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No reservations, but a visit to the local art gallery landed them a spot to park their RV.

SUSAN MATHENY/MADRAS PIONEER - Aart Beenken and Remigija Poceieme, from the Netherlands, relax at the Madras campsite they discovered through a visit to Art Adventure Gallery. On the table are solar viewing glasses from Aart Beenken's many solar eclipse trips.
This was the sixth total eclipse Aart Beenken, of the Netherlands, has witnessed but a first experience for his partner, Remigija Poceieme.

"We're spending a four-week holiday in the U.S., combined with the solar eclipse. The eclipse determines where our holiday is, so for the next 100 years, my holidays are planned," Aart Beenken joked, last Friday.

The couple rented an RV in San Francisco and drove towards Madras, taking in Yosemite Park, Crater Lake, Paulina Lake and other sights along the way. When they arrived Wednesday, they realized almost all the campsites were taken.

"By pure luck and coincidence, we met two lovely ladies (Brenda Lebegern and Joyce Edgemon) at the Art Adventure Gallery," he said explaining his sister is an artist and they always look for art during their travels.

"We had a nice chat and said we were looking for a place to stay, and one lady said she may know someone," he said.

Lebegern texted Madras resident Rick Allen, who she had heard was interested in having a collection of people of different nationalities at his house, and he said to send them on up.

"I already had an Italian professor coming and have an Airbnb apartment, which I'd rented out to KOIN TV Channel 6 anchor and cameraman. And now I have people from Canada, the Netherlands, Germany, New Hampshire and Seattle," Allen said on Friday.

Beenken and Poceieme, who met four years ago, are from Alkmaar, Netherlands, a "small village" of 17,000 people, where he works as an electronic engineer in automation. Originally from Lithuania, she works in the paper industry at a business that makes wrapping paper. She speaks Russian, Dutch and Lithuanian. Coincidentally, they live 6 kilometers from the Bejo Company, which contracts with Central Oregon Seeds Inc., in Madras, to grow carrot seed.

Aart Beenken became an eclipse chaser in 1999, after seeing his first total eclipse in Belgium. "The first one was so impressive and such a beautiful event, that I definitely wanted to see it again," he explained.

Next, he traveled to an eclipse in Zambia, Africa in 2001. "I went with a group of astronomers from the university and learned so much information about celestial events that it made me even more interested. One guy was a walking encyclopedia," he said.

Then there was one in the desert of Libya, Africa, in 2006, also with scientists.

"The Libyan one was one of the most fantastic holidays I've had because we were at a large caldera in the desert with blue water. We had three trucks and drove for hours and hours across a vast desert. They had to navigate by the sun and markings, like one or two tires on the road marking a crossroad," he said.

"Sleeping in the desert was beautiful. The stars and night sky were incredible; it was so clear there," he said.

He saw his fourth total eclipse in Queensland, Australia, and the fifth one in the Faroe Islands, near Iceland, in 2015. "It was so harsh there," he said, noting, "Eclipses are in places you normally don't go." And that is why he didn't think about needing reservations when he came to Madras, because he'd never had any before.

Since arriving here, the couple has been to the Erickson Aircraft Collection museum, swam twice at Cove State Park, and attended the NASA presentation on Thursday at the Madras Performing Arts Center.

With Beenken translating, Poceieme gave her impressions of the area. "It's beautiful, and the people are nice no matter where you go. They talk to you and are so open and interested in you. You only speak one word, and straightaway you have contact," she said.

They said they would like to stay a few days after the eclipse, and then will be off to see the Oregon Coast, then return to San Francisco to fly out and go back to work.

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