Sunday, November 2, 2008

Mystery Atlas

Nancy brought home a used State Farm Road Atlas the other day from the second-hand store where she works. It’s the kind they give away free in the insurance office. This was an older atlas from 1995 and had that date marked on the front cover in green highlighter. When I opened it up I was intrigued.

It was extensively marked up with pink, green and orange highlighter. When I say extensive, what I mean is that every county in the U.S. was highlighted. That’s 3077 counties. The former owner also highlighted every state’s high point. Granite Peak in Montana, Kings Peak in Utah, Sassafras Mountain in South Carolina, and some unremarkable, un-named spots in places Indiana and Nebraska.
The former owner also marked the roads they had driven in 30 of the 50 states. The former owner, who perhaps had been a truck driver, drove the roads of Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho Illinois, Indiana,, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky Maryland, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Washington, West Virginia and Wyoming. Some states he (I’m assuming) had just driven across. But did he drive it both ways or one way? Others, he had driven nearly every road. Utah was well covered, and I guess that would be expected since we found the atlas here. But Oklahoma was the most traveled (see the photo). Why?
I was intrigued by several anomalies. If the guy was a truck driver, he must have gone to Hawaii on vacation and marked those roads as well. Why did he mark the names of the counties of the states he didn’t visit (like New Hampshire)? Why the high points in each state? It also shows a tour through Yellowstone. Was it done on a vacation, or while driving a big rig? There were numerous dead ends, which would be normal for a truck driver. Drop off a load and head back the way he came. But some of the dead ends were weird. Ft. Irwin Military Reservation in California. Wall, S.D. A place called California in Maryland. And 13 dead ends in Utah alone. The dead ends in Utah were in no place where you would expect to drop off a load. They were in the middle of nowhere. Perhaps he took a hike, or picked up a load of livestock at a cattle shipping point in some of those forlorn spots. Or maybe he was on vacation again? Maybe he wasn’t a truck driver at all. Perhaps he was a salesman who had to do lots of traveling. The last question is, did he do all this in 1995 or was this a lifetime of driving? If it was one year, he might have racked up 150,000 to 250,000 miles. Either way, it’s a lot of miles. And a lot of questions.

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