07-Dec-2006 -- ”After 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, the most universally recognized address in the vicinity of Washington, D.C.” The consensus of 15 people on eleven previous visits locates 39N 77W within the walls of a four-story apartment complex at 8662-8664 Flower Branch Road in Silver Spring, Maryland. A recent search using Google Earth confirms this conclusion. As a result, a ten-zero GPS screen had not yet been posted for this confluence point. After finding an upcoming business trip would bring me close by, I decided to explore the possibility of taking my GPS to the apartment roof, and with no surrounding trees to block the satellite signals, hopefully photographing the exact no-fraction location.
After a little more googling I discovered the Flower Branch Apartments are owned by Key Apartment Communities, a large company with many properties in the Maryland and Virginia suburbs of Washington. My first thought was to find a creative marketing person, a Key executive, if you will, to whom I could pitch the possibility of a nice freelance article on the Degree Confluence Project in the travel section of the Washington Post, with prominent mention of the Flower Branch Apartments as the home of 39N 77W, “the second best known location in D.C.” If that kind of free publicity wasn’t enough of a hook, then maybe an ad campaign touting the Flower Branch Apartments as the place to be in Washington if you wanted a well known address. I got a name and number, but after several tries, could not seem to catch the fellow in his office.
Finally, I called the Flower Branch office number directly and spoke with Josette, the accommodating on-site manager. Although she was unfamiliar with the Degree Confluence Project website, or with the latitude/ longitude significance of her complex, as she was seated at her computer, I was able to talk her through to the 39N 77W page over the phone, where she was surprised to see many pictures of her facilities. I explained my desire to take some photographs from the roof of 8662, and asked her was there a means of easy access, such as a ladder in a stairwell. She said no, there wasn’t, and in fact commented how it had been difficult to get a crew up on top of a neighboring building to do some repair work recently. She also expressed concerns about liability issues, and suggested I try the Key central office. This time I emailed my request, but after a quick reply stating my message had been forwarded to the proper person, I heard no more…
Nevertheless, when our trip presented a little free time, we decided to attempt a visit, hoping at least to photograph the whole integer latitude and longitude in two separate pictures. We parked north of the cp, then followed the GPS’s direction to the south side of the 8662 building. Arriving close to the apartment wall, I switched pages and, to my shock, saw my screen had the coveted ten zeroes. But before I could turn on my digital camera, the image had changed and the best I could capture was a .999 .001 reading. [Location indicated by the small red “1” on Picture 10] After a futile few minutes of confluence dance, I realized although most of the leaves were off the trees, the high walls of the surrounding apartment buildings were producing a margin of error of 45 feet. Hurrying to the north side of the building, we got a 77.000W reading, and then, inching south, for a fleeting second had the ten zeroes! Fortunately, this time the camera was ready to capture the moment. [Location indicated by the small red “2” on Picture 10] While we were taking some additional pictures, looking for anything new (or at least overlooked on previous visits) that might help document this twelfth attempt, the manager approached us, remembering my call from two weeks before. I showed her the pictures of the GPS screen, and we had a pleasant chat.
This was my first confluence visit in Maryland, and Ms. Ball’s first DCP visit outside the state of Illinois, in fact her first anywhere following a two year hiatus from cp hunting. We considered heading to the national mall to see the lighting of the nation’s Christmas tree later in the evening, but decided it would be more appropriate to end the day at a nearby Civil War site. After a few more minutes, we were back in the car and trying to beat rush hour traffic and the setting sun to squeeze in a quick visit to Manassas National Battlefield Park, about 25 miles west of downtown D.C. Our tour was limited to their excellent orientation film and an abbreviated automobile tour, but both were well worth the effort.