Simple True Father Story From Nebraska: The Best Dad Badge

Sometimes it’s interesting to read how other dads are coping with work-life balance. Here’s a story from a father from the US. Sometimes it’s enough that you arrange a simple adventure for your whole family to enjoy.

The Story

Last minute family vacations can often lead to the greatest adventures. The night before the Great American Eclipse, we decided to pack up the Explorer and make way for Nebraska. Scotts Bluff National Monument to be exact.

Why Nebraska? The monument was the closest spot to our home in Colorado that wasn't in Wyoming. Not that there's anything wrong with Wyoming, it was just that everyone else seemed to be going there to view the eclipse. Traffic in that direction was predicted to be a nightmare of drivers stacked up for miles, which ended up to be the case.

After mapping out our four-hour route, my daughter Kayli researched when the park would open and eclipse related events in the area. We arrived at the front gate of the monument around midnight and found that we were the first ones to arrive.

Happy with what we thought was an adventure coup, we took a few pictures in front of the official monument sign and marveled at the vast number of stars in the night sky.

The last bit of research came less than one hour later. A very courteous state trooper informed us that we were not able to get in line until 5 AM, one hour before the gate opened. He also explained that approximately 15 vehicles would fit in the turn lane and once that was accomplished, all other cars would not be allowed to park along the road for safety reasons. They would have to circle the area and get in line ‘after’ the gates opened.

Luckily, our friend Crystal called us while we were on the road to the monument. Her father lives in Scottsbluff, and she arranged for us to sleep at his house if needed. Since we got the boot from the monument’s front door, we took Crystal up on her offer.

We speculated we could get a few hours of shut-eye, leave the house around 4 AM, and get one of the coveted spots in line. Cheri and I took the guest room. Kayli rolled her sleeping bag out on the couch. I set the alarm on my phone, which I don't think I really needed as I did not sleep soundly anticipating what we might see at the eclipse later in the day.

Four AM… the alarm rings. The blaring theme song from ‘Archer’ (an animated tv series about an international spy) rang out throughout the small home bringing everyone out of their slumber. That song always makes me laugh… at least once I realize there isn’t a full jazz ensemble huddled on the nightstand. We quickly rolled up our bags, jumped in the Explorer, and motored off to the monument about 15 minutes away.

The morning sky was still very dark, partly cloudy, and the winds were slight. The streets were quiet, even at the local Walmart where a large contingent of eclipse goers was parked waiting for the event to begin… or as we found out later, staging overnight to ultimately drive over to the monument.

Getting closer to the monument’s front gate, a trooper had parked at the end of the turn lane. We slowly drove up to the trooper and found the ONE last spot and jumped on in. The Explorer erupted in cheers of happiness and high-fives that our plan had actually worked.

Eclipse totality was scheduled to start at 11:49 AM so we had plenty of time to explore the grounds and visit with our eclipse neighbors.

The Rangers had set up a big screen viewing area, and kids were offered a special Great American Eclipse Junior Ranger Badge activity. Kayli had gathered almost a dozen Ranger Badges over the past few years and was beyond excited to add this very rare trophy to her collection.

Totality begins! Surreal, unfathomable, beautiful. The eclipse in all of its glory brought the adventure to its ultimate and epic end. Kayli ran to me and delivered the longest and strongest hug I’ve ever had from her, and the best Dad Badge I could ever hope to achieve.