Category: Eclipse 2017
It’s been three months since I wrote about Eclipse 2017, and now we’re mere days from the big event on August 21, 2017.
Some folks are giddy as chipmunks in a tub of popcorn. Others are freaking out about clogged roadways, water shortages, and the question of where we’re going to put the one million people expected to arrive in Oregon over the next few days.
About a quarter of those visitors will head for Central Oregon, so here’s what you should know about Bend travel as we approach the big day.
DO remember that patience is key. We’ll have lots of bodies in town, and everyone’s excited about this super-unique cosmic phenomenon. Treat your fellow travelers with kindness and courtesy, and they’ll do the same for you.
DON’T panic. Yes, some grocery store shelves are a bit bare, and traffic is going to be wonky for a few days. But in the grand scheme of things, it’s is a small price to pay for enjoying a full solar eclipse in one of the most scenic spots on earth.
DO get your hands on a good pair of eclipse glasses. There have been reports of fake ones showing up on Amazon, so if that’s where you got yours, double-check the source. If you’re in doubt, stop by the Bend Visitor Center to grab a pair.
DON’T wear eclipse glasses while driving. Uh, this should go without saying, since you can’t see a darn thing when you’re wearing them.
DO plan ahead. While the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) will have incident response teams staged along roadways to keep cars moving and help those in distress, the high volume of vehicles means any trip—no matter which day you’re traveling or where you’re headed—will take longer than normal. Keep plenty of food, water, and medications in your car, and have a plan for tending to your (ahem) bathroom needs. Note: Your plan should not include peeing out the car window.
DON’T make the trip to Central Oregon if you haven’t reserved lodging in advance. Campsites, hotel rooms, vacation rentals, and yurts have been booked for years, so your odds of finding last-minute eclipse accommodations are about the same as my odds of turning into a rainbow trout and spawning in the Deschutes.
DO be cautious if you’re camping in Central Oregon’s great outdoors. There’s currently a campfire ban covering all public and private lands across Central Oregon, and with our region drier than a mouthful of sand, even a tiny spark from your car or cigarette could cause thousands of acres to go up in flames. Be wary of wild animals and conscious of leave-no-trace ethics. Pack your 10 essentials to ensure you stay safe no matter where you wander.
DON’T plan to travel on Monday. If your game plan is to wake up Monday morning and drive to Madras to experience totality at 10 a.m., you need a different game plan. Traffic will be bumper to bumper on two-lane highways, and even if you’re staying in Bend or Sunriver, you’re unlikely to reach your destination before the big event. If a city on the line of totality is your heart’s desire, you’ll need to start your journey sooner.
DO make sure your vehicle is in tip-top shape. Dragging mufflers and catalytic converters have sparked some of Central Oregon’s worst wildfires. It’s also crucial to fuel up whenever you get the chance. Lines at gas stations have been long all week, with some stations running out of fuel (though tanker trucks are still arriving daily to replenish the stock). The demand for fuel will intensive as more people roll into town, so get gas when you can and check your other fluids while you’re at it.
DON’T stop on the highway or on the shoulder of the road. The eclipse is expected to be Oregon’s biggest traffic event in history, so it’s crucial to keep vehicles moving. The aforementioned ODOT incident response vehicles will be helping with this, offering to push, pull, or drag stranded vehicles off the road. They’ll also have basic first aid supplies in case the need arises. Keep in mind that the highway hits temps of 116-degrees Fahrenheit in the sun, so it’s really not a fun place to hang out anyway.
DO keep an eye on ODOT’s website, which has road cams, eclipse updates, and more. Their Twitter feed will have up-to-the-minute info about traffic incidents and road conditions across the state, as will their trip check hotline at 511. There’s also a statewide, non-emergency hotline that allows you to ask questions about eclipse viewing, safety, traffic, road closures, and more. The number for that is 211, or you can text “eclipse” to 898211. The 211 hotline will operate August 16 through August 23.
DON’T plan to skedaddle out of Central Oregon the instant the eclipse is over. A recent survey of 1,430 travelers journeying to the area for the eclipse found that arrival dates are staggered fairly evenly over the six days leading up to the eclipse, but nearly half of visitors plan to leave Monday. That’s an awful lot of traffic to fight, and there’s really no need—just chill in Bend for a few more days of floating, hiking, biking, and savoring everything the beautiful high desert has to offer!
Three years ago, a hotelier in a town near Bend told me every room in their small city was already booked for the 2017 solar eclipse. Pretty sure I’d heard wrong, I asked him to repeat that.
“We started getting calls from all over the world back in 2011,” he said somberly. “It’s going to be huge.”
While the Total Solar Eclipse happening August 21, 2017 will be viewable all over North America (and even in parts of South America, Africa, and Europe), Central Oregon has been touted as one of the best spots on earth to see it. It’s partly our reputation for cloudless summertime skies, and partly that Madras, Oregon (45 miles northeast of Bend) is smack-dab in the direct line of totality. That means they’ll see approximately two minutes and two seconds of complete darkness around 10:19 a.m.
It’s the first Total Solar Eclipse since 1979, and there won’t be another viewable from the U.S. until 2024. Here’s what you need to know about seeing the 2017 Total Solar Eclipse in Central Oregon.
Got a place to stay?
What that hotel owner told me three years ago wasn’t an exaggeration. Hotels in Madras, Prineville, Redmond, Bend, and La Pine have been fully booked for ages. Ditto that for campgrounds at all the state parks.
There’s a slim, slim chance you can still find a few private campgrounds with spots available, and I’ve seen several Central Oregon ranchers offering “self-contained RV sites” on their property.
If someone cancels a hotel room and you’re lucky enough to snag it, expect to pay a premium. Supply and demand is in full force, and I’ll admit I’m mind-boggled by the prices I’m seeing for rooms.
EDIT: A few lodging options have popped up in the comments on this blog post, so you may want to check there to see if they’ve booked up since then.
So where can I watch?
While the eclipse will be viewable from towns all over Oregon, it’s Madras that’s getting all the press as the town in the line of totality. As the moon begins to pass between the sun and the earth starting around 9:06 a.m., viewers in Madras will witness the shadow darkening the peak of nearby Mt. Jefferson before everything goes black and the area is plunged into total darkness for about two minutes at 10:19 a.m.
Sounds awesome, but getting there will be the trick. If you’re staying in an outlying town like Bend or Sunriver, don’t expect to jump in your car that morning and cruise to Madras. Experts predict traffic will be at a standstill, and a drive that would normally take an hour could take nine or ten hours. Seriously.
You can try driving out the previous evening, or you can settle for chilling at your hotel or campsite in Bend or surrounding areas and enjoying what will still be pretty darn fine views of the eclipse.
If you’re dead set on being on the line of totality, visit http://madraseclipse.com/ for everything you could possibly want to know about festivals, amenities, transportation, and more.
Traffic will be nuts, guys
I’m not going to beat around the bush with this one—traffic is going to be insane. Our towns in Central Oregon are small, which is why most of us love it here. The roadways weren’t designed for an influx of 100,000 to 500,000 vehicles in one weekend (which is what experts currently predict).
Fortunately, Bend is a pretty bike-friendly town, and weather in August lends itself to cruising everywhere on two wheels. Bring your bike from home, or make a reservation to rent a ride from one of our local bike shops.
Fighting traffic to get into Central Oregon before the eclipse will be challenging, but authorities predict getting out after the eclipse will actually be trickiest. Pro tip: If you can remain in Bend for a few days after August 21, you’ll save yourself a lot of frustration fighting traffic. Besides, it’s a pretty awesome place to hunker down.
How can I prepare?
Central Oregon authorities are regarding eclipse preparations like the ramp-up to a natural disaster, but their advice is spot-on. We don’t really know what to expect, so it’s smart to be ready for anything.
If possible, fill your gas tank 5-7 days before the eclipse, since there’s a possibility of shortages or super-long lines. Ditto that for stocking up on things like groceries, medications, or any supplies you might need for your trip.
Most importantly, be flexible and patient. There will be thousands of folks here vying for tables at restaurants, spots on coveted tours, and viewpoints at major landmarks. Just go with the flow and use the opportunity to put our Visit Like a Local tips into practice.
Need more info?
To learn more about the eclipse and to see the source of the map we shared above explaining the path of totality, check out this site: http://www.eclipse2017.org/
If you’re planning to stay in Bend, bookmark www.visitbend.com for everything you could possibly want to know about shopping, dining, and outdoor recreation in Bend, Oregon.
Want to check traffic conditions en route to, from, or around Central Oregon in the days surrounding the eclipse? The Oregon Department of Transportation’s TripCheck site is a great resource: https://tripcheck.com/Pages/RCMap.asp
And once again (because I can’t say it enough) this really is an awesome site dedicated to seeing the eclipse along the line of totality in Madras: http://madraseclipse.com/