Turkey- August 1999
"You know..." I said, shaking the roll of duct tape at him. "This is what we should be videotaping". It was several moments before he looked up from his contraption. "Huh?" "This is the part people don't get to see about our trips." I mumbled, stepping over the cat and into the kitchen. Our flight left in less than 36 hours and we had yet to decide how many bags to bring. "Where are the other pair solar filter glasses?" I asked. Vic waved his hand in the direction of the curious pile of black and silver parts that now covered the dining room table. "You cut them up!?" I exclaimed. He didn't flinch. Instructions must have been coded in Braille on the outside of his lip as he read them carefully with his tongue. I could see I wasn't going to get any help from him on my tasks and ventured back to the basement digging again through decades of accessories and pieces we to build more parts.
"Ok." He announced, brushing the hair from his eye again. "Now explain to me again which bags we're taking to the site." Arms full of more junk, I started hopelessly in on the description for the sixth time and gave up. "Let me get the diagram." For the last year and a half, all we could talk about was this trip to Turkey to see the eclipse. We had thought of every conceivable way to view it, photograph it, filter it and videotape it. We talked for hours on walks around the block on equipment preferences and choices. "It doesn't matter." he reminded me. "No matter what you do, you can't show what it's like in a picture." This was my first eclipse, so naturally I had no idea. How many times did I need to hear those words before they really sunk in. Two weeks before our departure date our ticket pack came with some bad news. Baggage restrictions. Imagine for a moment, trying to compress a semiprofessional observatory full of fragile, expensive and delicate equipment into two suitcases weighing 70 lbs a piece. "Don't forget some clothes!" the wives always say. We were lucky to have our four bags between us both. "That's why you bring a chick along." was the going joke among other traveling astronomers. The new baggage restrictions said one bag each; 45 pounds.
A minor infraction, but it was only for the flights inside of Turkey. Unfortunately this was how we reached the eclipse viewing site. "What are we going to do?" We shook our heads and scratched our chins as the equipment list shrank and shrank. There went all the new luggage we had bought. There went the special solar filter and the telescope we bought and named Gunesh, meaning sun in Turkish. Vic didn't ever like the name. It took him almost six months just to remember the darn thing. I, on the other hand had the language tapes and was spewing garbled piles of unintelligible phrases. I sighed and picked up the notepad and started in again, pointing as I went. "We take three cases; the Losmundy, the Black Box, and the Pelican." We had named our luggage now to avoid confusion. "The Black box weighs two pounds less. so all the equipment goes in it when we fly to Elazig. We have a big soft carry-on that I put the rest of the heavy things in and you have your backpack."
We looked up and around at the wreckage of the room. Black lenses, camera bodies, power chords and duct tape littered every surface. It all had to be broken down, divided, inventoried, packed and weighed. The cases were opened and out came the bubble wrap. We definitely need to get a new scale. Trying to balance these suitcases on the bumpy, undersized bathroom scale was not working. "Don't forget to leave the serial number list out. We don't want to pack that." I said. One more detail to pile on the heap with our lives about to go on hold.
I was proud of myself. I had a perfect plan with color coded capsules of bubble wrapped equipment nicely prepared to change places and bags when the time came. I didn't want to think about how we were going to get our bags out of Turkey. This was another sorted detail we were only marginally concerned about to date. And so we slept...for four hours. I had another day of work to sit through as our carnival ride slid us imminently toward takeoff. As the last hours blurred together and last minute details overtook our last day, I remembered wandering; grabbing every tiny useful item in sight to stuff into hidden compartments of the luggage. At 3 am on Friday morning, we closed the bags and taped them shut. Our travel clothes and tickets, passports and boots were neatly stacked ready for our departure. The cats knew what was happening, too. Each climbed stubbornly into bed beside Vic and I, clinging to an arm or a face as we tried to sleep. Vic had Ansel and I was graced with Doc, the 20 pound tomcat on my neck for the three hours we slept. So, there wasn't much sleeping happening, but at least we were resting.
"Beep". That was it; and we were off; up like soldiers, marching into action. From here on out, we knew we were to lug, pace, wait, smash, cramp, starve, and endure whatever came our way for the fourteen funfilled days ahead. There was a noticeable change in disposition. That last fret of worry and anticipation faded on the ride to the airport as our year-long window for preparations was closed. Two steps from boarding, I looked down and casually noticed a luggage tag of the woman beside me. "Gee," I said, nudging Vic. "It looks just like ours." I crept politely in and flipped it over to read. Louder this time I announced "It looks just like our special Spears Travel Turkey Eclipse Tags". The woman turned around and looked up. She looked confused. "You're on the Eclipse trip too?"
~ ©1999 Jennifer Dudley Winter