Crawdaddy

They just invited 350,000 people to a party. What could go wrong?

SouthernIllinoisEclipse.com is the website to visit if you have a hankering to fly too close to the disappearing sun.
SouthernIllinoisEclipse.com is the website to visit if you have a hankering to fly too close to the disappearing sun. SouthernIllinoisEclipse.com

Most people will do the sensible thing. They’ll dash out after lunch, look up at the slowly disappearing sun with their approved eclipse glasses, then scurry back to the grindstone.

Most people. Sensible.

Then there’s me.

A few months ago, I saw the good people up near my hometown in Southern Illinois were getting ready to host an eclipse party. Seems most of them live in the path of greatest totality. Southern Illinois even has an eclipse committee.

And it turns out, the eclipse is the day after the Koenig Reunion, which is my mother’s side of the family and a reunion I haven’t been able to make in decades.

So far, so good. Luckily, I have family nearby. Motel rooms, which are few and far between, have been booked for months. The dorm room in Schneider Hall that my parents paid $375 per quarter, which included three meals a day, is going for $800 a suite for two days. (That’s $200 per bed.)

I checked in with Southern Illinois University, my alma mater, which fortunately had no memory of my career there. They did promise press credentials and said they’d be back in touch. A friend from high school said I could stop by her house, which is just north of the eclipse’s center line.

The plan is coming together. Correct?

Correct. Until.

The first inkling came from a friend who was passing along some eclipse party “tips.” They came from Rick Linton, executive director of Rend Lake Area Tourism. Among them:

▪  Have all your vehicles filled with fuel to avoid shortages and long lines.

▪  If you must travel, have drinking water in your vehicle in case you become stranded.

▪  Check on the elderly to ensure they have all their needs.

This sounds like a hurricane preparedness list. I was promised a party.

But it gets better. Back then, they were bracing for 100,000 or so extra people across the middle of Southern Illinois.

Tuesday, I had another message.

Now they’re saying there could be 350,000 visitors in a two-county area that normally is home to about 134,000.

“State authorities believe that by Friday, August 18, most of our main roads will become impassable,” a friend of hers wrote. “This includes interstates 57, 24 and 64. And God-forbid if we have more interstate crashes, as we do on a near-daily basis. Any state route with a number on it (especially 13, 37, 127, 146, 147, 148, 149 and US route 51) could become impassable as well.”

Again, the advice is “stock up.”

“If you are going to the ‘center line’ to get a better view (Blue Sky Vineyard, Makanda, Bald Knob Cross, Giant City, Ferne Clyffe, Golconda, etc,) consider that it’s gonna take a long time to get down there and get back, due to traffic that the roads down there are not designed to handle. Keep enough drinks and snacks in your car, as if you were planning a long trip to Chicago because you could potentially be stuck in your car for several hours.”

So by now you’re probably thinking, I’m not going.

You kidding? That would be the sensible thing. But if you’re expecting a lot of coverage from me, consider this final fun fact:

“Don’t attempt to upload pictures of the eclipse or Livestream it while it’s going on. Cellphone and WiFi services are almost certain to crash. NASA will be live-streaming it from Carbondale, and other locations across the country, so there’s no need to live-stream it for your friends who can’t see it. You can upload your pictures and video later after all the visitors leave.”

Demand for solar eclipse glasses is so high, scammers are making counterfeits. Make sure yours are effective.

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