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Maine draws in some eclipse chasers, while others leave in hopes of sunnier skies

Linda Spence's family views the 1972 total eclipse in Arisaig, Nova Scotia.
Linda Spence photo
Linda Spence's family views the 1972 total eclipse in Arisaig, Nova Scotia.

Some people follow rock bands. Some chase tornadoes. Others travel to see celestial events, such as eclipses.

Communities in northern Maine have been preparing for an influx of thousands for the upcoming total solar eclipse. But some diehards are opting to leave the state and travel long distances to watch Monday's event under more reliably sunny skies.

Bernie Reim of West Newfield is serious about getting the best possible view of the eclipse. That's why he's going to Texas.

"And the main reason, of course, is the weather prospects," Reim says. "And it tends to be much better in April in Texas. And the average temperature is like 75."

Reim is an adjunct professor of astronomy at the University of Southern Maine and helps run the Astronomical Society of Northern New England in Kennebunk. He just flew to Texas in October to catch the annular eclipse. And he drove to Idaho in 2017 to watch the total eclipse. It was nearly 7,000 miles round trip, he says, and totally worth it.

"It was like nothing you could ever prepare for," Reim says. "I mean, I've seen movies. I've talked to people about it. I've seen the annular before that. It was nothing like it because basically you get lifted like right off the planet. Because it goes dark in the middle of the day, so it's almost like you're lifted into space."

"It's hard to it's hard to put it into words, because it's unlike anything you'll ever experience," says Linda Spence of Brunswick.

She experienced her first eclipse in Maine in 1963. She was eight years old, and her father, a high school principal, drove the family up from Massachusetts.

"He was always fascinated by astronomy," Spence says.

They also traveled to Nova Scotia in 1972 to see a total eclipse. As adults, she and her siblings have continued the tradition. They gathered in Kentucky to watch the eclipse in 2017.

"That was more sort of, to honor my dad," Spence says.

Even though she now lives in Maine, one of the states that will experience totality on April 8, the siblings are meeting up in Ohio.

"We sort of wound up there after looking at all the other options," Spence says. "I was hoping I could get them to come to Maine, but they were worried about it being too cold. And too late in the day, and with the mountains and stuff."

All of this travel may seem like a lot for an event that lasts only a few minutes. But Reim says that during the 2017 eclipse, he felt connected to the Earth, planets and stars in a way he had never experienced in his 40 years of studying the universe. It went beyond math and physics, he says, and right into art.

"So all these people that aren't willing to even go a couple hundred miles north in Maine to being a centerline, I don't really see what the problem is," he says.

There will, of course, be quite a few people who are willing to make the trip north. Among them is Natalie Hruska of Cape Cod, who will load her eight-year-old twins into the car and drive up to Millinocket.

"We really wanted to experience the totality," she says. "Especially because I have two eight-year-olds, so I wanted them to experience it."

Hruska says there's family history in Millinocket. Her mom grew up in the area, and she wants her kids to feel the connection.

"For them to be in a place where my mom grew up and where I spent a lot of summers, and where their great grandparents are from, to experience this would be not only a good learning experience, but in a lot of different ways, a good experience."

And a rare one. The next total eclipse won't arrive in Maine for another 55 years.