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Observations from The Path of Totality

Written By Janessa Knodt | Aug 14, 2017

For just about 163 seconds on August 21st, the moon will completely block out the sun, resulting in a total solar eclipse. And people are completely losing their shit.

Everybody in North America will be able to see it, but not everybody will get the total experience. For that, one must make one’s way to The Path of Totality—a belt line that spans the entirety of the United States, from Oregon to South Carolina. At its grandest, the path is 71 miles wide. And it’s only from this narrow band of real estate that eclipse gazers will be able to view the solar corona in all its cosmic glory.

Central Oregon is full of small towns. And baby, they’re in for a wild ride.

Towns along the coveted Path are prepping for a major influx of human bodies, which translates to a major influx of cash into local economies. Some locations are better prepared for it than others, with built-in infrastructure, more hotels, more food, and more restrooms. But many are tiny burgs, unaccustomed to tourism on this astronomic scale.

Central Oregon is slated to be THE primo spot for viewing, on account of its high desert air and famously clear skies. Problem is, Central Oregon is mostly full of small towns. And baby, they’re in for a wild ride.

Take Madras, OR. Population 6,625, and just 325 hotel rooms in the whole town. Yet 70,000 eclipse peepers are expected there this week. 70,000! Think of all the food those people will eat. Think about after they eat, when they have to find a restroom.

The bathroom struggle will be real this week, my friends. And it ain’t gonna be pretty.

Maybe you and I don’t want to think about that. But what you and I want is of little consequence; the bathroom struggle will be real this week, my friends. And it ain’t gonna be pretty.

The state of Oregon expects this to be the biggest traffic event in state history. Which means people won’t be able to get around—and that includes sanitation crews. They won’t be able to make their normal 24-hour clean-ups.

Terry Nelson with Honey Bucket portable toilets warned: “We’re planning on not being able to really drive around that much. We’re telling people when you rent these portable restrooms, you need to rent more. Because we’re probably not going to be able to get to you to service them.”


But I digress. Enough talk about infrastructure and poop. Let’s talk about how businesses—within the Path of Totality and without—are finding creative ways to make the most of this celestial event.

Hotels in most towns throughout the Path of Totality have been fully booked for at least a year. People are coming from all over the world, en masse. Two years ago, a German group reserved the entire 100-room Eagle Crest Resort in Redmond, OR, and a group of 300 Japanese spectators booked up the Kah-Nee-Ta Resort near Warm Springs, OR.

In some cases, the game’s gotten dirty, with many travelers sharing a similar fate. They booked a room far in advance at a regular rate, only to have the hotel later cancel their reservation, informing them that the rate has doubled, tripled or increased to as much as $1,000 per night. Not cool, guys.

In other cases, hotel owners are the ones getting screwed. The owner of a hotel in Madras booked out every room more than three years ago when a travel agency called up to buy them out in advance. Not knowing how popular the eclipse would become, he sold the rooms at just $165 to $200 a night. If he’d waited, he’d be able to charge much, much more. That’s gotta sting.  

Many farmers in the Path are turning their farms into campgrounds for thousands. The owners of Organic Earthly Delights in Madras have opened up their fields to more than 500 spectators at $500 a head for four-day passes. They’re putting on a festival that will include meals, live music, a bounce house and water slide, astronomers, beekeepers, and equestrians. Sounds like a great time! I’d go, but I can’t deal with the putrescent port-a-potty situation that will no doubt ensue.

They’re forking out big dough for insurance. Lots of snakes in those fields.

It’s an enormous investment. They’re forking out big dough for permits, trash cans and insurance, too. Lots of snakes in those fields, coupled with lots of people won’t know what they’re dealing with…and who will most likely be inebriated.

That’s why hospitals are stocking up, too.

The good people at awesome glasses company Warby Parker are so eclipse crazy (or they’re just really smart marketers) that they’ve designed an entire microsite in honor of the astrological occasion, including a breathtaking parody music video complete with dancing sun and moon:

They’re offering free eclipse glasses at every location across the country, and they ran a Facebook contest, awarding one lucky winner with an all-expenses paid trip to their solar eclipse viewing party in Nashville.

Meanwhile, Oregon-based apparel company Pendleton (of artisanal wool fame) is hawking their wares as Eclipse Gear. Get yer eclipse water bottles, eclipse hats, eclipse towels and blankets and pillows and neckerchiefs!

Casper Mattress company is setting up camp in Casper, Wyoming—one of the spots along the Path predicted to have the longest period of total darkness. For $499, you get an all-inclusive glamping experience, with free shuttles from Denver, your own camp site with a safari-style tent outfitted with a comfy Casper mattress, all your meals, flashlight tag, spacey dance parties…and yoga.

It’s not all about making a dollar. There are also some very cool free apps available to eclipse worshippers.

Smithsonian Eclipse 2017
Watch NASA’s live stream of the eclipse, calculate your view with an interactive map, and get a virtual view via their eclipse simulator. Bonus features: browse the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory’s solar research, and get even closer to the sun with near-live views from space.

Total Solar Eclipse 2017
From the brainiacs at The Exploratorium in San Francisco. Users can tune in to five simultaneous video streams, including live coverage hosted by Exploratorium educators and NASA scientists, live coverage in Spanish, a non-narrated 3-hour live telescope view of the full eclipse as seen from Oregon, another as seen from Wyoming, and a live telescope view WITH live musical accompaniment by the Kronos Quartet.

Eclipse Megamovie Mobile
My personal favorite. This one helps people use their smartphones to take great photos of the eclipse. The app actually controls the phone’s camera shutter and exposure settings, and shoots a series of images to capture the entire event beautifully. Bonus guides for people using a DSLR.

Plus, everyone who uses Eclipse Megamovie Mobile contributes to the Megamovie Project, a group of scientists who study eclipses. Users’ eclipse images, time and location data will be used to create a massive dataset of observations from around the country that scientists can use for years to come.

So even if celestial events aren’t your bag, you might as well go outside and take a peep. Just make sure you have your certified safety glasses on. Safety first, friends.

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