I love a good map.
Even with its challenge when refolding, there’s something about opening up a map and visually exploring where you are going and where you would like to go someday. I like to get a picture in my mind of where various towns, parks and waterways are located. I might not necessarily remember them in any kind of order or location, yet at least I have some familiarity of knowing if they are located north, south, east or west of me.
I travel for my job, and back in the day, paper maps — not Google Maps — were the way I got around. Plus, I asked for directions from farmers on how to get to their farms. This method was quite reliable, especially when I traveled to locations that did not have road signs. A particular trip to southern Indiana more than a couple decades ago comes to mind. The farmer told me there were no road signs where he lived. I needed to watch the car’s odometer for mileage, and remember to turn after passing a specified number of gravel roads, or to look for a certain landmark while navigating through the hollows.
Fast-forward to today. Now we have GPS and Garmin, and the internet and Google Maps.
Latest tools not always reliable
I’ve had pretty good luck with relying on these latest tools.
With the exception, however, of a recent visit to a farm not far from me. I had the address of the farmer and confirmed it with him. He told me he was located 8 miles east of town. I didn’t ask for further directions since my trusty cellphone Google Maps app has always been right-on.
Except this time.
I followed the map app’s voice instructions, heading east out of the town closest to the farm. OK — I was on my way and due to arrive nearly on time. I glanced at the map, noting that its directions would be telling me to turn north at the next road. Sure enough, the map voice told me to take a left onto a gravel road. I did, a tad surprised I was already on gravel and still had some miles to go. Nonetheless, I figured I would be angling north and east to get to my destination.
I looked at my map app again to see where my next turn was. I hadn’t gone more than a half-mile, and it was telling me to turn again at the next gravel road — one narrower than the one on which I was traveling.
Compounding my view of these side roads was the fact we had just received 5 inches of snow early that morning. I looked right and saw one set of tracks. I turned east.
I looked at my app again. It marked my farmstead destination a quarter-mile ahead, on the south side of the road.
Really? That pegged location was an empty field.
I checked and rechecked the address I had entered. It was correct.
I put my vehicle in park and reached for my reliable Minnesota atlas — which I rarely leave home without — found the right page indicating my location, and called the farmer to let him know I’d be a tad late and where I currently was.
Atlas to the rescue
I glanced at my state atlas, a well-worn and treasured traveler with loose pages secured with a large clip. I bought it in 2005, after riding around northern Minnesota with a veterinarian who was involved with statewide bovine tuberculosis testing. He had an atlas balanced on his truck dashboard. I thumbed through his copy and instantly knew I needed one of my own. Each county is featured, with all public roads delineated, as well as other sites — from cemeteries in fields to public ditches, from boat launches in county parks to golf courses, from police stations to hospitals.
Having this form of map in hand has given me the confidence to travel down some interesting roads in Minnesota. When I leave Farmfest, for example, I often refer to it, earmarking a different route home than the usual highways.
Given the tattered nature of my atlas, I have thought about replacing it with a new version. That thought is short-lived, though. I have various locations circled or marketed in this copy, showing where I’ve been. I’m not ready yet to give it up.
I really do love a good map.