Wednesday, January 24

New map and a new motorcycle to boot!

“Thanks” to those who sent me new “Sharon” cities to explore—I appreciate that and have expanded my list. Even the tongue-in-cheek “Sharon” in Russia intrigues me enough to want to visit. It immediately made me think of the adventure “Long Way ‘Round.” I saw myself on one of the new BMW 650s, making my way through Russia. I know it’s a dream but it could happen!

A friend from work understands my pain. She gave me a little toy motorcycle that now sits in front of my computer, where I slave away each day. Looking at it helps transport me along unexplored backroads whenever I need a break from my workaday routine, which I need frequently! And, talk about conspicuity! If I rode a motorcycle that brightly colored, cagers just might see me. Yeah, right! Best of all, the handlebar actually turns!

My love of maps stems from childhood, when I’d spin a small globe I had received as a gift and pick a place to daydream about. That led to maps; only now do I really understand them well.
As a child, I just like pouring over them and imagining what other kids in far off places were doing, that perhaps somewhere in Xinxiang, China another kid was pouring over a map wondering about a kid in Chicago. Sunday I treated myself to yet another atlas! It’s big, colorful, and replete with symbols, cross-references to other germane pages in the atlas, scenic drives and a bit of history about selected places. Well-worth the $16.95.

To me a great way to spend the wait for spring is sit on the floor, surrounded by various maps (one map is never enough!) and see how each has chosen to represent data. While the major details are the same, it’s the micro details that make a map inviting. Some maps ignore the little places and sprinkle in a few to satisfy the average reader; some are so jammed with info that it appears that the goal of full disclosure reigned supreme over logic and clarity. Such maps are headache-inducing to follow and only sometimes interesting to look at from a distance. The tangled web of connections are obvious--and strangling. Still some maps record only the most populated places as if thumbing its nose at every place else.

Even with my GPS—not to mention Google.maps—I prefer a paper map as the definitive word on where to go and how to get there. When I became a little turned around while trying to follow the back roads to Kankakee River State Park, it was my map that I finally stopped to consult. It returned me to civilization. My GPS became little more than an expensive compass. I had vowed to master its features so that I can rely on it more but now I think I know enough to do what I want to do and get where I want to go. I love electronic gadgets; they are indispensable resources for most of what I need to do. But when I want to feel a place, see it spread out before me, to run my fingers along its lakes and tributaries and climb its mountains, it’s the tangible surface of a map that I desire most. My new one will easily keep me company not just until riding season starts, but for years to come.