Friday, June 16, 2017
The twirling solar system pauses to focus on ... Carbondale
The Train Inn has four rooms and two cabins. All of them are available for the highly coveted days around Aug. 21, when the twirling clockwork of the universe, no less, has placed humble Carbondale smack dab in the center of an event of cosmic magnificence: the total eclipse of the sun.
No one has booked a room, though not for want of trying.
"I've had 4,000 plus calls," said Paul Lewers, owner of the train-themed bed and breakfast. "I started getting requests five years ago: the first was an astronomy professor from Sweden."
And why hasn't he booked any?
"I'm not coming up with a price," he explained. "I didn't want to have them re-sold."
Usually, rooms there start at $125, swelling to $245 for prime Southern Illinois University events. But the eclipse, reaching totality longer in Carbondale than any other place in the country, ah, eclipses any football game or graduation. Carbondale businesses are hoping to squeeze every dime out of pilgrim sky gazers. The Holiday Inn is asking $499 a night, paid in advance. SIU is renting out four-person dorm suites: $800 for three nights ("That's only $66 per person per night" an SIU representative helpfully pointed out).
The university has an eclipse website with an end-of-the-world countdown clock. It's teaming with NASA, the Adler Planetarium and the Louisiana Space Consortium for a two-day celebration that is part tail-gate blowout, part science fair. Aug. 21 was also to be the first day of SIU classes, but those were canceled so as not to distract from the business at hand.
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