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Dianne Salerni : Writer of Teen and Middle Grade Fiction | Can You Still Buy Paper Maps?

Can You Still Buy Paper Maps?


GPSI don’t think I’ve handled a paper map in years. Remember how we used to need them to drive places? Lately, I’m thinking I’d like to return to the low tech map option.

This month, I’m driving to a lot of unfamiliar places for book events. Here’s what I’ve learned about trying to find my way there:

  • GPS and Mapquest never agree. Generally, I tend to trust Mapquest more, because the GPS plays nasty tricks on me. (See below) But occasionally, Mapquest will get something VERY wrong — and then I’m left with the  GPS snickering and flashing its “recalculating” message while it plans something evil. I know that Google Navigation is probably the most accurate, but I don’t like driving with a phone in my hand, and there’s no place for a mount on my dashboard.
  • My GPS has a fondness for the Schuykill Expressway, the single most congested highway in this area. Whenever possible, it tries to divert me onto it. (“Yes, you’re driving from central New Jersey to the border of Delaware, but wouldn’t you like to take a side trip through Philadelphia via the Schuykill Expressway? Come on! Where’s your sense of adventure?”)
  • When a road is actually closed and I have to turn around and find a different way, instead of plotting an alternate route, GPS will send me in a big circle and point me back to the dead end.
  • Pennsylvania roads have too many names. There is often a number — sometimes more than one, such as US-202-N/US-322 W — and also a name — like Wilmington Pike. Mapquest, GPS, and the road signs will all say something different.
  • Then, there are directions like this: Take PA-100 N. Merge onto PA-100 Spur. Stay straight to go onto Graphite Mine Road. Slight right onto Pottstown Pike. Yeah — what the heck, because those are all THE SAME ROAD. I don’t even have to change lanes!
  • When driving around the ritzy Mainline area outside Philadelphia, 5-way, 6-way, and 7-way intersections, with all the roads heading off at strange angles, are extremely common — and NONE OF THEM are marked with street signs. The message is: If you don’t already know where you are, you don’t belong here.
  • The person in the car behind me feels the same way. He HATES me because I’m trying to read the street signs, and he will ride on my bumper just to let me know how he feels. Even though there’s a passing lane.

You know what? Forget paper maps. What I’d really like is teleportation.


20 Responses to Can You Still Buy Paper Maps?

  1. Hilary says:

    Hi Dianne – after your comment on my recent post – which I patently liked!:

    “Your travelogues are fascinating and fill me with envy. A similar travelogue from the U.S. would read:

    Drove on an interstate.
    Ate at a Pizza Hut.
    Saw the World’s Biggest Ball of Twine.
    Slept at a Motel 6.

    *Head. Thunk. U.S. Map on Desk.*”

    Your description here of your journeys to book signings are rather more nightmarish! Well I certainly couldn’t drive on my own in the States … but over here to my pleasure I managed my journey without satellite navigation … but I suspect travelling in the States is somewhat different.

    I think I’d do my own route to the town and then rely on Mrs GPS to take me the rest of the way … but what do I know!

    So pleased you’re off doing book signings .. cheers Hilary

  2. Where’s your sense of adventure – funny!
    I trust Google Maps more than Mapquest.
    When driving, I turn on the voice and let her tell me where to go. As long as she doesn’t direct me to hell…

  3. Ah, the fun of driving to new places….

    I’ve used Google Maps for finding places on foot too and it’s tried very hard to get me lost by taking me in to the woods. – When I’m not hiking, just looking for a restaurant.

  4. My mom is a visiting nurse and she doesn’t use GPS to find her patients’ houses. She uses Hagstrom Maps. Those big yellow, spiral bound maps that shows excellent detail. My mom also has a wicked sense of direction.

    My husband doesn’t trust our SatNav so he now uses his Google Maps app in addition to the minivan’s GPS and then makes it a competition between the two. It’s all so stressful.

  5. Sheri Larsen says:

    Too funny. We were just talking about this the other day. We also talked about paper phone books and the old TV Guides. Remember those? And about the current state of GPS and nav equipment…. #stickingouttongue

  6. *hahaha* My husband and I have this discussion all the time. He’s a GPS lover and I clench my paper map. I’ll admit, his GPS is really awesome when it works…notice: When. I can’t say how many times it lost contact or got confused or whatever, and I ended up trusting my lovely, traditional map. We won’t go anywhere without both.

  7. Lexa Cain says:

    So funny, Dianne – though if you’re trapped on the Schuykill, it may seem less amusing. I recently wrote a chapter with a character pulling a map from the glove compartment, and all my CPs said, “No one uses those anymore. We all use GPS now.” I was like, “Whaaa???” I had to research online what they do and get my CPs to vet what the computer voice could say. I’m SO behind the times…

  8. Yes, please to teleportation! I hate driving.

  9. Tiana Smith says:

    Oh my goodness, YES. I hate it that one street has so many names and that a slight bend in the road will make it so your navigation tells you to “take a right to stay on blah blah road.” That makes no sense! And that it will redirect you to the same dead end. Drives me nuts. I hate driving to unfamiliar places-it gives me a heart attack every time.

  10. Johanna says:

    OMG! I’m like you’re GPS when it comes to driving. I’m always trying to get my husband to take new routes because “you never know what we might see.”

    That being said, since moving to the DC area which is notoriously tricky and designed to repel invaders, I’ve found Google Maps to be lifesaving. Much, much better than mapquest or my old GPS. I downloaded the app on my phone and suddenly I stopped showing up twenty minutes late to everything (well, not really, but it’s no longer navigational-related lateness).

  11. Julia Tomiak says:

    Just last weekend, SIRI (I use my iphone – it stays in my lap and I sneak glances) tried to tell me that a soccer tournament was at someone’s house. Thank goodness I’d been to those fields before. Yes, paper maps often seem like a good option, and I’ve spotted them at Sheetz!

  12. J E Oneil says:

    I don’t know. Maps are kind of like GPS units that can’t be updated when the exit you need to take has been removed from the highway :P. But they are stupid about telling you to go the busiest route because it’s a half a mile shorter than the highway.

    But yeah. I’m definitely down with the teleportation.

  13. mshatch says:

    lol. teleportation.

  14. I still print out paper maps and directions from Google maps. 😛 I don’t even have anything that can be used as a GPS. On the plus side, I do have a really good sense of direction, and stereotypes be damned, I’m not afraid to ask for directions.

    But yes, teleportation would still be best. ^_^

  15. Janet says:

    Oh, I am so with you. My GPS is evil, too. Once, when I had extra time, I followed my GPS just to see the route it would take me home on an otherwise pretty direct route. I think we found the worst traffic in the city, and took the most round about way possible. It was crazy! But makes for a cool story. 🙂

    Good luck with all your school visits!

  16. Janet says:

    P.S. how has teleportation not been invented yet???

  17. Steven Symes says:

    I’m lucky enough to know this area and the surrounding states like the back of my hand. The last time I was in unfamiliar territory, Google sent me on some of the most nonsensical pathways available. With GPS, a lot of it depends on the brand of the unit. In the end, I like to just pull up a digital map and create my own directions by looking at it, like in the old days but not.

  18. Robin says:

    Technology has taken us to some wonderful places. Yet… I cannot help but miss some of the things that pre-date it. Like maps. Like board games. (Most people rarely play them anymore.) Like talking instead of texting.

    On the other side, I love my kindle because I ran out of space for real books (despite my great love for them). I love the DVR. Heck, I love the remote control. Remember the days you had to get up to change the channel? And then there were only three of them…

  19. Amy Mak says:

    My husband says I must stop using Mapquest as Google Maps is far more reliable. I nodded and ignored the advice until getting lost on the back roads of NH looking for a soccer field. I now have the Google Maps App 🙂 Who knows…I’m terrible with directions…