This series details the eclipse-chasing exploits of our President and CEO, Chad Dorsey, as he heads down to Tennessee on a quest for the total solar eclipse. See the whole series.
We’ve been planning, prepping and packing for long enough—time to get on the road! In order to get a jump on the expected traffic and have time to get our bearings on location, we’ve headed out several days in advance of the Big Day. Heading from Acton, MA to Gallatin, TN will take 1,000+ miles over 2+ days, so we settle in for the long haul.
Day 1 — Heading to Hershey’s
Day 1 brings us out of Massachusetts across Connecticut and into Pennsylvania, with a quick pass through part of New York State. The miles are long, and the start is a bit later than desired, but traffic is still light this far from the path of totality and the driving is good. The kids are happy in the back seat, and, thankfully, have managed to become occupied with games, books and activities rather than sibling rivalry. Mommy sadly has to stay back at work, so it’s just the kids and me on the
drive South. Fortunately, my pre-planning extended beyond the moment of totality to include the loooong drive down. We’re no strangers to technology, of course, but have aimed to make this trip be “screen-light,” so we have lots of the old classics at hand and have packed a few surprises as well. Turns out good old Auto Bingo stands the test of time, even with tech-steeped tweens!
Evening of Day 1 ends at an appetizing target—Hershey’s Chocolate World in Hershey, PA. The miles of rolling hills and rural farmland on the way there have all three of us doing double-takes at Google Maps, but a final turn brings the looming roller coasters of Hershey Park and road signs for Chocolate World Way into view, and spirits and appetites both lift immediately. The tour is far from a “real” factory tour (Hershey’s did their last true factory tour in June of 1973), but the highly polished ride is actually pretty cool and does provide a good sense of the full process, wrapped in an ethos fit for a generation raised on a world high-production media and 2-second video edits.
Turns out that the ride through farmland was merited as well, as we learn that Hershey’s is “one of the only” places where chocolate is made with fresh milk. Apparently, at least according to the official story, milk from nearby farms is trucked in daily to the plant. We didn’t see any tanker trucks on our drive, but we happily bought into the idea. Of course, we also bought into a few T-shirts as well—but Dad drew the line at the 2-pound package Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Even though th
e kids’ eyes went almost as big as the dinner-plate-sized chocolate circles in the package they held up, we still have over 500 miles to go, and visions of riding through the coming 8-hour day with a two-pound sugar high in the backseat quash even the most generous inclinations toward road-trip indulgence!
The day ends with happy kids and an exhausted rest. A bit uneasy, though, as much of the day saw us driving through clouds and overcast skies. Our spirits remain hopeful, though, as we head toward the sunny South.