The first cluster existed near Black Mesa at the far northwestern corner of the Oklahoma panhandle. This small area may be unique in the state from a geographical perspective, with genuine mesas replacing more typical flat or rolling grasslands. One drives along ramrod-straight roads all day until the terrain changes completely without warning. It’s that stark.
There were three notable geo-oddities that I visited near Black Mesa. Thay are labeled on the embedded map as (A) the Colorado-New Mexico-Oklahoma tripoint; (B) the 37° north/103° south latitude-longitude confluence; and (C) the Oklahoma Highpoint trailhead.
I’ve driven a lot of dirt and gravel roads on this trip, gaining a new appreciation for the "dust" of the infamous Dust Bowl. It’s a very fine consistency reminiscent of powdered sugar, and it coats an automobile in light-brown grime on the back roads. Just about every road that wasn’t designated a primary route lacked pavement.
Thus, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the road up to Black Masa was paved asphalt. Only the final mile-or-so turned to gravel gravel at a point where one turned west towards the CONMOK tripoint. There it switched from an Oklahoma road to a Colorado road. I suppose that accounts for the difference.
CONMOK was an easy capture and extremely obvious, complete with a convenient turnaround adjacent to the roadside. The lat/long confluence was only slightly more difficult. Starting from the tripoint, I followed the GPS back another quarter mile until it implied that I was perpendicular to the confluence. I got out of the car and walked maybe twenty paces north into the surrounding scrubland. There I found a small pile of rocks decorated with a few doodads and coins left by previous geo-geeks with the same strange fascination. That marked the confluence. The whole ordeal took all of about thirty seconds.
Backtracking further we reached the Black Mesa trailhead. I would have encountered the Oklahoma tripoint had I wished to hike four miles onto the mesa and return. My passenger had already completed four half-marathons in four days as part of the Dust Bowl series and was in no mood to add another eight miles to the total. We called it a day and decided that maybe we’d try this some other time assuming we’re ever in the area again.
We drove down from Black Mesa to find the next tripoint on our journey at the southwestern corner of Cimarron Co., OK, where New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas form the NMOKTX tripoint (Label A on the map).
This marker was the least remarkable of all the tripoints we visited during the trip. It was downright underwhelming. Nonetheless it signified a tripoint so it counted just as much as the others. I also promised that this would be the last dirt road we would have to travel during our journey.
We continued west another couple of miles to rejoin Route 54 on our way to our ultimate destination for the day at Clayton, NM. I had a final geo-oddity to capture, a landmark more obscure than all of the others combined because it’s fictional and I made it up. I called it the Thelma and Louise spot. I developed a Thelma and Louise Route Map about eighteen months ago. It’s been a very popular page, receiving several new visitors consistently every day since its publication.
Anyway the big finale of the Thelma and Louise movie depends upon a specific plot twist. Louise cannot enter Texas. I remarked on the geographical implications of that point in the previous article:
The shooting script includes a reference to Boise City, OK that did not appear in the movie. This makes sense as it’s the logical path between Oklahoma and their next destination, New Mexico. It also brings them within mere feet of Texas without crossing the border so Louise remains safe in that respect.
The photograph marks the spot where Louise comes within mere feet of Texas. The movie simply cannot work from a logical perspective without the characters passing down the paved road directly ahead. The paved road would be safe territory. The dirt road in the foreground would be unsafe. The movie wouldn’t work if the road had been constructed a few feet farther east.
The newspaper version of the Amazing Spider-Man today (February 5, 2013) has Peter Parker attached to the back of a moving van, hitching a ride to San Francisco . He’s recently left Las Vegas, and he’s just passed a road sign that reads "San Francisco 237 miles." Peter is very obviously riding along an Interstate Highway. Here is a link to the specific comic strip — for as long as it remains on-line.
He’s at approximately lat/long 35.650043,-119.678131, just north of the small town of Lost Hills, California, and about 42 miles (68 km) west-northwest of Bakersfield. Keep your eyes open. If you spot spider-man this evening somewhere along I-5, let me know.
The Intertubes wants to know and I’m happy to oblige. This is one of those occasional articles that regular 12MC readers may want to skip because it doesn’t involve much from an intellectual standpoint. I keep receiving search engine queries about the 100th meridian west of Greenwich, specifically the list of United States counties that the line intersects as it splits the nation figuratively into eastern and western halves. I can’t figure out why anyone would want or need to compile such a list, however, Google and the like believe that it exists and that I own it. I don’t, or rather I didn’t. Now I do. It’s here at the bottom of this article.
The 100th meridian fascinates many people in a mystical Great Plains way. I’ve written about it previously, both from a Canadian perspective and a USA perspective. Not only does the meridian cleave nicely through the middle of the North American continent geographically, it creates a divide meteorologically. The landscape tends to be wetter on the east side and dryer on the west, resulting in differences in farming, settlement, ecosystem and ultimately culture. The 100th meridian is so much more than an arbitrary line, albeit that’s exactly what it is from a technical perspective, it serves as a vague psychological transition.
This is the result. Feel free to open the image in another tab and view it in full size. I’ve compressed it here for purposes of squishing it into a blog format. I’ve color-coded it by state to make it easier to follow.
I rather enjoyed drawing the map even if it was a bit tedious at times. Mapquest was actually more useful to this effort than Google Maps. Mapquest provides all county lines automatically. I had to check county-by-county to confirm that I was still straddling the 100th meridian. Borders don’t always run straight and sometimes I had to check multiple county locations or even consult other sources. I’m pretty sure this is a definitive list although errors always seem to find a way to creep-in. I’ll be glad to make corrections as necessary.
The meridian passes from north to south through North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. I found some interesting peculiarities along the way. You’ll notice a few clusters of side-by-side counties. Those are locations where a county may have only a tiny knob clipped by the line.
Gosper County, NE was a good example of that. It’s roughly rectangular with a small square appended to its southwestern edge, almost as an afterthought (map)(1). The meridian passed through part of the square. Harper/Ellis and Beaver Counties in Oklahoma also raised an eyebrow. It appeared that the meridian ran right down the eastern edge of Beaver. However — and I checked this in a couple of different places — Beaver fell completely west of the line by a few hundred feet. Notice how Beaver Co. doesn’t extend quite as far east as the Texas-Oklahoma border when it cuts south, which absolutely does follow the 100th meridian.
Speaking of that, does the meridian cut through those Texas-Oklahoma border counties or not? Some people may say that it does not because the theoretical width of the meridian is infinitesimally small approaching zero, and the two states and their respective border counties only "touch" not "cross" the meridian. I’m inclined to say that it does happen although for a more practical reason: I’m willing to bet that there are enough minor border oscillation due to tiny surveying errors that someone could find genuine instances of those counties actually crossing the meridian (maybe by only a few feet) if we looked hard enough. I’m too lazy to confirm that, though. Bear in mind that there is plenty of precedence in U.S. law to recognize these kinds of surveying errors as true boundaries if they’ve been observed as such historically.
Finally, there was also good reason for the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad to put the two sundials in their Dodge City, KS railroad station. The meridian fell only a mile away from the station (map) even though Central Time has crept slowly towards the western edge of Kansas over ensuing years.
Here is the list, from north to south.
Roger Mills, OK
(1)I discovered a neat little trick I spotted on some random website while researching this article. Did you know that you can perform a Google Analytics review on any link created by the Google URL Shortener? Maybe I was the only one who didn’t know that? Anyway, all you need to do is append either a "+" or a ".info" to the shortened URL. For example, here is a shortened URL I created for Kansas Mountain Time: For a map = http://goo.gl/maps/073xz; for Analytics = http://goo.gl/maps/073xz+ or http://goo.gl/maps/073xz.info. I’m not sure whether I’ll ever have any practical purpose for this feature, however it’s an interesting oddity to pack away in my toolbox. And who was the person from Argentina that clicked on the link, I wonder?