So if you live in the United States, chances are pretty good that you heard about the Big Thing that happened earlier this week. That’s right. I’m talking about that fan-flipping-tastic eclipse.
Or, as we here in Central Oregon like to call it, the ApocEclipse.
Funny thing? It kind of ended up being Y2K all over again. You remember that, right? It was that moment where all the computers and electronics all over the world were going to die because the year was turning 2000 and suddenly life as we knew it was going to end. So everyone stock-piled their food, water and other rations like they would need to survive for months on end because the stores were going to be unavailable and … yeah. Nothing shut down, life went on as normal and we thought we learned our lesson. Well, this was pretty much the same thing.
We Central Oregonians were told to expect as many as 1 million people coming our way because we just so happened to be in the path of totality. So I dutifully did my shopping ahead of time, filled up my car before all the stations ran out of gas, got a couple of cases of water and felt pretty prepared. Only my little city ended up getting bypassed by most of the traffic, so we pretty much prepared for a bunch of nothing. Everyone hunkered down, expecting the worst, so stores were empty, restaurants sat open doing nothing, and the highways were clear apart from a few flurries.
We got a little traffic around the main days of the event, but nothing compared to my little hometown just a few miles away. Turns out, that’s where everyone was going, not here.
So to give a little visual of my area, my current city, Redmond, is surrounded by several other towns and one large-ish city. The town that I was raised in (and where most of my family still lives) is an easy 18 miles away. The population of that town, Prineville, is less than 10,000 people. (What, did you think I was kidding when I said it was small?) The cool thing about Prineville is that it’s just an hour or so away from some of the most beautiful forest Oregon has to offer, the Ochoco Mountains. While most of the forest is BLM property, there’s still some privately owned ranches out that direction. One of those ranches contains a HUGE grassland called Big Summit Prairie.
It’s beautiful out there. When the wildflowers are in bloom, it’s a sea of purple and yellow. Well, the owner of the ranch at Big Summit Prairie decided to make a bit of a profit from this whole eclipse thing, and got a permit that allowed him to rent out his property to an event called Symbiosis. I really don’t know much about Symbiosis other than it looks like basically a modern-day Woodstock. They planned for roughly 30,000 people to show up, and last I heard, the final numbers were closer to 50,000. What does that look like? This:
That’s a lot of people. And unfortunately, there is literally only one way to get to the Ochocos – straight through Prineville. The good news is that most everyone coming through seemed to be pretty respectful, and it did help local businesses boost their profits a bit. It also provided for some hilarious memes:
I could link to some of the pictures of random cars and buses that were rolling through my hometown, but there are too many to choose from. And while traffic in my neck of the woods wasn’t bad at all, Prineville was a whole different story.
As for me? Well, I suppose the photographer in me really wanted to get an epic shot of the eclipse. But I don’t have that kind of equipment yet, and quite frankly, I wanted to just enjoy the experience. So I sat in my backyard, put on my eclipse glasses and joined the cheers of my neighbors when the moment of totality was reached.
And it really was amazing. I’d never gotten to experience anything like it before, so I felt privileged that I could just walk outside my house and get to see something like that. It is most certainly something that you never forget. I think one of the most important things that I’m learning is when to capture a moment and when to enjoy it. Sometimes it’s okay to put down the camera or cell phone and just be content with life. So yes, I didn’t get an epic shot of the eclipse. That’s okay. I still have memories of it, and I probably enjoyed it a lot more because I wasn’t stressed about getting it just right.
Enjoy life, friends. You only get one here on earth.