The Death Of The Roadmap……..

I am old school. On a number of occasions over the past year, I have reached for an old fashioned road map to help establish a route to somewhere, perhaps within Missouri, more often than not, outside of Missouri with a RV in tow. Our trips to the visit the kids take us through a Rest Area on I-44 where I seize the opportunity to keep our rolling stock equipped with the latest edition of our state map, a convenience offered at rest areas throughout the country. Today’s sophisticated satellite navigation systems are replacing the ubiquitous road map with button push or screen touch convenience, relegating paper to an era of the gasoline powered, big block behemoths that fairly seethe through an old troopers soul.

Emblematic of a wonderful era in driving

Back in the day, I handed out hundreds, if not thousands of our state’s official roadmap. It was not at all unusual for motorists to ask for directions to something or somewhere, and I kept a case of these paper treasures in the patrol car’s trunk. When queried, I would happily offer directions (in our day the initial training at our academy resulted in your memorization of every county, county seat and major road intersection in the entire state) and a paper map to reinforce my directions. We could offer advice on rough stretches of road and scenic detours alike so that motorists could avail themselves to the beauty of our state. I often marked the map, as some folks are map illiterate, and required very specific turn guidance to just get out of the parking lot.

Today, in our Ram equipped with the very latest in “big screen” technology, I can tell the damned thing the name of a restaurant in Little Rock, Arkansas and it will churn out turn by turn directions to the eatery, with an optional route or two thrown in, as well as a multi-color map to visually guide you. You need no mathematical acumen, as the computer will also do the time/distance computations, indicate road closures or construction and identify fuel stops. Stop for a coke and it will adjust the arrival times for you. There was a time when you carefully computed your mileage, with help from little, map edged graphs denoting distances between major cities and towns, did a time calculation and carefully folded your roadmap so as to reveal the geographic area you were traveling through. Today you can use a zoom feature and do the same thing with a couple of touches to the screen. Truth be told, I find the smell of a new state map to be cathartic, generating memories of times past, just as the jotted notes on the map itself are reminders of places and travels past. A roadmap is emblematic of America, in all it’s marvelous engineering, industrial and agricultural splendor, soon to be lost on the generations of young people who look at a map today and ask, “what is that”? If you are training a child, grandchild or anyone for that matter in the science and art of driving a car, take time to spread a map out on the dining room table and begin a lesson with “this is a road map…….and here is what you can do with it.” Other wise, they may never know.

Thank you God. Among the many blessings you have allowed me over the years is the pleasure of turning over an internal combustion engine in a hunk of Detroit iron, perusing a road map and beginning a day on a road trip across the country. In the beginning of a rewarding career underwriting the safety of the motoring public, life was uncomplicated. A ticket book, accident notebook and handful of road maps constituted the essence of my tool chest. The satisfaction of leaving a motorist with a look of relief on their faces, secure in the time/distance issues facing them at that moment, was reward enough when I turned back out onto the highway. The next time you have the opportunity to grab a map or two, do so. Inhale the unique fragrance of a vestige from the past, close your eyes and smile. You will be taken back to the day when this map represented one of the first opportunities in life for you to have a blue print for the future, even if it was for an hour, day or long road trip. The computer in your dashboard can’t do that……….

Have a great week, and safe travels.


3 thoughts on “The Death Of The Roadmap……..

    1. The current map is a 20-21 edition distributed by MoDot free of charge, as it has been for many, many years. It looks, smells and handles much like it has over my 50+ years behind the wheel. I am not sure if they still run the print shop or it is contracted to a vendor. They are printed on a three year cycle these days.


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