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ALLIANCE -- A family of self-proclaimed nerds, the Mays traveled a combined 3,000 miles to view the total solar eclipse somewhere unique.

Catherine May and her boyfriend flew up from Galveston, Texas. Her parents came from upstate New York. They met at Carhenge, the Nebraska Panhandle's version of England's Stonehenge.

“I’ve had this plan in my brain for 10 years,” Catharine said, ever since she was in high school and learned about the eclipse on the NASA website.

Her family and hundreds of others flowed through Carhenge over the weekend in preparation for Monday’s eclipse, a once-in-a-lifetime experience for many with its much sought-out path cutting across the state -- from Alliance, through Grand Island and Lincoln, to Falls City.

On the eve of the big day, it was still difficult for officials to get a gauge on the number of visitors who chose a Nebraska destination over other spots along the eclipse path from Oregon to South Carolina.

In Beatrice, the eclipse epicenter of Southeast Nebraska, campers from across the region flowed in to the Gage County Fairgrounds ahead of the big event. After checking out their view, many checked out the town, or hopped on motorcoach buses shuttling visitors to the Homestead National Monument.

It's there where Bill Nye "The Science Guy" on Monday will announce "GLASSES OFF" at the precise moment when the total solar eclipse begins.

With Lincoln among the largest cities nationwide in the so-called path of totality, enthusiasts from all across the country arrived this weekend.

Michael Wabs flew from California to Lincoln on Saturday to meet up with other family members who opted to drive three days to get here.

Wabs said his son, Christopher, is "really excited to watch the eclipse since he’s been learning about it in school."

The Wabs family spent their time in Lincoln touring Memorial Stadium and the Capitol. They'll head south to Odell to watch the eclipse. 

Another family from California — the Shobars — flew into Omaha and drove to Lincoln, where they plan to view the eclipse.

“It was the most central location for us to get together and watch the eclipse in totality,” said Jessica Shobar.

Some didn't have to come from quite as far. 

April McCallister and her family of five drove nine hours from Dallas. It's their first time in Lincoln. 

“We were looking for somewhere in the totality path," McCallister said. "It was a straight shot from Dallas."

The family spent time at the Lincoln Children’s Zoo, Morrill Hall and the Capitol.

“It’s a great little place,” she said.

The promise of the eclipse made Nebraska a great place to play the license plate game this weekend. At the Homestead Monument alone Sunday, you could check off Iowa, Minnesota, Kansas, South Dakota and Texas.

A Connecticut man was among the first to set up a telescope outside Beatrice to view the eclipse this weekend.

Back in Lincoln, Dave and Bea Garder of Lynchburg, Virginia, said they'll head to near Odessa in central Nebraska to watch the eclipse. They've witness a solar eclipse once before, in the Caribbean. 

“It’s really cool to get together with people from all around the world to watch,” Bea said.

The couple chose to come to Lincoln because it’s near Bea’s mother’s birthplace in Fairmont, which they have been planning to visit.

“It really all worked out for us this time around,” she said.

Stephen Beasley of Austin, Texas, will mark his birthday on eclipse day near Humboldt.

His family, and their dog, Wolf, traveled 13 hours to arrive in Lincoln on Sunday. One of the first treats was a stop at Runza.

Depending on the weather on Monday, many may call audibles in their travel plans.

Kevin Howard, director of the Alliance Visitors Bureau, speculated that crowds from central and eastern Nebraska would head west to dodge the clouds using the “great escape route”: Interstate 80 to Grand Island, then Nebraska 2 into the Sandhills.

“It is just really hard to plan a party when you don’t know how many guests are coming,” he said. “The people that are smart are coming in today.”

The Gedemer family of Parker, Colorado, came to Alliance to avoid the gridlock they saw in Denver headed north toward Wyoming.

Todd Gedemer reacted to Carhenge the same way just about everyone does: “It’s interesting. I’m not exactly sure what I expected in the first place. It’s just really hard to classify.”

His son, Alexander, said he’s excited about the eclipse.

“As long as I don’t go blind.”

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Staff writer Hana Muslic reported from Lincoln.

Staff writer Zach Pluhacek reported from Alliance.

Staff writer Chris Dunker reported from Beatrice.


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