23-May-2003 -- Steve Adams and I continued our first confluence adventure, leaving Cotton Center, Texas (34°N, 102°W) at 3:30 pm on Friday, May 23, 2003. Thanks to a tip from the landowner and the science teacher, we took a good route on county highways that was essentially straight west. After heading south for a few miles on Hwy 179, we turned west on Hwy 54. We traveled through Littlefield, which is the town that made the news early in 2003. To date, it is the furthest west confirmed site for recovery of debris from the space shuttle Columbia tragedy. In fact, someone at Cotton Center knew the gentlemen who found the shuttle tile in Littlefield. Naturally, this is important, because debris further west was shed earlier during the loss of Columbia and thus has more bearing on the accident investigation.
Anyway, we crossed the New Mexico border just after Goodland and set back our clocks one hour. We were disappointed the Garmin didn't automatically recognize it was now in MDT, but otherwise had few complaints about our wonderful GPS unit. After a minor navigational snafu by yours truly, Steve and I turned north on Hwy 114 at Causey, New Mexico. After turning west, Hwy 114 led straight into Elida, which is a fairly good-sized town by western Texas/eastern New Mexico standards. We took Hwy 70 towards the southwest, 11 miles to Kenna. From there, we followed the ranch manager's immaculate directions. We drove about 16 miles on a red clay road that wasn't too bad, though Steve typically drove on the crests of road ruts so as not to bottom out the MINI Cooper. More ominously, the sky around us, particularly to the south and west, was turning very nasty and rain seemed inevitable. Apparently, this red clay becomes quite impassable in rainstorms, even for 4-wheel drive trucks! Though this caused us concern, we still took time to stop and photograph cows wandering across the main thoroughfare.
We were also concerned since there were private property signs along this red clay "main" road, signs not belonging to the ranch that contains 34°N, 104°W. Undaunted, we pushed on, found our turn-off (a private ranch road), and began our journey straight to the confluence. We were within a few miles at this point, ahead of schedule, and pretty happy. The ranch manager told me that we would be able to get within 0.5 miles of the confluence before the road turned too sandy. However, the MINI started struggling earlier than this, so we had to jump ship about 1.68 miles from the confluence and continue walking north. As the weather deteriorated, all we could think about was the potential headline about two Kansas boys, electrocuted thanks to the three-foot metal fence post (lightning rod) being carried on a treasure hunt to a point with no treasure. True confluence hunters, though, know that the treasure is in the journey itself. We caught a whiff of rain and felt one drop, but that was it. Our luck was clearly holding out, despite the 3.4-mile walk that awaited us, couch potatoes to the core.
We made decent time walking, since this area is pretty flat. Steve and I decided to stick to the ranch road until we crossed the 34th parallel; then we would turn and head west a mere 0.1 mile. This worked fairly well, though we did encounter a cattle gate around 0.3 miles from the confluence. I was wearing shorts, which was not a wise move given the bush and yucca plants that were scratching my legs for the last 500 feet. Red dust completely covered the MINI, the Garmin GPS - and us! However, we did locate the confluence and managed a few (fuzzy) GPS shots. We again took pictures in eight compass directions (N-NE-E-SE-S-SW-W-NW) and took some pictures of each other as well. The area was stark yet lovely; there was a nice view of a windmill to the WNW. We took some pictures of local cacti, including one with a lovely yellow flower in full spring bloom. Per the wishes of the ranch manager, we erected a monument at the confluence point, using our metal fence post and a laminated card. The card has the DCP logo, the latitude and longitude lines, the DCP website, our names, and the date. The manager would have liked to have joined us, but he was out-of-state that weekend, so he will visit the site later.
Because we were still worried about thunderstorms (and flash floods trapping the MINI), we headed back to the road, aided again by the GPS. We had marked a waypoint about 0.2 miles from the car in case we got lost coming back. We found the MINI, no problem, and Steve had a well-earned beer while I settled for water. We were two for two in our hunt for confluences! The sun was getting low, so we backtracked to Kenna, taking some nice pictures of cows and jackrabbits along the way. We also nabbed a fantastic sunset photo as well. The sky started clearing to the north, too, turning a shade of blue rarely seen in southern California. Exhausted, we hit the road for Portales and a great steak dinner at the Cattle Baron Restaurant (recommended to us by the ranch manager). I ate more than any Thanksgiving in recent memory (two huge salads, 12-oz steak, baked potato, 1.5 loaves of bread, and 3 Dr. Pepper's). The service was fast and friendly. Steve programmed our route to Tucumcari into the GPS while I looked around to make sure someone knew CPR, then I continued eating. We were really tired when we pulled up to the Blue Swallow Motel on historic Route 66 in Tucumcari at 11 pm, MDT. We had some nice scotch on ice but were too tired for our Macanudo cigars. We traded in our suite for two single rooms (a wise move given my gastronomic overindulgence), cranked our A/C's, and crashed out for the night. Whew!
Steve and I would like to thank the landowner and the ranch manager for permission to visit the property. They also asked me to mention that future visits to this confluence are discouraged [emphasis the editor's]. Also, thanks to Steve's wife, LeAnn, who supported him in taking a wacky road-trip in the MINI with his old high school buddy.