Total Solar Eclipse 2017

We had such a great weekend! A year ago, we were camping with our friends the Gawenuses, and Kevin was telling us about a total solar eclipse that was coming in August of 2017. He said we’d need to get a hotel room almost immediately. It sounded very interesting, especially to Dave, our amateur astronomer, but also very far away. The year flew by, and after all that time waiting, the weekend finally came!

After considering the hotel option, we instead planned to camp somewhere in the zone of totality, because our home in Colorado is only a few hours away from the total eclipse. As the date neared, we poured over maps of BLM land and tried to figure out just how packed the highways were truly going to be. About a week ago, Lisa Gawenus mentioned a new plan: her mom and dad live in Dix, Nebraska, which is about 2 hours from here and only 1 hour from the zone. What if we camped in the Hochstetler backyard and drove up to Alliance, NE, or thereabouts on Monday morning?

A brilliant plan! We were able to spend Friday night NOT scrambling to get out of town. In fact, Dave and Phoebe went to a talk up at the Berthoud Observatory while Benjamin and I did the grocery shopping for the coming week. Saturday morning I went for a run, we had our usual burritos at Cannon Mine, and the kids and I strolled around the Lafayette Peach Festival while Dave got a haircut.

The kids pose in front of the pattern they made in the huge Connect 4.
Benjamin inches his way down the bouncy slide.
He’s much more comfortable climbing up!

We packed up the camping gear plus a load of astronomy equipment and drove off after lunch. After an uneventful drive with nary a spot of traffic, we beat the Gawenuses to Dix and introduced ourselves to John and Dorothy, Lisa’s parents, who welcomed us with open arms. We set up our tent, had some dinner, and put the kids to bed. It was very civilized to brush their teeth in the bathroom! We four grownups stayed up drinking wine and beer and chatting, gazing up at the clear Nebraska skies.

A wind farm in Wyoming. Note that we’re busy passing someone while I take the photo.
Lisa’s parents’ house.
Lisa and Fritz playing frisbee.
Benjamin had to take a 3-water-bottle shower after a dinner of spaghetti.

Sunday we spent the day lazing around the yard. We went to the playground, and Kevin flew his drone with the kids.

Video of B on playground:

Kevin and the big kids flying the drone.
Enjoying the afternoon outdoors.

We ate tons of food and made a slightly amended plan for the eclipse, based on the weather. The Internet informed us that the Scottsbluff area was going to be better viewing than Alliance, so we planned to leave for there by about 6:45 a.m. We were on the road right on time.

After a little bit of driving around, we stumbled on Lake Minatare State Recreation Area in Nebraska. We ended up on a road that led out to a peninsula and an old lighthouse built during the WPA era in the 1930s. There were dozens of people there, but not a crowd, and we were right on a lovely lake. After a bout of morning fog, the sun was shining like crazy. We walked along the beach while Dave set up his equipment and played some of what Benjamin calls frisbee ball. It wasn’t too long before C1 (the first contact of the edge of the moon with the edge of the sun). We alternated playing games with putting on our eclipse glasses and gazing up at the ever-shrinking sun. I’ll leave Dave to tell you about all of his filters and wedges; suffice it to say, we had all the cool gear.

Our eclipse setup.
Kevin and Benjamin watching someone put a boat in the lake.
Our telescopes with the lighthouse in the background.
The perfect spot along Lake Minatare, NE.
A small crowd. Benjamin was ever ready to throw this great frisbee Fritz gave him.
Phoebe checking out the moon’s progress.
Writing a note in her eclipse journal.
A motorcyclist from California who was eager to check out our setup.
The motorcyclist has been all over the world!
Reliable bike with lots of capacity.
Phoebe checking out the view through the filtered telescope.

The wind kicked up. The sky got darker. We watched the bite out of the sun get bigger and bigger. We met other folks watching the sky. We ate snacks. We were all more excited than we thought we’d be, and then the moon slipped directly in front of the sun. Later, we all agreed that the 2 minutes went by in a flash. It was beautiful and spectacular. It was far more moving and powerful than I expected. It was worth every minute of the preparations and more. Just like the eclipse chasers on NPR said, once you’re seeing it, you’re watching in awe while wondering how soon you can see it again. We could see Venus clearly, and the sky looked like sunset. It was dark! And the edges of the sun slipping around the edges of the moon were glorious and otherworldly. It’s so hard to understand how powerful the sun is, but seeing how bright our sky is with most of the sun obscured was a great object lesson.

The eclipsing sun through a filter.
Almost gone…
Here you can see the eclipsed sun and Venus together.
The lighthouse with the eclipse.
It’s just after 11 a.m., but it looks like sunset.
Wow. Look at those coronal flares!
Total eclipse.

While we waited for Dave to photograph and view C4, we climbed up in the lighthouse, which was really neat.

A photo of Kevin taking a photo of Dave’s phone attached to the telescope.
Benjamin learning how to look through the special glasses.
Toward the end, Benjamin got interested and started looking up with his big sis.

What a perfect day! Great friends, the perfect place to have a stunning experience, and a pretty reasonable amount of traffic. We were home in time to eat a pizza and get Benjamin ready for his first day of kindergarten tomorrow.

Dave and Benjamin reading together the night before his first day of kindergarten!
Fire in the Forest, a favorite Lego book.

Gribble Family Vacation, Part 3

Monday, July 3

Our final destination was Jennifer and Lee’s house at Buckhorn Lake. We had a great time there two years ago, so we’d all been looking forward to going back for more than a year! We arrived in the afternoon, got settled in, and headed down to the lake to get acclimated. The kids were a bit timid, but that wouldn’t take long to overcome. On our way through Millersburg, we’d seen a sign for a brew pub, so we decided we wanted to go into town for dinner that evening. It would be the only meal we’d eat out the entire trip! The Otts were happy to join us, but it turned out that the brew pub was actually two separate things, and the brewery was closed. The restaurant was open, so we had some dinner and headed back for bed. Benjamin had decided he wanted to sleep in the pack-n-play, but in the big kids’ room, so all five kids planned to sleep together in two bunk beds plus a pack-n-play. As always on the first night with new sleeping arrangements, it was a bit chaotic, but they eventually fell asleep. Dave and I watched a movie while Jennifer and Lee taught online courses. (I can’t remember the order, but we watched Logan, Edge of Tomorrow, and Lego Batman: The Movie in the evenings. I slept through almost all of all three of them.)

Tuesday, July 4

It’s always fun to wake up whenever you want, eat some breakfast, and wander down the lake…vacation! On the fourth of July, my brother Matt and sister-in-law Erin joined us at the lake house for the day. We all went out on the boat for a while and took turns tubing. Later in the afternoon, Phoebe and I headed back to the house to make deviled eggs and six-layer salad for our cookout dinner. Phoebe deviled a dozen eggs all by herself, making half with paprika and the other half with capers. The others, including Benjamin, went out on the boat some more and Dave, Lee, and Matt did some high-speed tubing. We had hamburgers, hot dogs, and Long Island Iced Teas made with Matt’s clear liquor combo. It was a lovely way to spend the Fourth of July.

The lake from the living room: sunny day.

Wednesday, July 5

On Wednesday morning, I went out for a run—I meant to circumambulate the lake, but I got lost and ended up seeing only one side of it. It was so hot and muggy by 7 a.m.! I didn’t take any photos on the fifth. We spent most of the day down at the lake. Dave got a chance to drive down to Urbana to see his college saxophone professor; we’ve kept in touch with Hap and Mary Ann all these years through Christmas letters. They had a really nice conversation, reminiscing about their time together and talking music.

July 6

Thursday, Phoebe and I got up before everyone else and went down to the lake for our biennial mother-daughter kayak trip. We made it all the way to the playground, which was our goal! I absolutely love to be out on the lake in the morning; we had it to ourselves. Phoebe felt too tired to make it back, and cried quite a bit, but she didn’t really have a choice except to keep going, and she ended up being tougher than she thought. Later in the day, she was talking about how much fun she’d had.

Selfie before Phoebe and I go out on our mother-daughter kayak trip. It’s about 7 a.m.
Ready for the water!
Phoebe took this shot of me getting ready to go.
The sun is just peeking out from the trees.
Still some mist on the lake.
Putting on her life vest.
All right; we should be ready to go.
Phoebe sets out in the kayak.
We pulled the boats up on the dock to go play at the playground.

Every chance we got, Jennifer and I snuck out to the front porch to read. I had started (and am still finishing) a terrific book my friend Karen gave me for my birthday, The Woman Who Lost Her Soul, by Bob Shacochis.

A very long game of Monopoly.
Jennifer finds a few minutes for a nap.
I’m reading a wonderful (if dark) book, The Woman Who Lost Her Soul.
Alexis eating a cold hamburger and playing a game on the iPhone.

July 7

Last full day at the lake. We were pretty much done with the boat and tubing, and we’d started to have some afternoon thunderstorms. We still managed an hour or so at the lake, but the kids played inside a lot, especially a car-racing video game. After the kids went to bed, Jennifer and I spent an amusing hour or so looking up people we remember from our Wittenberg days on Facebook.

The lake from the living room: rainy day.
Big Lion and Lion hugging.
Dave in the room that was ours for the week.
This is how you’ll find Jennifer and Lee once the kids are in bed.

July 8

I went running in the morning and was finally able to make it around the lake! We were able to stay at the lake house until it was time to go to the airport, and the weather was cooperating, so we did a bit of swimming and then got everything packed back into the Ottmobile. Jennifer drove us to Cleveland, and we buzzed through security and had plenty of time for dinner before we got on the plane.

Jennifer and me. Hard to believe we’ve known each other for 27 years!
Phoebe, Alexander, and Kaitlynn in a rare still moment.
Benjamin playing Legos on the patio by the dock. You can see his potty watch (shaped like a potty!)
Wet and happy kids. Alexis, Phoebe, Kaitlynn, Benjamin, and Alexander.
Alexis on the dock.
Sleeping on the airplane home.
Lion is waiting for Phoebe to come back.
Flying over Colorado.
Phoebe getting back from the bathroom.
Fluffy clouds!
The train car was practically empty, so the kids got the bench all to themselves.
Following Renee to Cherry Blaze.

Dave and I were so glad to get back to the dry air in Colorado! You can tell you’ve had a nice long vacation when you’re ready to go home afterward. My friend ReneĆ© picked us up in Cherry Blaze, and we got home right around bedtime. We had Sunday to recover before going back to work. It was so great to see family and friends. The kids were terrific, and our vacation was a highlight of a busy and fun summer!

Gribble Family Vacation, Part 2

Grammie and Pappy wanted to leave for Rehoboth Beach close to 9 a.m. on Friday morning, July 30, so we all ate breakfast together, loaded up, and said our goodbyes. We drove with the kids to Pittsburgh, where we met Grandpa and Grandma Gribble at the Natural History Museum at lunchtime. We’d brought a paper bag lunch, so we ate at a picnic table outside before going into the museum. We saw a very interesting Egypt exhibit and an equally interesting polar exhibit. I’m fascinated by Inuit art, so I really enjoyed a few paintings they had on display. It was a great, if too brief, visit with the grandparents Gribble. Midway through the afternoon, we were back in the car, navigating horrendous traffic to get to Grandma and Grandpa Hazelton’s house by dinnertime. (We missed it, but they fed us anyway.) The kids are comfortable there, and of course it feels like home to me, so we unpacked and settled in.

On Saturday, my brother Nathaniel and sister-in-law Laura came from near Pittsburgh to see us, and we had a great time touring Grandma’s garden and yard, playing on the playground, riding the Irish Mail (why do I never take photos of that?), playing a ton of Legos, and reading books. In the afternoon, we went over to Brandywine Falls, which was really fun. Benjamin particularly loved a rooster that kept crowing in the yard at the inn. Every time the rooster crowed, Benjamin said “he said it again!” My mom had a worship service in the evening, but she’d made a bunch of delicious food, and we contributed some bacon-wrapped jalepeno thingies to the festivities. Aunt Nancy, Aunt Shirlie, and Martha joined us for dinner, and Dad grilled some spare ribs. We stuffed ourselves and got caught up in person.

Dave builds houses with Benjamin.
How you’ll always find these two: reading a book.
Grandma gets a chance to read to Benjamin.
Something was funny!

Sunday morning we went to church with Grandpa (and he was kind enough to wait and go to the late service so we wouldn’t have to get the kids up extra early—they’d gotten used to sleeping in a bit). The rest of the day we spent playing and hanging out with Grandpa and Grandma. Benjamin and Grandpa are kindred souls; they both have one pointy ear and wear hearing aids, and they find each other hilarious, so there was lots of giggling. Mom and I had a few minutes to spend together on a trip to a few stores, so we got to catch up.

Grandpa and Benjamin spent a lot of time giggling together. Check out their matching hearing aids!

The next morning was Monday, so I got up and ran six miles, which got me near Brandywine Falls and back, partly on the very nice trail. We spent the morning together and had lunch; then we packed up for our short drive to the Otts’ lake house.

Gribble Family Vacation 2017, Part 1

On Saturday, June 24, Dave, Phoebe, and Benjamin were driven to the airport in Cherry Blaze by our good friends Brenda and Michael. On the way, Brenda learned that Phoebe has exploding hiccups—something Dave and I didn’t know and still don’t understand. Team Gribble flew from Denver to Cleveland, where Grandma and Grandpa picked them up, took them home, and fed them hot dogs. The kids got to run around a bit; then they piled into the Ottmobile (which Phoebe named, but I can’t for the life of me remember what) and drove to Pittsburgh, where they spent the night with Grandma and Grandpa Gribble. We had shipped a few items there in advance, so Benjamin, who’s potty training, had a nice new potty seat and a very fancy potty watch. Phoebe, our little reader, had a new reading timer. Because I was in Chicago, all of these events are hearsay, but I’m led to understand that after some time at the park and lunch, Team Gribble got back into the Ottmobile and drove to Ephrata, PA, the longest driving leg of the trip. I’m sure the kids played there, too, and went to bed. On Monday, I was still at my conference, but Dave and the kids got to go to the Strasburg Rail Road and ride the train to Paradise and back. After that they went to the creamery for ice cream! After the kids went to bed, Don and Dave drove to the Harrisburg airport to pick me up; I’d flown directly from Chicago.

On the train.
Locomotive changing from one end of the train to the other.
Locomotive taking on water.
Looking out the window.
Phoebe didn’t want her photo taken!
Phoebe and Grammie are ready to go.

On Tuesday, we all got up at a reasonable time, ate breakfast, and drove about an hour and a half to Lake Tobias Wildlife Park. We met Erika, Heidi, Genevieve, and Cordelia there; Phoebe and Genevieve were holding hands within about two minutes of laying eyes on each other. Lake Tobias is a fascinating place; its basically domesticated animals come up to the open-air buses you can tour in and eat snacks from your hand. Our tour guide was so enthusiastic about the animals, in particular Emma, an elk who came up the steps of the bus to get a corncob!

Some sort of cow. That corrugated pipe is the wall of our vehicle, a chopped-off school bus!
These animals are NOT shy.
Dave looking back at us from the middle of a crowd of cattle.
Pappy and his special kiddo, Cordelia.

As we were leaving Lake Tobias, we realized that Benjamin was missing his new potty watch. We even went back to the fast-food restaurant where we’d made a potty stop, but it was nowhere to be found. We assumed we’d hear it playing its song if it were in the car, but no one heard anything. Finally, as we were pulling into Grammie and Pappy’s street, Dave said “isn’t that the potty watch?” You’d think it would have been easy to find, but after an extensive search, I finally found it WAY under the driver’s seat. Phoebe stuck her skinny little arm down there and fished it out. Adaptive technology: only adaptive if it stays on the body!

Wednesday, June 28

Wednesday morning, Don, Dave, and I drove to a terrific trail about 30 minutes from Ephrata in Mount Gretna. Don and Dave went on a bike ride (Dave had shipped out his pedals and helmet ahead of time), and I went on a run. Instead of being sweltering and muggy, it was an extremely pleasant morning. It was fun to run in the trees at sea level. So much oxygen!

The bench at the halfway point of my run. I thought it was so nice of them to have that lovely flag!

When we got back, we found that the ladies and Benjamin had had a nice morning.

Grammie reading to Benjamin while he sits on the potty.

The kids spent the day playing, including a fun trip to the next-door neighbors’ above-ground pool, which was freezing. The kids could barely take it! Still, they loved being in the water with their cousins. The girls spent some time teaching Pappy about Monster High; he was a great sport.

The girls are teaching Pappy about Monster High.
Looks like he finds it pretty entertaining!

It turned out that neighbor Mike loves Spider Man, so he put on his outfit and came over to surprise Benjamin, who was terrified. After twenty minutes of hiding, Benjamin did manage to peek out the sliding glass door to see if Spidey was still around.

Spider Man came over to meet Benjamin, who was scared half to death.

By bedtime, everyone was worn out and ready to crash. The girls were sharing a room, which was a fiasco the first night and no problem at all after that.

Heidi and Cordelia have a moment for a snuggle.
Phoebe reads Ivy and Bean to Genevieve.
Dave reading Benjamin’s Lego character encyclopedia.
Grammie and Pappy had plenty of work to do in the kitchen with ten of us in the house!

Thursday, June 29

On Thursday morning, I wanted to check out a running path just .7 miles from Grammie and Pappy’s house, so I went out around 7 a.m., which wasn’t early enough at all. I ran four miles in the sweltering, muggy heat and felt like I’d gone fourteen. At least there was a neat floral display along the path to take my mind off the run for a few minutes!

An amazing display along the running path near Grammie and Pappy’s house.
The enchanted forest cottage, home of Nibbles T. McGibbles.
The enchanted forest chapel.
Sherwood Florist. So cute!

More playing for the cousins, and that evening, Don, Erika, Heidi, Dave and I got to go to a brew pub in Ephrata called Saint Boniface Craft Brewing Company. We owe Grammie big-time for that field trip, since she had to watch four kids and still managed to make dinner and do a bunch of packing for their Labor Day trip to Rehoboth Beach. Of course, we were sorry to have our time with everyone end, but we were ready to move on to the next round of visits.

Cousins being silly.
A great photo of Grammie and her kiddos: Cordelia, Genevieve, Phoebe, and Benjamin.
Family photo. Pappy, Grammie, Dave, Erika, Cordelia, Benjamin, Genevieve, and Phoebe.