The Double D Ranch and the Total Eclipse

Some of you might be aware that there was a total Eclipse that traversed across the US in April 2024. We decided to experience it. I spent some time the three weeks before the eclipse (while traveling up the coast with our friends, John and Donna Brett – review the last post HERE) preparing for the 2024 Total Solar eclipse. I watched a lot of videos about how to photograph an eclipse, and interesting eclipse phenomena and facts. As well as organizing a weekend retreat for a few friends at a the ranch of a high school buddy, Stuart Self, from Los Alamos. His cattle ranch, the Double D Ranch, is squarely in the path of the 2024 Total eclipse!

One of our shadow PROPs for eclipse activities incorporating the Double-D logo.


The idea of this even was born during the 2017 eclipse, that Donna Brett and I flew in to view in Portland, OR. (Click to see that blog post). My first thought after that eclipse was “I HAVE TO SEE THE NEXT ECLIPSE“. I was hooked. We originally thought we might go to Maine. But then I realized I really wanted Mike to join me, which means somewhere the RV can go.

In December 2022 we stayed in Kerrville at Buckhorn Lake RV which is in the path of totality this year. When I asked to make a reservation for 2024 (from 2022), they said they were full. In the meantime my friend, RK Owen, expressed interest in connecting up for the eclipse but we couldn’t find a “where”. Finally, somehow, I realized Stuart’s Ranch (The Double D Ranch) was smack in the middle of totality. I asked him about coming out to stay. He graciously agreed and said I could have up to 7 other RVs join in the fun. It was an Epic plan!

Pre-Eclipse BBQ

I promoted the idea of a “weekend party” with a number of friends. Most of them already had plans to be in Texas, but had plans for the eclipse day. My parents were two of them. They used to live in Waxahachie, TX, and had not seen their group of friends there for several years, one whose house was squarely in the center of totality.

My 90 and 91 year old parents decided to drive down the 700 miles, to view the event from Frank’s house. Since I have been trying to visit with them more regularly, I thought it would be nice to “run into them” in Texas. Also for the past few years, whenever I get close to Houston, my mother has commented on how much she would like to see my cousin, William. I decided to host a BBQ party the day before the eclipse, and get all these folks together.

Setting the stage

Stuart and Mandy have a beautiful setting on the cattle ranch. Complete with full outdoor kitchen facilities, and covered patio. They had never used his smoker, and welcomed the chance to try it out. We smoked a brisket, Texas style, which had to be smoked 12 hours. The smoke and heat were generated by wood fire, so we had to keep a close eye to make sure things went right. We each took a 2-hour shift through the night. The brisket was done about 7am.. and was PERFECT!

The guests

Guests (about 25 of us total) started showing up about noon with pot luck items. The party was very nice. William (my cousin), who has since moved to Louisiana with his wife, Stephanie, drove over for the day. My parents were able to make it. My brother, Keith, and his wife, Sylva, flew over from San Jose. I bet Keith and William had not seen each other in 50 years.

Stephanie (top left), William (bottom left), Sylva (right)

Amie and Randy Smith (Pickleball friends from our Towerpoint stay in Arizona) joined in, and brought 7 family members with them.

Amie and Randy Smith Family - On Eclipse Day

RK (whom I met originally in 1983 or so through Keith) and his wife, Marsha, joined us for the weekend in his RV. Two of his kids drove down from Minnesota and stayed in their RV.

And of course, John and Donna Brett, who had been traveling with us for the whole month, were there for the weekend too.

Donna the cow

Stuart and his girlfriend, Mandy, hit it off with John and Donna (It didn’t hurt that John is a retired Veterinarian) and the calf that was born that morning they named after Donna…. Donna the cow.

The party was a success. Of course, I was trying to manage the party and didn’t feel like I had enough time to visit.. but isn’t that how it always goes.


And what would an event be without Pickleball? On the Saturday (the day before the party), we wandered into town to the local Sonic of all places. The Sonic in Canton is the only Sonic in the country that touts it’s own pickleball courts! It is brilliant. Covered picnic area complete with kiddie playground and ordering kiosks. Food delivered right to your table of course. We went for the novelty. Super fun!

THE EVENT – 2024 Total Eclipse

The eclipse was fantastic.  One thing different this time is that we had clouds all morning.  I had heard of this phenomenon where the clouds dissipate during a total eclipse (read that article here).  We were unsure if we could count on that or not but in the end it worked perfectly! 

During the partial phases the sun kept going in and out of the clouds providing us an unobstructed view about every 5 minutes… Which was enough to watch the progress.  Then at the second of totality.. Poof!  the clouds disappeared.  I mean ALL the clouds, there was not a cloud in the sky.  Planets came out and the view was amazing! 

We were glad it was a cloudy morning because otherwise we would not have experienced this amazing phenomenon. 

I did have a lot of fun with my Camera, and got these 3 amazing photographs (plus about 150 more!!)

Again,, I can’t thank Stuart and Mandy enough for allowing us to hold such a memorable event at their property. It’s wonderful to have such good friends scattered all over the country.

The NEXT Eclipse

Just as we were getting ready to leave the ranch, Donna found this picture of us from 2017, and we realized we both were travelling with those shirts in our RV’s (Lol!) So of course we had to recreate the picture.

Sadly, there will not be another total eclipse that can be seen from the United states for 21 years. 2045 is the next one. I need to safeguard my health to make sure I’m around to see it. This is the next path that it will take. Now to figure out who lives in the path who I can ask to host a party! (Humm, Monica’s house might work!)

One Response

  • Phyllis and Mike,
    Thank you, thank you, thank you for your incredibly enjoyable recap of the 2024 Total Solar Eclipse. I enjoyed all written and of course the pictures my friend.

    Knowing some of your family, it was wonderful seeing the number of people who joined you, including your mom and pop. God bless ’em and tell them hello for me. 🙂

    Of course I wish to goodness I could have made the drive up to Stuart and Mandy’s Double D Ranch for this awesome experience; what a great host and hostess you all had! The Total Solar Eclipse of 2024 was pre-knee surgery for me, and comfort was not my friend then. But hey, I might be a Floridian again for the next one and you’d be welcome to come stay with me. You never know!!!

    As always my friend, until the next time, keep traveling and having fun! I am delighted having you and Mike in my circle of friends.

    Take care of yourself!

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