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For the first time in 38 years, an eclipse is going to hit the lower 48 states. People. Are. Getting. Hyped.

The eclipse will occur on Monday, Aug. 21, and pass over 14 states, from Oregon to South Carolina.

[rebelmouse-image 19474144 dam="1" original_size="750x493" caption="Image from NASA/Goddard/SVS/Ernie Wright." expand=1]Image from NASA/Goddard/SVS/Ernie Wright.


Though there's a solar eclipse every 18 months, a total solar eclipse crossing the continental United States in such a perfect line is rare — in fact, it hasn't happened since 1918, though we'll get another chance in 2024.  The Atlantic has even pegged this as the greatest human migration to see a natural event in U.S. history.

It makes sense that people are making hay while the sun shines — or doesn't shine, as it were. Such a momentous, gigantic, joyous, literally astronomical event is expected to draw out millions of science-loving humans.

Check out a few of the most delightful, surprising, creative, and flat-out fun ways people are preparing to celebrate the occasion.

Some are throwing parties. Huge parties. We're talking religious-festival-with-15,000-people-sized parties.

Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images.

Hopkinsville, Kentucky, will have one of the best views of the eclipse in the nation — so it's throwing a three-day festival called Solquest. Dedicated to witnessing "God's glory and his majesty," organizers are planning for live music, speakers, and prayer.

Meanwhile, Hopkinsville local Griffin Moore is stocking up her studio with plenty of solar-themed merch.

Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images.

Her shop is one of many in town getting ready to capitalize on a giant influx of tourists.

Of course, no eclipse shindig would be complete without some custom, solar-themed hooch.

Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images.

Married duo A.J. Casey Jones and Peg Hays have cooked up some Total Eclipse Moonshine in commemoration of the event. They forecast that 3,500 people will show up at their business, the Casey Jones Distillery.

Meanwhile, the local Singing Fork Baptist Church got some cheeky advertising ideas out of the event.

Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images.

And eclipse glasses are suddenly the must-have fashion accessory of the season.

Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images.

Don't worry if you can't find any (and if you do, make sure they're legit) — there are still plenty of ways to safely watch, like building your own old-school pinhole projector.

NASA's just as keen on watching the eclipse as everyone else, though their equipment's a bit more ... sophisticated.

Photo from NASA's Johnson Space Center/Norah Moran.

The legendary aeronautics agency will use jets to chase the eclipse, stretching the two-and-a-half-minute event into a lengthy seven minutes. Their cameras will record images of the sun's corona, or outer atmosphere.

Over in Montana, they'll be celebrating by releasing giant bacteria-laden balloons into the atmosphere.

[rebelmouse-image 19474151 dam="1" original_size="750x499" caption="Photo from Montana State University." expand=1]Photo from Montana State University.

Researchers at Montana State University have teamed up with NASA to launch some sky-high experiments. NASA's funding a total of 11 different science projects across the nation.

Astrologers, meanwhile, say the eclipse could foretell big things for President Trump, although they were light on specifics.

Zookeepers in Omaha are going to find out whether their giraffes know more about eclipses than they do.

A dog in England during the 2015 eclipse. Photo from Paul Ellis/AFP/Getty Images.

From bees to chickens, animals sometimes act a little wacky when the sky goes dark. During past eclipses, people have reported that birds stopped singing. Elephants headed for their sleeping areas. Chimpanzees stared confusedly at the sky.

So zoos and aquariums in the path of totality, including the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, Nebraska, will be keeping an eye on their animals.

And in the West, Oregon's already experiencing some ridiculous traffic jams.

People aren't just traveling by car either. 63-year-old Gary Parkerson of Louisiana is planning to bike all the way up to Nashville in order to get the very best views.

And plenty of people are taking their solar viewing party to the great outdoors. Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming is predicting their busiest day ever.

The eclipse will cross over 21 different national parks. They're all sure to be packed.

All over the United States, scientists and the faithful, zookeepers and wild beasts, hooch-makers and police officers are coming together for a once-in-a-lifetime (OK, maybe twice-in-a-lifetime) historic event.

Listen, it's been a hard week. Hard year, really. But this is going to be really special and it's cool to see people getting hyped up. So get hyped up too. This is going to be awesome.

As the sun set on their first day, the men of the 25th Infantry Bicycle Corps were cold, tired, and soaking wet. And they still had nearly 1,900 miles to go.

It was summer 1896. The 20 members of the 25th Infantry, an all-black company out of Fort Missoula, Montana, had been volunteered by their white commanding officer, 2nd Lt. James Moss, to study the feasibility of using bicycles in the military, which, unlike horses, required no food, water, or rest.

Moss was allowed to lead his men on a near-2,000-mile journey from Missoula to St. Louis, Missouri. The weather was punishing, the ride grueling, and the water poisonous. The men of the 25th were selected for the experiment, frankly, because as soldiers, they were worth little to the U.S. military.


Image via The Montana Experience: Stories from Big Sky Country/YouTube.

But odds are you haven't heard of the 25th Infantry Bicycle Corps. Their story was quickly forgotten, barely earning a mention in the pages of history books.

But in reality, these men were unsung heroes. Don't believe me? Here are nine reasons why.

1. Before the journey, many of the men didn't even know how to ride a bike.

Only five of the 20 soldiers were experienced bicycle riders ahead of the cross-country trek. One learned how to ride just a week prior. At the time, safety bicycles (the new model with two wheels of the same size as opposed to the large wheel on the front) were relatively new and exciting.

Photo of Pvt. John Findley, one of the few men in the company with any cycling experience. Image via The Montana Experience: Stories from Big Sky Country/YouTube.

2. The bicycles selected for the journey were on loan and extremely clunky.

The Spalding company donated bicycles for the experiment. The bikes had steel rims and no gears (those hadn't been invented yet). Each bicycle weighed in at 59 pounds, without gear. A heavy one-speed bike is just fine on a breezy ride through the country. But these men were traveling over mountains.

Are your legs tired yet?


Image via The Montana Experience: Stories from Big Sky Country/YouTube.

3. You know when your grandparents say they had to walk uphill both ways? This was the journey for the 25th. Only true.

The route to St. Louis was selected because the men would encounter diverse terrain — perfect for a test of military feasibility. The company traveled from the steep slopes of Montana through the dry, sandy roads of Nebraska. They encountered snow, rocks, mud, and punishing winds. They even crossed the rivers on foot, multiple times, holding their bikes over their heads.

"We were wet, cold and hungry, and a more jaded set of men never existed," wrote Edward Boos, a correspondent for the Daily Missoulian and an avid bicyclist who traveled with the 25th to report on their experiences.

Why didn't they just ride on the road? Good question.


The 25th riding past Old Faithful at Yellowstone. Image via The Montana Experience: Stories from Big Sky Country/YouTube.

4. The roads were so bad, the men often resorted to riding on train tracks.

The roads that existed at the time were worn down from wagon wheels creating deep rutted paths. And when it rained, they were washed away, replaced with thick mud. Instead, at times the men rode their bikes on the train tracks, which weren't much better considering there was nothing between the railroad ties but deep holes. The men held tight to their handlebars to keep from flipping over, resulting in hand numbness and intense shoulder pain for miles.

And you thought you were sore after a 50-minute spin class.

Image via The Montana Experience: Stories from Big Sky Country/YouTube.

5. Each soldier carried 55 pounds of gear on his bike.

Their supplies included half a tent, a bedroll, a pair of underwear, an undershirt, socks a toothbrush, two days worth of food (burnt bread, beans, bacon or canned beef, and coffee), various tools, and a rifle. Every 100 miles or so, the men would stop at posts to refill their supplies.

The supplies were kept in white rolls on the handlebars and in small custom leather or metal pouches attached to the bicycle frame. U.S. National Archives and Records Administration/Wikimedia Commons.

6. They barely got any rest, and at times when they did, it was amid cacti.

The men rode 35 full days of the 41-day journey. Considering the terrain, there weren't many good places to stop and rest. They often made camp in fields of prickly pear cactus, though few men reported being poked.

Image via The Montana Experience: Stories from Big Sky Country/YouTube.

7. And, oh yeah, the water was poisonous.

Because a 2,000-mile journey on a one-speed bike isn't tricky enough, once the soldiers got to Nebraska, they were drinking from water that had dangerously high levels of alkali and even cholera.

Vapors from the dusty terrain made the men sick, too. 2nd Lt. Moss even began to hallucinate.


Image via The Montana Experience: Stories from Big Sky Country/YouTube.

8. Because they were black, the 25th were often considered second-rate soldiers, but they were anything but.

The 25th Infantry were one of four all-black infantry regiments created by Congress after the Civil War. The army moved the unit out west to help tame the wild frontier, where they picked up the name "Buffalo Soldiers" from the Cheyenne.

The men were given slow horses, rotten food, and shoddy gear for the task. Despite the miserable treatment and conditions, though, black companies had some of the lowest desertion rates of regiments out west. And between 1870 and 1898, 23 black soldiers were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Image via The Montana Experience: Stories from Big Sky Country/YouTube.

9. But when they reached St. Louis, the men received a warm welcome from the city's people.

2nd Lt. Moss and the 25th were escorted to a hotel just outside of town by a local bicycle club. Later, they performed maneuvers in a St. Louis parade, where 10,000 people came to cheer for them. Sadly, not a single military officer was there to greet them.


Image via The Montana Experience: Stories from Big Sky Country/YouTube.

The men had done it — traveling 1,900 miles in 41 days across some of the country's most punishing terrain. Moss wanted to continue the trip and travel to St. Paul, Minnesota. But he was told to return the bikes and send his men back to Montana on the train.

Despite a successful journey, the experiment was over.

The story of the 25th Infantry Bicycle Corps is one of those unique, surprising moments in U.S. history.

After the journey Boos wrote, "This hard work was too much. It could not prove anything about a bicycle and was merely a test of physical endurance of which we had quite sufficient."

120 years later, this story is about so much more than a bicycle. It's about adventure, guts, and mental and physical fortitude. Other than the all-black cast, it has all the makings of a big-budget Hollywood movie. (I kid, I kid.)

Image via The Montana Experience: Stories from Big Sky Country/YouTube.

Learn more about the 25th Infantry Bicycle Corps from historians and their descendants in this documentary.


True
Open Primaries

The primary system we use to choose candidates in the United States is broken, but there's a proven way to make it better.

A tiny fraction of possible voters get to choose who is actually running for office. It's what happens in most state and federal elections across the country; if you're a registered Republican, you get to vote in the primaries for that party. Democrat? Same.

But what if you're among the more than 40% of voters (and half of all millennials) who are independent?

In many states, you have to actually register as a member of a party in order to vote in the primary.


If registering as a member of a party you don't necessarily agree with on many issues rubs you the wrong way, join the club.

Image of the George W. Norris chamber via Nebraska Legislature.

Are there any solutions to this problem?

Some states, like Nebraska, have taken a different approach — and it's working much better.

John Opdycke, the president of Open Primaries, explained in a recent Atlantic interview, how this alternative system truly breaks the mold.

"[The primaries] don't just determine party nominees," he said. "They determine the shape and the tenor and tone of the campaign, the issues that are on the table, the coalitions that are on the table."

How so? Let's explore 3 ways they do that.


1. Open primaries, where anyone can vote for any candidate regardless of party registration

It means that candidates have to appeal to all voters, not simply the ones in their party, to end up on the final ballot.

This leads to...

2. A general election ballot without party affiliation where voters choose between the top two candidates.

It also means that the people get things they want accomplished by their lawmakers — despite political affiliations of the parties. In the case of Nebraska, a legislature comprised of 35 Republicans, 13 Democrats, and 1 independent accomplished a raise in the minimum wage, immigration reform, abolishing the death penalty, and raising the gas tax, among other things.

Imagine that happening in a state where the primaries are like they are for most of the country?

3. A non-partisan unicameral legislature where politicians work together

A unicameral legislature is something that rather flips the traditional voting narrative on its head, and it's opening some eyes. Definitively, unicameral legislature means one chamber of house, rather than two divided ones.

With no formal party alignments or caucuses, it allows coalitions to form issue by issue. This way, every bill gets an open and public committee hearing regardless of the member's party status.

GIF from Open Primaries/Why America Needs Nonpartisan Elections.


Here's a short clip with some sound reasons why it's working for Nebraska.