In August 2017, my wife and I and two close friends drove from Minnesota to east-central Nebraska to have our minds blown.

In the middle of a campground's prairie trail, just over a ridge from the Platte River and several miles from the railroad town of Grand Island, we settled in as a total solar eclipse approached.

A 19th-century account of the eclipse experience by Mabel Loomis Todd comes close to describing what felt, to us, too powerful for typical words: "A vast palpable presence seems to overwhelm the world."

I, too, was overwhelmed with awe in the unusual twilight that filled the space around us in that Nebraska field. Day didn't so much become night as it became something profoundly different. The stillness was tangible as the moon moved directly between Earth and the sun. Bolted to the ground in amazement, we gazed at a glowing "corona," the outer atmosphere of the eclipsed sun. It can't be viewed with the naked eye — ever — except in those few minutes of totality.

I'll pursue that experience again on April 8, when our same group of four travels about 600 miles to southern Missouri. We'll be in the path of totality, near Eminence, a town in the hills that is part of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways. The eclipse will start building at 12:38 p.m. in Missouri, with totality lasting two minutes, 41 seconds, just before 2 p.m.

While a partial eclipse will be visible throughout the lower 48 states (weather-permitting), the total eclipse will be viewable in a band thousands of miles long — dubbed the path of totality — including 13 states from Texas to Maine. More than 30 million people live in the path, which includes several major cities. The closer to the middle of the band, the longer the eclipse. From the Twin Cities, almost three-quarters of the sun will be hidden by the moon.

Chasing totality takes a fuller chapter in the life of one Minnesota woman and her family. Patti Isaacs of Stillwater wrote colorfully of a 2017 trip involving her, her husband Gauss, who was battling pancreatic cancer, and their two adult sons and grandchildren. What began on the previous evening in Lincoln, Neb., ended 400 miles west in a field in Scottsbluff, near the Colorado line. Turns out they needed to chase clear skies, too.

On April 8, Isaacs will attempt to witness her fifth solar eclipse, and no doubt she'll have Gauss in her heart. He died nine months after their 2017 trip. This time, she said, she plans to travel to Austin, Texas, and said several friends "are finally interested enough to try to see it and have approached me asking for advice."

"The first three that [Gauss and I] went to were just eclipse geeks, and now everybody is into it," she added.

Here are some last-minute tips for joining the coronal mass exodus.

Finding accommodations

My group settled on another camping trip, this time to Missouri, and we locked up a tent site for two nights on a family's private land through the Hipcamp app. My initial search several months ago included the Missouri state park system, which has about 20 parks and historic sites in the path. By then many sites already were reserved.

"Everything basically is booked," said Vikki Cosner, a state parks section chief.

She said Sam A. Baker and Lake Wappapello state parks in southeastern Missouri are two big, popular parks that sold out quickly. Cosner and colleagues said they learned a lot from 2017 and the rabid interest. This time, there are better plans around parking, astronomy programs at select sites, and even the availability of eclipse-viewing glasses.

Cosner's suggestion for possible late camping visitors (advice that also applies to hotel-seekers): Consider a destination just outside of the path of totality, where a near-total eclipse could still be dramatic viewing. Babler State Park west of St. Louis, for example, had available sites as of mid-February, starting at $15 a night. "I highly recommend that, looking at places in partial eclipse," Cosner said.

Hipcamp has seen astronomical bookings. States like Ohio and Missouri are approaching 80% occupancy, said spokesperson Lauren Bunde, who added that Arkansas currently has greater availability. Overall, the camping platform said warm-weather states like Texas booked faster. Cabins and yurts and properties with RV sites have gone faster than tent sites.

Getting near or into totality

Indianapolis has pitched itself as the eclipse capital of the Midwest. VisitIndy, the tourism bureau, said as many as 100,000 people will visit the city for the event. The famed Motor Speedway is hosting events and still had space to accommodate campers April 6-8 in three-day blocks. RV camping with electric is $450; a tent pass for the three days is $125.

Indianapolis is used to bringing in crowds, having just hosted 190,000 for the NBA All-Star Game weekend. VisitIndy communications manager Clare Clark expects many to arrive by car, but said the organization has partnered with Sun Country Airlines on a nonstop day trip from Minneapolis. A second flight was added to accommodate interest, with round-trip tickets available for $303 as of Feb. 29.

Nonstop round-trip flights to other major cities in the path were already running as high as $543 for Dallas, $892 for Cleveland and $1,612 for Austin, as of Feb. 29. To save money, you could also consider getting close to the cities in the path by flying to Houston, St. Louis, Chicago and Pittsburgh, for example, and then driving closer.

Several airlines, including Delta, are also offering special eclipse-viewing flights. An Austin-to-Detroit flight sold out in 24 hours, and Monday it added another eclipse flight from Dallas to Detroit.

Think about weather

Heading to a location based on weather predictions? Best to drive there, or rent a car after arriving — if you can. Isaacs recalled 2017, when her group made a late dash to reach clear skies in western Nebraska. As for rental cars, consider that hotels and campsites might not be the only scarce commodity around April 8.

Texas is among the states along the path that have, historically, the least cloud cover for early April. Unlike the 2017 eclipse, this event arrives in a transitional weather period for much of the country. According to NASA and National Weather Service charts, the percentage of cloud cover for April generally increases from south to north along the path, making attention to weather forecasts important.

Stick around post-eclipse

Travelers should consider hanging out for the day or even overnight rather than dashing home afterward — or at least consider alternate routes; 2017 had some notorious traffic jams, including on our push from Nebraska back to Minnesota. Isaacs recalled her son getting stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic on Interstate 35.

Cosner said she and her Missouri parks colleagues will be among the droves of Americans on the move — in their case to support other parks in and near the path. Regardless, there is enthusiasm for April 8.

"It's going to be an incredible show," she said.