29-Dec-2001 -- Our grizzled team is a collection of misfits culled from the dregs of Waco, Texas (see our previous confluence of 32N 99W, north of Brownwood, Brown Co., Texas). Noticing a significant lack of visited confluences in the wonderland of West Texas, we began planning. Compared to the 320 miles we would be traveling to visit one confluence in West Texas, the extra 69.2 miles to another seemed but a trifle. It was then that Win suggested the "Triple Threat", a trifecta of confluences on a massive two-day road trip, a never-before attempted act of hubris and moxie.
After Christmas, we gathered the troops, secured vehicular support, and obtained reliable satellite and cartographic intelligence. We took Win's father's '92 Pontiac Transport ("We Are Driving Excitement") minivan, leaving Waco at 7 AM, passing through Abilene by 11. Once on I-20, Thomas remarked, "All these signs to El Paso make it seem like we're driving into hell."
As we entered the geologically constant area known as the Permian Basin, we saw wind generators turning in the same winds that once threw dust in the eyes of Steinbeck's Okies. The land became as flat as a serene ocean, the horizon a gradual bleaching of the blue sky that extends unto Montana. The oil pump jacks rocked slowly back and forth in the fields of mesquite bushes grasping at the red dust which serves as soil in this area.
We stopped for lunch in Big Spring, past home of Hotel Settles (a 15-story hotel built by Conrad Hilton in an ill-advised wager on Big Spring's continued growth, now abandoned). A quick drive through the business district revealed widespread urban blight and decay: even a McDonald's was boarded up, the Hamburglar too depressed to even grab one last cheeseburger.
After picking up our last team member (Jordan was spending Christmas with his father in Odessa), we proceeded to the confluence. Stopping off FM 307 we were only 13 seconds north and 12 seconds east of the confluence. Our first attempt to obtain permission was met with an elderly rancher's protests against any disturbance of his "young goats". As it turned out, the confluence was actually behind his property. We debated various options before finding a Northwest Passage. After going further west, we walked through an alfalfa field (already harvested which led to the sandy topsoil forming waves from the wind). There was a heroic view of Midland from the confluence itself (a sort of West Texas version of the Puritan vision of a shining city on a hil - a rich city in an oilfield). Before leaving the confluence, we wrote the coordinates in the dust.
We enjoyed the feeling of being at perhaps the flattest of this planet's confluences. Before night fell, we visited America's second-largest meteor crater (outside Odessa) and Ward County. We had traveled over 480 miles in one day, and as the sun set in the haze of oil refineries' air pollutants, we knew we had two more to visit in the morning.