14-Oct-2004 -- I used to wonder about those confluence photographs taken at night, and about those visitors that stumbled around in the dark. Finally, during my 54th confluence trek, I was destined to join this odd group. I flew to Chicago for a meeting at Northwestern University with some of the country's top researchers and practitioners who use
geographic information systems (GIS). Because the meeting's focus was on thinking spatially, I thought that a confluence visit would be the perfect start.
First, I donned a very special shirt, given to me by the Rigoni Family, whom I met a year earlier during a visit to 46 North 88 West. This shirt from Michigan proudly says, "Latitude 45 North--Halfway to the Top." Thus clad, I landed at Chicago's O'Hare airport at 2pm, and by 4pm was driving west out of the city in a rental car. Even though traffic was heavy, I was confident that I could make it to the confluence with over two hours until sundown. However, an hour later, I was barely 30 km from my starting point,
still clinging to a shred of hope. I could have bailed out to 42 North 88 West, but I had been there four months earlier. Finally, on Interstate Highway 90 heading west, I began enjoying myself when I abandoned hope of reaching my goal before sundown. After all, I was in north-central glaciated Illinois on a geographic odyssey! I drove south from Rockford on Interstate Highway 39 to Illinois State Highway 64.
This confluence is undoubtedly the easiest to reach of any
confluence I have visited. After driving 1.6 km east on Highway 64 and .8 km south on Mulford Road, I stopped on the half-section line. The land here, as in over half of the USA, was divided into square mile sections, which were further divided for homesteading during the 19th Century. At the half-section line, the confluence lay only 50 meters to the east-southeast. For some reason, my GPS indicated
that the confluence was to the north, but the ditch was wide and full of water. Fortunately, after a few minutes, the GPS gave the correct reading, eliminating the need to cross the ditch. I arrived at 6:50pm local time. It was not completely dark, but my camera does not do well in low light, and most of the landscape photographs I took turned out black.
The confluence lies near the northwest corner of a harvested field of alfalfa. The previous visitor noted that at one time it was planted with beans. The ground was flat, glaciated terrain, corn belt country. The closest watercourse was the small Killbuck Creek, 1 km south. The closest farmhouse, 400 m northeast, seemed prosperous, with numerous buildings painted white. To the southwest lay another farmhouse, and directly south about 600 m was what
appeared to be a very large greenhouse. Although this was
illuminated, and the road carried more traffic than I expected, I saw no people. A light rain was falling and I wished I had a flashlight. The temperature was cold for October, 12 C. I could not see the lights of Lindenwood or Hillcrest, the closest towns, and rain muffled the sounds of Interstate Highway 39 to the west. Given the cold and rain, I only stayed 15 minutes.
As I was gathering papers in the car, a vehicle passed, turned, and headed back toward me. I assumed that inside the vehicle were the residents of the farmhouse to the northeast. I have had a series of friendly conversations with landowners these past two years on my confluence treks. I'm not quite sure why, but before the vehicle reached me, I decided to leave without having a nighttime chat in the rain with an unknown person. Sure enough, as I left, the vehicle pulled into the farmhouse drive.
Always favoring a circle route to see different terrain, I drove south on I-39 and east on I-88 on the way back to Evanston. Given the rental car, tolls, and fuel costs, this was an expensive confluence trek just to stand out in a rainy dark field. But even so, any geographic fieldwork is welcome, and helped kick off our GIS summit at Northwestern University in fine fashion.
Coordinator's Note: Incomplete due to photo requirements.