Grisamore: Without maps, we all would be lost

June 8, 2014 

There are five maps in my glove compartment, all in various stages of creases and folds.

Three are maps of Georgia, one is of Florida and the other is a street map of Macon and Warner Robins.

I have always been a map lover. I am a devoted follower of yellow, blue and green ribbons across paper rivers and imaginary county lines, even when I have no place to go.

Maps have guided me to outposts like Enterprise, Alabama, where there is a statue of a boll weevil on the town square. They have directed me to Bethune, South Carolina, the largest egg producer in the nation and home of the “chicken strut.” They have led me by the fingers to Carrabelle, Florida, where the “world’s smallest police station” is located in a phone booth.

I am a map junkie. Call me hopelessly old-fashioned, and I won’t be offended by any references to the Sinclair dinosaur.

Yes, I know about GPS. I have been plugging a Magellan Maestro into my car’s cigarette lighter -- are they still called that? -- for six years.

I have nicknamed her Madge Ellen. In an authoritative voice, she tells me where to turn and which exit to take. (Apparently, she is programmed to understand how difficult it is for men to ask for directions.)

There have been times when I have told Madge Ellen I don’t know what I ever did without her.

Truth is, I did quite well navigating for most of my life without gadgets.

I know about Almighty Google, too. In 1.9 seconds of backseat driving, Google lets me know it will take three hours and 40 minutes to drive 194 miles to the Blind Susie Bridge in Lula. It will even give me instructions for the final 138 feet off Gum Log Road.

Even more impressive, Google Earth allows me to swoop like a bird to almost any road, highway, avenue or boulevard on the planet and read the names on the mailboxes. It blows my mind.

Even though my Rand McNally can’t do all (or any) of that, it doesn’t make me any less fond of maps. I read them for entertainment. I enjoy their company.

I have several at home. At night, I sometimes let my eyes travel down turnpikes and over mountain ranges, always mindful of the map’s legends and distance scales of inches to miles.

At my office, I keep an atlas of Greater Macon. It is 80 pages and held together with Scotch tape. It claims to have “all new cartography,” but it was printed 13 years ago, so it is woefully outdated.

I also own a Rand McNally road atlas that covers the U.S., Canada and Mexico like the dew. I feel like Charles Kuralt whenever I carry it with me on a trip. It takes me on sentimental journeys. On a family vacation when I was 10 years old, I used maps to memorize the capitals of all 50 states from the back seat of a station wagon.

My absolute favorite map is the Georgia Atlas & Gazetteer. I even own two copies. It has 70 grids of topographic maps stretching from the top of Georgia’s head to the tip of her toes. I have learned so much about my home state from this atlas. I am a huge fan of back roads, and the detailed maps have allowed me to discover small towns and communities I never knew existed.

I do not profess to be on any crusade to save maps, even as technology is headed on such a digital spiral and wireless axis that one day we won’t be able to wake up and smell the paper mill.

I just don’t want to see maps disappear from the landscape, like pay phones and Burma Shave signs, where the only place you can find them is in museums and antique shops.

It will be sad when they become like encyclopedias, and we look up expecting them on the shelf, and they are not there.

Contact Gris at 744-4275 or egrisamore@macon.com.

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