07-Oct-2012 -- As we were two friends together for a few brief hours, and as we had experienced success earlier in the day at 30 North 97 West, we decided to try our luck one more time before we had to part ways. Therefore, at Winchester, Texas, we decided to make a dash for the nearest confluence that we had not yet visited, that of 31 North 96 West. Fortunately, a road cutting in a diagonal line to the northeast existed, which was State Highway 21, and we had only to drive north on Farm to Market 448 and then US 77 before reaching it. Once there, we were tempted by the proximity of Dime Box, a town immortalized in William Least Heat Moon's book "Blue Highways" with the lady who shouted "can't see!", but in the interest of time, had to leave it for another day.
We made decent time driving northeast through the countryside and enjoyed each other's company. We passed through Caldwell and once we were past Bryan, anticipation mounted. We left the main highway just before Madisonville at Farm to Market 1452, turning northwest, and then north on 2289, stopping briefly at the High Prairie Cemetery. We stopped and noted a very pleasant four way stop where I made a mental note to photograph us and the wonderful Texas road signs on the way back out at this location. We came to a lane named Honeysuckle Road cutting off the main road, which was wonderfully lined with trees on both sides, looking rather mysterious. We drove north on this lane, as it was dirt and bordered by shrubs and trees, and more interesting than the paved road. After a half mile or so, the road turned west and this section of road was almost right on 31 North Latitude. We noticed houses along the north side of the road and debated whether to stop at the second to the last one on the lane. But we decided to press onward to the ranch that was shown in the previous visitor's narrative. We crossed 96 West and speculated that the confluence would be in the front pasture of the ranch house. We parked at the gate to the ranch house, next to a long driveway where the dirt road, the driveway, and the paved road met. We made preparations to leave the vehicle and had barely done so when someone drove up in a long pickup truck, towing a piece of equipment.
After explaining our mission to the kind man in the truck, he granted us permission and we quickly set off. We set off across the field at a diagonal, heading straight for the confluence. A fence divided this property from the one we had been eyeing to the east. We alternated between thinking we would reach the fence before the confluence and the confluence before the fence. More importantly, we could immediately sense based on unpleasant sensations on our ankles that we were walking through thousands of burrs. One had to really admire the settlers in this area, including the Native Americans, enduring this on a daily basis. Tough folks. In the end, we nearly zeroed out the GPS, but only by leaning over the fence to the east. I took a picture of Brian leaning over the fence and we must have looked a bit comical. The confluence is about 1.5 meters to the east of the fence, but we declined scaling the fence for several reasons. First, we were close enough; second, we had been granted permission for this yard and not the adjacent yard; third, the adjacent yard contained two very loud dogs. The third reason pretty much sealed the deal. We would be content here leaning over the fence.
The temperature stood at approximately 60 degrees under moderately breezy mostly cloudy skies. We saw no people from the confluence point but could see horses to the north and the dogs to the southeast. This was at least my 12th confluence in Texas; actually, I'm starting to lose count, and the 5th confluence that Brian and I had visited together in Texas. We have a nice collection of points together here in east central Texas and it seems like we meet every two years at one of these: In 2008, 2010, and now in 2012. I had stood on 31 North several times in the past, from Texas on the west to Florida on the east. I had also stood on 96 West in the past, from Nebraska on the north to Texas on the south.
After about 15 minutes on site, we walked back out the way we came in. After our trek, we busied ourselves for at least 10 minutes picking burrs off of our pant legs, socks, and shoes. These particular burrs were so sharp and nasty that they prompted me to take a video and photographs of them. We were halfway through with the burr duties when another truck drove up, with the passengers wondering what we were doing. They were a bit more wary of us than the first person we had met, so I was glad we had already completed our task. They drove off, we continued picking, but then we too set off. We had two more stops to make in the area: (1) At a four way stop with Texas road signs, where we posed for some in-the-field geographic geeky self-portraits, and (2) At a traditional Texas Dairy Queen in Bryan, where I ate a grilled cheese sandwich with tomatoes and took a photograph. It really doesn't get any better than this.
We marveled in the fact that the confluence had not been visited in 12 years, and discussed the changes that had taken place since the last visit. We drove back down to the Austin airport and turned in the vehicle without incident. It was a grand way to end my time in Texas, and we had spent some precious hours together. Thank the Lord for good landscapes and good friends.