02-Mar-2017 -- As I was in Illinois for a series of workshops and presentations focused on geotechnologies at four different universities, and as I had just finished up at Western Illinois University and was en route to the University of Chicago, a confluence visit seemed like the perfect mid-point in my trip. And so, I left the campus of Western Illinois University one fine late winter morning. The point of 40 / 90 was a bit out of my way, but the fact that it was a ten degree confluence - 40 North 90 West - and halfway between the Prime Meridian and the International Date Line (or close to the date line) made it a must-see.
After passing over a few county roads, I headed south and southeast on US Highway 67 out of Macomb, and crossed the Illinois River at Beardstown. I really love river towns but could not delay: I proceeded east-southeast on State Highway 125 to the town of Virginia. Then things became even more interesting because I traveled on some absolutely wonderful county roads, plus wildlife refuges and Gridley Lake. I would have loved to stop and hike, but I needed to press on. I traveled north and then east on Newmansville Road, then south on a one lane but passable section line road, which sported a few puddles but nothing major, then east to a low spot in the road, and parked. This was where, according to the satellite image, a drainage crossed the road, and by following it, I could avoid tramping through crops that I suspected might be newly planted.
I gathered supplies and my concerns about muddying my work clothes was largely unfounded; the grasses were thick and aside from a few burrs, all was well. I traveled up the gully and then up the small rise to the confluence point. It was a glorious mid-morning in late winter; temperature about 50 F - although it would snow in Chicago later that day - and a stiff breeze blowing, but the sun out in full force. The field was growing some low alfalfa grass but had at some recent past been planted in corn. It was great to be on 40 North once again. The line - 40 North - has a special meaning as it is the line of latitude closest to where I live and also is a "10 degree" line of latitude. I have stood on this line of latitude numerous times, from North Carolina on the east to California on the west. I have also stood on 90 West several times in the past, from Wisconsin on the north to Louisiana on the south; notably, 30 North 90 West is a place I had walked to twice outside of New Orleans. I now have a nice collection of Illinois confluences; about 7 or so, including the point one degree north of here, and also, two degrees east of here that I visited earlier this week, and a few others including one degree south of here from past work trips. This was my first time on 40 North 90 West. This one is surprisingly easy to reach, on a hike that is fairly flat, with no fences, and about 15 minutes hike from the nearest road. Thus, it was amazing that it had been 16 years since the last visit.
The land here was just emerging from winter; many of the grasses were green here at the beginning of March after the mild winter they had here. The countryside is ever so faintly rolling but is largely flat. I spent only 10 minutes on the site and returned to the vehicle. Then I paused and truly had reverence for the moment--out here, I could see nobody and was surrounded by fields with some trees in the low lying gullies. Then after my moment, after putting away my supplies, I drove around to the east side of the confluence field. Here, I spied a series of No Trespassing signs erected by the state or county wildlife commission. Thus, I would advise any future visitor to secure permission first. I did not see the signs until I was on my way out and they are only on the east side. It was a great time in the rural lands and I loved every moment. About 10 minutes later, I saw two enormous flocks of birds.
I then set out in earnest toward I-55 and I-39 and the University of Chicago campus but along the way I pondered... could I visit 41 North 89 West along the way? What do you think I did?