02-Mar-2017 -- As I was in the area for a series of visits to 4 university campuses, and as those visits focused on the use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and computer mapping in teaching, campus administration, and research, a confluence visit seemed like the perfect fit. I had just finished up at Western Illinois University and was en route to the University of Chicago, having visited 40N 90W earlier in the day, and now heading north toward Chicago on Interstate Highway 39. Visiting 41N 89W would be "almost" on my way and I was anxious to see how the area had changed since the last visit on a winter day in 2011.
I exited the highway at Minonk, and then headed north on Highway 251 through Rutland to North 5th Road. Once there, I headed east, but not due east, as the surveyed section lines here are interestingly slightly askew, no doubt owing from a surveying error during the 19th Century. The east-west roads here actually bear slightly northeast and southwest by a few degrees on the compass. I thus headed a few miles not-quite-due-east until I reached the point where the house and buildings that were closest to the confluence point. I parked in the driveway near the road.
I gathered supplies and as I exited the vehicle, a large "confluence dog" bounded up to me. He or she was wary of me but not baring teeth, so I made great lengths to speak reassuringly. Perhaps I was too friendly, because when we both approached the side of the house to knock, we were the best of friends, with the confluence dog placing both paws on my shoulders and coming up just about to my chest. This made me nervous but I did my best not to show it. The door was cracked, presumably to let the dog in and out, but nobody came to the door.
I explained my mission to the dog and walked into the muddy field to the east. The dog did not follow, and I reached the point about 6 minutes later, gathering some weight along the way from the mud adhering to my shoes. It had been sunny earlier in the day at 40N 90W, but now the sky was gray and the temperature dropping; now about 45 °F, and quite windy. It would snow in Chicago later that day but it was all in all, mild for early March, at least at this point. The field was growing some low alfalfa grass but had at some recent past been planted in corn. It was great to be on 41 North once again. I have stood on this line of latitude numerous times, from Utah on the west to New Jersey on the east. This point also makes an unbroken line of 41 North confluence points for me from Nebraska into Indiana. I have also stood on 89 West several times in the past, from Wisconsin on the north to Mississippi on the south. I now have a nice collection of Illinois confluences; about 7 or so, including all 4 points north, south, east, and west of this one, and a few others from past work trips. This was my first time on 41N 89W. This one is surprisingly easy to reach, on a hike that is absolutely flat, with no fences, and a few minutes hike from the nearest road. Thus, it was amazing that it had been 6 years since the last visit.
The land here was just emerging from winter; many of the grasses were green here at the beginning of March after the mild winter they had here. The countryside is largely flat and this is part of the Corn Belt. I spent only 8 minutes on the site and returned to the house, to double check, and then after bidding the dog goodbye, to the vehicle. I walked on the road for a bit to rid my shoes of some of the accumulated mud. Then I paused and truly had reverence for the moment - out here, I could see nobody and was surrounded by fields with just a few trees in the distance, with the wind blowing and the wide open skies.
Then after my moment, after putting away my supplies, I drove to the east along the same road, through the very nice towns of Long Point and Cornell, before picking up I-55 and driving straight to the University of Chicago. Once there, I met with one of my favorite GIS coordinators and instructors, and he introduced me to many wonderful people who are making a positive difference using GIS in a wide variety of fields, from archaeology to library science to information technology and more.