Chasing Eclipses on a Tight Schedule

Things have tightened up around the total solar eclipse that crosses The States in August.  If I can make it back for the 23rd I’ve got a conference I can attend to demonstrate virtual reality, and who wouldn’t want to do that?  The conference would also pay for the trip, so that’s nice.  Timing and weather are the key factors in making this work.  This eclipse is also a two for one deal because it happens right over the Tail of the Dragon at about 2:30pm on August 21st.

 There are a lot of very detailed maps out there showing you where the path of totality is thundering across the Earth’s surface at over six hundred miles per hour.  From 1:05pm local time to about 4pm is the time it takes for the moon to go tip to tip over the sun.  Totality only lasts from 2:33:54pm to 2:36:25pm – a scant two and a half-ish minutes, then daylight returns.

Taken from the interactive Google eclipse map

I’ve seen partial eclipses before but I’ve never seen totality, so that’s the goal (that and riding the Dragon).  Fortunately Deal’s Gap and the road to the Fontana Dam are right in the path of this once in a life time (in North America) event.

I’ve got to boogie home after seeing totality.  If I’m on the road by 3pm local time, how much time can I make before stopping for the night?  Now for the iron-butt portion of the trip.

The conference kicks off late morning on Wednesday, August 23rd in Toronto.  As long as I’ve gotten my ass home by Tuesday night, all is good in the world.

It’s a 360 mile interstate blast to Dayton, Ohio (home of Les Nessman!).  Google Maps says just over six hours.  With a couple of stops call it seven.  If I’m on the way by 3pm, I should be stopping for the night between 9 and 10pm – just after a late summer sunset.

Day two is a long distance run up to the Canadian border and back home – just over four hundred miles.  If I were under way by 9am, with a few stops and some lunch, I’d be home by 6pm-ish; totally doable.

With the back end compressed, the front end of the trip becomes my only chance to ride the Appalachians on the way down…


South through Buffalo and into the mountains, then it’s three days of winding Appalachian roads and Blue Ridge Parkways south to Cherokee in the heart of the Smokey Mountains.  


If I left on the Thursday before, I could do Thursday and Friday nights on the road south, Saturday and Sunday nights in Cherokee near the Tail of the Dragon, Monday night near Cincinnati on the way back and then home again.  It’s a lot more interstate than I’d normally go looking for, but it’s still a once in this lifetime opportunity.

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