Sun up on the 20th of August. I was here, I was actually here. Alliance was pretty much bang on the centre-line of the Eclipse zone, and Wells Ranch (about 3-4 miles south of the town) was exactly on it. That meant 2 minutes and 30 seconds of totality at around 11 o’clock the next day.
First job was getting up and getting the equipment ready and checked. Fortunately it’s all pretty robust and seemed to have survived the rigours of travelling without any damage. The batteries had held their charge and the cameras, after a little tweaking, seemed to be operating well.
I had both DSLRs working. One with the 6mm wide angle lens and the other with the 500mm zoom. A bit of duct tape and the focus and the zoom locked in place. The sun was showing some great sunspots, which was really useful for focusing! So far so good.
With all that sorted it was time to say hello to a few folks. This didn’t take long, only about the entire rest of the day. 🙂 Everywhere I went I got variations on “It’s the Brit!” “It’s the hat!” “You must that Drew guy from the blog!” or, and my favourite, “You’re that crazy British dude, aren’t you?” 😉
Turned out that lots of folks had been following my blog, and once a few of them cottoned on, they’d shared it with everyone else. So it seemed that everyone knew who I was before I even turned up! 🙂
So much so, that pretty much where ever I went, everyone wanted a selfie with me. It was all great fun and really good humoured. I certainly didn’t feel alone out in the middle of a foreign country. Quite the reverse. People showed me around their RVs (still don’t know what RV stands for! – they’re huge self contained houses on wheels), gave me tours of the cars and chatted at length about my adventures to date.
There were hundreds of people at the camp site, some with big telescopes, others just there for the experience of seeing the Eclipse. I spent the whole day wandering around and talking, enjoying the glorious sunshine and saying hello to people. Even when I went back to my tent I had people wander up and ask if I was the “British guy.” 🙂
Later in the day we went for a ‘Hay Ride’. This involves bolting a trailer to a tractor, throwing on some hay bales to sit on and then driving across a field trying to drink beer, but mostly sloshing it all over yourself and the trailer. I got a real sense of how big the ranches out here are. Thousands of acres of land. Astonishing from a UK perspective. Everyone was in good spirits… with plenty of beer available… and speaking of beer… 😉
I happened to mention that one of my ‘bucket list’ items was to drink some Coors Beer. Not because I was a particular fan, but because it was the beer featured in the movie “Smokey and the Bandit” where they smuggle it from Texarkana to Atlanta using a Tranz Am and a big rig. A quick discussion on cool American cars and then thirty seconds later…
More folks to meet, more stories to swap. I have to say that everyone was amazingly friendly in a way that just doesn’t happen in the UK. Folks went out of their way to get to know me, I got to play games, sing songs and even met some folks who have read and enjoyed my books – how’s that for cool? 🙂
Everyone was helping everyone else out. Some folks had come from a great distance within the US, driving overnight to arrive in Nebraska from East and West coast areas, others had come up from Texas and Arizona.
Lots of people had brought interesting cars with them and it seemed I’d made a great choice in bringing the Ford Mustang along. I think every approved. Some folks even asked how I’d managed to get a car that matched my tent. 🙂 Being a fan of cars seemed to go down well, so well that a little surprise was organised for me – more of that in tomorrow’s blog. 🙂
As the evening wore on more craziness ensued. Somebody fired a cannon because… well, because. It was loud. My ears were ringing!
Folks cooked marshmellows around a camp fire and the stars came out. I even read some of the kids a story. I lost track of the number of times I was told “Oh my god, I love your accent!’ 😉
We were all set. the weather forecast was good. The Eclipse was coming.