07-Oct-2012 -- As I was in the area for the National Conference on Geographic Education, and as Brian and I are lifelong friends who have the habit of meeting at confluence points, a visit to a confluence point near this year's conference site seemed appropriate. After the conference ended, my colleagues dropped me off at 5:00am at the Austin Bergstrom Airport. There, I worked for a few hours before Brian met me there about 9:00am. He came bearing supplies such as warm clothing, and indeed, it was looking like the coldest day of the season; rather blustery as well, under gray skies. After a bit of difficulty finding the exit to the rental car lot, we were soon driving southeast on State Highway 71.
Along the way, we recalled our previous confluence treks together, across prairies of Texas, hiking through a marsh in Michigan. We agreed that the most priceless moment was when we both showed up at the confluence one degree east of our current destination, arriving from opposite parts of the state, just about simultaneously. That was followed by a pleasant stroll through pastures. We also noted that it was four years ago this month, right before the 2008 presidential election, and here we were, once again before a presidential election, and once again in the middle of Texas fields. We passed one of the new high speed bypasses around Austin and were soon in the area ravaged by last year's wildfires, near Bastrop. It was quite grim to see the blackened lands. Outside of Smithville, we headed east along Farm to Market Road 153, which was quite scenic, dotted with many horse and other types of farms, and stopped in a parking lot in Winchester across from a country church. We were starting to leave the hills behind and the land became flatter. Here, we brought out the GPS units and then continued east on the same road. Turning south on Raymond Road, we passed the property that we knew was our destination, and kept driving about 100 more meters, making a U-turn and pulling over to the shoulder.
As we were stopped there, gathering supplies, a few people came by in their vehicles and waved. One vehicle carrying a nicely dressed older man and woman stopped and its occupants asked if we needed any help. Brian said no and asked if they were returning from church. When they replied, yes, it warmed our hearts to think of these dear folks for the rest of the day. Nice people out here! We then set out on our mission.
We walked north along the road and turned east. Our first decision was to scale the gate at the property and march straight to the front door of the house that was at the end of the lane. Upon knocking, we found no one, although Brian was at the ready with the request for access to the landowner letter in his hand. After roaming around to the north side of the house, we saw a truck and an open barn, and figured that the landowner must be nearby. We then decided to make haste to the confluence and were hoping the landowner would be agreeable, just as was recounted in the last visit. Of course, that was 10 years ago. Still, we were hopeful. We headed out of the yard in a southeast direction, skirting a magnificent live oak tree that is clearly visible in the satellite image, and headed for the open gate to the next field to the southeast. We had reached the field and had just determined that the confluence was in the field to the north when we spotted someone we assumed the landowner, driving an all-terrain vehicle!
Due to the noise of the vehicle, the landowner did not hear our shouts of greetings until he turned off the engine about 50 meters north of us. He walked toward us and we explained our mission, and as he was friendly and agreeable to our access, we were inwardly rejoicing at our good fortune. He said that the easiest way into the field was through an open gate about 100 meters east, so we walked that way, found the gate, and then began walking west back toward the landowner. The three of us had a nice chat as we found the confluence point under all possible satellites.
The temperature was approximately 57 F under cloudy skies; mid-morning in autumn, but fortunately not raining and not hot; really quite pleasant. We saw a few birds but no animals or snakes, and no other people except the landowner and those who had passed us on the north-south road. The confluence lies on flat ground in a field that probably has been grazed in the past. This was our fourth confluence in Texas together, and we now had a very nice cluster of points in central and east Texas. We had chosen this site given its proximity to Austin and also because it had not been visited in quite a few years. This was a new landowner from the last visit here. I had been to 30 North before, in Texas and Louisiana, and my visits to 97 West in the past extended from Nebraska on the north and Texas on the south. It is always excellent to stand on a major line of latitude like 30 degrees North. After basking in centered heaven for a moment, we thanked the landowner and made our exit, passing to the northwest and then southwest around the live oak tree, and from there, back the way we had hiked in. We drove north along the road and back to Winchester, contemplating our next adventure. We were thankful to be out in the field with each other as friends. A memorable time indeed!