I took a few days off work to drive to Cleveland, Ohio, to witness the 2024 total solar eclipse. Back in 2017, the family and I too a vacation to Charleston, South Carolina, to watch that year’s eclipse. NASA set up a presentation in a minor league baseball stadium with a casual atmosphere. Although it was overcast and we couldn’t see the eclipse directly, we experienced the darkness and eerie lightened horizon.

This year was different. I couldn’t convince my kids to skip school, and Berta couldn’t join me due to her recent time off. So, I went on the trip alone. I booked a hotel room in Cleveland and drove out there on Sunday, the day before the eclipse. The six-hour drive was surprisingly shorter than what it often takes to get to Columbus.

When I got there I checked into my hotel, bought some groceries (I had run out of wiper fluid on the trip - very inconvenient), and grabbed a small Subway sandwich for dinner, since I wasn’t very hungry after all of the snacks during the drive. On Monday morning I woke up around seven, got ready, and drove into the city. From my airport hotel, it took about 20 minutes to reach downtown. I parked in a garage near the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame that morning that cost $60! Normally, the garage would cost $7, and even the hotel prices skyrocketed from around $100 to $300 or $400 per night.

I walked to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and got a ticket, since I had a couple of hours before the eclipse. The museum was interesting in an expected way, paying tribute to people who made rock and roll music over the years, but really just focusing on the people and not the music, which made it somewhat less interesting to me than it could have been. It focused on personalities, their outfits, quotes, and actions rather than the music itself. Although it was pretty devoid of country music, there was a surprising amount of rap, incluing a whole featured section on Hip Hop.

Although there was plenty of music in the museum, and with really great acoustics overall, everything in the place was more about the people in music. For instance, the Beatles exhibit showcased their outfits and lyric sheets. One thing that did catch my attention was Metallica’s original handwritten lyrics for “Enter Sandman.” That was pretty neat to see.

After visiting the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, I grabbed a hamburger with an eclipse-themed name like “Black Hole Sunburger,” referencing Soundgarden’s song “Black Hole Sun.” The burger was supposed to be blackened but seemed like a typical cafeteria burger. And at eclipse-gouging prices.

Finally, I went to the Great Lakes Science Center next door. Similar to the Franklin Institute, it featured hands-on exhibits mostly for kids to experiment with and learn from. The Great Lakes Science Center is surrounded by a lovely lawn area and a road in front of the building. NASA had set up several tents along the road to provide information about their various programs, many of which were related to the upcoming Artemis mission to the Moon. Although I didn’t get a chance to explore these exhibits due to long lines, it was fascinating to see them from the street.

In addition to the NASA tents, there were food trucks and local interest exhibitors like libraries and food banks. The museum itself was more oriented towards children, as expected. It seemed smaller and less organized than the Franklin Institute, with unrelated experiments situated close together. Nevertheless, it was an enjoyable place with a few unique astronaut artifacts due to its proximity to NASA Glenn headquarters.

The main event began around 2 PM when the eclipse itself started. Wearing ISO-certified sunglasses let me to safely see a sliver of the Moon covering the Sun’s face. Between 2 PM and approximately 3:15 PM, the Moon continued to obscure more of the Sun, limiting the amount of light present in the area, and creating a strange effect that felt like I had impaired vision. The temperature also dropped noticeably as the eclipse approached totality.

There was clear weather, contrary to the overcast forecast that I thought might ruin the entire trip. This clarity provided a great view of the eclipse, unlike my previous experience in South Carolina. Witnessing an eclipse in person is truly a unique and unforgettable event.

When you see an eclipse in pictures or on TV, it doesn’t quite capture the experience of seeing it in person. Most images either show the darkness created on the ground or a close-up photo of the eclipse itself, displaying a dark disk of the Moon with silver streaks of light. What’s truly remarkable when observing it with your own eyes is the surreal sight of the eclipse in the sky above your surroundings. In that context, it could be quite terrifying, resembling something like the Eye of Sauron floating overhead. This unreal experience isn’t conveyed through news broadcasts or even NASA footage.

The sense of presence during this astronomical event is what sets it apart from simply viewing it on a screen. It’s astonishing to see it happening right above the typical buildings and people. In contrast to our first time seeing an eclipse under overcast skies, this experience was much more vivid, with darkness accompanied by a looming Moon and Sun. Stars and planets such as Jupiter were also visible, which are typically hidden during the day.

As quickly as it began, the eclipse ended. The Moon moved away from the Sun and sunlight returned. The crowd slowly cleared out and we all went back to our regular lives. It was pretty interesting to experience this astronomical event in person and get a good view of the eclipse this year.