Homeward Bound: Leg 4

Left Pipestone, MN and headed east to Rochester, MN.

We stopped for lunch in Worthington, MN.

Along the way we passed a Hormel plant in Austin, MN. Hormel is the maker of Spam.

We traveled through many large wind farms.

Maybe it should be the state flower.

One of the rest areas along I-90 had an enclosed dog park. Our pups really enjoyed the opportunity to run around. There should be more rest areas like this.

We arrived safely at our campsite outside of Rochester, MN.

Tomorrow, we plan to make it into Wisconsin.

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Homeward Bound: Leg 3

It had rained during the night and was sprinkling this morning.

We left the KOA in North Sioux City, SD, and headed north on I-29. We made a doggy stop just down the highway for a doggy break. The speed limit is 80! At Sioux Falls, SD, we headed east on I-90 for a few miles into Minnesota. Both Marla and I added another state to the list of those we have visited.

We then headed north to Pipestone, MN, made another doggy stop, and had lunch at a Casey’s General Store. Afterwards, we visited Pipestone National Monument.

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This is The Oracle, a rock formation at the monument. Do you see a human head?

The monument site also has a tract of undisturbed tall grass prairie albeit with 70 non-native species of plants.

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We camped for the night at a campground just outside the boundaries of the monument.

It grew more cloudy as the day wore on and there’s a chance of scattered thunderstorms tonight. We plan to push eastward toward Wisconsin tomorrow.

Homeward Bound: Leg 2

Trixie ran out of TP this morning.

Packed up, fueled up and left Nebraska City. We then headed east, back into Iowa, and then turned northward onto I-29.

We stopped at Camping World in Council Bluffs, IA, to replace the GPS tablet that I damaged. It had fallen to the floor once too many times, cracking the touchscreen.

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Then, we did some shopping at a mall in Council Bluffs, as well as got lunch.

We got back onto I-29 North and made it to North Sioux City, South Dakota. We settled into a site at a KOA. This is Marla’s first visit to South Dakota and my second.

Tomorrow, we will journey to Pipestone National Monument in Minnesota. This will be our visit to Minnesota.

Homeward Bound: Leg 1

My Tillie alarm clock went off at 6:50 AM CDT.

We are still in awe after observing the eclipse. We learned today that I-80 was a parking lot west of Lincoln, and beyond our site near Henderson. We couldn’t observe this directly but heard about it from other campers when they went to town after totality. There was also some price gouging in Scottsbluff, NE. One motel charged $900 a night. Another person bought 100 acres of land, for $40K, and charged RVers $1000 each to park without any hookups. He made quite an indecent profit. The average price for our RV has been around $38 a night including 50 ampere electric service, water, sewer, WiFi, and other amenities such as laundry.

We packed the RV, walked the dogs, thanked the campground owners and left. There was just one RV remaining when we departed at 11:15 AM CDT, and began our journey home, headed for Beatrice, NE.

Along the way, we stopped in Lincoln for doggy walks and lunch at a Casey’s General Store.

Just north of Beatrice, I walked the dogs while Marla shopped for groceries at a WalMart. From there it was a short drive to Homestead National Monument .

At the Monument, they were still cleaning up from the previous day’s eclipse activities. The NPS crew looked weary. Marla got her passbook stamped and I was able to get a lifetime senior NP pass before they increased the cost. We also took a brief look around and viewed one of the largest tracts (100 acres) of restored tall grass prairie in The United States.

Our dogs also walked near this area which officially made them:

PRAIRIE DOGS!!!

I also learned the homesteaders secret to success:

Then, we went to our campsite near Nebraska City. I had trouble navigating near the campground since the local roads were torn up and the GPS was useless as a result. I called the campground for directions and arrived successfully.

Tomorrow, we plan to stop at Camping World in Council Bluffs, IA, and then go to Pipestone National Monument, which is just east of Sioux Falls, SD, in Minnesota. South Dakota will be a new state for Marla, and Minnesota will be a new one for all of us.

Eclipse Day, Henderson, NE

Tillie, our female Scotty, got me up at 4:50 AM CDT. I took all of our dogs outside to do their business, and I am glad she got me up. The sky at that hour was mostly clear, and I saw many stars. I cannot remember the last time I saw The Milky Way as clearly as this morning. Nebraska does have the darkest skies in the country. It was a good start to a memorable day at The Prairie Oasis Campground.

The forecast for today had improved to mostly sunny which gave us some hope. A system of thunderstorms was staying well to our south over Kansas.

I met two amateur astronomers who were camping near us, and they let me look through their 10 inch Dobsonian, which had a solar filter. I was able to observe two groups of sunspots. I asked questions and listened as they explained the many advantages about their Dob. The woman who did most of the talking was named Sheila and she and her husband are from Ontario, Canada. I was also able to observe first contact with the moon at that precise time with their Dob.

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We walked our dogs and had lunch about an hour before totality. I went out and took photos of everyone making preparations. At 20 minutes before totality it was looking weird. It was daylight but the lighting was curiously subdued. It was mostly cloudy, and I was preparing for disappointment, and was resigned that it would be a bust. However, Marla and I went over to sit on a picnic table, not far from our RV, to watch the sun through our eclipse glasses. At this point the sun was a crescent, and faded in and out with the passing of the cirrostratus clouds.

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The local Mourning Doves started cooing as the clock ran down to totality. Suddenly, there was a opening in the cloud cover, and with that, totality occurred. There were cheers and hoots when we were rewarded with an awesome sight.

Television and photographs simply do not do it justice. The sky is actually a dark blue during totality. I looked directly at the incredible sight and tried to take photos. Totality lasted for 2 minutes and 30 seconds. I also kept an eye on the time and did a 5 second countdown to 3rd contact to warn people to put their eclipse glasses back on, and the sun emerged precisely at zero.

With only 250 seconds of totality, I messed up my camera settings, and didn’t get any useful images. This was my best overexposed image.

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However, I asked the astronomers if I could buy their images. They said they’d share their images, copying them to my memory card, after processing them following 4th contact. I thanked them and said I’d be by tonight. Later, I obtained over two dozen images. Here are a few:

There was also an effect on the air temperature during the eclipse.

Through it all, our dogs were not impressed.

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Eclipse 2017: Sixth and Final Leg

Today is our final leg to our eclipse site.

Dogs got me up at around 6 AM CDT. It had rained during the night. I took them for a walk to the highway and back.

I topped off the fresh water tank before departing.

This morning we took our time getting ready for travel. Took our dogs to the small dog park one more time before leaving. Then, it was retract the slide outs, disconnect the hookups and retract the jacks. Soon we were heading southbound on I-29.

We stopped for a break, and to eat lunch, in the parking area of a Marriott Hotel off of I-680, west of Omaha. Soon we were headed westbound on I-80 again toward Lincoln. Nothing looked familiar to me, except for The Platte River, until we got to Lincoln. However, there’s been a great deal of development since I left 35 years ago, when I finished my graduate work at UNL.

We stopped at a Casey’s General Store (The Sheetz/Wawa of the west) for another break and fuel. However, due to a lightning strike the night before, the pumps were not operating. I walked our dogs and then bought Marla, my wife, some coffee. She said the coffee was very good.

It wasn’t long before Tillie started her, “I want to stop!,” yipping. I got off at the next exit, where there were no services, and investigated. It turned out that a lower drawer had opened during travel. I resolved that issue and gave treats to all of our pets (slipped a little extra to Tillie). We got back on the interstate and it wasn’t long before, Tillie started her, “I want to stop!,” yipping again. This time, it was Trixie that needed to be walked. Have I mentioned that we love our dogs?

We stopped one more time in York, NE, to top off the fuel tank. Soon we arrived at our eclipse campground, near Henderson, NE, called Prairie Oasis, around 3:30 PM CDT.

We soon settled and relaxed before the big day tomorrow.

While walking Tillie, Toby Two; our two Scotties; and our Westie, Trixie, I discovered the campground tornado/storm shelter.

The forecast for tomorrow has deteriorated somewhat. The NWS is now calling for partly sunny. We’ll keep our fingers crossed.

Eclipse 2017: Downtime

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A down day to recharge, relax and do some housekeeping.

Performed a basic maintenance check on the RV. All OK.

Discovered a small enclosed dog park, with a single large tree, in the back of the campground. This allowed our pups to run around.

My wife had a brilliant idea and placed a peel and stick map of The U.S. on the bottom of the forward bunk. It also came with a black erasable marker to track our progress.

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The machines in the campground laundry had whimsical names:

It was a very good plan to go on a few shakedown trips before this big trip. We both learned a few things, as well as got in some practice setting up and tearing down. As a result, we had no major issues during our 1000 mile journey. Just a few minor glitches; nothing that couldn’t be fixed with duct tape and simple tools.

Eclipse 2017: Leg 5

Tillie got me up at 6 AM CDT for walkies.

I secured a site for two days in Onawa, IA.

We packed up and left Oxford, IA, around 10:30 AM CDT, and saw this sign as we exited the campground.

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We had to stop at the next exit on I-80 because Tillie had dropped her bone outside her crate. Resolved that issue and pressed onward. Stopped at a rest area just east of Des Moines for a break.

In Des Moines, we stopped at a Price Chopper supermarket for groceries and lunch. Then we stopped at a Pet Smart, 4 miles later, for pet supplies (we love our dogs).

We got back on I-80 and continued to travel west. Along the way, we traveled through two large wind farms. This one is near Walnut, IA, where we stopped for fuel and a break.

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Toby Two got carsick, so we needed another doggy bed. I found a place in Council Bluffs to buy them and we diverted there. Did I mention how much we love our dogs?

We then proceeded northbound on I-29 and made one more rest stop. We arrived at our campsite for the weekend in Onawa, IA at 7:45 PM CDT.

After we got set up, we got the TV tuned, and the news was covering a severe thunderstorm with tornado vortex signatures (TVS) and hen egg size hail (I love Iowa). The storms were well to our northeast so no worries at our campsite.

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We plan to stay in Onawa until Sunday to recharge, relax and do some housekeeping Our pups need a break as well.

I tried to find a site around Des Moines but The Iowa State Fair, and an LPGA golf tournament, were in progress so all the campgrounds within an hours drive were booked. Our current site is less than 3 hours from our eclipse site, and we will travel there on Sunday.

Forecast at the time of the eclipse at our site is still calling for mostly sunny.

Eclipse 2017: Leg 4

Left the campground near Joliet, IL, before lunch. Went to a nearby Pet Smart for supplies. Got lunch from a Steak and Shake. Then we proceeded west on I-80. Stopped at a rest area and observed a plot of restored prairie.

Crossed The Mississippi River near The Quad Cities, and reached a campground near Oxford, Iowa, just west of Iowa City. Stopped for fuel before arriving. Can’t beat the prices.

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We need to find a place to stay for the weekend tomorrow.