Essay: On being excited for once-in-a-lifetime expereinces

There’s a total solar eclipse happening soon, I don’t know if you’ve heard.

If you haven’t heard, I guarantee that you do not live anywhere near Portland, Oregon, because right now the eclipse has popped right to the top of general conversation topics, sometimes even outranking discussions of the weather, and the continually perplexing antics of the occupant of the White House.

I’ve backed away from these solar eclipse conversations because a lot of them go like this:

Someone:  So what are you doing for the eclipse?
Me:  I’m excited to go to Salem to watch it, ideally from the park in front of the State Capitol building.
Someone: When are you leaving?
Me: I am committed to getting up as early as I need to, in order to get myself to Salem.
Someone: That’s not going to work.

They don’t always say it straight out.  Sometimes it’s a series of follow up questions, each in a tone that says I’m an idiot for thinking my plan will work. Sometimes they lead with it, as in the phone conversation I had last night where the first thing caller said was, “You don’t think you’re actually going to drive to Salem, do you?”  Sometimes it’s a shake of the head and a doubtful lip purse as I outline my plans.

It’s frustrating.  It’s frustrating especially coming from people who know me, and who should know me well enough that “plans” means “detailed itinerary with many options, including multiple backup plans.”  Those same people who know me should also know that when I’m firmly committed to fun and excitement, that I will find it whether or not those plans will come to pass.

What really bugs me people’s inability to see anything but trouble in my excitement. This has lead to more than one frustrated rant on my part.

“When people tell me they are engaged, do I point out to them that statistically, their impending wedding is likely to be a costly endeavor that will end in divorce?” I said to a friend at lunch the other day.  “No, I do not, I congratulate them, because they are excited, and thus, I will be excited with them.”

I get that not everyone thinks experiencing a total eclipse is super cool. I get that not everyone is excited about the influx of people. I get that there might be terrible traffic, clouds, or any number of unknowns that might get in the way of my path to totality.  But when people tell me they don’t like crowds, do I tell them they should suck it up and wade into the crowds for this amazing experience? I do not, because I accept that they will not enjoy an experience with crowds.  I let them be them.  

They need to let me be me, which means not getting in the way of my excitement.

With that out of the way, here’s the plan:

Route option #1.  Portland to Salem via I-5
Route option #2. Portland to Salem following the same route we did when we rode the Oregon Scenic Bikeway.  It’s all back roads straight to the capitol.
Route option #3.  Portland to Salem via a different bike route to Salem, but this one on the west side.


The radio and internet are important supplies.  I will be monitoring the traffic conditions throughout the weekend.  If I’m hearing reports that absolutely no one is getting through to Salem or anywhere in the path of totality, not via any roads, not even those traveling through the night, well then, we will be experiencing the near-total eclipse from Kenton Park, and I will be happy to have the day off, and greatly enjoy 99% of the super cool experience.  

Note that I don’t count the internet as something that will be available during the navigation to the event, as it is possible that the grid will be at capacity and internet will not be something to be relied on.

Maps.  Big state map of Oregon. Pages of relevant maps of the area copied from maps at the library.

Water.  Several gallons, in case we end up spending the day with no access to water.

Food.  In case there is no food to be had.

Full tank of gas. I’m thinking it’s wisest to not count on getting gas anywhere in the path of totality

Books and games.  Things to do when we are waiting, either in standstill traffic, or at the capitol hanging out before or after the eclipse.

Blankets and pillows.  If we’re leaving at 3 am, 1 am, the day of, or 11 pm or 9 pm the night before,  I’m going to need to nap, and I want to be comfortable during that nap.

Toilet paper. Because you never know when you will need toilet paper.

Eclipse glasses.  No eclipse blindness for us.

Phone chargers.  Even if the grid is at capacity, we don’t want to inadvertently cut ourselves off of potential communication because our phones have died.

The most important thing I’m bringing:

A sense of adventure and a sense of fun.  Because even with all my plans, it might not work out.  I might experience the eclipse from the park seven blocks from my house, or from standstill traffic outside the path of totality.  We might run into all sorts of things not anticipated or thought of that mean that we don’t get the unique opportunity of totality.  But when people ask me, “What did you do for the eclipse?” or “Have you ever seen a total solar eclipse?” I’ll have a story to tell. And it won’t be one of how I got up like I do nearly every Monday and went to work, because the obstacles of getting to the unique experience 60 miles away were too high and it seemed like too much of a pain.

One thought on “Essay: On being excited for once-in-a-lifetime expereinces”

  1. It’s strange to me that people have such a hard time supporting others’ enthusiasm. Like, it’s fine if they don’t want to drive to Salem to see the eclipse, fine, but why rain on your parade? I see it happen with all sorts of things. I’ve even done it myself, but I try hard these days not to be “that guy” and just let people enjoy the things that they enjoy.

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