12-Apr-2014 -- As I was in the south Florida region for the annual meeting of the Association of American Geographers (AAG), an event that attracted 7,000 geographers, and as I had visited a confluence point for nearly every AAG conference since 2003, including a wonderful desert hike in Nevada, a frantic bicycle trip to an apartment complex outside Washington DC, a drive into the woods northeast of Seattle, to a lonely embankment near a ship canal in New Orleans, and to points in many other locations, it was high on my priority all week to somehow visit a confluence while this year's annual meeting took place in Tampa, Florida. I did not have any illusions about breaking away during the conference, as I was quite busy teaching workshops, giving presentations, working in the Esri exhibit, participating in meetings, and learning so much from wonderful long-time colleagues and making new friends from around the world. I knew the only opportunity was to be on the day I left the state.
And so, on the day I was to leave the state, I departed the hotel at 6:00am in a taxi, then rented a car at the Tampa airport, drove to the south and east, and by 9:00am, had visited 27 North 82 West. My flight departing Florida was not scheduled until late afternoon, so not only did I now immediately set sights on 28 North 82 West, but I had time to take a hike in the Florida countryside. I left Port Charlotte, site of 27 North 82 West, driving north on the Kings Highway, 769, to Highway 72. Here, I drove east nearly to Arcadia. As I had not visited Florida in at least 8 years, I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the enormous birds nests at the top of some of the power poles and the fields and houses. I drove north on Highway 661 and stopped, spending 90 minutes walking around one of the lakes at Hardee Lakes County Park. It was not too hot, just a little humid, and the lake, vegetation, and birds were beautiful. Most people there were fishing. Departing the park, I then took Highway 37 north into Lakeland, where the greenery was replaced by urban land use. I stopped at the one and only Panera Drive-thru I have ever seen, and proceeded from there to the north, to cross underneath Polk Highway 570, and turn left.
Anticipation building, I was now heading west on the frontage road. This was a one way frontage road, so the most challenging part about this confluence would be to decide which one of the driveways to pull off into, to avoid having to circle back to this point and try again. I also had to take care that nobody was following me and becoming impatient; with me driving slowly so as not to miss the 82nd Meridian. I wanted to find a pull off before the 82nd Meridian appeared. The buildings to the north cleared away and I found myself looking at the fence and the vacant lot beyond that I had studied in previous visitors' narratives. I located a wide spot in the road about 50 meters east of the 82nd Meridian, carefully parked, and checked for oncoming vehicles before stepping out. Gathering supplies, I walked to the 82nd Meridian and took photographs and videos, one video of the confluence, and another one of my walk along the frontage road. The fence was high and clearly meant business, and as I was only 5 meters from the spot, there was no reason to try to find a way around the fence. I contented myself with standing on 82 West. It was just before noon: The temperature stood at 75 F under bright cheery skies, in mid-April, the kind of weather that has in part brought so many people to Lakeland and other communities in Florida. I saw no animals or birds, and certainly no people, as this landscape is ruled entirely by vehicles. Still, it was good to see a little patch of wilderness in the vacant lot where the confluence lay.
This was only my second visit to 82 West; my only other one being one degree south of here, this very morning. I had stood on 28 North three times previously, all in south Texas, far to the west of here. After taking one last look around, I departed the site, driving west to Interstate Highway 4. Still having some time before my flight, I did about 90 minutes of work at the Brandon Public Library, a very nice city library, and then drove to the Tampa International Airport. These two confluence visits were a perfect way to cap a geographic week, and I was able to practice what I preach, namely, to "get out into the field!".