Wednesday, 23 August 2017

August 22nd - driving


A bit later up this morning - awake by around 0845. This was so Richard and I could drive Dad the short distance to Lincoln Airport, for his flight to Chicago, and thence on another flight to Grand Rapids, in order to visit my cousin Craig, his wife Tara, and their kids, Kyle and Ryan.

We then left the hotel just before 12pm, having spent a bit of time with Rich and Ann waiting for Dad's plane to take off, so we could see it! We got a good view as it roared away towards the Windy City. We then said our goodbyes and headed our separate ways: them to the west, and us to the east.

We then drove the ~520 miles through eastern Nebraska, all of Iowa, all of Illinois, and into far NW Indiana (a new state for us both) and to our hotel in Munster.

Tomorrow, we will drive the ~170 miles to Grand Rapids, to join Dad, Craig, and family.

Mixed emotions today as we left the hotel, which had housed us for our eclipse adventure - today was the 'come down' after the excitement of yesterday.

Dad's plane as it left for Chicago - with power lines in the foreground.

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

August 21st - Eclipse!!!!

Wow. Just, Wow. What an incredible day - seared into my consciousness for the rest of my days.

We awoke before the alarm's shrill beeps - which were set to go off at 5am. The iPad was on before you could say 'cloud cover', and the somewhat stressful task of analysing the satellite imagery (models went out the window now) began. This wasn't just a case of getting me to the eclipse: we all needed to get there! We've been waiting for 18 years, since the cloudy eclipse in S Devon in Aug 1999, to see this. There was no way some shields of cirrus from the SW'ern USA was going to stop this - not on my watch!

The plan was that we would decide before 6am what to do - the plan was hatched, and communicated, by 0550: be ready to get going by 0615, heading west. Whilst a sortie as far west as Stapleton, Nebraska, was deemed possible, the initial plan was to head for Grand Island, and re-assess once there.

Lightning flickered away to the east as we walked out the hotel - a stunning early morning sight! We hit the road, and were at Grand Island in little over an hour and a half. We paused for strong coffee, a bite to eat, and more satellite analysis - by now we were getting much more confident that a large slice of mainly clear skies was going to be in place not far to the north-west. We set course for Ansley, and drove. Once there, we waited by a gas station for a while, before we dropped south on highway 183, and found a quiet spot on a dusty back road.

We set up at this quiet location, and I got the various of my cameras in position. Right on cue (of course!) we noticed the first tiny 'nibble' into the top right hand side of the Sun's disk - the Moon had turned up for the show!

This was cause for much excitement, with pictures being snapped, and the video recorded. We then settled in to around 45 minutes of quieter excitement, which gradually built. With about 10-15 mins to go, the sky started to take on a somewhat more 'steely' appearance - odd to describe.

With 5 minutes to go, it was still surprisingly bright, but the light began to fade quite noticeably.

One minute to go - and things escalated quickly - the north-western horizon darkened rapidly, and it felt like the sky was closing in on us. As the last vestiges of the Sun's blinding light were blocked out by the mountains on the Moon, the classic Diamond Ring effect (part 1) appeared.

This moment, as the Sun was replaced by a stark, black, 'hole', was greeted by a number of exclamations from us - what a sight to behold!

The Sun's Corona - the ethereal outer atmosphere of our nearest star, was beyond beautiful: its delicate, flowing ribbons of pale blue-grey light extended in three quite obvious strands, like stellar candyfloss around an impossibly-dark centre.

The 2 minutes and just over 30 seconds didn't fly by as quick as I thought they might - but they were still all too short. We spotted Venus, Mercury, and Jupiter during this time.

All around, a 360 degree sunrise (or sunrise colours) was present. Very soon, the north-western sky was quickly growing much lighter, and, all at once, a piercing bright spot of light appeared at the top right of the Sun - the second Diamond Ring - the corona was still visible, making this sight one of the most beautiful things my eyes have beholden. Simply stunning.

The sky grew light - but it was cool - or at least, it felt cool compared to the searing sunshine we had been enduring a bit earlier. The crickets chirped loudly in the ethereal light - but the light continued to grow brighter - and within 10 minutes, the strong heating of the Sun was back.

The minutes after totality were charged with emotion - hugs all round, and more than one tear in the eye.

We watched the Sun continue to appear over the next 30 mins or so, packing away as we did so. We then drove south - but paused to catch final contact - as the Moon departed the scene, having cast its magnificent spectacle.

We headed south to the Interstate (I-80) and got some lunch - before heading back to Lincoln.

We headed to Applebee's for dinner, and then back to the hotel. Lightning played along the northern horizon. This gave a somewhat circular fashion to the day as it ended how it started - and very fitting, as the day was dominated by circular forms and motions.


First contact - Moon nibbles top right of Sun.

About half-way through the first partial phase.

The Sun gets blocked - apart from a small part shining through a valley - the first Diamond Ring.

The eclipse, and stunning corona.

Go-Pro image, with Helen pointing.

Go Pro image, near the end of totality. 

Vid cam captures - showing red prominences. 

The video camera captures the second Diamond Ring.

 Diamond Ring.

Monday, 21 August 2017

August 20th


Today was a positioning and meeting-up day. We drove east to Lincoln from York, which was under an hour's journey, and met up with Dad, my brother Richard, and his partner, Ann. This is in preparation for tomorrow's total solar eclipse, something I've been waiting many years for! More in a moment.

We met at the hotel, and then headed for a spot of lunch. We then went back to the motel and checked in, before heading out into Lincoln. We wanted to visit the Museum of Speed, but it was closed on Sundays. We then headed to a very popular ice cream parlour, Ivanna Cone. It was busy, but the ice cream was very good! We had a look around the area of Lincoln it was in, which was around the old station - very nice.

We headed back to the motel, had a swim, and then went out for dinner. This was followed by a round of mini golf - more details on Richard and Ann's blog -

We then headed back to the motel and had a planning session ahead of tomorrow's eclipse - basically it looks like quite a bit of high cloud will be spreading into the area later tonight and through tomorrow, so we need to determine where to go. Currently, it looks like a jaunt west into central Nebraska might be required - we will decide this before 6am, and if needed, we will leave at around 6am. Given the excitement and nervousness about this - I'm not sure how easily I'll sleep!

Sunday, 20 August 2017

August 19th


We drove from North Platte westwards to Ogallala, and waited for quite a while for a weak storm out west to amble towards us. In the end it arrived, and got a bit stronger - we found some hail close to 1 inch in diameter before the storm weakened. We then headed east and saw a huge storm to our north - it was too far away to get to, really, so we observed it at sunset looking very nice.

We are now in York, Nebraska - thunderstorms are all around at the moment.

Tomorrow we have to look closely at the cloud predictions for Monday to see what to do about the eclipse - there is a lot of uncertainty as sub-tropical moisture moves northwards towards the area, perhaps bringing quite a bit of mid and upper cloud.

A left split storm south of Ogallala, Nebraska - it produced hail 0.75 to 1 inch in diameter.

A view of the left split as it got closer.

 A monster supercell in central Nebraska - too far to intercept in the end, but it looked very cool at sunset.

Another view of the monster supercell at sunset, with a nice patch of old anvil cirrus too.

Saturday, 19 August 2017

Aug 18th


We drove from Hays, Kansas, to North Platte, Nebraska, today. There is the chance of a few storms around here tomorrow.

We popped to the Golden Spike in North's an observation tower overlooking the railway marshalling yard, said to be the biggest such yard in the world. There were hundreds of railway wagons and locomotives...impressive sight! Will put a few pics up tomorrow.

After dinner I went to the pool...Helen is asleep now.

Friday, 18 August 2017

August 17th - Driving and storms


We decided that we would chance our luck with a long haul westward today, for the chance of a few storms in western Kansas.

Thus, we basically drove from central Missouri to western Kansas, which took quite a bit of the day. We arrived in Oakley towards early evening, with storms starting to fire to the NW, across in far NE Colorado and adjacent SW Nebraska.

A few of these were severe warned, and they congregated into a line. A few other storms were in eastern Colorado, and these pushed an outflow boundary eastwards into western Kansas. We headed NW to Colby, and then northwards, observing the south-western end of the line of storms to our north-west. We stopped and watched these for quite a while - they didn't produce a huge amount of visible lightning, but had quite a nice structure. Meanwhile, other storms formed about 50 miles to our south, and as the sun set, these were picked out on glorious shades of reds and oranges.

As it got dark, we decided to head to Hays for the night - the drive was illuminated by frequent flashes of lightning from the two clusters of storms - these then merged somewhat and moved over Hays, just as we walked over to the IHOP for dinner.

It was a long day of driving, but worth it for the storms - it was quite odd to be back in Kansas just 3 months after our last visit - and even more so because our room in Hays is the same one we had back in early June! Mileage today was around 620 miles!

Trying out my solar filter - picked out a few sunspots - this is a cropped image.

Tail-end of a line of storms - looking NW from a point around 10 miles north of Colby, Kansas.

Storm to our south - taken north of Colby, Kansas.

Nice outflow feature - north of Colby, Kansas.

Not many CGs from this storm - so managed a bit of CC lightning.

From our hotel window in Hays, Kansas - hand-held, poorly set-up, rushed-job, but got a CG!

Helen got this on her iPhone - north of Colby, Kansas. My watermark/copyright is on simply because I tweaked it a bit in Lightroom and then when I exported it, it automatically put it on!

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Aug 16th - driving


We decided to try to find a thunderstorm today. We drove SW from Chicago through heavy traffic down towards Springfield. We did see some very weak lightning activity. We decided we wanted to head into western Kansas tomorrow (probably!) so we thought we'd get some of the driving out of the way. We continued on to Columbia, Missouri, passing through some more energetic thunderstorms...saw some good lightning but didn't get a chance to stop for pics, etc, as the rain commenced quite quickly. We headed to Applebee's for dinner.

We're staying at Stoney Creek's a bit different from our usual fare, but quite decent. It's rather like a kind of lodge, with lots of wooden bits around. We have a balcony...I imagine I'll take a pic from it in the morning.

Today's mileage was around 450. 

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Aug 15th - Chicago


Woke up soon after 6am. Decided it was too early so I went back to sleep. Woke again, and thought it must be very late now - it was 7.30am. Went back to sleep for a little longer then got up and made coffee.

We wanted to do a few things today, so we headed out just after 10am, having FaceTimed Rich, Ann, and Dad - they were in Wyoming at the time. We headed down to the river and walked east to get on a tour boat, but the 11am one had just sold out. We bought tickets for the 12pm sail, then found a Starbucks for coffee.

The boat tour was an architectural tour, by It was very interesting and the guide was very knowledgeable, as you'd hope he should be! It was a great way to see the city - as the guide said, you need to look up a lot, and walking along the sidewalk doesn't really give you such an easy job doing this.

After this finished we strolled and found a nice place to have lunch. After lunch we walked down to the harbour and sat there for a while. I decided an American re-make of Howard's Way must be made, called 'Chad's Passage'. One of the characters would be called Troy Masters.

Anyway, after this we walked towards Willis Tower (formally the Sears Roebuck Tower), stopping for a coffee in McDonald's.

We bought tickets and headed up 103 floors in 60 seconds (fast elevator!). The view from the Skydeck was pretty amazing - it's rather like being in a plane - that is, it doesn't 'feel' as high as something a bit lower down, where the brain can comprehend what it's seeing as something more 'real'. It's hard to really describe!

There are some glass boxes on the west wide, which you can stand in and look down 103 floors. Or rather, it seems that you should go in and then stand, or lie down, or lie on your side, or pout, or all of these, and take 1 millions selfies, rather than just looking down and thinking, 'Wow, this is high'. And then moving out of the way so other people can do the same rather than blocking it up for ever and a day. Of course, we took a few pics, but to not be hypocrites we didn't stay in there long, despite the fact I just wanted to look down for longer!

After that we headed to the railway and got on the somewhat amusingly titled 'Brown Line' and went around the famous 'loop' back to the station which is pretty much next to our hotel. We then ordered room service and ate in our room, because we have a better view than the restaurant 8 floors below us!

Other than me nursing a bit of sunburn on my arms, it has been a cracking day.

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Arrived! August 14th.

Hello! We're now in Chicago! Not a huge amount to report thus far. The plane was too hot when we got on because the auxiliary power unit wasn't working or something. Cooled down once they got the engines started. Two people's bags removed...presumably the people who broke the power unit...or not.

Anyway, we left late and got in a shade late. Passport control was quick. Bags took ages, probably as a punishment for getting through passport control so quickly.

Drove in rush hour traffic to our hotel in downtown is a beast...rather large. I convinced Helen it would be fine. Parking it in the underground car park at the hotel made me think the choice was less wise...but it fitted...just!

Had a room service burger looking out over this amazing looking city.

Pics will have to wait until tomorrow.

Sunday, 13 August 2017

What's this - round two?


There is a total eclipse of the Sun on August 21st, visible in a stripe across the continental USA. I've been waited at least 18 years for this event, and so we felt we just had to be there.

Thus, tomorrow morning we're flying to Chicago, Illinois, in order to get into position for just over 1 week's time. My Dad and brother, and my brother's partner, are already out there - they are blogging their visit here -

We'll spend a couple of days in Chicago, then *perhaps* get a storm chase in (well, why wouldn't we?!), if the weather plays ball. By next weekend we will be looking very closely at the cloud predictions for Monday, and deciding whether or not we'll follow Plan A, which is to be in southern Nebraska for the eclipse. We'll go wherever the sky looks likely to be clearest.

So, a bit weirdly, we're now gearing up for a USA trip once again!