2024.04.07 – 11 Total Eclipse & International Travel

Sunday, April 7 – Total Eclipse

The Great North American Eclipse passes through Southeastern Oklahoma on Monday, and we are going to witness it.  We had made our hotel reservations in Idabel exactly one year ago, in anticipation.

Eclipse Map

There has been a tremendous amount of build-up related to how much extra traffic is expected in SE OK for this event.  Many tens of thousands more cars than the small communities are used to hosting.  With this in mind, we decided to get to Idabel as early the day before, on Sunday, as possible.  We arrived in Idabel in the early afternoon and were pretty underwhelmed with the traffic – maybe everyone will show up tomorrow?

Made it to Idabel

With nothing else to do in Idabel, we drove to downtown and walked Main Street as the town wrapped up its Dogwood Days festival.  The offerings were pretty limited. There was a lady selling Tupperware, and another booth promoting something related to Bigfoot.  We wrapped up our visit to downtown in record time!

Stephanie did snag an official eclipse t-shirt from a street vendor before we left the area, so all was not lost.

Official T-Shirt
Eclipse Parking for $200

The rest of our day was spent at the hotel trip planning for Iceland, since we leave later this week.

Iceland Trip Planning

Monday, April 8 – Total Eclipse

It is cloudy in Idabel.  This has been a mild concern leading up to this day, but it’s the weather, what can you do about it?

The total eclipse was scheduled to start in Idabel at 1:45.  The only low cloud cover in the entire state of Oklahoma is in the SE corner, where we are.  At 10am, we decided to pack up and try to find clearer skies in Arkansas.  The weather maps indicated  the promise of blue skies to our NE.  Let’s Go!

Low Cloud Cover in SE OK

We packed the car in record time and hit the road. I drove while Stephanie navigated.  Stephanie was Command Central.  She was switching back and forth between Google Maps, the Weather app, and an Eclipse app.  All in an effort to get us in clear skies to as close to the center of the Path of Totality as possible.

We also enjoyed the “Total Solar Eclipse Playlist” on Spotify by space.com.  You would be surprised how many great songs there are related to the sun and the moon.  It kept us entertained.

It was strange to not see the highways jam packed with visitors hoping to get a view of the eclipse.  The overwhelming crowds were never a thing on our drive.  Good news for us!

After a couple of hours of driving, we started seeing patchy blue skies and eventually mostly blue skies.  Around 1pm, we finally found a stretch of road with a very wide shoulder & pull-off outside of Boles, Arkansas, on Highway 71.  We pulled over where we found 4 other vehicles that had also decided this was the place to see the eclipse.

Parking at Bole
Hottest Spot in Boles

We had a very picturesque spot, right where the road passed over Northern Creek.  There was a Dad and two kids playing down near the water for most of the time leading up to the eclipse.

Serenity at the Eclipse

Stephanie and I ate some lunch we had packed for the weekend, and would occasionally use our eclipse glasses to monitor the growing shadow.  We were also keeping in touch with the rest of the family and monitoring how everybody’s experience was going.

I should point out that several months ago when I purchased our eclipse glasses online, did I think  it would be a good idea to get the standard glasses everybody wears?  No, I selected a pair that you hold like binoculars, as they actually had a 2x zoom built into them.  I enjoyed the zoom, but there’s something to be said for being able to use eclipse glasses hands-free.  Next go-round, I’ll get both!

Steve Looks At The Sun
Stephanie Looks At The Sun

At 1:49, as expected, the moon fully covered the sun, and the fastest four minutes of our lives started.  It was incredible.  I let out a whoop.

The pictures we took do not do it justice, but during the four minutes, we put our glasses down and could view the eclipse with the naked eye.  The only part of the sun visible was the corona.  We saw a rainbow of colors in the corona – something I had not read about being able to see beforehand.

Total Eclipse!
Visible Planets

One neat thing was being able to see stars and planets in the sky while it was so dark in the vicinity of the sun.  Most clearly visible were Venus to the lower right of the sun, and Jupiter to the upper left of the sun.  Astronomy!!!

As the video below shows, it looked like dawn on the horizon and as you looked up and closer at the sun, the sky became dark.  Such a surreal experience.

We didn’t stick around too much longer after the total eclipse.  We collected our things and began our drive back to Tulsa, which took around 5 hours.  We did catch a little bit of “eclipse traffic” driving north to I-40, enough that we felt the need to get an ice cream reward.   We stopped at the Dairy Freeze in Fort Smith, Arkansas.  Highly recommended! 

Dairy Freeze!

We were back home by 7:30.  We loved our Eclipse-Chasing adventure, but knew that it was time to put the eclipse behind us, and start thinking about Iceland.  Northern Lights, anyone?

Thursday, April 11 – International Travel

Today’s airport shuttle driver, our very own son, Miles, picked us up at 4:45am.  And so our travel day begins, that will not end until 6:00am tomorrow.  Destination: Iceland.

Miles with us at TUL
Miles drops us off at TUL

Our day starts with Southwest flights from Tulsa to St. Louis, and then on to NYC.  We arrived at LaGuardia around Noon, and we had 8 hours until our flight to Reykjavik, which unfortunately departs from Newark. In advance, we booked a transport van to get us from Queens to Newark, New Jersey. 

Prior to the pickup around 2:00, we grabbed some lunch from Juniors in the LaGuardia food court, and ate it in Baggage Claim, surrounded by our suitcases.  A travel twist on fine dining.

Juniors at LaGuardia
Baggage Claim Dining

The transport driver called us in advance to make sure we were ready (we were), and he showed up in a sprinter van that was fully equipped with a disco ball.  We were the only two passengers so this was looking like a great way to spend an afternoon.  But once we departed, the driver advised that he needed to pick up some passengers at JFK Airport, before heading to Newark.  No worries, as we have built in an excessive amount of fluff in today’s schedule.

Loading up in the Sprinter Van
Steph and the Disco Ball

Altogether, the drive from LaGuardia to JFK to Newark International took 2 hours and 7 minutes, which is oddly about the amount of time it took to get from St. Louis to LaGuardia. (shrugs shoulders)

Once we got settled at the Newark Airport, we found the Iceland Air desk and got in line at 4:30pm.  The desk has a sign that it opens at 5:00pm.  No problem.  We are the 4th couple in line!

We brought 2 checked bags and 2 carry-on bags + our personal items for this trip.  The desk agent advised that since our seats are nearly in the last row of the plane, and the plane loads from front to back, there is no chance there will be overhead bin space for our carry-on, so we had to check them.  It was a bummer, but not the end of the world. (Update: there was plenty of room for our carry-on on this flight.  We got bad info!)

Iceland Air flies out of Terminal B at Newark, and we are here to tell you to avoid Terminal B at all costs.  It was janky and straight out of the 1970s.  Security was a mess, and those of us with TSA pre-check had to wait about 5 minutes for an agent to come over and man the metal detector, while everyone else breezed right through their lane.  (First world problems.)

We finally got to our seats in the terminal about 2 hours before boarding.  We spent this time snacking, and strategizing when to take our sleep-aids.  The flight to Iceland departs at 8:25pm and takes 5 hours, and due to the time difference, we will land in Iceland at 6:15am.

While waiting for boarding, we were entertained by several birds that had got in and were flying around inside, plus watching a couple of foreign 2yos playing with each other, laughing nonstop with their game of peek-a-boo with each other. 

The loading process was very chaotic, especially since we did not really understand how it worked until it started.  They would announce that customers in the first 5 rows could board, then the next 5 rows, etc., and this continued to the end of the plane (which, we were obviously in the last group).

Chaos in the Queue

Blankets and Miniature Pillows

As it was an overnight flight, all the seats had a blanket and little pillow sitting in them.  Nice touch, Iceland Air!  All we have to do is catch a few winks and wake up in Iceland.  Sleep tight!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.