How I won a chance to see the Great American Eclipse from the air

KXAN Digital Content Producer Kate Winkle and her boyfriend Adam Allevato won a trip to see the solar eclipse from the air (Courtesy Kate Winkle)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — It was the last call I expected — an offer to watch the Great American Eclipse from the air.

I was sitting in a car dealership, of all places — waiting for the workers to finish the infamous Texas Vehicle Inspection on my car that had spent only a month on Texas soil.

I didn’t recognize the number, but the voice on the other end was endlessly cheery. My mind was in a daze as I heard the words “Great American Eclipse,” “charter flight,” and “grand prize winner.” When the call ended, I did a victory dance, and maybe a couple fist bumps. I didn’t care that I was in the middle of the dealership and people were staring.

A swiftly-sent email confirmed what I thought might have been an incredible dream: “You have won a trip for two (2) people to attend a chartered flight to view the solar eclipse from 35,000 feet on August 21, 2017 with Alaska Airlines.”

And to think I almost didn’t enter the contest.

It had been two weeks since I’d road tripped from Anchorage, Alaska, to Austin, Texas, and I was in the middle of job searching and wondering what I would do with all my free time. I had the vague thought that it would be fun to see the solar eclipse on Aug. 21, but didn’t really prepare because I didn’t know if I would have a job by that time.

My mom sent me a link to Alaska Airlines’ contest. The rules told entrants to submit a 30 second video explaining why they wanted an absolutely stellar view of the eclipse.

I told my boyfriend, Adam, about it. We joked about entering and what we would say — how we read The Right Stuff and The Martian together, and the time I printed out and framed one of NASA’s space tourism posters as a Christmas gift. We remembered that our fourth date had been to see the lunar eclipse in Colorado in 2014. I spent an hour digging through the files on my computer to find the photos I took of the moon that night.

Inspired (and because I was still unemployed and in need of a project) we set up a makeshift interview set on his roommates’ couch and just talked about how much we liked space and how glad we were to no longer be in a long-distance relationship. I edited what turned out to be more than a minute take into 30 seconds.

“Send us on an amazing adventure together,” I quipped almost too-adorably at the end of the video.

That’s exactly what Alaska Airlines is doing, and I couldn’t be more excited. Every so often I stop for a moment and ask myself, “Is this real?!”

I learned that I was a winner one day after starting my job at KXAN, and fortunately, we worked it out so I can head to Portland this weekend and have time off for the return journey.

On the morning of the eclipse Adam and I, another prize winner, and dozens of scientists and media will arrive excessively early at the airport and begin our trip of a lifetime. The plane will take off from Portland International Airport and fly over the Pacific Ocean, catching the solar eclipse before it arrives on the coast. We’ll be some of the first people to see it as it starts its journey across the continental U.S.

I can’t imagine what it will be like, but I know I’m already excited. I frantically bought supplies to create a makeshift solar filter for my camera. While I hope to snap a few great shots, I also hope to sit back for a moment and enjoy the incredible view.

KXAN Digital Content Producer Kate Winkle will be viewing the solar eclipse from 35,000 feet on Aug. 21, and will share details of the experience on KXAN.com.

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