Our dear friends, Rob and Tracey Shirk from Waterloo, Iowa, were passing through our area on Thursday and came to visit. The following day at breakfast, Rob walked in carrying what appeared to be a big magazine. As he sat at the table, I realized it was a road atlas of the USA ... something I have not seen or used in at least 15 or more years.
I asked, “Where did you pick up that antique?” He looked confused. I continued, “Where’d you find that old relic?”
“It’s a map,” he responded while turning to a map of Indiana.
“I know it’s a map,” I said with a laugh, “But why do you have it?”
“Because I’m traveling, and I don’t know how to get to Marion, Indiana, from here.” He looked down at the map and began tracing a route with his finger.
At this point, I thought he was still kidding. “Use the GPS on your phone ... step out of the 1980s and into the 21st century,” I held up my phone.
Rob looked at my phone, grunted, then looked back at his atlas saying, “That’s a phone. I need a map.”
I must confess that I’m lost without my GPS, but not too many years ago, my phone was only a phone. We traveled from coast-to-coast years ago with our little family in our motor home and enjoyed every minute and every mile. Much of the fun was sitting at our dining room table with Arlene and our three children, gathered around a big road atlas, deciding where we’d go, what we’d see and how we’d get there.
I think our first trip was our most memorable and that was our trip to Yellowstone. We took off before cellphones with an atlas opened on the dash and we were rolling ... our first stop was the Mitchell “Corn Palace” in Mitchell, South Dakota. I remember our oldest, Toby, looking at the building and saying, “We drove all this way to look at a building made of corn?” However, the next stop promised to be better as we headed off to “Wall Drug.” It’s amazing how a little ingenuity and the promise of “Free Ice Water” transformed a small-town drug store into an internationally known tourist stop.
The badlands followed and then a stop at Mount Rushmore. I’ll confess, I was awestruck at the first siting of this incredible monument. I hope to see it again someday. Then we were off to Devils Tower and the magnificence of Yellowstone. We made it all the way there and home, without the use of a phone or GPS.
We headed east the following year to the history of the Williamsburg area and Washington, D.C. The following year, we headed south to Texas and the Alamo. All incredible memories with the help of Rand McNally and their big and beautiful road atlas.
I must admit, some of the happiest times of my life were planned around that Rand McNally Road Atlas. It was like an instruction manual for our travel dreams, providing the guidance and recipe for family fun and togetherness. The excitement and anticipation … all the laughs and love along the way warms me still and always brings a smile to my face. All great family memories. Weeks after returning from one vacation, we were sitting around the table with our map plotting our next adventure.
After ridiculing Rob and his relic of a guidance system, I need to make an admission. I ordered a new 2021 road atlas online. So, maybe I owe Rob an apology?
Nah ... he deserves a little laughing at his expense. Maybe in reality, he has inspired another road trip, as he brought to my mind some of the most precious family times we’ve experienced. There is still so much to see and do, and Arlene and I deserve to get out on the road.
Our children are all grown and on their own, but we have two wonderful grandsons, Caleb and Noah. Maybe they need to see the Mitchell Corn Palace?
As Willie Nelson so eloquently sang, maybe it’s time to get “On the Road Again.”