15-Apr-2009 -- As I was in Iowa to teach a GIS-GPS hands-on workshop for 30 stellar educators, I thought that a confluence visit would be the perfect beginning. I had been eying this confluence given its proximity to Des Moines, and once visited, I could then travel to my destination in Ottumwa. However, due to a flight delay resulting from a rather unsettling aborted takeoff in Denver, I was nearly 3 hours late arriving at the Des Moines Airport. Would I have enough daylight to make the confluence?
I picked up my rental car soon after arriving, and by 5:00pm, was traveling due-northeast out of Des Moines on US Highway 65. I say "due-northeast" because a quick view of the map shows that the road is nearly straight as an arrow for dozens of miles from Des Moines to Marshalltown. I traversed gently rolling terrain while listening to a hand-selected prime array of CDs, including the very first album by Barry Manilow, which begins with an audio clip of him as a child while his grandfather exhorts Barry to "Sing it!". No doubt the reader will agree that this was indeed a fine selection, and things progressed as expected with the sun behind me until I reached US Highway 30.
However, once on US 30, I had an unexpected surprise. The highway became a limited access road, and I could not exit on the desired roadway that ran almost on the 93rd Meridian. With the words of native Iowan C.W. McCall ringing in my ears, "I'm gonna take Old 30 one more time," I drove along it, not to be daunted, looking for the first exit. I found a road that ran to the east, Iowa Avenue, and then took a dirt road to the north (Highland Acres Road). I took 233rd Street back to the west, alongside a biking trail, until I found the desired north-south road, Marsh Avenue. With the public land survey system on the landscape, one can drive almost directly on top of the 93rd Meridian here. I took Marsh Avenue to the south, on the overpass over US 30, past a farmhouse, down a gully, and up the other side. Once over the hill, I drove down the next slope and parked somewhat south of the 42nd Parallel. For easy confluence trips such as this, I want to give myself at least a little hike, or it does not seem challenging enough.
I gathered camera and GPS, walking north along the west side of the road, down into the roadside hollow, and up the embankment. I found the confluence in less than 5 minutes, just barely over the fence that had fallen down here, at the eastern edge of the first field. It was just before 6:00pm local time. The confluence lies on ground that slopes to the south, and sharply to the east into the roadside hollow. "I've found the prettiest place in Iowa, and here I'll live and lay my bones," wrote Henry Anson, founder of Marshalltown, in 1851. This is indeed beautiful country. Anson built the town on the divide between Linn Creek and the Iowa River, naming it Marshall, after Marshall, Michigan. Because there was another Marshall, Iowa, already, the name was changed to Marshalltown in 1862. The view was best to the southeast, and the setting sun cast a pleasant spring light over the whole scene. I saw a few birds but no people and no animals. The temperature was a pleasant 65 F (18 F) under clear skies, although it was quite windy, as evidenced in the confluence movie I filmed. I thoroughly enjoyed the site, and it was my second confluence in Iowa.
I had stood on 42 North numerous times before, from Wyoming on the west, to Nebraska, now in Iowa, Illinois, Michigan, Connecticut, and Massachusetts. This was only the second time I had stood on 93 West, the other being during a downpour in Minnesota. I was reluctant to depart, but I needed to get to the training site in Ottumwa. I drove south, and then had a magnificent roller coaster experience driving up and down steep hills on the first dirt road to the east. I eventually made it back to US 30, drove east to US 63, and south to Ottumwa. This visit was truly an excellent way to begin the GIS-GPS workshop in Iowa.