The day was sunny and warm with the temperature about 78°F, perfect for motorcycling. The confluence of 41°N 98°W is relatively near my home in southeast Nebraska and easy to reach, so the trip there is not much of an adventure. I gathered my confluence hunting gear and headed north on Hwy US 77. After a few miles I leaned into the cloverleaf at the junction of US 77 and Interstate 80. I pulled smoothly into near bumper to bumper 75 MPH traffic streaming west on I-80. Interstate 80 is the latest incarnation of the great Platte River road that carried 19th Century European immigrants west to Utah, Oregon and California. It was a wonderful day to ride under blue skies with cumulus clouds and a brisk wind blowing from the southwest. In this region the rolling hills typical of eastern Nebraska soon give way to the flat land of the Great Plains. My ride continued west on I-80 in somewhat jarring turbulence of the truck traffic until I slowed and pulled onto Exit 332. Now North-bound on NE Hwy 14 with much less traffic, lower speed limits, and a crossing tailwind I could enjoy the day more as I rode on toward the community of Aurora, NE. Aurora is noteworthy as the town in which Harold E. "Doc" Edgerton was raised having been born in Fremont, NE. Anyone who owns a camera should know about Doc Edgerton. He was educated at the University of Nebraska Lincoln and as professor of electrical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Edgerton invented stroboscopic high-speed photography. The electronic flash units on nearly every camera are a result of his work. Technologies he developed have been used in such varied applications as lighthouses, copy machines, and medical endoscopes. He produced some of the most famous photographs ever made. As I cruised by the Edgerton Educational Center I reflected on my previous visit there and the excitement I felt at seeing some of his photographs. I stopped at a convenience store for a short break and to fill my fuel tank.
Continuing north on NE Hwy 14 I passed several farmhouses situated on either side of the road. This is an agricultural area and due to the unusually cool temperatures and abundant rainfall crops were not yet planted. This confirmed information I learned a few days earlier in a conversation with an area farmer. He had said it was difficult to get into the fields due to the wet conditions.
About nine miles (14.5 km) north of Aurora I crossed 41°N.There were distant tree lines visible to the north and south. The village of Marquette with its grain elevator towering over the flat landscape lay to the northwest. Occasionally, I noted a water well and other irrigation equipment in the fields. Proceeding north to E 22 Rd, I turned around and headed back south on NE Hwy 14. At 0.2 miles south of E 22 Rd I again crossed 41°N. I parked here and the GPS showed the confluence lay about 500 feet (152 meters) to the west. The shoulder and ditch were grassed and the field had corn stubble revealing crop rotation from the beans reported by previous visitors. The field was neither fenced nor posted and the confluence so near that I did not seek permission to enter it. I hiked briskly across the stubble rows and quickly reached the exact spot within the precision of my GPS. 41°N 98°W, what a thrill for a prairie person to stand at this point, especially 98°W! Here, in this minimalist landscape, nearly devoid of trees, almost perfectly flat, showing diminished water resources; is the zone where these geographical characteristics all merge to mark the eastern limit of the Great Plains of the American West. Sometime in the distant past I read that standing on the plains is like standing in a concavity with the land sweeping up to the horizon and covered with the dome of the sky. This is the sensation you have here. I spent only a few minutes at the confluence enjoying the feeling of being at the center of the hoop of the world and admiring the ten zeros on the GPS. Here is one of the great geographical divides in North America. To the East lie the Prairie Plains with their greater rainfall and tall grasses. To the Rocky Mountains on the West and from Montana on the North to Texas on the south lies the Great Plains. Here the early European immigrant’s woodland culture of the east had to be modified to suit the, flat, arid, nearly treeless land. Satisfied with my visit, I made the necessary photographs and returned to my bike to conclude a nearly perfect confluence trip.