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Bay Area Eclipse Watchers Stuck In Epic Traffic Jam Returning From Oregon

CONCORD (KPIX 5) -- A group of students and teachers from the East Bay who traveled to Oregon for the total solar eclipse were among those endlessly stuck on the roads due to the epic traffic jam that followed the event.

The group from De La Salle High School in Concord were ultimately forced to sleep on the ground during a stay in Klamath Falls and and weren't able to come back until Tuesday.

Some of the teachers even missed their students' first day of school.

On Tuesday, the bus pulled up to De La Salle marking the end of the long journey. But for the 38 students on the road trip, the eclipse did not disappoint.

"It's hard to say what it meant to me," said senior Cooper Tomkovicz. "But it was, like, probably one of the best experiences of my life."

After a year of planning, the group found itself in a campground in Maupin, Oregon.

On Monday morning, Mother Nature put on her show. Senior Dawson Diaz was the group's official photographer and had practiced for weeks to capture eclipse images.

"That one minute and 20 seconds that we got … I probably spent the majority of it working on my camera but the few seconds that I did get to look at it, it was incredible," said Diaz.

But if the total eclipse was brief, the journey home was another matter. The roads were so clogged with traffic that time began to stand still.

"We kept checking, like, how long?" said senior Joseph Keane. "And it kept saying 9 hours, 9 hours, even though it was like 3 hours after the first time."

The problem worsened. The group's bus driver was not allowed to drive for more than 12 hours straight without rest so they pulled over and slept on the floor of a hall at the Oregon Institute of Technology near the California border.

"We didn't leave Oregon 'til late this morning," said Diaz.

Finally, the group arrived home at about 3 p.m. The long trip made them miss a day of school, but it will be one more thing to remember about this adventure of a lifetime.

"It turned out to be a way longer ordeal than I ever could have expected," said Diaz. "But I never would have wished it could have gone any other way."

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