Monthly Archives: August 2017

Eclipse in Beatrice

Vivian and I took a trip down to the Homestead National Monument in Beatrice yesterday and got “mooned” along with ten thousand other people (and Bill Nye the Science Guy), but it was an eclipse that nearly wasn’t.

I’d had the date for the Great American Eclipse on my calendar since I lived in Lincoln nearly a decade ago. People from all over the country came to be in the path of totality with us, and driving an hour or two to see it was relatively easy. The kids had to stay with Grammy and Pop-Pop for the day, as we weren’t sure we could keep their glasses on throughout the event.


We left town at five o’clock, letting us beat the eclipse traffic and take a shuttle to Homestead National Monument in time for Vivian to catch a glimpse of Bill Nye making the rounds giving TV interviews. Vivian and I took a tour of the museum and got some pizza for a late lunch as the crowds continued to gather. The String Beans played some music for everyone, and Hannah Huston, Lincoln native and contestant on The Voice, sang the National Anthem to kick things off. I also managed to bump into several familiar (political) faces, including Sen. Ben Sasse, Lt. Gov. Mike Foley, and KFAB’s Scott Voorhees.

Our biggest concern was the cloud cover, which the staff in the NOAA tent said would be problematic. The day started off beautifully, but as eclipse time approached, a large chain of rain clouds came and obstructed our view of the sun. The event continued on schedule, even as the rain started coming down on representatives of the US Postal Service as they introduced their new eclipse stamp.


Part of the fun was being able to capture pictures of the eclipse as it happened. I had a modest paper filter and a telephoto lens to get my pictures, but several people brought much more elaborate instruments with them. As the clouds continued rolling by, Bill Nye had a Q&A panel with some members from NASA, and characters from the PBS show Ready, Jet, Go came to perform some music as Eclipse Time approached. (The lead guitarist was actually show creator Craig Bartlett, also known for creating the Nickelodeon show Hey Arnold!)

We got a few, quick peeks of the sun and moon converging as the morning went by, but they were fleeting, and it soon became apparent that we would probably miss seeing totality completely. Bill Nye continued to do more interviews and gave a demonstration of his fancy Eclipse Glasses with a group of people around him during one of the sun’s few peek-a-boo moments.


I got my camera ready as Totality approached, but it was nearly impossible to position the camera as the sky became a mass of thick, gray clouds. Around one o’clock, with a 360 degree sunset all around us, the whole area went from daylight to dark. Then it happened — a fully-eclipsed sun with a glowing corona emerged from the clouds to the screams of glee from the crowd. I snapped a bunch of photos with my camera but took in well over a minute of Totality with my naked eye, barely able to believe we’d actually seen it. A minute or two later, it was glasses on again as the diamond ring effect happened and a giant wave of light burst forth over the crowd.

Nothing quite captures the magic of seeing totality quite like that, and as Vivian said, it was “so much better than staring at a light in a box.”


There were more events even after the eclipse, as the moon moved back away from the sun. Bill Nye brought some Junior Rangers on stage for some Q&A and took the Oath with them and the crowd. He even stayed to sign autographs before doing more media interviews, which was nice. Vivian and I stayed until the park was nearly emptied out, looking inside the homesteaders cabin and watching the eclipse through its final phase. The Spitfire Fiddle Band took the stage to play us out with their fiddles as thousands of people stood in line for a couple hours to ride back to the parking lot.

Everyone at the event did a great job making it a memorable experience for everyone. (And if you didn’t get to buy a couple eclipse glasses for $100 each from a scalper, they had plenty of extras.) One of the best parts of this day was sharing the same celestial experience with so many other people from all over the country. We were sitting next to people from San Diego, San Antonio, Wisconsin, and Minnesota, and we ran into others from as far away as Australia. We were all one family for this moment — regardless of background, beliefs, or political party. It was a beautiful thing.

I’m already getting excited for 2024.

Video highlights from my brother Nathan

Other videos from the event at Homestead National Monument

Summer Wind-Down

Things have been exciting as we’re gearing up for the big solar eclipse here in Nebraska. Of course, there are a few other fun things happening as summer begins to wind down.


We’re still enjoying the last bits of summer together, which means taking in one more movie at the SumTur (Finding Dory) and getting quality time at the local splash parks. The Fountains at Stinson Park are finally up and running, so I brought along my swim trunks for a run through them with the kids during one particularly warm lunch break.

We also dropped by Seymour Smith park for an afternoon run through the spray ground there after work. Aaron specifically wanted to see the “blue buckets” again after having seen them in action at his birthday party back in June.


On the Friday before the Eclipse, I took the day off to go to Lincoln with the kids for some quality time at Lost in Fun. I’d brought Hannah and Aaron there a couple times before when doing freelance work at Land and Sky during the day, and Hannah had been asking to return for over a year. We all got to jump on the bouncing pillows together and climb around in the plush ball pit, and Hannah and Aaron both got a couple hours of slides, carts, and bubbles together. Afterward, we had a late lunch at Big Sal’s pizza before heading home, per the norm.


That evening, Aunt Jessica invited us to spend some time in her apartment complex’s pool while it was still warm. The kids got to try out some goggles and beat each other with pool noodles for an hour or two as we finished off the day.

Then on Saturday, we went to Papillion for a Nebraska-style family photo shoot just in time to lose Hannah’s favorite toy, Zoe the Cat, making for a frustrating launch into Eclipse Weekend.

Eclipse Talk and Fun Plex

Summer’s quickly cooled down, making for lovely weather to take the kids down to Sandy Park to play outside or have dinner out on the deck at home. There’s also been rain off and on, but our kids still manage to have fun even indoors.


If you haven’t heard by now, there’s a total eclipse of the sun coming up on August 21. Vivian and I plan to brave the crowd and traffic and head to Beatrice (AKA “Ground Zero”) to catch a glimpse of it.

The Fontenelle Nature Center had a fireside chat at Camp Brewster on Friday to tell the little ones all about the eclipse with a demonstration using balloons (Hannah got to be the sun), eclipse glasses for us to try out, and a reading of the story “Someone Is Eating the Sun.” Hannah and Aaron seemed a bit more interested in climbing on trees and a fence to look at the view of the river, but I hope in a week or two they’ll want to catch a glimpse of an eclipse as well (with the glasses, of course).

On Sunday, I returned to the Nature Center to hear a few guys from Rockbrook Camera give a brief talk on eclipse photography. I learned that I could get a paper solar filter for a little less than the $150 products I’d seen in my dad’s photography catalog, so I went ahead and ordered one so I could get a snapshot of a few phases other than “totality.”


Then on Wednesday, I took the day off so we could take our kids to Fun Plex for the very first time. I’d visited the park with Vivian twice before, but this was the first time we’d made use of the kids’ attractions. Hannah and Aaron got to ride the merry-go-round, the cars, the planes, the train, and the alligator roller coaster multiple times throughout the day. They were both also tall enough to ride the bumper boats with mommy and daddy as we tried puttering about and squirting each other with water, and we all went up in the balloon ferris wheel as a family. There had been rain in the forecast that fortunately passed us by, leaving us free to enjoy getting wet at the water park as well. The kids spent most of their time in the kiddie pool or sliding around the new Makana Splash area.

We took a lunch break across the street at Dairy Queen before coming back for more water and rides. Mommy and daddy even got time to try some “adult” things as well, doing the roller coaster, cars, and big water slide at least once before calling it a day.

It’s a cool, cruel Summer

We’re into the home stretch of summer now, which strange since it feels like it only just got started. That means getting quality time in the red wagon and picnics in the front yard among the daisies while they’re still in bloom.


On Friday night, we made our first trip to the SumTur this season to see Lego Batman. Kate brought along her girls, who ran up and down the steep hill with our kids and danced in front of the stage, much to the amusement of us and Aunt Jessica (who recorded most of it). Coming to this little outdoor theater has been a tradition since Hannah was born, so I’m glad the weather stayed lovely for our visit.

The next day, I toted Aaron to grandma and grandpa’s house so I could mow their lawn while he played with blocks and got quality play time with grandma. Grandpa grilled up some burgers for lunch, and then I headed back to the house to help Vivian clean the garage during Aaron’s nap-time. We finally got the remnants of our garage sale cleared away so we could put the cars back into the garage, which was a relief.


On Monday, I got meet Congressman Jeff Fortenberry at a town hall meeting. He’s actually been my congressman for over a decade, (I actually helped print his campaign materials when I worked at a little print shop back in 2004), so it was kind of nice to finally meet the guy.

Attendees to the town hall seemed to be mostly older folks, and they were much better-behaved than the rainbow-haired upstarts who came to yell at Deb Fischer back in mid-June. About half the crowd seemed to be left-wing, everyone remained courteous, which was nice. Jessica Ritchie was there to record the event for KMTV, but I unfortunately couldn’t keep my fat head out of her shots.


Toward the end of this week, the weather took an unexpected turn for the cool side, so we brought the kids to Stinson Park for a lunchtime play break. They got to have burgers and chicken nuggets, while mommy and I had some dim sum from Golden Mountain across the street. The fountains around the spire were also (finally) turned on for the summer, so the kis wasted no time in getting all wet before realizing 72 degrees and windy made getting soaked a bit more chilly than they were expecting. Fortunately, mommy had spare dry hoodies to keep them warm for some slides and hopscotch before going home.

Then that evening: English Muffin pizzas.