Thaddeus LaCoursiere has a backup plan for the clouds.

Like many Minnesotans chasing the solar eclipse, LaCoursiere, 35, of St. Paul will make a last-minute decision this weekend based on the cloud cover whether to drive hours across the country to Vermont or trek to Texas — all to catch up to four minutes of a total eclipse on Monday.

"Fingers crossed, it clears up wherever we end up," he said. "It's a chance just to see something you've never ever been able to see before, and may never see again in your lifetime. The moon, we're so familiar with, covers up the sun ... seeing this cosmic dance there in the sky and them meeting up is awe-inspiring."

Many Minnesotans are embarking on road trips to chase "totality" — when the moon completely blocks out the sun. In the Twin Cities, a partial eclipse will be visible, with about three-quarters of the sun obscured by the moon.

Like storm chasers or festival goers, they're monitoring weather forecasts, packing picnics and have booked up hotels or campgrounds months in advance for the big event, a phenomena last seen in the U.S. in 2017 and won't be visible again in the Lower 48 states until 2044.

The "path of totality" spans 13 states from Texas to Maine, according to NASA. Totality is the only part of the eclipse that can be viewed with the naked eye instead of with protective glasses. Of course, no sighting is guaranteed; clouds rolled into the Twin Cities during the eclipse in 2017.

Larry Olson, 62, of Chisago City, hopes to increase his chances by making a last-minute decision which direction to head for clear skies. Four months ago, he booked four different camping reservations from Texas to Ohio to have the flexibility to go east or south, depending on the weather.

If all goes as planned, the retired Medtronic electrical engineer and a friend will be sitting at a campsite Monday under clear skies with his telescope and four cameras set up to capture the eerie show as the skies turn dark in daytime.

"It's more of an adventure," he said of the eclipse road trip. "The fact you can see stars in the middle of the day to me is just an amazing thing to see."

After trekking to a Nebraska park for the 2017 eclipse and getting held up in traffic jams, Olson added an extra day or two on this year's road trip. The solar eclipse in 2017 got a lot of hype, drumming up more eclipse fans, Olson said, so he's expecting bigger crowds this year.

An estimated 5 million people are expected to be traveling the path of totality, according to the Federal Highway Administration — at least the same number if not more than in 2017, snarling roadways across the country.

Tom Taintor, 62, of Apple Valley is doing his own experiment with his family, releasing a 5-foot-wide weather balloon equipped with three tiny, light cameras to capture the eclipse some 80,000 feet up in the air. When the balloon bursts, the equipment will descend with a parachute — and with GPS so it can be recouped.

The software engineer and his son did the same thing in Missouri in 2017 and have practiced with a weather balloon in Iowa fields since then.

"It's like you're looking at outer space," Taintor said of the photos.

He, his wife, their three adult sons and friends will send up a balloon on Monday either from Missouri or Illinois, depending on the weather.

He was transfixed by the experience of witnessing the total eclipse in 2017, marveling at how the sky darkened in daytime, the air suddenly chilled, birds silenced and nighttime bugs started chirping.

"Afterward, you just sit there slack-jawed, trying to take it all in. It's a little addictive," Taintor said. "It was just a life-changing experience. I'd seen partial eclipses before but total eclipses are a totally different thing."

"A partial eclipse is like a cool sunset. A total eclipse is like someone broke the sky," he said quoting from a webcomic called xkcd. "It's just so unusual."

According to NASA, the 2024 eclipse path will pass over more cities and densely populated areas than in 2017 because the path of totality will be wider than in 2017 with the moon closer to Earth this time. The length of totality will also last longer; in 2017, the longest period of totality was less than 3 minutes, but this year it will last more than 4 minutes in parts of Mexico and the U.S., according to NASA.

Plus, the sun is in or near "solar maximum," a cycle every 11 years or so when the sun has more solar activity, NASA explained — something that also increases the chance for vivid northern lights this year. During the eclipse, when the moon completely covers the sun, showing the star's outer atmosphere called the corona, viewers may see more streamers, like loops coming off the sun compared to 2017.

If you miss Monday's solar show, you'll have to travel farther in 2026 when a total eclipse will be viewable in Greenland, Iceland, Russia, Portugal and Spain. Taintor is already eyeing a trip to Spain to see the spectacle.

The next total eclipse in the U.S. will be in 2033 in Alaska while the Lower 48 states won't get a chance for a total eclipse until 2044. The Twin Cities isn't slated to see a total solar eclipse until 2099.

Jill Smook, 58, of Apple Valley stayed home in 2017 for the partial eclipse, dismissing the need to travel for a total eclipse. But when she heard from friends who saw it, she regretted not leaving the state.

Six months ago, she and her husband booked an Airbnb and a flight to Texas before prices skyrocketed. They're meeting friends and packing a picnic; they'll be ready to be stranded in traffic as they drive outside Austin to track down a spot where totality will last almost four minutes.

"It's almost like disaster preparedness in some ways," she said of stocking up on food and water.

They've got their solar glasses and bright color outfits planned for the "Purkinje effect," which happens when the sky darkens and eyes become more sensitive to certain hues. If clouds roll in and spoil the show, at least they will have a warm weather destination to explore, she said.

It's not just the hunt for the total eclipse, Smook said, but taking part in a collective experience, sharing something special with millions of strangers — all who can say they witnessed the sensation.

"We don't get a lot of that any more," Smook said.

LaCoursiere, who is the planetarium production coordinator at Bell Museum in St. Paul, referred to the eclipse is a "big FOMO moment." The fear of missing out likely will motivate many people to view it. In 2017, he witnessed it in St. Louis, oohing and aahing along with thousands of people. Seven years later, it's an "amazing cosmic coincidence," he said, that the eclipse, usually only seen over oceans, is viewable in the U.S. again.

"We all just want to see something we may never see again," he said. "It's elusive and almost once-in-a-lifetime."

Video (01:26) The cosmic curtain is about to rise again on the greatest show on Earth: a total solar eclipse that will dazzle millions as it races across North America.