After reading Chuck’s saga, I thought I might provide some alternative
thoughts and maybe a happier tale.
Our first decision for the eclipse was to make the trip a vacation with
several worthwhile destinations. This so that if the eclipse was clouded
out, the entire trip would not be a total bust. So we planned to be in
Tennessee for the eclipse, with subsequent visits to Nashville, Huntsville AL,
Gatlinburg and the Smoky Mountains, amounting to a full week, and all within a
radius of about 150 miles there. It’s generally pretty rural there of
course, so I hoped that would help avoid massive crowds. The Wife
Acceptance Factor was also high, since we would be seeing and doing lots of
stuff she was interested in and had never done before.
I made our first hotel reservation for the path of totality on July 9,
2017. That’s barely 6 weeks prior to the event. To do that so late,
I reasoned that we did not need to be there for the weekend, which was, of
course, pretty much sold-out everywhere in totality-land by then. So I
made our eclipse-location hotel reservation for only the night of the eclipse,
Obviously, this would not be good for those who wanted a weekend eclipse
party, or who needed a lot of setup time and on-site location planning.
But we were traveling light and alone. This was our first total solar
eclipse, and we just wanted the experience. Our eclipse equipment
consisted of two lawn chairs, cardboard eclipse glasses, one $29 pair of eclipse
binos, and a kitchen colander. My few photos were taken hand-held with my
super-zoom point-n-shoot – just a nice memento.
We met some friendly amateur astronomers at a grassy patch of land between
three hotels, and had a memorable, amazing, cloud-free eclipse. I had
scouted out this location using Google Maps, and it turned out well. But I
was prepared to relocate if necessary – lots of open land in small-town
Cookeville TN. So we sat in the shade of some small trees while the
eclipse progressed, with the hotel lobby (and bathroom) less than 100 yards
We made the trip down to Knoxville TN via I 81 on Sunday 8/20/17. I
was a little concerned about this initial trip, but it turned out fairly well –
back-ups for accidents delayed us an extra hour, so 9 hours instead of 8.
Knoxville was slightly out of totality, so reservations there were easily
available for that Sunday. The relatively short drive from Knoxville to
Cookeville TN on Monday morning, eclipse day, was also easy. As soon as we
got away from Knoxville the traffic was light.
And of course, after the eclipse, plenty of hotel rooms were available, and
there was light traffic for our trip to Nashville on Tuesday 8/22. I had
one reservation cancelled – one hotel near Nashville apparently closed for some
reason, but they notified me in time to make another reservation, as they should
In short, it all worked out great and we’re very glad we did it. By a
little alternative thinking and planning to be somewhere other than the worst
choke points, we seem to have avoided some frustrations. Of course, the
good weather we had was pure luck. But in 2024, assuming we’re still able,
I will try to start serious planning more than 6 weeks ahead.