? It's not near anything. Except, maybe Greenwood SC. And, Elberton GA. Ever heard of these places? I didn't think so. That's what made it so perfect. Maybe nobody would think to go there.
It's 110 miles from home and eclipse started at 1 PM there, so we left home at 8 AM. We arrived in Abbeville at 10:30 AM. There was no traffic to speak of. Couldn't say that about the other routes.
|Red road are bad roads.|
The whole way out, the sky was wall to wall blue. Perfect eclipse weather! We drove around the town a bit, and then stopped to walk around the town square. The town all set up for the eclipse. A very outgoing town councilman was set up raffling off a box of goodies. A DJ was playing "eclipse music". There were kids games and the shops were all offering "eclipse specials". In the center of town was a monument to the beginning of the confederacy. It seems the very first serious meeting about secession was held in Abbeville about two weeks after Lincoln's election in November 1860. We also found out the town was also where the CSA ended their revolt. Jefferson Davis's cabinet met for the last time in Abbeville.
|Town Square, Abbeville, SC|
|Monument in town|
|Town visitor center with paintings of town's past, including last CSA cabinet meeting.|
There were a couple peculiar storefronts in town. One was a Sons of Confederate Veterans shop (?) where it looked like you could get all the CSA battle flags you'd ever want. The other was "Red Barn Likker". Yep. A micro distillery producing moonshine. We skipped the former and took a closer look at the latter. We got the 10 minute tour where they explained how the still worked - an Arkansas "double diamond" style still (who knew?) - and then some of us decided on the tasting. Potent stuff. They also sold all sorts of fruit-based mixers to make the stuff palatable.
|Double D still|
By then, we had decided to view the eclipse from a local little league field where there were picnic tables in the shade and open restrooms. We had packed a picnic lunch, not just because we are cheap, but because we thought the eclipse throngs might drain all the local restaurants of their inventory. It turns out, the "eclipse throng" at the ball field were us and two other groups. That's it.
|Our spot. Uh, oh. Clouds!|
Then, a cloud wandered by and obscured the sun. Uh, oh. Clouds had been building all around. They were moving rather slowly. We kept our fingers crossed and started thinking about which way we might need to drive when the total eclipse started.
|About half way|
As 2 PM approached, you could start to notice the sun felt a lot less hot. In fact, you couldn't tell the difference between being in the sun and the shade on your skin. A bit after 2 PM, it started looking darker, as well - like early twilight.
We hunted around for natural pinhole projections and found a crepe myrtle doing a fine job.
At 2:30 PM, it was noticeably darker, but you could still see your shadow. Then, with just about a minute to go at roughly 2:40, it was like someone dimming the house lights. It darkened about that fast. We watched through our glasses as the last edge of the sun disappeared behind the moon. It was dark. Like full-moon-night dark. All the lights in the park came on. Crickets started up.
|Building lights on. Bright horizon|
|Kind of like a weird full moon - with the center blotted out.|
The two minute of totality came and went quickly. Wow. The "house lights" came back up. Do it again! When's the next one? 2024? Arkansas?