19-Jan-2006 -- As I had just finished teaching several classes at a Milwaukee Middle School where we discussed the importance of mapping in understanding population, land use, natural hazards, and other phenomena, a confluence visit seemed like an excellent way to end the day. Barb Wallner had invited me to the middle school where she works to conduct these presentations and to meet the rest of the stellar faculty there. Barb is quite keen on working with GPS and Geographic Information Systems (GIS). After being thoroughly impressed by the students and faculty, I found myself following Barb's vehicle in my rental vehicle, traveling west on Oklahoma Avenue on Milwaukee's south side. It was just after 3pm, local time.
We turned north on South 76th Street, northeast on West Beloit Road, and south on South Buchanan Place. I found myself looking at the very houses and street that I had studied for months beforehand. Yes, Barb and I had been planning this for quite some time. I admired her fortitude for holding off on this confluence visit until today. She doesn't live more than a few miles from the confluence (perhaps that is one explanation for her awesome geographic skills) and could have made numerous odysseys to this spot.
We parked the vehicles and embarked on a confluence dance that took longer than I expected, given the fairly open canopy and the lack of leaves on the trees. Eventually, we fixed the location just east of the center of South 70th Street, about 1 meter west of the fire hydrant there. The confluence is near the intersection of South Buchanan Place, South 70th Street, and West Deyer Place. This last street is not on the MapQuest map of this neighborhood, but it runs southwest from the confluence, parallel to South Beloit Road for a few blocks.
43 North, 88 West lies atop a flat cement surface, in one of the many peaceful, well-kept neighborhoods that seem to characterize much of Milwaukee. Predominant planted trees include clump birch and oak, according to Barb. Barb explained that this city, West Allis, was named for the company that employed many of its residents, Allis Chalmers. This company manufactured farm equipment and generators, and the houses here were built during the 1940s and 1950s. Some had clearly been added onto in the intervening years, but it didn't take much imagination to visualize life back then. The trees were smaller and cars a bit different, but otherwise, things looked pretty much the same. That's a bit comforting somehow in our fast-paced world.
The elevation reading was 764 feet (233 m) on the GPS. The temperature was quite mild for a mid-January day at 47 F (8 C) under high but thin clouds. No snow lay on the ground. We saw few birds and no animals. After about 10 minutes, a resident and another person drove up. The resident, a high school student, was moderately interested when we explained the signficance of her house, which turned out to be the one closest to the confluence, at 2450 South 70th Street. After they went inside, three high school students passed, walking on the sidewalk on the east side of 70th. We took photographs of some interesting things the residents had built and painted, including a wood-and-plastic snowman. Before departing, we spent time at the plaque that is mounted in the ground at the corner of Buchanan and Deyer. This plaque commemorating the confluence lies about 13 meters north-northwest of the confluence as determined by our GPS units. I don't recall having been to a confluence with any sort of marker before.
This was my first Wisconsin confluence, and it has a special significance as it is the one closest to where I was born, here in Milwaukee. I had stood on 43 degrees north latitude several times before, in Michigan and Nebraska. I had also been to the 88th Meridian West several times, in Alabama, Illinois, and Michigan.
This obviously has to rank as one of the easiest confluences of them all--no mountains to climb, just a short walk. Indeed, one could tag this road-based confluence without ever leaving one's vehicle. However, that would not allow for what geographers always argue for--a true sense of place. We were reluctant to leave, but as the night and the temperature fell, we made a slow departure, feeling quite centered.