Buffalo awaiting the eclipse.
Like so many others, we succumbed to a last-second urge to head north out of Colorado into the path of totality, traffic warnings be damned. Here's our eclipse diary:
7 a.m. August 21:
Gas up before leaving Conifer. Expedition has 547 miles to empty, so no worries about reported gas shortages. Traffic down the hill to Interstate 25 is the usual rush-hour mess. The drive to Wyoming is relatively quick, though, despite reports of long lines north of Fort Collins. The crunch actually starts about ten miles before the Wyoming line; some of us drive over the shoulder to the adjacent frontage road in hopes of saving time.
We arrive at the state line, where a friendly state trooper. taking pictures of eclipse tourists at the Wyoming sign, adds to the traffic snarl. There are porta-potties on the exit ramps: smart.
Stop-and-go traffic through Cheyenne; a tailgating eclipse-traveler smashes into us while we are stopped. There's a thirty-minute time-out to exchange insurance information and visit with another friendly state trooper. Can we still make it to the path of totality?
On the road again, and traffic has largely disappeared outside Cheyenne. While I drive, Debbie builds a box for eclipse viewing and notices the sign above. One question, Wyoming: Who's going to keep driving during the eclipse?
11:18 a.m: Arrive in Wheatland, in the path of totality, twenty minutes before the full eclipse! A nice local points out parking recommended by the town; we pull onto the shoulder of the frontage road beside about a thousand other cars. Everyone is excited; it's like waiting for fireworks on the Fourth of July. We use the viewing box to see a silhouette of the partial eclipse. As totality nears, it gets dark, like the fastest sundown you've ever seen.
Totality! A friendly fellow traveler shares his eclipse glasses so we can see the corona. The stars are out...and then it's over. As the sky gets brighter, everyone heads to their cars. Wheatland police direct traffic back to southbound I-25; it takes about ten minutes to get going, but traffic is moving at the speed limit.
We brake for Chugwater chili. Like other Wyoming towns, Chugwater has rolled out the welcome mat for tourists. So have local governments all along the route; there are emergency vehicles poised at every median all the way back to Denver.
We arrive in Conifer, after hitting the usual early rush-hour traffic outside Denver. For once, we don't mind: The day's experience eclipses all.