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Improvising, waking up and counting down in the high desert
A stunning dawn broke Monday in Culver, Ore., greeting eclipse campers on a school athletic field. (Joel Achenbach/The Washington Post)

CULVER, Ore. — Overheard as the Dawn Patrol crowded a tiny cafe called Carolyn’s Coffee on the main strip in this no-stoplight town: “Do you think the moon’s getting nervous about its role in this whole process?”

The moon probably has this thing whole thing down pat.

Everyone else is kind of improvising. Logistics can get tricky in the high desert along the path of totality. (The line for coffee can only be described as apocalyptic.)

David Silverstein, 71, and his son Seth, 43, were awake at 2 a.m. down in Bend, which is outside totality — and thus off the edge of the Earth for the day. Along with five other family members, they drove in two cars to Culver, a farming town in an area where the main crop is, of all things, carrot seed. Outside the coffee shop shortly before 7 a.m. Monday, they were surveying the high clouds that likely will not create an eclipse-busting situation.

“The sun’s going to be right up there, isn’t it,” Seth said.

“It’s going to be good,” David said.

Totality will be fleeting, though.

“Lasts a minute and a half, and we’ll be out of here,” David said.

Overnight, the Milky Way was the only cloud in the sky as hundreds of campers looked through telescopes and learned about the constellations at a festival organized by Oregon State University-Cascades. They were camped out on a school’s athletic field on grass as soft as a mattress. The roosters began to crow at 3:45 a.m., no doubt signaling that Eclipse Day had finally arrived.

The bigger crowds are eight and 10 miles to the north in Madras, home to Solartown, Solarport and Solar Fest. One of the biggest attractions late Sunday was NASA solar physicist Dean Pesnell, who spoke in a packed pavilion where eclipse chasers lobbed questions both practical and theoretical. He talked about Einstein’s theory of relativity and its affirmation in the eclipse of 1919. He talked about the temperature dropping noticeably during the eclipse. He gave advice on taking photos and videos, with a top tip being no flash.

But the best question came from a kid in the crowd: “How does the moon go in the right place when it’s been in the wrong place?”

“This is what we call a coincidence,” Pesnell said. Then he used a special word: syzygy.

“You just can’t say the word zyzygy and not smile,” he said. “It’s the only word in the English language that has three Ys and each one is pronounced in a different way.”

The things you learn at an eclipse!

2017 Solar eclipse live updates: Weather, photos, traffic and more

The solar eclipse that will sweep across the United States Monday begins at 9 a.m. Pacific Time, noon Eastern, when the moon takes a bite out of the sun for viewers in Oregon. The eclipse will reach totality for coastal Oregon at 10:19 local time. Over the course of 90 minutes, the moon’s full shadow will zip across a 70-mile-wide, 3,000-mile-long path cutting through Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina. Finally at 2:49 p.m. Eastern time, it will disappear off the coast of Charleston, S.C.

The partial eclipse will be visible throughout the continental United States.

We’ll be bringing you live updates from across the United States, with photos, video, drone footage, social media highlights, and reports from two dozen staff and freelance writers.