The Grays “Totality” Experience

One families adventure to watch the solar eclipse

Rebecca Gray
Posted 4/11/24

When the stars aligned for our family to load up and drive to a spot in Arkansas to catch the total eclipse, we jumped faster than you can say “grab all the eclipse themed snacks”. With just a loose plan of “go to Arkansas for totality”, a quick Facebook search pointed us to Batesville, Arkansas at 6:00 Monday morning.

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The Grays “Totality” Experience

One families adventure to watch the solar eclipse


As we left Iuka in a thick veil of fog and then later rain, we weren’t totally sure we made the right decision. But also, not letting the fear of lots of traffic and crowds stop us, we arrived with just enough time to grab pizza at a local joint and then get settled in a perfect spot at the Arkansas Sheriffs’ Youth Ranch, just outside the city limits of Batesville. A newly built refuge for abused and neglected children, the Youth Ranch offered 40 acres for unobstructed eclipse viewing and activities for the children.

Despite the less-than-ideal conditions when we left Iuka, the Arkansas sky was the perfect shade of blue and the sun was shining down like it was getting ready to perform.

The crowd was filled with locals and those like us who drove 4 or more hours, even one family from Florida. Some were equipped with high powered telescopes and others with shade making gadgets like a colander that was perfect for casting shadows on the ground. We came equipped with every eclipsed themed snack, a solar eclipse playlist, folding chairs, and eye wear to avoid burned retinas.

The family sitting next to us drove from Chicago and brought with them an atomic clock to keep us all on time with the start of the partial eclipse (12:36 pm) and when to take our glasses off for totality (1:57 pm), which lasted for 4 minutes and 4 seconds.

As the partial eclipse took place, the area became eerily hazy and the temperature dropped with a breeze blowing to set the scene for the 4 minutes and 4 seconds of darkness that was to come.

Having been flooded with news of the eclipse for months before, we knew what to expect with totality and had seen pics and graphic depictions, but nothing prepared us for the in person viewing of such a celestial experience.

The pillars of light from the sun’s corona was the perfect backdrop as we removed our glasses to view the totality. Complete with a solar flare that appeared as a red dot at the bottom of the eclipse, the sun and moon put on a show that can only be described as mesmerizing. The crowd cheered as the darkness took over, and the collective awe of wonder made us all feel enveloped in grandeur at catching a once in a lifetime event.

But alas, it left as quickly as it came, so we gathered our belongings to make our trek back to Iuka.

Meandering down Arkansas farm roads with the thousands of eclipse gawkers that flooded the highways, the return trip took 2 hours longer than it did to arrive.

As we were completely stopped in traffic on interstate 55, the rain drops and sun banded together to display the most beautiful full arc rainbow we had ever seen. Like a bonus gift from the sky, we knew the road trip and skipping school and work was “totality” worth it!