The path of totality became an exercise in futility for many who hoped to experience the total eclipse along Interstate 29 in Missouri on Monday.
Thanks to Mother Nature, it occurred under total cloud cover. With a few sprinkles to boot.
But most in the crowd that packed the Dearborn rest area 20 miles south of St. Joseph said the experience was still one to remember.
“I’m just thrilled to death,” said Mary McDonough of Lenexa. “It was unbelievable. I’m amazed we got to see many different views of it in between the cloud cover.”
The day began early for many, as travelers heeded the advice to allow plenty of time to drive to St. Joseph.
The interstates around the metro area were wide open at 5 a.m., and traffic on northbound I-29 was still running smoothly past the rest area at 9 a.m.
“The clouds are blocking the sun now,” said 8-year-old Kapen Shaffer of Raymore, who stopped at the rest area at 7 a.m. with his mom, Joelle, and twin brother, Korbin, on their way to St. Joseph. “We’re hoping for no clouds.”
Traveling with them were relatives Rachael Goldsmith, Olivia White and Becca Yaws, of Longview, Texas.
“We came just for the eclipse,” Goldsmith said. “It was an 8 1/2 -hour drive yesterday, and we’re going back home tonight. I have to work tomorrow.”
Cordelia Zhang and Bobby Liu flew in from San Francisco for the event.
“We planned this trip a year ago,” said Liu, a software engineer. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
Zhang, a game designer, took pictures of the sun rising over a cornfield behind the rest area before the couple took off. After checking the weather forecast, they decided to head east toward Marshall to try to find clearer skies.
Penny and Hershal Dotson drove up from Stilwell, Okla. They’d planned to go to St. Joseph, but stopped for a break at the rest area at 6 a.m. and decided that was as good a spot as any to view the eclipse.
“These clouds are just a chance you have to take,” Penny Dotson said. “But it will still be a great experience.”
At 11:45 a.m., a rumble spread through the crowd and all heads tilted upward.
“Look, it’s started!”
And over the next hour-and-a-half, the eclipse glasses were intermittently slipped on and off as glimpses of the sun came and went.
Hank Hale brought his family, including two granddaughters, from Fayetteville, Ark., armed with some high-powered cameras and lenses.
“We knew this was a crapshoot as far as the weather,” said the former Los Angeles police officer, “but we couldn't pass it up.”
Still, it was hard to hide the frustration when the big moment arrived.
“We’re going to get zip,” he said. “It’s going to happen behind the clouds.”
Then darkness moved in, the street lights came on and an eerie calm enveloped the area.
And as daylight slowly made its way back on the horizon, all was right with the world.
“I’m already planning for 2024,” Hale said.