03-Aug-2014 -- As about 400 geography educators were gathered in Memphis for the annual conference of the National Council for Geographic Education, a confluence visit seemed inevitable, especially one that was only a short distance from the conference site. Extending back to 2002, I had visited a confluence point in just about every location near to where these conferences had been held, usually in August or in October, each year. These visits included a memorable boat ride on Lake Tahoe, a trip to a golf course in New Jersey, a walk in a mosquito-infested field in Michigan, and a hike in the woods in Alabama, among several others. This week, my colleagues and I had given many presentations and workshops on the value of spatial thinking and the use of geotechnologies: Another reason to practice what we were preaching and to get into the field for a confluence visit, using geotechnologies as we did so.
This morning, I was heading in a taxi to the Memphis airport on the morning following the conference's conclusion to pick up a rental car to visit 35 North 90 West. The conference conclusion was, by the way, a grand affair where we honored some of our expert and treasured colleagues who had given so much to teaching and to their students, some for many years, and some who were just starting out as geography professors and teachers. En route to the airport, where I was actually talking to the taxi driver about maps and GIS, I received a text from Diana. Here she was stating that she was en route to a geocache somewhere downtown and, "would I like to accompany her?" What's that saying about similar minds thinking alike?
Breathlessly, I wasted no time telling Diana my mission, declining her offer of geocaching but offering her a ride to the confluence and also to the airport as she had a flight in about 90 minutes. Could we make it? We would certainly try. I was dropped off at the airport, whereupon I made a quick turnaround in my newly picked-up rental vehicle, and made a beeline back to the conference site. After picking up Diana, we headed south to the vicinity of the airport, exiting I-55 at Shelby, then west to Mill Branch, and then south to E. Holmes. We turned south-southeast on Hudgins and then east on Prado, parking near the intersection of Prado and Lastrada avenues. I'm not sure if anyone else was as excited as we were that morning to stand in the yard of someone we didn't even know, but there you have it.
It was early Sunday morning and the neighborhood was pretty quiet. A few folks walked by us. We walked south on Lastrada and quickly determined that at least on this morning, according to the position of the GPS constellation, the confluence would be located in the backyard of the house at which we now stood in the street in front of, next to their driveway. Being early on a Sunday morning, we declined to knock on the door of the home and bother the homeowners. As it was, the dog in the backyard of the house to the south was already barking at us, waking up the entire neighborhood, most likely. So, we already felt a bit conspicuous. If it had not have been so early, we might have knocked. But, we were in a bit of a rush to get Diana to the airport and we were well within 100 meters of the confluence.
The morning was clear and the temperature stood at about 75 F (24 C). It was about 8:00am local time. We had been blessed with clear and excellent weather the whole week we had been in Memphis, not too hot or muggy, and very little rain. I had been to 35 North several times in the past, from California on the west to North Carolina on the east. I had also stood on 90 West, a quarter of the way around the Earth from the Prime Meridian, several times: Twice in Illinois, once in Missouri, and once in Louisiana at the major confluence of 30 North 90 West. This was my second confluence in Tennessee: About two years ago, during a trip to Murray State University, I picked up my first one. This was a good point to get because my confluence map of the USA had a fair sized hole right about here, and I was glad to at least partly fill it. It was therefore great to be here; we were on site about 10 or 15 minutes, including some self portraits from the back trunk of the rental vehicle, since we did not have a tripod.
We drove out of the neighborhood with one final glance at the point, realizing we would probably never be back here, and wishing the residents well. As I was dropping Diana off at the airport, we saw the Delta sign, which prompted us into singing a rousing chorus of Helen Reddy's "Delta Dawn". A great morning memory with a dear friend and colleague, and a perfect way to end a week filled with geography education!