A Totality Disappointment in St. Joseph, Missouri

A totality disappointment. Jon Newhall lies down to view the eclipse of the sun from Heritage Park, St. Joseph, MO. Photo by Barbara Newhall

A totality disappointment on the banks of the Missouri River: Jon located a comfy slope to view the Aug. 21 total eclipse of the sun at Heritage Park in St. Joseph, Missouri. Soon it started to rain, so we headed for cover at the Softball Park pavilion. Photo by Barbara Newhall

By Barbara Falconer Newhall

“Want to go see the totality?” Jon said. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. We could go to someplace like Nebraska or Missouri and be right in the path of the eclipse. ”

“Eh, I dunno. Sounds like a lot of trouble for two minutes of drama.”

End of conversation.

Two days later, without telling me, Jon booked flights and a hotel reservation. And on August 20, we found ourselves in the totally delightful city of St. Joseph, Missouri. We scored a sixth floor room at the Radisson, within

A totality disappointment: Eclipse chasers from around the world gathered in the Heritage Softball Park pavilion, St. Joseph, MO, to watch the 2017 total eclipse of the sun. Photo by Barbara Newhall

Eclipse chasers from around the world gathered at the Heritage Softball Park pavilion to await totality. Photo by Barbara Newhall

A totality disappointment: Eclipse chasers in deep darkness during total sun eclipse in St. Joseph, MO, August, 2017. Photo by Barbara Newhall

Though they couldn’t see the eclipse through the clouds, eclipse chasers found themselves in deep darkness during the totality. Photo by Barbara Newhall

spitting distance of the Missouri River and a short drive to the city’s Heritage Park and Softball Stadium, our chosen totality viewing site.

On Monday we were up early, for us. We packed water, extra camera batteries and several pairs of eclipse viewing goggles. In St. Jo, totality would begin at 1:06 p.m. and last about 2 1/2 minutes.

  • At 10:15 a.m. we arrived at the park’s jam-packed public parking lot. The sky was cloudy, but only partly. We caught a glimpse or two of the moon taking its first bites out of the right side of the sun.
  • At 12:40, with 26 minutes to go till totality, partly cloudy gave way to cloudy, which gave way to rain. We headed for cover in the Heritage Park Softball Stadium.
  • At 1:00 p.m. the rain let up.
  • At 1:06 p.m., the moon slipped between us and the sun — and so did a big fat gray cloud.
  • Things got dark, really dark.
  • An orange sunset appeared on the horizon.

    A totality disappointment: The sky turned dark and the horizon turned orange during August, 2017, total eclipse of the sun at St. Joseph, MO. Photo by Barbara Newhall

    The sky turned dark and the horizon turned orange. Photo by Barbara Newhall

  • My husband disappeared into the darkness, along with the small crowd of eclipse chasers from all over the world who’d gathered at the softball pavilion.
  • A single bright planet — probably Venus — shone through a break in the clouds off to the west.
  • A little later, the clouds broke a bit and we caught sight of the sun beginning to peer out from behind the moon. I snapped a picture.
  • A friendly eclipse chaser took our picture.

    A totality disappointment: Jon and Barbara Newhall sport eclipse viewing glasses and snazzy eclipse T-shirts for the total solar eclipse in St. Joseph, MO, August, 2017. Barbara Newhall photo

    That’s us. Barbara Newhall photo

We had traveled 1700 miles to see the totality. The moon came between us and the sun, as promised. But so did a big fat cloud. The totality had happened without us. Our disappointment was total. And Jon’s hopes of checking a totality off his bucket list of things to do before he died were dashed.

Well, not entirely.

“There will be another one in Patagonia in 2020,” he said. “Want to go?”

I said yes.

More about Jon and the vagaries of nature at “For Wetter, for Drier I’m Married to California.” More about nature as I see it at “Yosemite Rocks. And Sometimes It Rolls.” 

A totality disappointment. A fat cloud blocked the view of totality during Aug. 21, 2017, solar eclipse at St. Joseph, MO. Photo by Barbara Newhall

A fat, dark cloud arrived at 1:06 for a total totality disappointment.

A totality disappointment: A "star." probably Venus, appeared through a break in the clouds during the 2017 total solar eclipse in St. Joseph, MO. Photo by Barbara Newhall

A bright planet, probably Venus, appeared in a break in the clouds to the west.

A totality disappointment: A sliver of sun appears as the total eclipse of the sun begins to wane in St. Joseph, MO, August 2017. Photo by Barbara Newhall

A sliver of sun shone as the moon began to move away. Photos by Barbara Newhall

Travelers’ note: Yeah. We had a totality disappointment. But St. Joseph was a fun place to visit — small and easy to get around. We had time to visit the old west Pony Express Museum and the gory Glore Psychiatric Museum. I took a walk and got photos of St. Joseph’s historic Victorian architecture. Lots of fancy brick work — and boarded up windows. Sigh.

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Comments

  1. Ann Teixeira says:

    Come to Boston in 2024 when we’ll have 93% of totality! Most of the U.S. won’t see this one, but we’re in a pretty good location for ‘close to’ totality.

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