20-Feb-2007 -- International Confluence Day, a four point observance in the American Midwest marking the 11th anniversary of the Degree Confluence Project. [Part IV – In search of the footprints of Taylon Schoen, followed by a discussion of Navajo tacos with the semi-retired farmer Dan]
As viewed from a distance (that is, by me in Mississippi via the internet), weather in the Omaha area during the week of February 12th had not been particularly pleasant. Checks of the local TV “weather cam” revealed snowy conditions more often than not. Several times I checked to find below freezing temperatures, each time saying to myself “What was he thinking!” as I tried to fathom the logic behind the illustrious Alex Jarrett choosing the dead of February to start his project, and therefore set in stone the date of any future commemorations of the humble beginnings of the DCP.
Just before leaving on my trip to the Midwest, I was surprised to see, after a 20 month confluence hunting hiatus in the area, James Woodson had visited 41N 96W on Saturday 2/17, a visit quickly posted the next day by the efficient Uwe Luettringhaus. Taking advantage of the opportunity for a personal weather update, I emailed Mr. Woodson for any advice or information he might offer. Although he described weather in Nebraska in February as “anything but predictable,” he reported Highway 66 was completely clear. He also recommended exercising caution, as he had passed an overturned car down an embankment. This had proved to be good advice at 40N 96W, although it was advice I hadn’t entirely followed…
So, on this Tuesday afternoon, I found myself on U.S. Highway 75 winging my way north from the Kansas border, and enjoying beautiful if unseasonable weather. I don’t think they were exactly correct, but I passed several time/temperature signs giving readings in the upper 50s F., with at least one sign saying 60 degrees. Crossing the South Fork of the Big Nemaha River, I witnessed further evidence how dramatic the temperature change had become in just a few days, as the river was experiencing an early breakup, with bank to bank chunks of ice rushing by.
I had followed a clockwise route since the early morning as 41N 96W was the only one of my four stops where the property owner would be close enough to ask permission to visit; and, not wanting to knock on anyone’s door at the crack of dawn, I had decided to save this cp for last. A little before 4:00p.m., I turned west on State Route 66, and after 86 miles of driving from the previous cp, I turned in at the mailbox numbered 5615. The lady of the house was familiar with the latitude - longitude significance of the field in her backyard, if not the fact the world was observing International Confluence Day, and she readily gave me permission to visit the site. Shortly after I reached 41N 96W, her husband joined me for a visit.
Most of the field was still covered in snow, and as I approached the cp, it was easy to spot how Taylan Schoen had led the Woodson party to the same location three days earlier. I could clearly see their three sets of footprints coming down from a parking place at the maintenance building on the hill. My GPS zeroed out in the middle of the circle of footprints left over from last Saturday’s “dance.”
The semi-retired Farmer Dan proved to be a genial host. We talked about recent visitors to the site, one of the most recent being a NASA engineer from Houston. I take it many visitors to the location never submit reports to the DCP site. I showed him the clear photo printouts I had made from Google Earth which he had not yet seen. Dan said he had known about the unique geographical designation of his yard for about 20 years, and in fact in the days before GPS became more common, he had given the simple description “41 North 96 West” to people asking for directions to his house, which often brought funny looks in return. When I mentioned going to 36N 112W in the Grand Canyon, Dan said he was planning a trip to northern Arizona in a few weeks. This led us to a discussion of “must see” attractions in the Flagstaff area, and a recommendation for a Navajo taco at the Cameron Trading Post. All in all, one of the more pleasant confluence visits I’ve ever had. As it was getting late and clouds were starting to roll in, Dan left me to my picture taking, and I hurried to successfully complete cp #4. I made it back to my starting point in Omaha before dark, and celebrated a successful International Confluence Day observance at an Italian restaurant with an old friend whose children once told her "Mom, if you ever want to see any out of town company, you need to move somewhere else besides Omaha." I guess they didn't realize the drawing power of the Midwest cp's!