07-Jun-2007 -- As I was in the area attending and presenting at the International Symposium on the Digital Earth, a confluence visit seemed most appropriate. The conference themes were education, sustainability and geography through the lens of geotechnologies, of which GPS is an important component. Therefore I considered it my duty to attempt this confluence. I left the campus of the University of California Berkeley at 3:00pm and walked to the location indicated on the Hertz rental car web page. We always tell students to realize that all maps--digital and paper--have their limitations, and here was proof: When I arrived at the location where the map indicated a Hertz Rental Car company sould be, a Honda dealership stood in its place. I called Hertz while walking back to campus and they kindly sent a driver to pick me up at my hotel.
Once more moving forward, I had an amiable conversation about the educational system with the driver. Hertz had moved out of the Berkeley location during the previous year and were now located about 15 miles away. At the new location, I was dropped off, picked up my car, and joined the thousands of other drivers making their way out of the Bay Area on Interstate Highway 80. I drove northeast on the highway over the Coastal Range to California's Sacramento Valley at a slow pace due to the traffic. I hoped to make the confluence before the sun set. Fortunately, it was only a few weeks before the solstice, and I had a bit of time to spare. The traffic opened up when I turned north on Interstate Highway 505 and north-northwest on Interstate Highway 5. I exited at Arbuckle and the section-line roads allowed me to drive due east on the Grimes-Arbuckle Road to a town called College City. I was unable to find out through subsequent research how College City received its name, as it is indeed a long way from any sort of college.
Rather than a college, College City is a small agricultural community with one market. I drove south on the main street into and out of town to a point due west of the confluence. There was nowhere to park, and a No Trespassing sign stood in the driveway to the west. I backtracked north and parked in a large expanse of dirt near a stack of hay. I donned sunblock, camera, GPS, and batteries, and hiked back south the way I had driven moments before. Two boys and a dog passed me on bicycles (except for the dog, who was on 4 legs). When I arrived at the trail that led due east between an orchard and a cornfield, I took it. With a whoosh, the automatic irrigation began, flooding the field with water. I took some photos and marveled at these huge agribusiness operations. The orchard was either peach or apricot. The orchard on the north side gave way to a wide expanse of wheat, stretching almost as far as the eye could see. I hiked to 122 West, and then pondered the options. As I was over 100 meters from the confluence, I decided to hastily traverse the field to the actual site. I tried to minimize flattening of the wheat stalks, which were nearly 1 meter high. In about 10 minutes, I arrived at the confluence and had no trouble zeroing out the unit, although I tried to minimize the confluence dance and thus my impact on the field.
The confluence lies on completely flat ground, nearer the southwest corner of the field than the other corners, most of which I could not see. The temperature was a hot 88 F (31 C) with no wind. Numerous black crows and other large birds were sighted, but no animals were seen, not even cattle. This confluence is a part of California's Central Valley--specifically, the Sacramento Valley, where nuts, prunes and other fruit, wheat, grapes, and other crops are grown, and cattle are raised with wonderful abundance--one of the world's most productive agricultural areas and also one of agriculture's most mechanized regions. The foothills of the Coastal Range were visible to the southwest as well as some of Sutter Buttes to the northeast, standing out above one of the world's flattest valleys.
This was my third time to stand on the 122nd Meridian, having visited the two confluences 1 and 2 degrees south of this present spot last year on another business trip. I have been to the 39th Parallel more than any other parallel, perhaps 20 times, in such places as Maryland, Virginia, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, and in California. This was my 7th confluence in central California and I now had visited all of the confluences easily reached from the Bay Area. Reflecting on these, they truly provide evidence for the landscape diversity of the area--coastal plain, treeless hills, flat central valley, It was amazing that this is such an easy confluence to reach, considering that it could have been miles from any roadway, or equally likely, in an extremely difficult to reach cornfield such as the one visible to the south.
Due to the lateness of the day, coupled with the fact that I was sensitive to my impact on the field, I only spent 10 minutes at the site. I hurriedly took the movie and photographs, and hiked out the way I came in. I was pleased to note that the stalks from my hike in were already starting to straighten. I turned west and walked into the hot sun, my shoes becoming quite dusty. I am sure that anyone glancing my way would have wondered why someone with a shirt and tie on was out wandering in the field. I arrived at the vehicle with a total hike time of 80 minutes but had seen nobody except the two bicycling boys.
Driving north through College City, I found a wonderful sign proclaiming "Pigs for Sale". I drove west and bought a drink in Arbuckle before turning south on Interstate Highway 5. I arrived in Berkeley after dark. Truly a magnificent way to end my week of geography and geotechnologies in California!