Sunday morning. 2:00 a.m.
Alarm goes off.
I know what that means. I have one hour to finish any last minute packing, load my 2013 Chevrolet Cruze “Dracourage,” and attempt a 13 1/2 hour drive from the Capital District to my target eclipse shooting spot in Clinton, South Carolina.
It is official. I am nuts.
For those of you who are new to my blog, I’ve owned my current vehicle – a scarlet-red 2013 Chevrolet Cruze that I’ve nicknamed “Dracourage”, a portmanteau of “dragon” and “courage” – for about a year now. I bought it in June 2013 after my previous car, the 2006 Chevrolet Cobalt SS – the “Blackbird” – was destroyed in a four-car collision on one of my ultra-long drives from New York to Florida and back.
Since then, I’ve powered Dracourage on short (for me) trips – Massachusetts, Connecticut, Niagara Falls, the Adirondacks, places like that.
Yesterday, however, was Dracourage’s first big test. I needed to beat all the traffic that would descend from the Northern United States to that band of totality from Oregon to South Carolina. If I didn’t get on the road as early as I could … I would get stuck in traffic somewhere. And I might not make it to the totality band in time. And the rain date for the eclipse is April 2024.
Okay. Couple of bottles of snacks, an additional 125-song playlist on my K-Chuck Radio channel for my iPod (which connects and integrates through Dracourage’s sound system), a full tank of gas (12.5 gallons gives me 600 miles of uninterrupted driving), the directions programmed into the GPS in my BlackBerry PRIV, and off we go.
The driving seems simple. It’s all mostly interstate – I-87, I-287, I-81, I-77, I-485, I-85, I arrive. Right?
Most of the travel seemed smooth enough – until I reached Virginia. Apparently in Virginia, I-81 is a two-lane highway, and it seemed as if there were delays all the way. And every time I saw a delay, I had a twinge of dread. What if this delay was the tail end of a 5-hour traffic jam from here to the totality band? I’ve heard plenty of “sky is falling” prognosticators suggesting that the totality band could bring the appearance of Woodstock (plus the 1994 and 1999 sequels) into the equivalent area of a baseball stadium.
Then the traffic would pick up. The multiple delays were caused by non-eclipse issues – car accidents, sobriety checkpoints, road construction, a Hyundai-versus-deer meetup where the deer fared better than the Hyundai – and I’m back on the road again.
After one nasty 25-minute delay, I pulled into a Liberty gas station and filled the tank. Then back on the road again. I dared not stop for lunch or dinner, fearing that I could run into another traffic delay that was more eclipse-generated.
Then the GPS alerted me that I had arrived in North Carolina.
Yeah. The state where the Blackbird died.
Okay. Take a deep breath, Miller, and a quick bathroom break at the North Carolina Visitor’s Center. You can do this. You’re in a new chariot and you’re headed for a once-in-a-lifetime event.
That doesn’t mean that I wasn’t hyper-vigilant all the way down I-77. Any time I saw an RV, I let them pass. Any time I saw a camper with bicycles attached to the rear, I changed lanes. I don’t think I took three relaxed breaths in a row until I saw a sign welcoming me to South Carolina.
An hour and a half later … I arrived at my hotel. Two nights in Laurens County, South Carolina. Two nights – and one day that for two and a half minutes, will turn into night.
I’m here. I made it.
Now I need the weather to cooperate with me this morning. The last report I checked said that the skies would be “partly cloudy” during the eclipse.
Whether they’re “partly cloudy” or “mostly cloudy” or “umbrella cloudy,” it won’t matter. Because, for all intents and purposes, my chariot passed its big test. Albany to South Carolina without any trouble or concern.
Now for some more prayers. Let’s get that sweet eclipse shot today.