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Experiencing the Solar Eclipse in Southern Illinois

Sunday, August 27, 2017 - Posted 8:00:06 PM by Tom Kapraun
Former Minonk resident Tom Kapraun of Dekalb, IL, son of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Kapraun of Minonk, sends us his experience of driving to Johnson City, IL to watch the total eclipse on August 15.  Below is his story.

Totally totality! Went south for yesterday's celestial event. 5 hour trip took 7.5, both ways. Totally worth it. Traffic on the way was ferocious, so I got off the interstate highway and headed down on secondary roads and those little gray lines on the map called county highways. Smooth sailing for the most part. Only got lost a couple times, but used up every bit of my 2 hour cushion, and then some. I know I got there as fast or faster than taking the super slab. I didn't make it to my chosen spot on the center line of totality on Dutchman Lake, but was within the zone at Johnston City. 

I pulled into the city baseball park behind the Right field fence, next to a couple from Indianapolis. Unloaded my chair, two cameras, two tripods. Shade 14, welder's goggle and settled in for the show at about 1/4 coverage. Everybody was looking up and oohing and ahhing. For a moment I thought it was fireworks. I took most of two rolls of Kodak ASA 200 for posterity. 

Totality is totally AWESOME! A circle of black surrounded by a white ring. At this point eye shading is not necessary for the 2:41 that totality lasted. Then, along the upper, right edge of the moon a twinkle of red as the sun began to shine through the valleys between the 'mountain' peaks. Then a flash of white, the so-called diamond ring effect. SHADES BACK ON. 

At this point the street lights had come on. I hadn't noticed the temperature because it was comfortable. But as the sun continued to reveal itself, it became hotter and hotter. I was sweating bullets and nearly out of film, so at about 1/4 coverage, I packed up my gear and was on my way with the A/C back on. I stopped at a local gas station to top off. The ticket reads, 14:53 (2:53pm) 

Then the long trek out of there along a gazillion other people. I headed not north with the rest of the sheeple, but east out of Johnston City to find the nearest north bound county road. It was still bumper to bumper for nearly 20 miles. I then headed west through Salem, to find the southern stretch of US 51 to continue my northerly travel. As I crossed under 157 cars were bumper-to-bumper getting OFF the interstate. 

Suppertime! It was then I was glad my wife packed me a few more provisions of finger food. After about 15 miles of fairly brisk movement north on 51, traffic slowed to a crawl, then stopped. Tempers were getting a bit thin. Some of my stopped counterparts slammed it into reverse, effected a 3 point turn-about and headed south, as if that was going to get them to their destination faster? Then when we got back up to posted speed, this wasn't good enough for some. They decided they should pass the whole dog-gone lot of us. 

I then found another thin gray line paralleling route 51 to the east. By my estimation, I drove most of 160 miles on county roads. Some were county highways in name only. While they were paved, they were, in some places in poor condition. However, they were mostly smoother than a most interstate highways. Very few others dared to follow me. I was elated. Radio reports of slow traffic and accidents told me that my choice was correct. Moving about the country side passing cattle, horses, chickens, oil pump jacks, milo and the like was better than being caught up in an accident or sitting behind one. I did come to the sad realization that at 7:30. under normal conditions. I should have been home. Instead. I was still.. well., south... of Decatur... ugh! 

About 20 miles south of Decatur, US 51 goes from two lane to four lane. Traffic flow was helped. The crazies were still driving like they were Michael Andretti. but with the extra lane you had room to move over if needed. The Bloomington merge with I-55 traffic from St. Louis area was worrisome. 3 lanes northbound around Bloomington and Normal were bumper-to-bumper, door lock-to-door lock... at 70 mph! Changing lanes was a non-starter. 

Once I got to 139 north we left the aggressive Chicago drivers to their northeasterly competition. Traffic on I-39 was still heavy, but polite. Only a couple Lexuses .. Lexi? figured they were better than everyone else. But for the most part, every one punched the cruise control and went with the flow. 

Heavy rain slowed us up a bit, even the Lexi. I stopped in El Paso for gas. I had to wait in line to get to an available pump. This was at 9:00 AT NIGHT!. I've never seen 4th of July traffic this bad for so far. For the entire journey, all I could see was a line of headlights behind and tail lights ahead from horizon to horizon. 

I left 1-39 and the peloton 7 hours and 15 minutes after leaving Little Egypt. Once on route 30, I was by myself. By 10:30 I was home, crawling into bed... at last. At some point I will get the film developed and share a few. But not now... I'm still tired.