16-Nov-2008 -- I and several colleagues had been in the Houston area for several days at the National Council for the Social Studies annual conference. About 3,000 teachers had been teaching and learning from each other about the best resources and methods for effective social studies teaching in the Brown Convention Center in downtown Houston. As our emphasis at the conference was the use of geotechnologies (GIS and GPS) in geography, history, economics, and civics in schools, a confluence visit seemed like the perfect capstone.
I took a taxi ride in the dark to Houston's Hobby Airport at 5:45am by a very grouchy taxi driver. I was not sure whether he would actually drop me off at Hertz, instead of at the main terminal. After some grumbling, he did so, and I was out the door of Hertz with car in hand by 6:30am. The sun was not yet out, as it was late autumn, and I navigated the streets of south Houston in the remaining darkness before heading west on the Sam Houston Tollway. I drove west and then southwest on US Highway 59 as the sun rose, past Sugar Land (girlhood home of my favorite skater, Tara Lipinski) and Rosenberg. The freeway ended but promised more to come--this highway would become part of a new north-south interstate highway. I thought, "Please, not another interstate highway!" After musing thus, I exited US 59 at Wharton, where my gloom was dispatched with an unexpected treat: Just one mile down the road, to the east of the roadway, lay the TeePee Motel and RV Park, the type of thing one reads about in books on Route 66, on the heyday of the motor inn, and in other books on vanishing Americana. Each unit was a separate teepee, lined along two sides of a gravel lane. The best part about it was that it was open for business, rather than sadly abandoned as so many motor courts have been. I could see that business was good. I made a note to take a photograph of it on my return trip. I have since studied the TeePee and learned that it was built in 1942 by the Belchers, abandoned by the 1980s, and restored just a few years ago. There are only 4 such TeePee Motels left in existence in all of the USA, according to one source. I am very glad I was able to see this.
I had a pleasant drive through the rest of the community of Wharton, and then made a beeline for Bay City on Texas State Highway 60, veering southeast and then south. Less than a mile from my anticipated turnoff, I had another unexpected treat. A lone steer was loping along the shoulder of the road. A police car came up and drove alongside it, hoping to convince the animal to exit. After what seemed like awhile, the animal finally did, and I went around both the car and the steer. I could see in my rear view mirror that the animal returned to the road. Cattle herding with vehicles in Texas! I didn't want to arouse suspicion by taking a photograph, but it remains a vivid memory.
A few minutes later, I found RM Cole Road, and took off toward the southwest along the floodplain of the Colorado River, south along Timberline Drive, and then entered the quiet housing subdivision, following the lanes to Woodside Drive. The houses were large but not as huge as some I have seen this year. It made a pleasant subdivision here in the country, along the banks of the river. As expected, the last house on the south end of the road was my goal. I parked, quickly gathered a few supplies, and strode up to the front door.
The landowner came to the door and I apologized for the early hour. He said that he was just getting ready for church. I explained my mission and he knew all about it, having been visited numerous times in the past. He was quite amiable, but requested that no further visits be made. As a homeowner myself, I could definitely understand his situation and I promised him that I would ask the coordinator to post a note to this effect on the site for this confluence. Out of respect for the landowner, I did not submit the view from the confluence to the north, which looks right into the back of the landowner's house.
I quickly walked up the driveway and into the backyard. In just a few minutes I managed to zero out the GPS receiver and despite the tree cover, was reading 12 satellites at times. I could see the Colorado River plainly off to the west, meandering slowly down to the Gulf of Mexico after its start in the Texas panhandle between Midland and Lubbock, far away. I spent no more than 10 minutes at the site out of respect for the landowner. The temperature was a cool 10 C (50 F) under clear skies and light winds. The landowner had done some very nice landscaping with a wide variety of trees, some bearing fruit. I saw no animals or birds and fortunately no dogs. This was my 9th confluence in Texas, my 3rd time to stand on 96 West (the others were in Texas and Nebraska), and my very first time on 29 North. What a place! Once again, I marveled at how easy it was to reach this confluence, when one considers that it could very easily be in the middle of the river, or in a swamp.
I drove out the way I came in, which is the only way out and in. I made a stop to take photographs of some wonderful street signs that I had noticed on my way in called "This Way" and "That Way," just west of Highway 60. Now I was in a real hurry, on the way to meet my friend Brian at 30 North 96 West. But before I did, I did not forget to photograph the Teepee Motel once back in Wharton!
Coordinator's Note: The landowner has requested to not visit this confluence anymore. No future visits to this confluence will be posted.