This post about the Atlas is part III of a series on maps. Check out parts I and II.
Ah the open road! There’s nothing but possibilities ahead of you. The feel of that wheel in your hands, your mug of hot fresh coffee (which you can get for 10% off) covering up the smells of your pleasantly sleeping toddlers (because you left at 3 AM so that you could get most of your driving done before they woke up), and your trusty North American Road Atlas which can get you close enough to just about anywhere. Atlas in hand, you can conquer any road trip with the confidence of Magellan and the resolve of a pioneer.
Every year for Christmas we gave my dad the newest edition of the Rand McNally North American Road Atlas and here’s why it would make a great gift for your Mom this Mother’s Day!
Now I’m not sure if the atlas or the pioneer spirit came first for my Dad but regardless, these maps made many a road trip possible for us. I remember several trips down south to visit my Uncle and Aunt in Florida in which we seemed to magically find our way to our destination in record time. As I grew older I learned it was because after studying the map more closely he had found a shortcut. (It also might have been that time we stopped at a truck stop to get some hotel coupons and were caught in the middle of a record breaking drug bust of armed thugs by undercover DEA agents. That might have caused a bit of an aversion to stopping.)
When I got older, I wanted to get involved in the navigation process. When I was 11 years old, my dad took me for a week long camping trip in Colorado. (Our original plan was to use airline miles to visit Alaska, but as soon as we saved up enough they doubled the rates. I didn’t much mind, I still got to climb mountains.) On our way through Kansas and the part of Colorado that looks eerily like more Kansas, I began studying the map and found a shortcut that would cut almost 2 hours off of our driving time. My dad didn’t believe me until we saw a billboard that read “Cut 2 hours off at the next exit!” (Yeah, that actually existed. I’ve even asked people about this since then, and it is still a well known shortcut to Colorado Springs.) It’s a good thing we took that short cut, because as it was it took us almost an hour to get our water to boil and we ended up eating our Spaghetti in the dark.
Road Atlases are an essential tool when planning a long distance road trip because they give you a good overview of any state you might find yourself in and a more detailed look at many popular destinations. But like any other map, they have their pros and cons.
The Pros of the Road Atlas:
1. Most of them include all 50 states, US territories, and Canadian Provinces which covers the road trips for about 99.99% of us.
2. They are bound into a single volume that is about the size of a magazine.
3. You can get a large print version that is still relatively compact.
4. They often include important landmarks like highest point, popular destinations, and major historical sites.
5. They include every Interstate, most state highways, most major roads, and some minor roads.
The Cons of the Road Atlas:
1. They only provide an overview of each state and lack detail that is useful if you plan to go off of the major roads.
2. They get pretty beaten up in the car.
3. By the time it is published it is already out of date.
4. They infect you with Wanderlust and give you a false impression of how far things really are. (Whoa look at this, we could get to Idaho in a day because it’s only 3 pages away!) Those massive western states take up the same amount page space as those tiny New England ones so you tend to try too many miles in each day.
5. When the road becomes winding due to mountains or rivers, it will often straighten it out making it look like less of a distance than it really is.
The score is 5 to 5 on this one making the old fashioned Road Atlas a definite must in your road trip tool box. And with Mother’s Day coming up I definitely recommend getting one for her. Not convinced? Well I’ve taken the liberty of preparing an FAQ for you.
Q: My Mom is like 90 and doesn’t go on road trips, why would she need one?
A: Maps provide hours of entertainment even if you aren’t getting into a car. Imagine your mother (bless her heart) driving her finger down the highways on the map recalling her golden years. I can’t imagine a better way to spend an afternoon in a retirement home.
Q: Don’t you think flowers would be a better gift?
A: Flowers tell a woman that she smells bad and you want her to smell more like a rose. No that’s a bad idea. It’s much better to tell her that “You are an adventurer! You can go anywhere you like!”
Q: Shouldn’t we get her a GPS?
A: You know… the answer to this question would make a great blog post! So check in with us next week when I talk about GPS.
Have I convinced you?
I’ve taken the liberty of finding some great prices on road atlases. Just click the pictures below to find one that works for you.
$29.95 – This one is my go to. I get a new one every year and it never does me wrong.
$20.79 – Same recommendation, just a different size.
$14.99 – National Geographic knows the world and makes great maps.
$12.93 – Michelin has been the trusted name in auto travel for a long time. This one is frequently out of stock so order yours now before the get taken up.