Our eclipse "vacation" was a success. Five of us living in the minivan for 49 hours. Probably less strife between the kids than a typical 2 days. We left at around 1:30 am Sunday morning and got back around 2:30 am Tuesday morning. We took the westerly route there, going up I-75 to Macon, GA across to Athens, and arrived in Easley, SC around noon. No real traffic, but we did most of the traveling in the middle of the night.
We found where we were supposed to be, but not our host. We knew his mom's house was adjacent to the field we had found, but didn't know which one. This is when I found out that all of this had been arranged through a mailing list and there had been no direct contact between my wife and our host, Joe. So, we went off to town rather than sit on the side of the road. We sat in a Publix parking lot and I had a long online chat with people at work as everything went to shit that morning (how to the servers know when I leave??). Then we got lunch and found a city park where we could park in the shade while we waited.
Eventually, someone on the mailing list offered up Joe's phone number and we got in touch with him. Apparently, he hadn't been seeing my wife's emails on the mailing list and had no idea we were coming. So, we went back to the field and he let us in and we set up "camp." Camp was basically a small 2-person tent and some folding chairs. Then we went back to Publix to use their plumbing and get a treat after the long, hot day. The older two kids slept in the tent, the youngest slept on the floor in the back of the van and my wife and I reclined the front seats and slept in those. I suspect we had the 2 least comfortable sleeping spots, plus it was hot in there. We didn't want to open the windows because of bugs (the youngest almost flipped out because a moth got in and was flying around.
On Monday, one of Joe's sons came to get us because they were going to smelt some steel. Basically, iron oxide, aluminum powder, carbon, and manganese. They lit it off and we had some exciting pyrotechnics resulting in lots of aluminum slag plus some steel blobs mixed in here and there. We got to spent some time inside an air-conditioned house with plumbing (yay!) while we waited for the rest of the party to arrive. We got a tour of the house, which has some very interesting features. Most of the rest of the guests were from a local British sports car club, but not a single one of them arrived in their British cars! As a former MG owner, I had been looking forward to that.
I guess it must be about time to get to the eclipse part. Joe had put together an 8 foot pinhole camera, which got moved around as the day went on. Everyone had their dark film glasses. As the eclipse progressed, it was amazing how far it got without really being noticeable w/o looking at the sun. The heat got less oppressive, which was kind of nice. This morning, it occurred to me that if we had looked at each other's eyes, we probably would have noticed them slowly dilating, keeping the perceived brightness fairly steady. The only time I could actually tell it was getting darker was when I would go into the shade. And maybe if I had been inside the house, looking out, I would have seen the difference (the folks at work told me they could tell it was darker outside).
I've seen partial eclipses before, but never a total one. Watching the sliver of crescent get smaller and smaller, while seeing the ambient light level around the glasses drop was surreal. Then things went totally dark in the glasses and it was time to take them off. Whoa! Maybe the other part wasn't so surreal after all, by comparison. For us, the sky wasn't dark enough to see stars. I'm sure you've seen pictures, so there isn't much point of me giving a bad description. We see movies of coronal ejections, so you sort of expect to see motion, but those movies are highly time compressed. So, the corona seemed unexpectedly still.
Of course, the 2nd half of the eclipse was not nearly as interesting as the first half (even though it was a mirror image). We had already packed up, so we could leave with little warning. Even so, we ended up talking for an hour or more and hit the road around 4:30.
We took the easterly route back, down I-26 in SC. The plan was to meet I-95 and take that back to Florida. Just one problem. Google Maps showed I-95 to be a red mess from I-26 to the Georgia border. So after dinner in Orangeburg, we opted to take the non-Interstate roads west into Georgia before meeting back up with I-95. Almost no traffic, but lots of small towns to slow down for. I don't know if it was any faster, but it was certainly not as frustrating as traffic jams would have been. We rolled in at 2:30 am and got some sleep before my eldest had to go to school and I to work.