We left Oxford at noon after Mass on Sunday and drove to Middle Tennessee where we camped at Nathan Bedford Forrest State Park. It was a nice campground and not overly crowded or crazy. We got unpacked, and the kids began setting up the tents and hammocks while we checked in at the office. After we got back and finished setting up sleeping arrangements we went for a walk on a trail to cover our Sunday walk for the training that Matt is doing with the boys. The trail was beautiful, but very steep and rocky. Matt and I enjoyed it, the kids...not so much they were not prepared for so much uphill walking but they lived.
We woke up at about 5am(to beat all the expected traffic) and packed everything up to leave in what I would say was record time for us...just over an hour.
Our first stop on the road was Paris, Tennessee. Where we had the opportunity to see the splendor of the Eifel Tower and then headed to Walmart to stock up for our day with food, snacks, and more water just in case there was lots of crazy.
We were on our way. Several places along the way had highway signs warning of traffic and no stopping off on the highway to view the eclipse. We eventually arrived in Benton and settled on a state park area on the Kentucky Lake. We got to a Marina that looked promising and set up camp. There were lots of people coming and going with boats, but the area wasn't at all crowded.
We found a shady spot and set up some blankets(because we had so much stuff and so little space the camp chairs just didn't fit into the car...we were "roughing it".) We got out the lunch stuff, snacks, and drinks. We set up our pinhole camera and our white board to view the shadows. The kids took out their eclipse adventure papers for while we were waiting(we got there at 9am) and we just hung out along to water's edge.
Eventually another family showed up and they had an amazing telescope. All the kids played together and kept each other company while waiting for totality to arrive. As the kids were talking and playing we realized that everything was beginning to take on an eerie hue and it was getting close.
Things quickly started getting dark, and the temperature began to be noticeably different. As the moon closed on the sun the streetlights began to come on in the distance and a beautiful sunset fell over the sky around us and distant cheers and hollers erupted in the distance as it fell dark. We were able to take off our glasses and see the stars(and Venus I think) had come out and everyone was able to look directly at the eclipse aura. I took a couple of quick pictures before it was over, and as if a light switch was flipped on everything began to return to normal.
We had an amazing time, and even though I was grateful that it wasn't crowded like all of the claims made, I think that it was so much more fun to enjoy the time with someone else, and when it was all done the kids left with new memories and friendships.
We decided to head out before the actual ending of the moon's journey across the sun to continue our journey. Matt and I decided to take the kids to Sikeston, Missouri to go to Lambert's Café...Home of the "throwed" rolls. We set off to Paducha and then headed to Wickliffe and crossed the Ohio River and the Mississippi River because that is the point that the two converge. That was the first time that any of us saw this and it was an amazing site to see. At that point we crossed over from Kentucky to Illinois to Missouri in the span of just a few minutes.
When we arrived there were quite a lot of people there...quite a lot. The line was out the door and around the side of the building in the parking lot. We got there at about 4:30pm and were seated at about 6:10pm. Yes, it was worth the time spent waiting. The kids made friends with all of the other kids running around, climbed trees and played on the wooden train in the front. Lots of the adults were sharing pictures and stories of their eclipse stories. It was actually pretty amazing to see everyone standing around and sharing. The kids had a great time at Lambert's Café. Some of them were able to catch rolls. They looked like gophers when they heard "hot rolls" yelled out. We left there at about 8pm and headed home. We made it back home at about midnight.
So in the span of two days we went from Mississippi, to Tennessee, to Kentucky, to Illinois, to Missouri, to Arkansas, to Tennessee and Back home. I don't think we have covered so many states in one trip.