Solar Eclipse

By Doug Farmer  

I rarely see movies. I see them so rarely, one of my favorites dates all the way back to 1991: “Dutch” starring Ed O’Neill, now of “Modern Family” fame.

“Dutch” shows the role a road trip can play in creating relationships. The memories, big and small, filling those ventures form a unique bond: discovering 30 miles down the road the toasted sandwich you waited 15 minutes for was never actually toasted and is just two slices of cold bread; a speeding ticket at 6 a.m. with the subsequent delay negating the early start; or dodging the sudden, 75 miles per hour offloading of a semi’s freight, in this case mattresses and box springs, like an April snowstorm. All good memories known by only those in the car.

Thus, when son No. 3 expressed regret that he couldn’t find anybody who wanted to travel to the total solar eclipse, I immediately volunteered, “I’m in.”

I have no scientific interest. I do not even understand the debate about Pluto being a planet. But who cares, it is a road trip. I’m in.

My wife is smarter than me and quickly found the La Crosse Area Astronomical Society was having a meeting regarding the eclipse. “Not necessary,” I responded. She countered that she was taking the grandkids. “Oh boy.”

The longtime head of the UW-L Planetarium and a friend for years, Bob Allen, presented. He is the very rare person who loves what he does. When discussing astronomy, he doesn’t breathe. It is a continuous outpouring of sheer happiness. He had my interest.

I may not have a scientific bent, but during a video of a total solar eclipse in Winnipeg, I could see that the people who have seen a total solar eclipse had seen something that changed them. Now I was really in.

The trip took 36 hours, 22 of which were spent in the car chasing the eclipse. Knowing the path of totality helps, but cloud cover is less predictable. Finally, we were in Callaway, Nebraska, 70 miles off the interstate.

People from France, Denmark and Scotland joined our small crowd in downtown Callaway (population of 529). Some chase every total solar eclipse worldwide.

Outer space may be limitless, but this column is not. For that matter, there are not words enough to describe a total solar eclipse or why those folks in Winnipeg were so clearly affected.

I offer two observations. The partial eclipse is visually 90 million miles away, but a total solar eclipse is only 200,000 miles away. It is right there at the end of your arm. Secondly, as limited as it might be, it is the only window we have on the glory of the creation.

The next total solar eclipse is in northern Argentina on July 2, 2019, my 70th birthday. Will I be there? It’s a road trip, it’s an eclipse, and the people from France, Denmark and Scotland will be there. I’m in.

Doug Farmer has worked at Park Bank since 1981 and began his term on the State of Wisconsin Banking Review Board in 2003. He’s lived in La Crosse since 1971. You can reach him at

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