Years ago, working as a freelance photographer, I kept a detailed road atlas of South Carolina in my car. It was the only way to navigate secondary highways and find small towns. I shot a lot of Friday night football in those days, and some of the high schools are seemingly impossible to locate at night and on deadline.
So when I bought a U.S. atlas before this trip, it was kind of a joke, or a nod to nostalgia. It's 15 years removed from that worn atlas sitting in the passenger seat. These days, my phone gets me where I need to go (most of the time). Just follow the blue dot.
Except good 4G service doesn't exist everywhere. Cell signal can die quickly -- and stay gone for 100 miles.
Add to that, I have a particularly fallible sense of direction.
Now, the van is filled with maps. The atlas has some circles and X's marking a few towns and routes. Distance charts are great. Hiking maps. National parks, campgrounds. On top of being essential, they are a reminder of the places I've been -- and perhaps more importantly, a reassurance that those places will be there when I get back.
I use Google maps for 90% of all navigation. Follow the blue dot. And it works (mostly). But there are times and places where there is no signal and all you can do is squint at the map and turn it sideways. Hope for a road sign or a trail marker. Absent that, keep going straight.
One thing I've learned: When lost, I should never trust my gut.