As a child we had a well worn Rand McNally Atlas. It helped guide us on all of our adventures. I remember my mom looking through the wrinkled pages planning our next twists and turns on our travels. We often wandered on small highways off the beaten path, following one of those little lines on the map. Distances between stops were measured and approximately stated, mile markers helped but often it was “about an inch till the next stop” The atlas would get passed around the car “let me see where we are” and “its my turn to look” were a constant refrain. Sometimes we had separate state maps but those often would tear on the crease, half of Pennsylvania would be in the car, the other half maybe not. So the big atlas book was the preferred navigational tool.
The Rand McNally Atlas was a fixture in my house as an adult also. We would start our plans for our road trips months ahead, scouring the map for small towns and landmarks to check out as we traveled. While we were on the highway, I was the navigator, map on my lap watching out for our trip but also daydreaming to other locations, that valley in Ohio, the mountain stream in western Pennsylvania, the highways marked scenic routes always caught my eye.
As the internet machine caught on, I started printed out directions to long off destinations, complete with miles, expected time, attractions on the way. I still brought the atlas with because you never know when you might want to turn off the highway.
Now my road trips are not so lingering, more the have to get there now type of trips. Picking up or dropping off at college or visiting family for thanksgiving, not the wandering type I used to take. All the directions are on my phone, no atlas is around. I miss the days of the atlas and the sudden decision to “go see what that little line on the map looks like”