by Ramblin' Kinda Guy
I am going to see this eclipse. This is probably more of a motorcycle lark than an epic adventure but the narrow time frame to get there and return will make it feel like an Iron Butt qualifier. The ride will be from the Central Texas Hill Country up to Nebraska. My original intent was to ride up I-35 and place myself in the middle of the totality in Kansas City but I tend to avoid cities when motorcycling.
I think I’ve found a great spot along the Big Nemeha River in far Southeastern Nebraska. The Nemeha, which drains about 2800 square miles of that part of the state, empties into the mighty Missouri to the east. Lewis and Clarke plotted the river course on a map during their expedition into the vastness of America’s Louisiana Purchase. Their map (included here) that was drawn in 1814 tracks the course of the “Little and Big Nemehaw Rivers” through the region.
The roughly northwest to southeastern flow of the Big Nemaha will make it an ideal tableau for viewing the total solar eclipse, assuming the weather holds. The shadow cast by the moon should approach down the river to the point of observation as full darkness ensues. I will look for a spot as close as possible to the river bank to park the motorcycle and wait for an event that hasn’t happened in the U.S. in 99 years.
I am west of Austin and have plotted a route that heads out toward Lampasas and up U.S. Highway 281 through Texas towns like Levant and Hamilton and Hico and Glen Rose before connecting to the Chisholm Trail Parkway to Fort Worth. Historical notes of interest, though I’ll not be stopping to make observations since I’ve already done that numerous times, but Hico is a small town where many Texans believe Billy the Kid is buried. A legend arose that he was not killed by Pat Garrett, escaped New Mexico, and slipped away to Texas to become a shop owner and live out a quiet life.
Glen Rose is the home of John Graves, an author who gave Texans a last look at their changing environment with his book, “Good-bye to a River.” Graves, home from World War II, had heard a dam was being built upriver on the Brazos, and he got his dog, a shotgun, and put a sleeping bag in his canoe and floated toward the Gulf of Mexico with historical and environmental observations that still resonate across the years.
The Chisholm Trail Parkway, it needs to be pointed out, is a toll road that doesn’t really approximate the old cattle drive route. Some of the trails that went north out of Texas ran near the current paved road but the Chisholm didn’t actually begin until herds hit the Red River Station up near what is now Oklahoma and in those days was referred to as Indian Territory. Jesse Chisholm was one of many post-Civil War entrepreneurs who noticed there were millions of longhorn cattle wandering aimlessly near the Mexican border and he wanted to get them to railheads and markets in Kansas. The trail bearing his name ran from the Texas border up to near present day Kansas City.
I’ll ride the parkway north to I-35W. Though I am not a fan of Interstates, I’ve got limited time for this journey and about 700 plus miles to cover to get in the path of totality. I am unlikely to make it to my destination when I depart Sunday and will likely overnight somewhere near Salina (lord) or even Topeka before covering the final stretch of two hours Monday morning Aug. 21. The bike will be on cruise control and the Bluetooth headset will be thundering with Tom Russell’s songs of the west and the road will be rolling out in the direction of a hell of a memory.
Videos and more reporting will follow.