Do you have a folded paper highway map in your car? The kind that opens up to spread across the whole front seat and most of the windshield? If you have one, have you used it lately?
A drop in map printing began around 2003, when affordable GPS units became popular Christmas presents. Public demand started to go down; and today, with transportation departments around the country facing limited budgets, paper maps are often the first things on the chopping block. Some states have opted to print new maps every two years rather than every year, others have decided to publish them every five years, and some have done away with them altogether.
I understand this thinking. Tough decisions have to be made in these economic times. It makes sense to cut the services that are thought will be least missed.
But that GPS Lady who verbally gives you directions is only concerned about getting you from here to there in the quickest, most efficient way possible. She cares nothing for the “blue highways,” as writer William Least Heat-Moon calls them — the small, forgotten, out-of-the-way roads (which were drawn in blue on the old-time Rand McNally road atlas) where you’re likely to encounter the things you didn’t plan on: a remote nature reserve, an encounter with a bear, or even a great diner that serves an exceptional piece of pie.
GPS Lady doesn’t understand when you don’t follow her instructions and reprimands you with a stern word of “recalculating” when you venture off her chosen route.
Paper maps never lose their power source or fail to work because of unreliable service. And they don’t admonish you when you veer.
Do you think paper maps are becoming obsolete?