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Chasing the Ring of Fire: a rare annular solar eclipse on October 14, 2023

September 2, 2023
Kate Gelo and Brandon Pritchett take a break from riding their 2007 H-D Heritage Softtail to safely observe the sun. | Photo credit: Bill Crowley.

Sometimes, our busy schedules lead us to feel the only way to squeeze in a good ride is for the stars to align just right. That may be the case on October 14, 2023, when celestial objects will indeed arrange themselves to provide a spectacular show and a great reason to mount up and travel.

A rare annular solar eclipse

Actually, it’s not the stars that will align, but instead the sun, moon, and earth that will be arranged so the moon’s shadow will focus on the earth and create a rare annular solar eclipse.

During an annular eclipse, the moon is farther away from the earth and will not completely cover the disk of the sun. The result is a spectacular “ring of fire” when the event is at its peak.

The shadow of the moon will cross into Texas from the northwest, roughly near the Odessa-Midland region. It will slice across Texas to the southeast and leave the Texas coast near Corpus Christi. Between those two points lie some of the best motorcycle roads the state has to offer.

A 100-mile wide path across Texas

However, the shadow of the moon is relatively small, and the path of totality, the zone in which the moon appears to cover the sun’s surface the most, is only about a hundred miles wide. The trick is to be in that narrow band as the shadow races across the earth’s surface at about a thousand miles per hour producing a rare spectacle that will last from three to four minutes.

That’s where motorcycle trips come in. The shadow of the moon will pass over Texas Highway 87 that stretches from San Angelo to Big Spring, a fine plains ride. It will also span the Hill Country west of San Antonio that is home to the famous “Three Sisters” (TX 335, 336, and 337). Just before leaving our state, the shadow will fall on the coastal roads around Corpus Christi.

Planning ahead

Viewing the eclipse safely and enjoyably takes some planning and preparation. First, be aware that observing an eclipse without adequate eye protection can cause serious and permanent vision damage. Therefore, it’s essential to have the proper filters, usually in the form of inexpensive solar viewing glasses (available on Amazon).

Finally, this event will draw crowds. Lodging and campgrounds in the path of the moon’s shadow will fill up quickly and be more expensive than usual. Nearly two dozen Texas State Parks are in the path, but a quick check showed virtually all the campsites are taken that Saturday. You may reserve a TPWD day pass up to one month in advance. One might also consider accommodations outside the path of totality but within a couple of hours of driving.

Stay tuned for more in 2024!

For many, viewing a solar eclipse is a once-in-a-lifetime event, but Texans are going to have another incredible opportunity. A total solar eclipse will cross Texas in April of 2024, just months after the annular event, and it promises to be truly fantastic.

Look for more information and a thorough treatment of the April 2024 eclipse in the Winter 2023 issue of Ride Texas!

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