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!