DorobekInsider weekend extra: Mintz: What I Did For My Summer Vacation

Editor’s note: The following is a guest post by Dan Mintz, the former Transportation Department CIO, now with CSC. He is on a family trip to see a solar e...

Editor’s note: The following is a guest post by Dan Mintz, the former Transportation Department CIO, now with CSC. He is on a family trip to see a solar eclipse — in China. He told me he will dend along a follow-up note on his return. This was written before he left earlier this week.

What I did for my summer vacation

By Dan Mintz

On Monday, July 13th at 8am, my wife Ellen and my two daughters, Miriam and Tamar, and I are getting on a plane at Dulles Airport. Approximately 18 hours later, we land in Shanghai, China at 1:55pm, July 14th.

The Mintz family in China

The Mintz family in China

Eight days later we hope to see the longest total solar eclipse in this century, slightly less than six minutes long at Wuhan, China. Regardless of the viewing conditions that morning, we will get an all too short glimpse of this still controversially emerging global super-power between July 14th and July 27th when we leave Beijing to return home.

How This Trip Came About – Turkey

The possibility of the trip to China actually began in late 2004, when I decided that it was important for me to see a total solar eclipse. It turned out that one was scheduled to occur in March, 2006 in Turkey, a country I had always been interested in because of the many cultures that had occupied that territory over time.

Searching around the Internet I came across a web site called Eclipse Chasers and was referred to someone who organized Eclipse tours, Rick Brown.

My wonderful wife, Ellen, was used to these kinds of random thoughts, and while Turkey was probably not on her top three list of countries to visit next, acquiesced to going.

We had a wonderful time in Turkey, saw many wonderful sites, and had a great time watching the eclipse in Side, Turkey, at a resort on the Mediterranean. We literally were able to see the shadow of the eclipse come at us from the water and cross over us as the eclipse became total.

For those who are interested in what it was like to be in Side, here is a summary from one of the participants

We made many new friends, a number of whom we have kept in active touch with and who have since visited our home. And, of course, we enjoy the Turkish rug we bought while there – is it possible to go to Turkey and not get a rug?

One final story from the Turkey visit is that before I left I had started serious conversations with the Bush Administration about joining the Department of Transportation as the Chief Information Officer. We had gotten to the point where the next step was to make an ‘almost’ final decision and then have that likely choice meet Secretary Mineta for a final sign-off.

When we arrived, tired and jet-lagged late afternoon, I confirmed that I had received no phone calls or emails. Assuming this likely meant that they were delayed in deciding or had decided to select someone else, I called the White House liason. Though it was very late in the day, she was still cheerful, I was to learn she always was, telling me she really looked forward to seeing me at 10am the next day for my meeting with Secretary Mineta.

The next morning I arrived at the Department, thankful that I had checked in but to be honest barely awake. Evidently I didn’t make a complete fool of myself because within a day after that final meeting I was offered the position and happily accepted leading to almost three greats years working with some of the finest people I have ever had the good fortune to meet.

How This Trip Came About – China

The first email from Rick Brown, the organizer of the Turkey eclipse trip, about joining him in 2009 in China came in September, 2006.

Though we really hadn’t planned to go on still another eclipse trip, both Ellen and I had talked about visiting China and once we found out both of our daughters would be interested in going, we let Rick know we were in.

The plan for the trip is pretty extensive. (Read the entire plan here.)

Our group this year is almost 50 percent bigger than last year — about 90 people. We will typically be going in three buses when on land.

We land in Shanghai, tour for a few days while getting used to the time change. Then fly inland to take a cruise down the Yangtze River. During the four days we are on the Yangtze we take a number of side excursions visiting the three gorges and other sights.

July 21st we fly back to Wuhan where we will watch the eclipse the next day. Up at 5am the current plan is to go to a local university to watch the eclipse.

For those who are interested, the University of North Dakota plans to do a web cast from our site. You can see that at

And I am told we will have a New York Times reporter joining us in Wuhan.

After the eclipse we leave Wuhan that afternoon, flying to Xian to see the Terra Cotta soldiers and finally to Beijing.

Assuming we have no problems accessing flickr, we plan to upload pictures on Flickr from time to time. Find photos here:

As we finish packing for the trip and our older daughter comes back to DC from NYC, where she continues her efforts at perfecting her acting craft.

Our excitement only builds; from the opportunity to see China, to spend two weeks with our entire family, and naturally to see another eclipse, a very special experience.

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