People are shocked when they learn that two geeks like us don’t have a GPS. But we just don’t like the thought of having one more electronic gadget to occupy space in our minds, and dealing with the idiosyncrasies and upgrades that usually accompany them. A cell phone is bad enough.
So, how do we find our way through this great big continent without a GPS? Paper maps! Imagine that! They don’t need batteries or uploading, they usually make it obvious enough to tell which roads are decent enough for our rig to travel on, and they don’t need upgrading unless you spill your coffee on them.
For general navigation through North America, I use a notebook-sized Rand McNally Road Map that has just enough detail to show us secondary roads that can get us off the Interstates. But when we want to get off the beaten path and travel the blue highways, I’ll use state-specific maps, which we rarely pay for. We get the most current versions for free at welcome centers on the Interstate, Chamber of Commerce offices, and tourism bureaus.
For our extended stays in any state, one of the best navigation systems we have is our trusty Gazeteer Atlas. There’s a Gazeteer for every state in the nation, at around $20 each. They’re especially useful for cheapskate wanderers like us, as they show topography, designate between public and private lands, recreation spots, campgrounds (private and public), and include other handy tips for getting around.
Over the last three years on the road, there’s only been a few occasions where a GPS really would’ve helped us. But all in all, even when things don’t go according to plan and we end up going miles out of our way on some Forest Service road, there’s a sense of danger and adventure in those travels that are the stuff memories are made of. If you’re never really lost with a GPS, what fun is that?
One time we were approached at a state line truck stop by an elderly RVer who asked, “Do you know how to change states on the GPS?” We’ll take our paper maps any day. How about you?