Delicious anticipation is a key component of the glories of travel. A beachside taverna, a mountain pass or a world-class museum? Wherever you picture yourself weeks or months from now, the expectation of a journey delivers abundant rewards and lifts the spirits. Having said that, I find myself in the somewhat awkward position of being on the verge of departing for the world’s biggest-ever astronomical party – but not knowing where exactly I might join it.

Here’s the context: on Monday 8 April, the moon will blot out the sun along a 115-mile-wide “zone of totality” – a stripe of darkness that will sweep across North America from Mexico’s Pacific Coast to Atlantic Canada, visiting dozens of US cities along the way.

I very much hope to witness this total solar eclipse, but as of Saturday evening I do not know where I will be on the day. For the previous Great American Eclipse, in August 2017, I booked three years in advance; for this one, it will be just 24 hours ahead.

The 2017 total solar eclipse, which swept from Oregon to South Carolina (and which I watched in Wyoming), was a mere warm-up for this Monday’s cosmic event. While the last one covered sparsely populated locations, the 2024 astronomical extravaganza will be far more accessible: 32 million Americans live within the zone of totality.

The duration of darkness is also remarkably high: a maximum of four minutes and 28 seconds, two-thirds more than the last time the US experienced daytime darkness.

Anyone beneath a clear sky will experience the closest the universe gets to magic. The air chills. The stars and planets appear in the middle of the day. For those brief moments, the only signals that there is a star at the heart of the solar system are faint diamonds of light on the edge of the heart of darkness: this is sunshine slipping through lunar valleys.

Surely the greatest show on earth – so long as your view is not obscured by cloud cover, which downgrades a cosmological marvel to an eerie daytime gloom. And that, for millions of would-be watchers, is the problem.

The brilliant astronomer and eclipse guru, John Mason, pored over the weather records for 8 April for many previous decades. He concluded the location with the best chance of clear skies is on the Texas-Mexico border near San Antonio. Dr Mason emphasises, though, that you can stack the meteorological odds in your favour as much as you like, but nature will have the final say about whether you will enjoy the heavenly performance.

Texas now looks as though it may be beneath heavy cloud – though another phenomenon, the “Mason miracle” may come into play.

I am holding off my decision until Sunday morning. I am hoping fervently that Niagara Falls will be clear: a spectacular location in its own right, with an entirely new dimension of an afternoon interrupted by a blackout.

My sole investment so far is a £17 ticket for the Monday morning train from Toronto to Niagara as a traffic-jam avoidance technique.

As of Saturday evening, though, the whole track looks iffy apart from a break in the clouds over Missouri and Indiana, as well as northern Maine and the Canadian province of Quebec. The forecast 24 hours ahead will prompt my final selection. If Niagara does not look good, I will aim elsewhere.

The Sunday flights I have my eye on are both on British Airways, because I hope to grab a seat using Avios frequent-flyer points: cash fares are very high. The first is to Cincinnati, close to Indiana, at 4.10pm afternoon or to Montreal a couple of hours later.

As soon as I book I shall start investigating the opportunities for exploration generated by the decision, as well as looking forward to those precious moments of totality. Anticipation may be the most intense emotion, but last-minute decisions can also prove worthwhile. Let’s see if this one does.

Simon Calder, also known as The Man Who Pays His Way, has been writing about travel for The Independent since 1994. In his weekly opinion column, he explores a key travel issue – and what it means for you.

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