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Moon Chasers

Ben Wymore

Ben Wymore and his family are no strangers to extended travel. This year’s goal was more modest than usual: just a four-week excursion to witness last week’s solar eclipse

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

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Total solar eclipses would be much more common if the moon were larger, and a total solar eclipse would never occur if the moon were smaller, since the moon would never fully conceal the sun. Since the moon and sun are almost identical in apparent size, totality only occurs along a narrow path where the moon is positioned precisely in front of the sun. Photos by Ben Wymore

Y ou could say my family and I like traveling.

In August 2013, my wife and two children, ages nine and twelve at the time, embarked on what we thought would be a one-year RV trip exploring the US, Canada, and a bit of Mexico. We had enjoyed summer RV trips over the prior three years and decided that our children were now at the right age to get the most out of a one-year trip. They were old enough to tolerate long car rides and remember the experience, yet young enough to endure extended periods with their parents.

We rented out our home and drove west, homeschooling (or, as RVers call it, “road-schooling”) our children as we traveled. We thought finding kosher meat would be a problem, but it turned out that most Trader Joe’s stores stock kosher ground beef and a few cuts of chicken, even in areas with no frum population. With solar panels on the RV’s roof and a sizeable water tank, we could easily camp for free on public lands, allowing us to stretch our savings and maintain the RV lifestyle. Nine hundred eighty-four days later — a bit off schedule — we returned home to Monsey in the spring of 2016.

During our two and a half years on the road, we traveled the length and breadth of this amazing, vast continent. We climbed sand dunes and glaciers, walked beneath the world’s tallest trees, and touched the Arctic Ocean. We strolled through a Mexican village, visited our nation’s capital, and panned for gold in the Yukon Territory beneath the midnight sun.

In July of this year, we set out once more, this time with a more modest four-week agenda.

Our end goal was to witness the solar eclipse as it trailed its way across the United States, the first viewable eclipse in North America since 1979. A total solar eclipse is a rare event, the last one in the United States only visible in a northwestern corner of the country. Last week’s total eclipse was visible along a 70-mile-wide strip across the entire country, a phenomenon that last occurred in 1918.

 

We wanted to be there when it happened.

In the following pages, I’ll describe some of the highlights of this summer’s trip, including the eclipse itself. A complete daily journal of the journey, as well as our past trips, is available on our online journal, LookBeforeYouLive.com. I originally created the website so my stereotypical Jewish mother wouldn’t worry too much about our safety, but it turned out to be a great way for our family to relive our past adventures.

And now, into the wild.

After heading west from Monsey to Illinois, then north and west through Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, and Montana, we turned south and crossed Wyoming to arrive in Colorado. A little over two weeks into our July trip, we were high in the San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado, five rough miles up a gravel road from Lake City, Colorado, a town of 600 people at over 8,600 feet of elevation.

It was Shabbos afternoon, and there was a knock at the door. I answered to find a pair of older women who wanted to engage in a theological conversation. (Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 675)

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