NORTH CANTON Jim Holl of North Canton felt a little restless and a bit bored last summer. At some point during the long stretch of hot days, he decided he wanted to get out of his comfort zone and do something he had never done before - drive the entire length of the 100th meridian.
According to about.com, "In the late nineteenth century there developed a line of longitude in the United States that represented the boundary between the moist east and the arid west. The line was the 100th Meridian, one hundred degrees of longitude west of Greenwich. In 1879, U.S. Geological Survey head John Wesley Powell established the boundary in a report of the West that has carried to this day."
About.com further reports the average annual precipitation is more than 20 inches east of the 100th Meridian. When an area receives more than twenty inches of precipitation, there isn’t a need for irrigation. Making the line of longitude the "boundary between the non-irrigated East and irrigation-necessary West."
Holl, who is 85 years old, decided to make the drive alone. He packed up his car with a tent and camping gear and hit the road. His total round trip was 5,600 miles, including 1,800 miles of the 100th meridian.
"My first stop on the meridian was at the International Peace Garden in North Dakota which is at the northern most point of the 100th meridian; half of it is in North Dakota and half is in Canada," Holl said. "It took me a full month from Sept. 9 through Oct. 5 to complete the trip. It took 20 days to drive the meridian. I slept all but three nights in a tent. I told my son and daughter that I was going on the trip to have fun, and that’s what I did. My daughter told me to go for it but just don’t fall."
Holl camped in state parks and other camp sites. He said it only rained three days out of the entire trip.
In addition to his goal of driving the entire 1,800 miles, Holl had three stops he wanted to make - the International Peace Garden, Nicodemus, Kan. (a historical black pioneer town), and Crystal City, Texas, where the U.S. held Japanese and Germans in internment camps. He loves history and visiting historical landmarks and wanted to visit those areas for the historical significance each hold in U.S. history.
"I also wanted to attend a Texas cattle auction, a Texas high school football game and a country music show. My grandmother was from Texas and she used to talk about how important high school football games were, so I wanted to experience it," Holl said.
Holl also took the time to talk to many residents of the towns he visited, including a homecoming queen, the auctioneer at the cattle auction, one of the country western musicians and the pastor at the First Baptist Church in Nicodemus. Holl kept a journal of his entire trip making entries about the landscape, the history and the people he met along the way.
"I wanted to travel on the cheap, slow down and stop and smell the roses and take the time to drink it all in and I did all of that," Holl said. "Poet Kathleen Norris, who is from South Dakota, writes poetry and is an essayist. She wrote a book called 'Dakota,' where she calls it 'the vast unpeopled land of earth and sky,' and I found that to be true of the entire length of the 100th meridian."