19-Apr-2009 -- As I had been in southeast Iowa for several days teaching a GIS-GPS class for a stellar group of educators, a confluence visit seemed like the perfect capstone. I awoke in the dark, about 5:30am, and was astounded to find very thick fog all around the landscape. Nevertheless, I checked out of the hotel and drove east out of Ottumwa on US Highway 34 toward Fairfield. I was thinking that the photographs would not show much when gradually, the fog lifted a bit. Still, the morning was fairly gray, but I was glad to be on the magnificent Iowa landscape. All went according to plan until I neared Fairfield. Like many towns, Fairfield now has a highway bypass on it, which did not show up on any of the digital maps I examined. Therefore, taking a chance, I exited US 34 and drove east on what turned out to be the business route that I had been seeking. Then I was thrown for another surprise--urban sprawl! Yes, even in Fairfield.
The roads near the confluence were still there, but as I turned south, I was disoriented by all of the development, none of which had appeared on the aerial photos or satellite images. A large development of patio homes lay to the east. I reached a large church under construction, and turned east on a new concrete street. I stopped just past the 92nd meridian. My vehicle was beside a one-story, large new nursing home. I took a sign and camera and headed south along the west edge of the nursing home lawn. Nobody was visible. I hiked between the home and the church, due south. After reaching the end of the lawn, I was in the mud and corn stalks, and the area once again thankfully looked like it had in the first visitor's photographs. I angled a bit toward the southwest and found the confluence at about the lowest point in the field. Sure enough, the orange marker that the first visitor had found was still there, about 6 meters due east of the confluence. Due to the murkiness of the morning, the photographs did not turn out very well, but they do reflect the peacefulness of the spot and the day. The new church was clearly visible to the north, but not the nursing home. Older homes and farmhouses were visible in the other directions.
I had been to 41 North many times before, from Wyoming on the west to New Jersey on the east. Interestingly, even though I had stood on 93 West and 91 West before in various locations, this was my very first time at the 92nd Meridian. The temperature was about 55 F and the air was very still and humid. I saw no people, animals, or birds. However, the ground photograph shows evidence of an animal's track. The ground was bare mud here, perhaps too low to drain properly for corn, but surrounding me was evidence of last year's corn crop. I noted that it would have been shorter to park along the road to the west and hike due east to the confluence, but it would not have been as interesting. I would not have as fully appreciated the changes that had taken place on the landscape with the church and the nursing home had I approached from the west. With such an easy hike, it was amazing that nobody had been here in 8 years, save for the farmer who was still growing corn here. Who knows for how long? With the development to the north, this spot could be in someone's driveway or in the back of a warehouse someday. I'm glad I reached it while it is still a field.
I spent only 15 minutes at the site, as I had plans to visit the confluence 1 degree to the north if I had time before my flight left at the Des Moines airport. I took a breath and headed back the way I had come, my muddy shoes making a track through the nursing home lawn. Now there was a staffperson and a few residents in the corner meeting room. It seemed like a nice place to spend one's final years...only a few hundred meters from a confluence. But such thoughts were keeping me from pursuing my next goal. I returned to the vehicle, wiping my shoes in the street, drove into Fairfield, which boasts, of all things, the Maharishi School of Management. Then I drove north to attempt 42 North 92 West. This was indeed the perfect capstone to the Iowa GIS-GPS training event.