21-Oct-2007 -- We were in Oklahoma for the annual National Council for Geographic Education (NCGE) conference. As 550 geography educators were gathered for the past few days to discuss and learn about the latest geography education techniques, including field work and geotechnologies, it seemed only fitting that a confluence trek should cap off the events. For the past five years, a combination of the three of us had attempted a confluence during each of the NCGE conferences, beginning with the ill-fated marsh slog that Shannon White and I lived to tell about, and ending with last year's rough but successful voyage to the middle of Lake Tahoe. This year had been entirely different: We had been trekking over the Great Plains, successfully visiting 35 North 97 West during the late morning. Once there, I asked Barbaree if she was interested in traveling 1 degree to the north. She was on the same wavelength: In fact, she had been investigating all 4 confluences around Oklahoma City even before she had left home! Hence, off we went, listening to fitting music for the event: Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys' western swing.
We traveled north on Oklahoma State Highway 102, which runs north-south about three miles west of the 97th Meridian for the first part of its course. We crossed Interstate Highway 40 and came to US Highway 62. Here we encountered a "road closed ahead" sign, and doubled back to Highway 62, then east, and drove north on US Highway 177 instead. Anticipation mounted as we neared the town of Perkins on the north bank of the Cimarron River. The town was quite pleasant and thriving, and we were soon motoring east on State Highway 33 to Fairgrounds Road. We turned north one mile, then west on 104th Street, and parked on the side of the road. Seeing the sturdy 4-wire barbed wire fence, we walked back to the house on the northwest corner of Fairgrounds and 104th. To this day I still can't say if the house was vacant or occupied. It was full of furniture, but some of the grass was overgrown, and I'd say that if it was occupied, it could have been Oklahoma State students who were renting the place as they studied up in Stillwater, to the north.
After we knocked and stood on the doorstep for awhile, we walked back to the vehicle, which was sitting only 10 meters from the confluence. Even though we were technically within the 100 meter threshold for a successful visit, we decided to scale the fence. This was really quite a tricky matter. If the house was abandoned, the fence was certainly in excellent condition. It could not be slithered under. However, we made it across unscathed and stood feeling centered in just a few minutes. This definitely ranks in the easiest 10% of all confluences I have visited. The confluence is near the south end of a field, on nearly flat ground that has been planted in the past, but now is a mass of tangled and wiry weeds. The nearest house was in clear view to the east, with a few more on the northern horizon. We saw no animals or birds at the site. The south and southwest views were obstructed by trees, and the longest vistas were a few miles to the northeast and northeast. The temperature was a pleasant 65 F (18 C) but the skies were a bit gloomy, darkening the photographs but not our spirits. We spent only a few minutes at the site taking videos and photographs.
I had been to this line of longitude before, on a boat in the Gulf of Mexico, and on land in Texas, Oklahoma, and Nebraska. I had also stood on 36 North before, in North Carolina, New Mexico, Nevada, and had attempted it on the rim of the Grand Canyon in Arizona. This part of Oklahoma has a bit of the Kansas feel, and a bit of the Texas feel to it, but also a feel of the Native Americans who have made and continue to make their homes here. The terrain is fairly flat but the river bottomlands, such as that of the Cimarron to the south, are filled with tree stumps, evidence of past raging floods.
Our adventure was not yet over: Once back in Perkins, we drove west along Highway 33 to Interstate Highway 35. We then stopped at a Love's gas station and convenience store where I heard the most amazing music that I've ever heard at such an establishment. Aretha Franklin was first, and then Tom Jones! Plus, we saw a really cute baby. Lilia found some beef jerky, so everyone was happy. We drove to the airport, turned in the car, and got some work done online there before catching our flights back to our respective homes. An fitting way indeed to finish off the week filled with geography education!