12-Jun-2008 -- As I had been teaching GIS and GPS at Mid-Plains Community College in North Platte, a confluence visit seemed an appropriate capstone to finish this event. I donned my Cheesehead shirt given to me by my friend and GIS education colleague in Wisconsin and checked out of the hotel. I left North Platte at 6:30am, driving southeast on Interstate 80 until I reached Lexington. I was finally bound for 40 North 100 West! The morning was picture perfect, a welcome sight after the tornadoes and thunderstorms that have brought flooding and death to much of the region from Nebraska through Iowa into Wisconsin this week. In fact, this week, several Boy Scouts died as a tornado destroyed their camp not far away in Iowa. My heart was with their families this morning.
It was about this time in 2007 when I finally answered my longstanding question about how many confluences I could visit in one day. The answer totaled 7. Ever since, I had planned a similar excursion for 2008, but my summer schedule did not allow for it this year. Therefore, I had to settle for gathering a few points while driving to and from Nebraska for the GIS/GPS institute.
For four years, I have wanted to visit this confluence, an important one for many reasons. First, it is not only a 1-degree confluence, but a 10-degree confluence, and even a 20-degree confluence. Second, it is on the Kansas-Nebraska line, the baseline for the public land survey for about 7 states, covering a huge amount of territory. Third, the point falls on the 100th Meridian. The 100th Meridian has been considered the dividing line between the moister eastern USA and the semiarid west. Would I be able to see evidence for such a division east and west of this line?
Even the interstate highway was pleasant, as it follows the Platte Valley. At Lexington, I took Highway 21 up through the sand hills south of the Platte Valley, and then Highway 23 took me to Elwood and US Highway 283 South. I continued to a point south of Highway 89 where the sky was filled with little puffy clouds; the hay piled into giant Tootsie Rolls. It was a beautiful scene and I treated it as a harbinger for confluence success. I turned west on a county road but wasn't quite sure which one I had chosen. I passed a very picturesque cemetery and took a few photographs. Based on my GPS track, I was at last able to determine where I was, and having regained my bearings, continued south and west along county roads until I reached the one I sought: The one that runs east-west in a straight line, just a few hundred meters north of the 40th Parallel.
Not a soul was about early on this Thursday morning. It was beautiful out now although I could sense a hot afternoon on the way. I could see the road signs marking the start of the Kansas system to the south every time a road headed that way. I crossed the 100th Meridian and the suspense increased. Not finding a break in the trees on the meridian, I parked a few hundred meters to the west. Upon exiting the vehicle, I donned some sunblock and crossed some vegetation and piles of dirt but encountered no fence. I was immediately attacked by swarms of mosquitoes. Usually immune from their attractions, I was amazed at their number and ferocity. After leaving the treeline behind, they thinned out a bit, but the video and the photograph of myself on the site show one happily drinking from my cheek.
I carefully stepped around the wheat plants, finding a low trail of sorts where none would grow, about 3 meters wide. I followed this to the south for 15 minutes to the confluence. I found the confluence with plenty of satellites in view and a minimal confluence dance. The confluence lies on fairly flat ground but not completely so. The longest view was to the northwest. Agricultural buildings lie to the east but there were no houses in sight. With the advent of agribusiness, the population density has become quite low out here. I have been to quite a few confluences now in Nebraska. I reflected how different this confluence was to 40 North 99 West, where I had been last summer. Here, the climate was a bit drier, to be sure, and the trees a bit less numerous. I also considered the differences between this point and the one 10 degrees south, at 30 North 100 West, which I visited in Texas with my colleague and friend Roger Palmer. The vegetation there had been markedly different--a pinon and juniper forest. It would be wonderful to visit 50 North 100 West someday, or even 40 North 100 East in China. I wondered about the next confluence to the west and decided to try to visit it. For right now, though, I enjoyed finally visiting this major point and marveled that nobody had been here for years, except, of course, the landowner. I spent about 20 minutes at the site filming several videos for friends, despite the mosquitoes.
I hiked out the way I came in, encountering the mosquito swarm near the road and trees again. I had a rental car with a sunroof, and as I was enjoying this new novelty, I had left the roof open during my trek. I climbed inside to find mosquitoes everywhere, making the first part of my drive to 40 North 101 West rather interesting. I was later relieved to find not one bite. I suppose I am too sour. This despite the persistent mosquito on my cheek, which seemed to be drinking for all of the videos I filmed on the site. As for 40-100, I am glad I had the opportunity to finally see you. You were worth all of these years of waiting.