The Littoral Life: Mapping the way

By Dan Haag

Who doesn’t love vacation? I love time away from work, chores and the other regular, often mind-numbing monotony of everyday life. For me, vacations are a must, as essential to my continued well-being as oxygen or beer.
If I’m being completely honest, you NEED me to have a vacation. As someone who works with the public, I can’t be held responsible for how I might react to having my vacation rights revoked. The results would probably be something along the lines of when those cute, cuddly creatures in the film “Gremlins” were exposed to water.

For folks who live on the Oregon coast, summer is when you plan your vacation — not take it. Getting away in the middle of summer is impossible. Asking for time off during the high-season is a non-starter with most employers. At a restaurant where I worked, I was told, in no uncertain terms by management, that asking for a day off would get you laughed out of the room; taking a day off in the summer was an offense akin to treason. The comparison was a fair one: both are punishable by death by firing squad.
So we set our sights on winter when the driving rain lets us feel pretty darn smug about jetting off to Maui or Cabo.
Planning is most of the fun. Tables become littered with brochures and magazines from our destination. Luggage gets pulled out of storage. Plans are made to lose weight and discarded almost immediately. It’s a glorious time.
Maps are the best part. Full of color and symbols and stretches of highway we haven’t yet discovered, they contain a treasure trove of knowledge.
I love maps.
Which brings me to my point: in the name of all that is holy, some of you need to use a map more often.
This request comes from the very fiber of my being to all of you about to set out on your vacation voyage. Because we both know what will happen if you don’t. You’ll consult your GPS and end up in my driveway asking if this is the way to the State Park and I’ll answer by spraying you with the hose and it’ll just turn into a whole thing.
It feels like map use is becoming extinct, and it shows. I’ve met people who ask me where the ocean is less a hundred feet from the beach. I’ve been asked if the sun sets in the west on this coast. I’ve been asked if Neahkahnie Mountain is Mt. Saint Helens. At least one of those questions could have been answered with 5 minutes of quiet time and a AAA road atlas.
Without a trusty map, travelers seem to treat distances as a novel concept. Recently, someone told me they were starting their day out in Manzanita, lunch in Tillamook, jaunting over to wine country to tour several vineyards, down to Crater Lake for a hike, back over to the Oregon Dunes, and back in Manzanita in time for a 7 pm dinner reservation. After containing the mushroom clouds going off in my skull, I calmly explained to them they might need to add another day or two to their itinerary. Or invent some sort of time machine. I offered them a map, which they refused and it was the last I ever saw of them. I often wonder if they are still out there somewhere, wandering the wilderness, glassy-eyed and arguing over why they didn’t use a map.
Maps are fun, much more than GPS or Google Maps. A lot more accurate, too. Every time I’ve driven somewhere using a map, I get there without a hitch: “Look there!” I exclaim. “It’s Yellowstone, just like it said on the map it would be!” (end scene).
My one and only experience with GPS promised to take me to a Costco store, but instead led me to an empty field with a half-rusted sign that looked suspiciously like a radiation warning. The many craters that pocked the field gave it that sort of “haunted mine field” look. My wife, ever-helpful, suggested I had used the GPS wrong.
Well, of course I had! Not having a degree from MIT, chances are pretty decent that I did indeed use the GPS incorrectly, especially since most of the keys and symbols looked like ancient Aramaic.
Never once with a good old paper map did I have that kind of problem. Or at least once I did, I never repeated the same mistake twice.
Maps are cheap, often free, and always fun. They don’t have to be recharged and are easy to replace.
Most importantly, they save you the heartache of being in a stranger’s driveway and getting sprayed with a garden hose when you could be on the road to your real destination.