Eclipse at the Reservoir

I’m going to try my hand at a slightly different style here, so let me know how it goes.  You’ve already got most of the details on Nashville anyway, and this could be fun, so I hope you enjoy reading!

Waking up early, I was my usual self.  Pretending I’m a morning person can take it’s toll on my from time to time, and my body decided it would be today.  Just a bit gruff, I woke up my girlfriend and my son, and we started to get ready for the morning.  Our last day in Nashville coincided with the “Great American Eclipse,” and I wasn’t about to miss out on this event just so they could sleep. Besides, I knew they’d thank me later…

As I waited for the other two, I packed up the car, and made a mental note of all the things I hadn’t done the day before.  For one, I hadn’t packed the car up.  Nobody hung up the kiddo’s swim trunks to dry.  I didn’t swing by the grocery store for snacks.  We were going to the lake for the day, but I still didn’t really know where we were going to watch the eclipse.  Hey, we had a rental car and a full tank of gas, what could go wrong? We piled up and drove towards the nearest grocery store.  In addition to a picnic lunch, somebody had added a floatie to the shopping list.  No, Food Lion doesn’t carry inflatable tubes, so I turned and drove north towards the shopping plaza that housed the nearest Target. Of course, north was not the direction of the lake.

I wasn’t sure what to expect on the roads, but luckily there wasn’t much traffic.  I was awake by now, and I figured all the other eclipse-chasers were still waking up, we had plenty of time to set up camp!  Then in the back of my head, that scratchy morning voice reminded me that we were running a little late, and folks might be piling into the parking areas near the lake already.  My bare foot pressed down on the gas pedal a bit more.

The rental felt like a local, I almost knew where to go when I was behind the wheel.  We fit right in with the rest of the Nashvillians (or so I thought).  I mean, it even had Tennessee plates, what more could you ask for?

Leaving Target with arms full of snacks for the day, some Gatorade and water, and a local brewer’s 6-pack in one hand to match the beach day, we finally set off for the lake. Don’t worry, we didn’t forget the floatie… I was still nervous about the timing, so we cruised right along toward the lake. As we pulled up, I snagged a bent $5 bill from my pocket, and handed it to the park ranger working the gate.

“Beautiful day for the lake, isn’t it?”

I nodded in agreement, and mentioned we were here for the eclipse. She approved of our location, and said it was good that we got here early for a decent parking space. My brain simultaneously guarded itself against this mind reader, and smiled at the recognition. Why, yes, it is good we got here early. I gave my copilot a knowing glance; she disarmed me with a smile.

There was plenty of parking and we found a shady spot beneath a tree to set up camp. I popped the trunk, and we offloaded our gear for the day. The hammock fit perfectly between two trees, and the chair and blanket looked almost too picturesque sitting by the lake. A second later, we had sunscreen on the kid, and he was in the water. Done. I took a moment to relax in the hammock and considered it a successful morning.

 

The J Percy Priest Reservoir was the highlight of the trip – no contest. I have this tendency to move too fast when I travel…it seems to take a comfortable hammock, rocking in the lakefront breeze to remind me that it’s ok to slow down. On the return home, I’ll comment on this to the family, and we will all agree to slow it down on the next adventure. A promise I’ll have a hard time keeping with long weekends in New York and Chicago planned for October.

As other families trickled in, it reminded me of a scene from one of those nuclear shelter movies.  Everything around us was the quintessential American lake day, almost too perfect – waiting for that mushroom cloud to show up in the distance. The water was beautiful. I’m partial to saltwater, but will happily become euryhaline over no swimming at all. Clear, open, and very inviting, we stayed in the water for much of the day, only making landfall for snacks and the occasional fermented beverage.

The beach never really felt crowded, even though the parking lot filled up. At some point, one person finally said, “Look, it’s happening!” I glanced up, if only for a second. The sun looked fine. The moon might have changed its’s mind, and I reached into the bag to get my ticket to the event.

 

I donned my eclipse glasses. Any shame that might typically associated with wearing these clunky shields of paper and plastic quickly wore off when you looked around. Everybody had them, and we shared some extra pairs with those that didn’t. I looked up at the sun again, this time, with the glasses, and I saw it. The moon was creeping into the sun’s path. Just a sliver of the moon upstaged the sun, and even with the glasses it was hard to see. I periodically checked the position, using my trusty goggles, and only really began to get excited when the sun was about half covered by the moon. Even then, nothing looked different to the naked eye. The sun wasn’t going to give up that easy.

It was an interesting feeling. You knew something was going to happen, people were around, and everybody had those funny glasses on their heads. You just weren’t quite sure what was going to happen. About another hour went by, and everyone started to tune in. The day started to get darker, visibly. Not like evening, but almost as if someone had put a tint on the sun. You know, like a nightlight. Just a bit darker, almost a twilight covering the lake. The lake was somehow quieter, and it wasn’t until later that day we realized all of the wildlife had stopped chirping, buzzing, and flying around. The temperature dropped, and we all made sure we had our glasses.

The next two and a half minutes was nothing short of breathtaking. And, though I can’t figure out why, it seemed to last only as long as a breath. It’s one of those things that your mind does when faced with something extraordinary. It flies by, much faster than it ought to according to the established rules of physics. A cheer rose up across the lakefront, and everyone joined in. We were congratulating the moon on this monumental task, usurping the sun’s position at the center of our universe, if only for a few minutes.

In totality, you can remove your glasses. Looking directly at the eclipse, I was amazed at the simplicity of it all. Cover the sun. Want to change the world? Just follow these steps. An infomercial comes to mind – “It’s EASY! Just do this! But wait, there’s more!”

Is there more? Just as quickly, it was over. We struck up an interesting conversation with some folks that had also come down from Boston, and kept glancing up at the sun, trusty glasses in place. The moon was hanging onto it’s victory, making sure it covered as much of the sun as it could. The sun patiently waited, knowing it wouldn’t be long before resuming her rightful place in the hot Tennessee summer.

We ended the trip with excited spirits, having just witnessed what was touted as a once-in-lifetime event, and seamlessly got back to our normal lives. We drove home, packed up a few things, and hit the city for some pizza. Though the eclipse had come and gone a few hours ago, the effects of the eclipse were still felt…

“Hi, yeah, I’ll take a Blackberry Sour, please.”

“Shoot, sorry! We’re out of that one,” she replied, looking down at the menu.

“No worries, how about the the Black Abbey Gose?”

“No problem!” Our waitress gets about 5 feet from the table, and abruptly turns around. “You know what, we’re out of the Gose too, I’m so sorry! It’s just with the eclipse, and everyone in town, this weekend’s been kind of crazy..”

She falters, tired no doubt, from the influx of customers over the weekend. For a Monday afternoon, it does seem kind of busy in the bar. I enjoy the honesty, and my feet start to ache just a bit. Maybe I’m realizing how close we all are on this planet. How something as simple as the movement of the moon can get a whole beach to cheer in unison, when we don’t even know their names. Or maybe I just remember my restaurant days – never the right shoes, always tired feet. I think for a moment..

We settle on a Maple Brown Ale, as my son stares at the NFL on screen with just a hint of exhaustion in his eyes, and my partner in crime gives me an inquisitive look. Not an ordinary beer order for me, she’s right. The way I see it, the whole world went dark today, why don’t I try something new?

-FH

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