Monday August 21st
We left the hotel at about 7 am. To our surprise there were almost no cars on the road! Off we went to the Smithville rest stop. Philippe chose this stop because there were restrooms available and in case of cloud coverage, we could take the I-40 again driving further east. That way we did not have to leave the path of the eclipse. We went from 800 ft elevation to 16oo ft, and in the direction of the Blue Ridge Mountains it even reached 5000 ft.
At the rest stop there was absolutely not a single space left to park our car so we turned to our backup plan. We took the I-40 again direction Spring City. They have a Facebook page dedicated to the total solar eclipse and obviously we weren’t the only ones who knew about it. They announced all kinds of activities, kids animation, food trucks and what not. Luckily it was still early in the morning so we still had time to do the 1.5 hour drive. While driving on the interstate, we read signs saying: no parking on shoulder during eclipse! That would be a dangerous thing to do! Although I would not blame the people who would do it. We also saw a sign saying “Welcome to Cookerville, here we still respect and appreciate our law enforcement”. I should have taken a picture and sent it to the mayor of Antwerp and some other Belgian cities so they could make colossal signs to display in their city centers! Something needs to be done in Belgium, there is a real problem with disrespecting law enforcement.
By the time we arrived at Spring City, the center was taken over by cars! We drove a little further and saw this little gem near Watts Bar Lake where we found a perfect spot in the shade. According to the weather predictions there would be less than 20% cloud coverage. There were NO clouds at all! YAY! The clouds were our biggest fear but now we could finally relax and enjoy the spectacle. Statistically, due to its topography, Spring City had more chance on clear skies.
Finally the time had come. We had been waiting with anticipation for so long. We finally saw the moon covering the sun, the shadows got sharper, the temps dropped by 10 degrees F (+/-5C), the light changed to a grey-ish colour, Venus was visible (the small white dot south east of the sun in the picture below – picture taken with iPhone, so not very clear), the crickets started chirping. It was so eerie! It’s hard to describe but it was impressive, exciting, thrilling, astonishing, extraordinary, marvelous, all at the same time! Both the girls were in awe. Hanne kept asking all these questions, good thing I’m married to a science geek :-), he explained it perfectly! It was over quite fast and I’m so glad I finally got to see the diamond ring, TWICE! Unfortunately we don’t have pictures, but the memory will last forever!
After this wonderful experience we left the scene to arrive in Dallas on time. This time there is lots of traffic and therefore several traffic jams. We arrived at Nashville during rush hour and Google maps kept saying that we would arrive in 3 hours. We were so fed up and wanted out of the car! All of a sudden Google suggested an alternative route and we could cut 1.5 hour off of our trip.