Note: When we got home after the day’s events I wanted to share some of my thoughts and memories for the day. I thought I’d make a post on Facebook or some other social media site with a couple of ideas. But as I started to write and the word count grew I realized it was too big to hide away on some proprietary site. And thus, here it is as I attempt (once again) to resurrect my blog. I’m hoping to figure out how to include some photos of the day but wanted to get it created and up for public consumption. Enjoy.

We weren’t even sure we were going to try until last night. We had been watching the weather, Alyssa didn’t want to miss school, Andrea initially wasn’t going to be able to get time off from her job. And there were so many things that could go wrong: running into traffic trying to get to Toledo, missing out on parking at the Zoo, not being able to find food, getting caught in nightmare traffic on the way back… but Andrea got a message from her boss saying they would make it work if we wanted to go, and we convinced Alyssa that missing a day of school (where they only count total absences, nothing excused) was okay, and that this… was an adventure. A literal once in a lifetime adventure. So last night I gassed up the car and grabbed some extra snacks at Meijer, then went home and tried to sleep with a cloud of uncertainty and excitement hanging overhead.

So many things went right. We got on the road a little before 9 AM, and we were able to drive at normal highway speeds all the way down US 23, across I-475, and onto the road leading into the Zoo at about quarter to 10, 15 minutes before the zoo itself even opened. We were waved into the half-full but quickly filling lot, and I grabbed a spot where I could pull out quickly. We joined the backed up line around the edge of the parking lot, and once we got to the entrance plaza Andrea found a “members-only” line off to the side where we slipped into the Zoo about 10:30.

We decided to immediately head across the bridge and right to the Elephant enclosure in hopes to see the new baby, Kirk. As we got there a small crowd was forming as he ran between his mother’s legs and put on a show. We were able to watch from a few different angles as he played with a giant ball and climbed on a pile of dirt. It was all so cute and just a wonderful way to relax and enjoy the satisfaction of making it to the Zoo in the first place.

After walking through the rest of the Tembo Trail exhibit we decided it would be good to check out lunch before there was too much of a rush. Around 11:30 we walked into Monarch Marketplace to grab some chicken fingers, fries, and salad. There was a bit of a line ahead of us when we walked in the door but we got our food quickly and when we walked out there were already a dozen people in a line outside waiting to get in. By the time we finished eating the line outside had doubled. We went into the Museum building to see frogs, snakes, and some other displays and by the time we came out the line had probably doubled again. I can’t imagine how long some of those people must have waited.

We walked to take a peek at Tigers, then the Aviary, then headed back across the bridge to see the Arctic and African savanna exhibits. We watched the polar bears swimming and playing for a while before we decided to ride the train. We walked into line just as a train was leaving, and when it came back around we were the last people on the next ride.

The eclipse had just started when we got off the train, and we walked over to the giraffe exhibit, noticing the big crowd of people sitting at the picnic tables and watching the eclipse progress as everyone’s eyes were drawn skyward. We had about an hour before totality, and it was time to stake out our spot.

We headed back to the entrance plaza. In the main gift shop, Andrea found the perfect size of a shirt she had seen at a different gift shop in the park but didn’t have the right size. It was the last one they had. I ran some things to the car as we grabbed a bench in the entrance plaza right next to the main entrance sign. We literally grabbed it and carried it across to the other side to get a better look at the sky. I was playing around with grabbing some iphone photos of the decreasing crescent of the sun through the lens of some eclipse glasses, and Andrea got out the big camera to try to grab a photo of totality.

The minutes were ticking down… 10 minutes, 5 minutes, 2 minutes… With our eclipse glasses on we were all watching the crescent shrink smaller and smaller until it was almost a point. And then, the faint roar of the crowd from across the bridge getting louder and louder. I saw the faint ring of the total eclipse and took off my glasses… I couldn’t contain myself from shouting like I was riding a roller coaster. “Oooh! Oh my God! Look at it!” The sky was a bit cloudy so no stars shone but that sliver of a ring of the sun hanging in the dark sky in the middle of the day was unlike anything I had ever seen in my life before, and probably never will again. Just pure euphoria seeing something so extraordinary hanging in the sky right in front of my face. And to hear the crowd, the universal awe and amazement, is still an exhilaration as I sit here hours later recalling it.

Totality lasted only two minutes. You could see the horizon start to get brighter, and soon a speck of fully bright sun peeked its way back onto the opposite edge of the silhouette, and it was time to put the glasses back on.

We looked around a bit more as the sky grew brighter again, but only for a minute, as we grabbed our things and walked directly back to the car. We luckily were able to pull into the line of cars already backed up getting out, and were able to get out of the lot and into the quickly formed line of cars on the road to the highway. What normally took a couple of minutes took about 15 minutes to get onto the highway, but it wasn’t too bad.

We ended up taking one detour from the usual highway route, taking a surface street through northern Toledo and meeting up with US 23 just south of the Michigan Welcome Center rest area. We decided to stay on the highway through the backups all the way up to Ann Arbor, and we finally made it to I-94 and cruised home about 5:08 PM, about a 1 hour and 45 minutes trip instead of the hour it usually took. We even got back in time for Andrea to make it to a work Zoom meeting at 5:30.

So many things went right. It seemed that every direction we went, there were delays and congestion right behind if we had waited: US 23 south into Toledo had bad traffic backups in the morning after we breezed through. We heard the parking at the zoo was a madhouse in the surrounding neighborhoods after we got a spot in the regular lot. The line for food at the Monarch Marketplace looked like it wrapped around a neighboring building by the time we were heading back across the bridge. Traffic home wasn’t great but it still looks like a huge mess around Toledo now hours after the event.

I can’t believe it. I can’t believe we almost didn’t go. I can’t believe I thought a partial eclipse could compare. I can’t believe we decided to just have an adventure and every part of it worked out. An adventure I will remember and cherish for the rest of my life.