I first heard that there would be an eclipse passing over Alliance two years ago and after that became a member of the Eclipse Task Force. I attended the monthly meetings and did my part by writing stories for the paper to help get information out to the community. I could go on and on about that whole experience but let’s be honest, that would be a really boring story. Instead I wanted to tell you all my personal experience with the lovely people that I met along that weekend and on the big day.
It has been almost 15 years ago when we moved into our house: a house with the backyard that is completely gravel because the previous owner wanted RV parking for her relatives when they came to visit. We all hate it and have intended to tear it out and plant grass from day one but have not had the means. Well the point of that little tidbit of info was that Eric and I had been playing around with the idea of allowing someone to park in our backyard so I messaged my friend Maria over at the Chamber a week before the eclipse and told her that if an older couple or a family called and were looking for a place to park with electricity to give them my number … I kid you not! Two minutes later my phone rang! “Hi. I heard you have a camping spot with a hookup?” stated the man on the other end.
Ken and Nan Cotton pulled into town that weekend. We made new friends and it ended up working really well because they brought their bicycles and with our location they were able to enjoy all of the festivities around town. They took us out to eat to thank us for our hospitality and we invited them to a BBQ Saturday evening at my parent’s house. They fit right in as if they were part of our family.
That was probably the most unique experience out of the whole weekend but come to find out we definitely weren’t the only ones that had “strangers” staying on our property and we weren’t the only ones that made new friends.
Saturday afternoon after a busy morning of delivering the Times-Herald’s special eclipse weekend Community Guide I decided to take my helper Layla out to eat at her favorite restaurant. Layla, baby Paisley, and myself were waiting for our food when a couple walked in with a local man. We noticed that the couple had very strong French accents so I struck up a conversation and learned (what I had suspected) that they were in Alliance to watch the eclipse.
“I like the country. Here is just like home. I prefer smaller cities and country life,” stated the man.
After watching the eclipse they were going to pick up their children who were flying into Denver and from there they were going to go tour the “Wild West,” Black Hills and Mt. Rushmore before eventually ending up in San Francisco.
I said, “Wow that’s a lot of driving.”
“In France I do a lot of driving and your roads are very wide here. In France they are very narrow so driving is easier here.”
He stated that they had already been out to Carhenge and that they “really enjoyed it.” After eating they planned to visit the museums in town.
They had seen total solar eclipses in France and Africa. He’s excited to see the diamond ring effect because “it’s very bright then … goes dark.”
The night before the eclipse we were out at my parents’ house for a get-together because my mom’s cousins John, Richard, Mike, and Marsha were in town from Colorado to watch the big event. When driving into town that night I was shocked to see the number of cars with people sleeping in them that lined the gas station parking lots and filled other parking lots.
I got home and crawled into bed but could not sleep because I was so excited/nervous for what the next day had in store. I told the girls I was waking them up early so we could make it out to Carhenge. Before I knew it my alarm went off and we were getting ready for the main event.
The girls (Ashlyn, 14 and Layla, 10) had been excited about the big day but they had not been to as many meetings or seminars as I had been so they did not share my extreme excitement for the day. We came up over the hill to Carhenge and the sea of people was a pretty amazing sight to see.
The girls got out of the car and disappeared. I just figured that they were going to go check it out and take lots of selfies because they love going out to Carhenge.
I met the first couple that I spoke with, Tony and Rosie Lim. Their picture was in the Aug. 23 paper and I told their story in the Aug. 26th addition.
They were a cute little couple from Singapore. I introduced them to my girls and explained that Layla’s middle name is Rose but when she’s naughty we call her Rosie. Well Rosie Lim thought that was the coolest thing and stated that they had a grandson named Asher when I told them my other daughter was Ashlyn. Tony offered us chips from his backpack saying, “Come, come! Don’t be afraid, take as much as you want.”
After hearing their excitement for our crops and cattle I straightened out Tony’s confusion that Rapid City was the capital of Nebraska.
“We passed one field that was miles and miles of sunflowers. That guy must be very rich because in Singapore one sunflower is $5,” stated Tony.
Layla then says, as she’s jumping up and down with excitement, “Mommy we’ve got something to tell you! We’ve been interviewing people!”
Oh my goodness … my eyes filled with tears. Definitely a proud mommy moment for me.
Ashlyn added, “Well she wasn’t supposed to tell you because we were doing it to surprise you but we’ve been interviewing people to help you out. We were really nervous at first but decided it would be fun so ‘Why not?!’ then once we talked to the first people it was easy after that.”
They had gotten a notebook from my bag and were taking peoples names and asking them questions.
After grabbing a few more chips from Tony because he insisted, the girls’ and I split up once more to meet more interesting people.
“My kids are so happy that I’m doing something fun. I had to do this once in my lifetime,” stated a woman that stopped me to ask if I would take her picture in front of Carhenge. I said, “If you want to show your kids that you are having fun give me a good, fun pose!”
Turns out she was from Wisconsin (actually the born in the same town Eric was born in) and her name was Carrie. She was here all by herself as a spur of the moment trip.
“I looked at the map and looked at what the weather was going to be like and just started driving. I looked at Casper but heard that it was going to be nuts and I didn’t want that so I drove into Alliance and thought it was really cute. Plus you guys were throwing a really fun party so I stayed!”
The girls’ came running up to tell me that they met a nice couple from Canada. “They were from Saskaton, Skatsta…blah blah,” said Ashlyn.
“You mean Saskatchewan?” I said.
“Yep that’s it! They were Gordon and Carri and they picked Alliance because they heard it was very nice! But then we met our favorite people! They were from Houston, Chris and Adrianne O’Donnell and they let us look through their big telescopes. They said they wanted to go on a road trip and the cars are a great part of America so they thought it would be really cool to check out Carhenge!”
Layla (jumping up and down again) stated, “These people from Colorado that we were interviewing said that they came to Alliance to watch the eclipse just so that they could be interviewed by two young reporters!”
My heart was so full that I couldn’t fight back the tears yet again but just as soon as they ran up to tell me, they were gone again.
I continued to make my way around Carhenge to check out the “interesting people.”
There was a man with a camera snapping pictures of a couple wearing welder’s helmets and dressed in white jump suits that were dancing around and kissing each other.
A big Irish wolfhound was sprawled out on his very own dog bed in the middle of the circle right along side his owners that had reportedly slept on there that night.
There was also a group of young guys that had a wide array of crystals laid out that were chanting and trying to bring good energy to the area.
As I was taking everything in a man approached me and asked if I wanted to see the UFO that he caught on camera at Carhenge before sunrise?
Oh my gosh I thought to myself “YES! I finally found a crazy!”
Well his picture turned out to be of Carhenge with a neon glow surrounding it. It was a letdown to hear that the glow came from the camera crews that were there early this morning setting up their gear.
“They had the whole front of this thing lit up, it was so cool!” said the man whose name was Krash and he had been staying by Carhenge since Thursday.
“I’m working my way to California from Ohio to promote my books … I write kids books as a retirement hobby. Here’s my card,” he stated as he handed me a tiny 1”x1.5” book that said, “Krash’s Children’s Book Catalog-Nonchalantly fishing for inspiration in a sea of possibilities!”
“I came to Carhenge in about 2005 and I was thinking about coming out here anyway because I had not been here in awhile. It was a lot quieter then but this has been a blast! I’ve been chatting with people from all over the world and there’s not too many crazies, which I was pretty surprised about that. Yesterday I chatted with a local who was doing yoga in the middle of the circle at sunrise.”
He then asked where I was from and when I told him he exclaimed, “Aw, locals! You guys have a fun little town that’s about half the size of my hometown.”
I asked if I could take his picture and he stated, “I dare ya! I’m just another crazy out here among my people …”
A cheer came from the crowd because the moon was starting to take its first “bite” out of the sun.
We took our spots and enjoyed the astronomical phenomenon. Shortly after totality the crowd began to clear out but the girls’ wanted to introduce me to their favorite couple that they interviewed. We made our way up the hill to the campground.
Along the way we ran into Willy from Safford, Ariz., and his dog. Willy was walking along playing his guitar and stated, “Totality was flippin’ amazing! I was busy playing “Moon Shadow.”
We soon found Chris and Adrianne from Houston. Chris stated, “Your girls are amazing little reporters and I tell ya what, Alliance put on one heck of a party! It’s clear that you guys really put your best foot forward to welcome America and people from around the world to your town. I hope it was worth it for you guys. We sure could see the town pride! Yesterday we were walking around town and would meet a local person they would grab my hand and shake it eagerly thanking us for coming! I was like ‘Thanks for having me!’ You guys should be really proud of this beautiful place you live in. We are definitely going to come back!”
Adrienne stated that she loved our eclipse community guide and that she was taking one home for her scrapbook. They then gave the girls packages of astronaut ice cream and cheese!
I can not begin to explain the pride I have in my hometown after hearing all of the wonderful, positive things from our visitors that were here on the big day and during the weekend before the eclipse. But to have my girls’ there with me on the big day conducting their very own interviews … priceless!