11-Feb-2009 -- I have had the pleasure of working with innovative Geographic Information Systems (GIS) initiatives coordinated by Del Mar College in Corpus Christi over the years. During each visit to the campus, I have experienced some memorable confluence journeys--on a boat into the Gulf of Mexico to 28 North 97 West, a thorny crawl through the underbrush at 28 North 98 West, and a hike beneath the wide open Texas sky at 28 North 99 West. These journeys took place in 2005 and 2006 and I was now feeling the pull of the Texas countryside upon me. In addition, I had not visited a confluence for two months. This was a very wet hike through the Maine forest, and I now felt the need to get back on the landscape. So, naturally, when the first meeting of the National Advisory Board took place for a new NSF-funded GIS project for community colleges through Del Mar took me back to Corpus Christi, I jumped at the chance to visit the closest confluence that I had not yet seen--29 North 98 West.
Strictly speaking, 29 North 97 West was a bit closer, but due to (1) the route of Interstate Highway 37 and US Highway 183 heading northwest out of Corpus Christi, 29 North 98 West would be faster to reach, and (2) I knew that 29 North 97 West would require landowner permissions, and I was in a hurry to return to Corpus Christi for an evening meeting. Therefore, 29 North 98 West was the objective. Amazingly, it had only been visited three times before, and not all were successes. I was hopeful that my visit would be a success, although I was a little apprehensive about the donkey that had been written about, and whether the landowner would allow access. One never knows upon embarking on these journeys whether they will be successful.
It was with high hopes that I landed in Corpus Christi at 11:50 under bright blue skies and perfect temperatures. Within about 10 minutes from the time I deplaned, I was in a red rental car--the fastest time ever--and driving northwest on Interstate Highway 37 a little after noon. Approaching Mathis, I saw an enormous fire to the west. At Mathis, I exited the interstate on State Highway 359, glad to be on the side roads. The weather was magnificent--as clear as can be--as I wound my way to US Highway 181 at Skidmore, and then through towns such as Beeville, Kenedy, and Karnes City. What was amazing was that just hours before, my flight had flown over these very same towns and I recognized them from the mental maps I had made from the airplane.
I passed many sights noteworthy of photographing, such as abandoned gas stations and restaurants that were actually in people's houses. About 2 hours into my journey, I reached the town of Falls City. I took the road over the old railroad grade slowly past the buildings that formerly were along the railroad tracks. I drove past a public housing project for the town, which consisted of about 10 duplexes, past an abandoned one-room schoolhouse with a water well in the schoolyard. The road gave way to gravel but was in fine shape. I passed something that I would have to return to and photograph--an abandoned iron bridge over a gully. The new bridge was wider but lacked the character of the old. I drove down County Road 237, past the turnoff to the north, crossed the 98th meridian, and down a depression that was about 1/2 mile wide. At the bottom of the depression, the distance to the confluence began increasing, and I turned around and stopped the vehicle. I gathered supplies and set off into the field, not seeing the famous confluence donkey or any animals whatsoever.
I made haste as I tacked directly to the confluence, heading uphill across barren ground. After less than 15 minutes, I found the confluence under plenty of satellites, where the ground slopes away to the east, and on barren ground spotted with some cactus, some shrubs, and many cow patties. The temperature was 70 F (21 C) and, as expected, very windy. I had a difficult time balancing camera, sign, and GPS without something blowing away, and spent about 25 minutes on site taking video and photographs. If anyone has a better system of doing so, I would appreciate hearing about it. This was a peaceful spot despite the wind, dominated by brown and gray on the landscape under blue skies above. A large stand of prickly pear cactus lies about 50 meters north of the confluence. I had been to 98 West only twice before, and both times in Texas in conjunction with these visits to Del Mar College. I had been to 29 North only once before, here in Texas, about 4 months ago, just two degrees to the east of here.
On my way out, as I approached the vehicle, a gathering of animals appeared, numerous horses and the infamous confluence donkey, along with another donkey. Not knowing the temperament of donkeys, I gave them a wide berth, taking photographs all the while. I made it to the vehicle unscathed, and I hope I did not disturb them. On the way back to Falls City, I stopped and photographed the abandoned bridge that I had seen on the way in.
As I was driving southeast through one of the nearby towns, I passed the gas station photographed by two of the previous visitors. The price was $1.79 per gallon, as we were still in the midst of the current price break. I thought about taking a photograph, but I needed to be on time for my meeting, so onward I sped. I had an uneventful but peaceful trip back to Corpus Christi, listening to one of my favorite bands, Simple Truth. I stopped at a convenience store for some water and other lunch items and the fire outside of Corpus Christi was still blazing away. I never did find out what its cause was. I returned to the airport by 4:30pm and found three colleagues while returning the vehicle. I hopped on the shuttle with them and we went to our meeeting at Del Mar College. The confluence visit was indeed an excellent, though expensive, way to start the trip!