Having come all this way, of course we had to make sure we were as close as possible to the centre of full totality, so the morning of eclipse day (Monday 21st August) saw us collecting a rental car and hitting the road to Greenville, South Carolina. As always we’d pre-booked our car, and I was particularly glad on this occasion since apparently no spare cars were available. The roads were correspondingly crammed with eclipse-chasers, and we spent a boring couple of hours in heavy traffic before the satnav took pity and re-routed us via a series of much emptier minor roads, but happily we’d set out in more-than-plenty of time.
Our destination was the Furman University campus to the north of Greenville – Tom had seen online that they were putting on a viewing event, which we thought sounded fun, with the added bonus that they were handing out eclipse glasses (a necessary component which we were still lacking). Duly furnished with glasses, and our picnic lunch, we took refuge under a shady tree. The temperature was around 93F so taking an early seat in the unshaded stadium or exploring the beautifully landscaped campus were out of the question, although from time to time we popped out into the sunshine to peer at the sun (through said glasses), and watched it gradually becoming more and more crescent-shaped as the moon moved into position. With about half an hour to go we heard sounds emanating from the football field, so headed over to take a seat. The college band and cheerleaders were performing, before one of their astronomy professors took to the podium to deliver a short (and very engaging) talk about the phenomenon we were about to witness.
Gradually the sky became darker, and the temperature dropped considerably (a welcome relief on such a warm day!) – even knowing what was happening it was really quite strange to experience. While waiting, we made vague attempts to photograph what we were seeing, with the eclipse glasses over the camera lens, and I’m actually quite impressed by the result:
Then, finally, totality was achieved! Off came the glasses, and we all stared up at the sun in wonder. The corona was quite remarkable, streaming out to the side as well as forming a ring around the black disc of the moon.
All too soon it was over, the gleam of the “diamond ring” moment marking the point at which the glasses had to go back on. Now this is the photo I wish I had taken – having been pretty sceptical about the whole eclipse-viewing thing I have to say that even I found this moment quite magical. Hence I’m borrowing this image, also taken by a viewer at Furman, in commemoration.
After that there wasn’t much to do but wander slowly back to the car and join the queue of traffic making its way off campus. Since we were in the neighbourhood, we drove into central Greenville for a walk around and some dinner. It was still really too hot for much in the way of exertion, but we were happy to stumble upon the charming riverside park, and appreciative of an air-conditioned art gallery or two to cool off in en route.
It seemed rude not to sample some Southern BBQ while we were there, and stuffed our faces at the aptly-named Sticky Fingers restaurant before getting back on the road to Charlotte.
Once again, interstate traffic was heavy and the satnav took matters into its own hands, sending us almost the entire way on a single-lane highway through rural South Carolina. We certainly saw a lot of the countryside, passing through many small towns and villages (some quite prosperous-looking, others practically derelict) and a section of the Sumter National Forest. Finally, though, we made it back to civilisation without incident, and declared the day well worth the trouble!