Afternoon Safari

After the eclipse, some people went back to DriveTanks to drive tanks, fire 50-caliber guns, or watch – Diane and I decided to go on another safari. We saw lots and lots of animals.

Nile Lechwe
Barasingha
Whitetail deer
Gemsbok
Red Sheep
Pere David deer
Zebra
Springbok
Giraffe
Red Stag (in velvet)
Black Wildebeest
Eland
Eland Cows
Rhea

After the safari, we walked back to our cabin, but first we stopped to pay our respects to the ranch’s African Spurred Tortoise which lives in front of the main lodge.

This evening, we had our farewell dinner and a show (photos from the trip) and went back to the cabin to pack.

Rick is planning a tour for the August 2026 eclipse in Spain…sounds interesting!

The main event!

Our viewing site was on Prayer Mountain, which seemed appropriate for today’s conditions.

Hoping for good weather

We were equipped with eclipse viewers and glasses; the viewers were easier to use, especially after our leader Fred put them on neckstraps.

We were able to see first contact right on schedule at 12:12pm, but I wasn’t able to take a picture of it because I didn’t have a large enough filter for my camera. The clouds kept coming and going throughout the afternoon – and they were actually our friends, because they let us see and photograph the progress of the eclipse without special gear!

T-20 minutes

As we got closer and closer to totality, the sun was completely obscured at times, and easily visible at others.

T-15 minutes

I was finally able to successfully mate the eclipse viewer to my iPhone at T-10; the sun was in a clear spot, so I needed it.

The clouds came back a couple of minutes later, and things didn’t look good for totality.

T-6

Things started happening quickly at T-2 – the moon’s shadow was visible on the horizon and the light started to get strange. It got a bit cooler, too.

Rick Binzel kept us informed with his bullhorn – one minute to go!

And then the moment arrived…with the diamond ring!

A few seconds later, the chromosphere became easily visible, complete with a small solar flare (which was larger than the Earth) – that’s the image at the top of this blog post.

My camera decided to act up at this point, so I started paying more attention to the eclipse and less to trying to capture it. It was much longer than last year’s eclipse in Australia, and it got a LOT darker than it did last year. We could see lights come on at the ranch’s airstrip, and it was really hard to see very far.

Sky and earth during total eclipse; the Sun is visible at the top of the picture, with Venus at 4pm relative. At the bottom, it is very dark; you can barely see two people a few feet away, and there are some lights from the airstrip runway in the far distance.
Darkness at noon

I spent the rest of the eclipse looking at the Sun and getting a few iPhone pictures.

Sun and Venus
Sun and Venus, T+3:05

The diamond ring appeared on the right side of the Sun to mark the end of totality.

Our leaders (Rick, Fred, and Rick’s wife, Michelle) were very very happy…and so were we.

Another successful eclipse in the books!

We celebrated with the appropriate beverage for the day.

A few people stuck around for the rest of the eclipse, but most of us (including Diane and me) rode back to our cabins to rest up for the afternoon’s adventures.

DriveTanks and the Ox Ranch Lodge

Today was so busy I need to divide it into three blog posts.

We started the day with breakfast at the dining room; it was, like all the meals here, over the top. After breakfast, Diane went off to feed animals while I visited DriveTanks, a living museum of 20th Century military machines, mostly guns and tanks.

You’re able to handle the guns (unloaded) and climb up onto and into the tanks; for an additional fee, you can shoot the guns and drive the tanks. I was happy with the basic package.

I am very dangerous!
A machine gun nest
SS Troop Carrier
SS Troop Carrier Interior
Action Trackchair – “New Way to Fun”
1970’s British Scorpion (From Falklands)
West German Leopard Prototype
Russian T-34 (WWII)
Russian T-34 (WWII) – if it’s not leaking oil, it’s out!
German Stigeeuer
Russian T-34 – it it ain’t leakin’, it’s out of oil!

After the visit, they took us back to the Ox Ranch Lodge to wait for the eclipse; it was loaded with special eclipse delicacies and their usual open bar.

Eclipse Refreshments
Eclipse Cake
Open Bar

The weather forecast had been unfavorable for eclipse viewing all week, but we’d had some sunny intervals while I was at DriveTanks, so Diane and I headed up to the viewing site with hope and trepidation.

Goodbye Big Bend! Hello Ox Ranch!

Today was a big bus day; we spent seven-and-a-half hours going from Big Bend to Ox Ranch near Uvalde. It’s a hunting ranch, but we have the place to ourselves for the next couple of days, so it should be peaceful.

Some memories from the road:

Persimmon Gap Visitor Center

Marathon

Sanderson (where we spent more than an hour, far more than our guides had planned)

Crossing the Pecos River and leaving West Texas

We even stopped at a Wal-Mart in Del Rio, but I didn’t take any pictures there. We also had to go through three Border Control checkpoints.

Finally, we reached our goal: Ox Ranch, where lunch awaited.

The ostriches outside the dining hall were curious about what we were eating.

After lunch, we had a short guided safari to see more of the animals roaming the property. Some of them:

Cape Buffalo
Pygmy Hippo
Hippos wading
Mama and baby
Eland
Scimitar Horned Oryx
Feeding a giraffe

We also visited their fossilized dinosaur tracks.

Dinosaur Tracks

By then, it was time for dinner; we were able to do more wildlife viewing while we ate.

Rhino outside dining room
Kangaroo

Rick Binzel gave his “Ready, Set, Eclipse” presentation after dinner; then it was time to return to our cabin to rest and prepare for the big day tomorrow.