Fort Collins to Omaha - Solar Eclipse in Brule
Today was the big day. I woke up early and looked out the window. I was surprised that Babe was the only car left at 6:00AM. I guess everyone else was off to look at the sun. I took care of coffee and poop and packed up the car and was off with the throngs to gaze at nature.
I saw right away that the lines in MiniNav's map were red which meant bad, slow traffic. I was prepared to join the processional, but took a wrong turn that ended up to be a mitzvah, if I'm using that right. Mini recalculated based on my wrong turn and came up with "stay on this road for 96 miles." So I was happy to take a non-highway route if it was going to flow. And with this, I was off...
But then, in the town of Ault (calling itself A. U.nique L.ittle T.own) there was some major road construction that exposed the truth of the amount of traffic using this road. So I waited for quite a long time as one by one, each car slowed to a near stop to roll over some treacherous goings on, and then gained speed and a comfortable space cushion when it emerged on the other side. Until it was my turn, and then with this, I was off....
Until I got an indication from my tire pressure monitor, which I've had trouble with in the past, many times, and it's a bit of Boy Who Cried Wolf at this point, so I just clicked "reset" and kept driving. I did this a couple of time, but then noticed something I'd never seen before, even with all my troubles. It read 0.0 psi in one of the tires.
Then it struck me that a couple of days ago I started feeling like there was a drag in the car and I thought I heard a new sound. I pulled over to the nearest gas station and dropped some quarters into the air hose vending machine. I wasn't getting a reading on the pressure from the gauge, so I just kept filling it. I knew the gauge worked; I saw it work when I first approached the machine. So it was strange not to see it respond. When I stopped pumping long enough, I noticed that the sound of whistling air was not stopping. I could hear it escaping from the tire as fast as I was filling it!
I called Mini and the nearest dealers was back in Littleton, which was at least 90 minutes, back into Denver on a good day. And with traffic today, there was no way I was going back to Littleton and then all the way to Omaha! But at Mini, she told me that I could get the drive flat tires that Mini uses at most places. So I asked at the gas station for the nearest tire shop.
He took off my tires and I was shocked to see three dime sized holes in my tire! I didn't understand how it held any air at all, but I was impressed that these really are "Drive Flat" tires. But the GoodYear guy was out of Drive Flats. And he called around to all the tire shops in the vicinity to no avail. So I had him put on a right size, but not Drive Flat tire, just so I could get back on the road. I'd already forgotten about being able to see the eclipse and was now concerned with getting into Omaha in the middle of the night.
But he was done quickly and had me back on the road within an hour. And with that, I was off...
Based on my calculations, I would be able to stop at a Rest Area in Ogallala just as the eclipse was starting. I didn't think I would make it into totality zone, but at least I could see it. But then I had a vision of all the (many) vehicles that were with me on the Interstate, also all knew the eclipse was about to start and that the Rest Area was ahead. I wondered if it would be a scene, if there'd be no parking, and if there'd be a line of cars backed up on the highway waiting to get in. Based on what I'd seen already, it didn't seem far-fetched, and I didn't want to be stuck in my car during the event.
It was then I noticed a sign saying Brule was that way, one mile. I thought it was kind of weird because I'd had an experience in Brule last year that didn't seem like much, but I remembered feeling an odd fondness for the little nothing of a place. Even looking at my blog about that day I glossed over the memorable hour River and I spent hanging out by that sign and watching a train go by. So I decided to re-create my last spontaneous stop in Brule and it was from the very same place that I watched the heavenly event unfold.
Afterward, it seemed eerily unimportant. All of this fuss and poof. Then it was business as usual. I did end up stopping at the Rest Area in Ogallala and there was no sign of any festivities or mayhem having taken place. People were resting.
We found a lake with a sign. I wish I had taken a picture of it. It said "NO" on the top line in big letters and then in smaller letters the next line was "Boating" and the third and final line was "Swimming". It wasn't really a sentence so I had to interpret it. And the way I read it was "No boating; Swimming!" Everyone grab your suit. I didn't go in, but I did let River wade in it a little bit.
Once back on the road again, I started getting a headache and checked the Mini computer to learn that it was nearly exactly six hours of accumulated drive time that day. It's starting to become a hard rule that I can tolerate no more than six hours of driving in a day. I was still two hours from Omaha.
I made it in, checked into a new location of Motel 6 and nearly gagged at the bleach smell when I opened the room to my door. I turned off the mildewy fan and instead turned on the bathroom fan. I sprayed some essential oils and went out to take River for a long walk. It had mostly dissipated by the time we got back, so that was fortunate. My headache went away eventually and I wasn't disturbed by the loud TV in the next room or the people I could hear in the lobby right outside my door. I fell asleep easily.