Total solar eclipse – day 5

Tuesday August 22nd

We left Dallas around 10 am. There were lots of road works along our way home. We didn’t hear the girls complain, they were drawing what they had experienced the day before. I must say I was quite surprised with the outcome :-).

Philippe has always been very fascinated about the universe in general. He has bookmarked Fred Espenak’s website as one of his favorites since he was 28 years old, which means a long long time ago :-)! Fred Espenak (also referred to as Mr. Eclipse) is a retired NASA astrophysicist. He is best known for his work on eclipse predictions. As of today, he has always been right with his calculations. If you want to learn about future eclipses (lunar, solar or planetary transits) click here.

Another website Philippe used a lot is one where you could see how long the eclipse would last depending on where you were situated. Here is a link if you want to check it out, just zoom in and click beween the two red lines. A circle will appear with all the necessary information. Very fascinating!

While driving through Arkansas, we saw a sign for “Hope”, President William (Bill) Clinton’s birthplace. Unfortunately we had no time to stop because the girls wanted to show Philippe the inside of a Buccee’s (he didn’t join us inside the superstore on our way to Nashville). We stayed for 40 minutes because there was so much to see but we could easily have stayed another hour!

It was a nice break. I’m not sad the girls missed 2 days of school! They have learned so much more during our short break. In Austin there was only a partial eclipse and the students were not allowed to go outside for liability reasons.

The next one will be in 2024 (April 8th). We are already very excited about it πŸ™‚ especially Hanne because it’s just one day after her birthday.

Total solar eclipse – day 4

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.

Total solar eclipse – day 3

Sunday August 20th

We had a good night sleep despite the couple in the room next door fighting (cursing) till late at night.

Of course we forgot our cooler and accessories, as well as our folding chairs at home so we had to buy new ones. Once we were all set, the girls couldn’t wait to see all the animals at the Nashville Zoo.

I must admit this is one of the most marvelous zoos I’ve ever seen! It’s not gigantic, but the landscaping was so lovely and well maintained. The animals have so much foliage in their big cages which protects them from the sun rays. We saw plants we had in our front and back yard in Belgium such as hydrangea and hostas (way too hot in Texas to cultivate them!), instant throw back moment! We saw all kinds of animals: blue aras, rinos, giraffes, flamingos, ring-tailed lemur, a cougar, a sloth, snapping turtles, all kinds of reptiles and frogs, cockroaches(eeww!), we even could pet kangaroos! The kids liked the suspension bridge the best :-). Because I was wearing shoes I don’t regularly wear, both my heels were covered by blisters. That was painful :-S.

After our nice visit to the Zoo, which we all enjoyed so much, we did some grocery shopping for the next day, we wanted to leave early to beat the “eclipse pelgrimage” and be sure we had a good spot to see the eclipse. Philippe had done all the research, he knew exactly were we needed to go. He even had a backup plan!

Back at the hotel, the girls got in the pool. We had some appetizers and a huge dessert and went to bed early to be in perfect shape for the next day!

Total solar eclipse – day 2

Saturday August 19th

None of us had had a good night sleep (the mattresses were of bad quality). Breakfast was not super either. Philippe and Tina had a waffle with whipped cream that was not very tasty, Hanna had frosted flakes with sour milk, I had canned fruit which nearly made me barf.

During the long drive the girls were busy drawing in their sketch books. I was so happy they didn’t ask for their iPads but used their imagination instead! They can be so creative if they want to be! We also saw some nice bill boards. One that stuck was “Pickups rock! They also roll! Always buckle up!” Another one said: “Use the rod on your children and save their lives…” What? I couldn’t finish reading the rest of it because I was so shocked! What is wrong with people? Do they really believe that crap? And then they wonder why their kids become violent and get all messed up! Philippe saw it too, so I was not delusional or anything πŸ™‚

We were driving through rural Texas and I was shocked by what I saw. “Trump Country” is real! What an eye opener for me. We live in beautiful Lakeway which voted mostly democratic but wow, that was something different! I can’t even describe it.

The more you drive North, the greener the area gets. The temps are so nice and bearable (92F during the day but a nice 81F after sun down), it was so lovely. Not so lovely were the road works we had to endure! Luckily Google Maps always knows a short cut. Unfortunately there was a major lethal accident involving two 18 wheelers and 6 cars. It must have just happened because we saw 6 police cars driving by, 5 fire trucks and 2 ambulances. This happened as we just passed the state line with Arkansas about 135 miles from Little Rock. We had to wait for 2 hours before the police let us drive on the shoulder and onto a private property. Apparently 18 wheelers don’t have any speed restrictions, they can drive as fast as they want as long as they don’t surpass the speed limits.

We talked about how distracted people get in their cars, how they read/send text messages on their phones, how they do everything but pay attention to the road, that it is sooo dangerous! A good book about that subject is “The Secret Language of Sisters” written by Luanne Rice. Tina and I both read this book and it made a big impression on her.

Anyways, we’d lost almost 2 hours because of that accident and Philippe didn’t want to lose more time for lunch. He wanted to keep driving so we could catch up. Therefore we had a “healthy” lunch in the car: some chips, nachos and snickers! Why do I keep gaining weight?

We crossed the Mississippi River in Memphis, Tennessee. To our left was a huge pyramid, known as Memphis Pyramid. Β It is considered as a symbol for the city of Memphis. In 2015 it reopened as a “Bass Pro Megastore” including shopping, a hotel, restaurants, a bowling alley, an archery range and an outdoor observation deck.

On our way to Nashville, as we took I-40, we drove past Brownsville where the one and only Tina Turner Museum is situated. The road between Memphis and Nashville is also called “Music Parkway” because of the rich music history in Memphis, Nashville, and the areas in between them. Memphis is known as “the Home of the Blues and the Birthplace of Rock and Roll.” Nashville is known as “Music City USA” for its influence on numerous types of music, especially country. We drove past a truck transporting BRP Can-Am ATV’s.Β So cool to see them in this neck of the woods! How I loved working for that company (although I couldn’t get along with one of my bosses). The range they offered was just amazing!

We finally arrive at our hotel where some yummy treats (popcorn, warm cookies and a Descendants 2 apple) were calling our names :-). The apple was the only healthy nourishment we ate all day!

Total solar eclipse – day 1

Friday August 18th

Our trip to see the eclipse started immediately after school that Friday when we picked up Tina.

On our way to Nashville, we passed Waco. The city is situated along the Brazos River and the 22nd most populous city in the state (data from 2010).Β Baylor University is also located in beautiful Waco. It is a private Baptist university and the oldest continuously-operating in Texas. It has a 1,000 acre campus and is therefore considered the largest Baptist university campus in the world!

We needed gas so we stopped at Buc-ee’s in Temple. It was the first time I had ever entered the Texas based convenience store and I was stunned by how huge it was. You can buy anything you think of: all kinds of food and beverages, (cook)books, cast iron skillets, clothing, signs, plush toys, cowboy hats, fishing/hunting gear, keychains, Texas souvenirs, jewelry, gas (ranging from 80 till 120 fuel pumps!) literally anything you could ask for. No 18 wheelers are allowed, though. The store in New Braunfels was named the 2012 “Best restroom in America”. This is also the largest convenience store in the world: it features 120 fuel pumps, 83 (!) toilets, 31 cash registers and 80 fountain dispensers! Their advertising is simple and humorous and goes like this: “The top 2 reasons to stop at Buc-ee’s: #1 and #2” or “Don’t worry, P happy”. If you’d like to read more about Buc-ee’s, visit the link here.

It was quite busy on the road and I wondered if it was because of the eclipse. Philippe thought it was just because the weekend started.

We finally arrived at our hotel in Rockwall (North-East of Dallas). It was located near Lake Hubbard Reservoir. Because of its location in a densely populated area, the (fresh water) lake is crossed by several bridges. The most significant being Interstate 30 with 6 lanes on a 2.9 mile (4,7 km) causeway!

Tine eating a huge burger! She now eats more than her dad! No more kids menus for her πŸ™‚

First week of school

Wednesday, August 16th, was the first day of school, both for Hanna and Tina.

Before school starts, for Tina, there is a “school supply drop off” moment. It was on Friday. The same day students also receive their locker combination. Last year Tina tried several times to open her locker but it just wouldn’t cooperate. Philippe tried it once and it opened in a blink of an eye. This year she was not nervous at all and everything went smooth. Even the nurse’s files were up to date! YAY, she’s in!

On Monday Hanna had a “meet the teacher” event. She was wondering who her new teacher might be, what her class would look like and which students/friends from last year would be joining her. For my American friends: in Belgium (most of the time) you have the same friends in your class from 1st till 6th grade. For my Flemish friends: you are very lucky if you have someone from last year in your class! So of course Hanna was very excited to meet her class mates. There is only 1 girl from last year in her class, all the others are new to her.

For both of them, the first day was a blast. For Hanna returning home was not so pleasant. Her bus broke down at school and they had to wait for another one. This took about 30 minutes. In the meantime they had to wait outside in the sun (100F or 40C). She was all sweaty and thirsty. Luckily Thursday and Friday there was no problem.

This first week was over before it even began!

Why in English

Some of you might wonder why I’m starting to blog in English. Well, actually, it’s because of my mom.

A couple of weeks ago she recommended a book she was reading called “the Underground Railroad” by Colson Whitehead. It’s a novel about slavery on plantations in Georgia. It’s been rewarded with several prizes such as the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the 2017 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence. She read it in Dutch. As there is no Dutch version here I start reading the English one. Unfortunately, the vocabulary used in the book is too difficult for me to understand. I have to look up so many words that I decide to give it up.

So in our next conversation I tell her about my struggles. All of a sudden she says: you should work on your vocabulary instead of quitting! If you want to get better, you should challenge yourself. And you know what? She’s right πŸ™‚ ! Of course she is, moms are always right! If I ever want to get a job in administration, I need to get out of my comfort zone!

So as of now I’ll be blogging in English. It might take me a little longer, but with Tine’s list I can do it! Yes I can!