It may seem strange to celebrate the anniversary of an atlas, but ever since we got the 2014 Anniversary edition of the Rand McNally Road Atlas to North America in, I haven't been able to stop selling it. Everyone seems to be hitting the road this summer, from our very own Shuchi, who will be driving through the open spaces of Wyoming and Montana this week with Gretel Ehrlich, Annie Proulx, and Rand McNally in the back seat, to the customer who told me his student visa was running out, but before he returns to Asia, he's driving his car across the states to visit his brother in LA. He doesn't know the way, exactly, or how long it will take, but now he's got his Rand McNally.
Hearing about these planned adventures got me thinking about past road trips, with the trusty Rand McNally I received for a high school graduation present (Got someone graduating? Take note). I used the atlas to get myself out of Iowa. At first, I made the mistake of driving across Nebraska--where it was just me, sky, and a Buffalo Bill Cody museum that contained a lot of plaques with horrific stories of the American hero's conquests of buffalo, and a stuffed two-headed calf. But after that Rand McNally set me right, sending me across Colorado, where I visited friends in Denver, then drove straight into the Rockies. Somewhere in Utah I needed a place to camp, opened my atlas, found the remote Flaming Gorge on the Utah page, and pitched a tent. Then it was up through Jackson Hole and across Montana, through Boise, along the Columbia River Gorge and into the Northwest, which would be home for the following three years, until I tossed Rand McNally in the back seat for a return trip.
Now on the East Coast, when urban living wears and the city presses in, I recall those open spaces and stretching skies, and random place names picked from an atlas transformed into memories. Then I'm tempted to throw away my T pass and buy a car, just to have a place to store my Rand McNally for when the road calls again.