19-Apr-2009 -- As I was in southeast Iowa teaching a GIS-GPS workshop for a wonderful group of 30 educators who hailed from Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Nebraska. Because the workshop focused on geotechnologies, a confluence visit seemed like the perfect end note before I departed the great state of Iowa.
The day began in Ottumwa in a thick fog, and it was still hazy as I neared the confluence. Earlier that morning, I had visited 41 North 92 West, and was trying to squeeze in the 4th confluence during my 5-day stay in Iowa. Would I have enough time before my airplane left Des Moines? I drove north on state highway 1, and then Interstate Highway 380 past Iowa City, toward Cedar Rapids, and exited at US Highway 30, heading due west. I knew the day would make for some gray photographs, but the objective of the project is to capture the points as they are in real life. I turned off US 30 at a section line road called "26th Avenue" and drove north up and down small hills on the gravel road. At 71st Street, another section line road, I turned west, and came within 1/2 mile of the confluence from the south, where the previous visitor started. I kept driving, though, wanting to do something different, and turned north at the next section line road, 25th Avenue. I parked in a small depression just about on the 42nd Parallel. I quickly gathered supplies and was soon off hiking on the northern end of the muddy field that had been planted in corn. Fortunately, it was not raining. As I neared the confluence, I could see that it would be north of the fence line that I had been following, and as luck would have it, an erosional gash in the earth had made a scour beneath the fence, allowing me to scoot underneath it, popping into the field to the north.
After just a few minutes in this new field, I found the confluence and zeroed out the GPS unit. The confluence is therefore in the southeastern corner of the northwest quarter of the square mile of land, bounded on all sides by section line gravel roads. It is a landscape modified by a particular notion of order and survey. This made the confluence all that much more appropriate. The site lies on ground sloping about 5 degrees to the north, and like surrounding ground, was planted in a rotation of soybeans, corn, and alfalfa. This was my 5th confluence in Iowa, and I was glad to be here. The wind blew and the murkiness of the day made for a feast for the senses. I could see the farmstead to the northwest, shrouded in a pewter-like sky that was much thicker than fog. I had been to 42 North several times before, from the east coast of the USA (Massachusetts) to Wyoming on the west, but this was only my second time to stand on 92 West, the first being that very morning. This confluence is so easy it was amazing that nobody had visited it in 9 years, except the landowner, of course, who probably visits the site fairly often. I was at the confluence site a bit longer than I had originally intended due to the difficulty of holding up my sign in the wind. I needed to come up with a better weather-resistant method of signage. I know the sign is not necessary for the project, but the sheer nerdiness of it was part of the reason I liked visiting these points.
Now I was in a major, major hurry to make my airplane flight out of Des Moines, which was 120 miles away. I scooted through the ravine and jogged as fast as I could along the field edge in a beeline to the west. I found that if I hugged the tracks of where the tractor had turned in semicircles that I could gain valuable minutes of traction. I arrived at the car and tried to repack quickly, turned around, headed south, and snapped a photograph of the picturesque cemetery before driving west on the section line road. I reached US 281 and drove back to US 30. My goal was unlike my usual rambles: Now, I sought the maximum amount of interstate highway. That meant the quickest route to I-80, but what would be the best route? I decided to head south on a county road that wound around the hills and eventually got me to Interstate 80. Weeks later, looking at the map, I'm still not exactly sure what route I took as I was in such a rush. Then it was beeline to the Des Moines airport, taking the beltway to the south side of the airport to save time, and pulling into the rental car return with a very short time to spare. Fortunately, this airport is one that a person can get away with arriving only 40 minutes before scheduled departure, and I found myself at the gate with 20 minutes to spare! It was worth the rush to visit this last confluence, as I was not sure when I would return to the great land of Iowa.