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Eyes on the Street: Cycling the Solar Eclipse

6:19 PM CDT on August 21, 2017

Stacks of Divvy bikes at the Adler Planetarium. Photo: John Greenfield

If you were planning on taking part in the solar eclipse festival at the Adler Planetarium today, bicycling was the way to go. (Did any readers ride Amtrak's special service to downstate Carbondale to catch the total eclipse? Tickets sold out in less than 24 hours.)

The revetment along Solidarity Drive, the road that leads out to the planetarium, was swarmed with skywatchers, but it seemed that most people left their cars at home. The railing on the ramp leading from the drive to the Lakefront Trail was completely covered with bikes. I didn't see any special bike parking area for private bikes, which is probably why.

Bikes covered railings near the planetarium. Photo: John Greenfield
Bikes covered railings near the planetarium. Photo: John Greenfield
Bikes covered railings near the planetarium. Photo: John Greenfield

On the other hand, the Divvy valet station at the planetarium had zillions of cycles neatly stacked in rows, which suggests that many residents and visitors chose this smart way to get to the crowded event.

The approximate route of my quest for eclipse glasses. Image: Google Maps
The approximate route of my quest for eclipse glasses. Image: Google Maps
The approximate route of my quest for eclipse glasses. Image: Google Maps

I myself had a memorable ride to Northerly Island from my home in Uptown, zigzagging across the North Side in search of the special glasses that would preserve my sight. For only a true fool would gaze directly at the sun during a partial eclipse.

Waiting for the eclipse at Revere Park. Photo: John Greenfield
Waiting for the eclipse at Revere Park. Photo: John Greenfield
Waiting for the eclipse at Revere Park. Photo: John Greenfield

My search took me to Revere Park and Hamlin Park in North Center, and Adams Playground Park in Lincoln Park, but all the eclipse glasses had been claimed. The latter green space, however, a tot lot with an amazing mini-water park, did have a sound system blasting Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon."

My stop at Adams Playground Park was fruitless, but at least they had rockin' tunes on the sound system. Photo: John Greenfield
My stop at Adams Playground Park was fruitless, but at least they had rockin' tunes on the sound system. Photo: John Greenfield
My stop at Adams Playground Park was fruitless, but at least they had rockin' tunes on the sound system. Photo: John Greenfield

Finally I was able to pick up a pair at the Lincoln Park Cultural Center, where people were also gazing through a large cardboard tube, a camera obscura of sorts that afforded a view of a small white crescent on a sheet of paper.

IMG_5925
The scene at the Lincoln Park Cultural Center. Photo: John Greenfield

When I gazed at the sun with my safety glasses, I saw the same image in bright yellow on a black background. It's too bad one can't take photographs of exactly what you see in your head.

The Lakefront Trail, which is undergoing a path separation project, near Chicago Avenue. Photo: John Greenfield
The Lakefront Trail, which is undergoing a path separation project, near Chicago Avenue. Photo: John Greenfield
The Lakefront Trail, which is undergoing a path separation project, near Chicago Avenue. Photo: John Greenfield

Then I made my way over to the Lakefront Trail, full of people gazing southward with safety gear, then made my way south through the Loop to the planetarium's peninsula.

The scene at the planetarium at peak eclipse time, 1:19 p.m. Photo: John Greenfield
The scene at the planetarium at peak eclipse time, 1:19 p.m. Photo: John Greenfield
The scene at the planetarium at peak eclipse time, 1:19 p.m. Photo: John Greenfield

It may have been only a partial eclipse, but navigating on two wheels the many scenes of Chicagoans staring in unison towards a common goal was a totally awesome experience.

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