Thursday, September 29, 2011

Official State Highway Maps

One of the rooms in our house has been designated "the Map Room". The walls of the Map Room are literally covered in maps. It's pretty awesome. Who needs wallpaper when you have a bunch of official state (and in some cases, province) highway maps?

Soon thereafter, I decided to bring the concept to my office at work, but only on a limited basis. Then a few weeks ago, I upgraded to a bigger office at work, an office which happens to have much more available wall space. It was then that I decided to go "all out" once again and completely cover all of the walls of my new office with maps, as opposed to just one wall. I then sent away for several more official state (and in some cases, province) highway maps. A couple of weeks later, three of my four office walls are covered in maps. Yeah!

The first wall looks a lot like the wall in my previous office, except rearranged a little.

But the second and third walls each have a new set of recently acquired maps:

The fourth wall is still blank, but I am also still expecting 12 more state maps in the mail. That may or may not be enough to fill the fourth wall.

Where do I get these maps? Some (including many on the second wall) are historical maps I got from friends. (The Indiana map, for example, is from 1968, and I think the Florida map is from the 1970s.) Others, I got from the state department of transportation (or department of tourism) for free by going to their website and filling out a form. For example, here is where you can get a free printed copy of the official North Carolina state highway map. Interstate Welcome Centers also will usually have free state maps available for pickup, although you obviously have to actually go to the state to get it in that case.

Sure, I could go to AAA and get a bunch of AAA maps. That's what we do for actual vacations, but for wallpapering purposes, the official state DOT maps are much better. AAA maps all look the same: same colors, same fonts, and so forth. But every state makes their own maps a little differently, and this makes for a much more interesting and colorful Map Room.

But as society trends away from printed maps and towards electronic maps, and as states across the country penny-pinch in an effort to balance their budgets, are state-issued official highway maps an endangered species? Hopefully not, but at least one state - Washington - no longer prints copies of its state map, citing both budgetary reasons and the availability of online maps. Sure, I can download their official state map in .pdf format, but what's the point? It's not like I have access to a printer that can turn the .pdf into a full-size state map. And it's not the same without all of the folds, either. As a result, Washington will not be represented on my office walls. (Boooooo Washington! Boycott!)

A few other states won't be represented on my office walls, either. Illinois is one of a few states that make printed maps, but don't give you the option of getting one through the mail; instead, you have to go to a state Welcome Center or DOT office to get it. Nevada has a free state highway map, but they also have a minimum order of $8 if ordering online, apparently. Other states like Rhode Island offer free "travel guides", but it isn't clear whether an official map is included. Unless I am certain a map will be included, I feel kind of guilty ordering a visitor's guide for a state that we don't actually plan on visiting any time soon. As for Hawai'i, I don't know if they've ever even had an official state highway map. Hawai'i is one of two states not represented in either "Map Room". Alaska is the other, but I'm hoping that will change soon, because I sent away for an official Alaska map last week.

(Side note: Vermont sent me the full visitor's guide along with the map. Included with the packet was a letter basically saying, "We know you've heard about the damage Tropical Storm Irene did to the state of Vermont. But don't let that stop you from visiting - we're open for business! Just allow for a little extra travel time as we work to fix the roads.)

Then, there are states like Tennessee, which used to put the entire state on one side of the map (see here), but now puts the western half on one side, and the eastern half on the reverse side. That seems like a more practical way to print the map, especially for a wide state like Tennessee. But it's really inconvenient for my purposes. I should have ordered two. And I feel guilty going back and requesting another map after the fact. Hey, I guess half a map is better than no map, eh, Washington?

For some reason, Louisiana and Massachusetts sent me two maps anyway, even though I ordered one. Actually, I should have ordered at least two maps from each state regardless. Not just for instances like Tennessee where they split up the state front-and-back. (That's pretty rare, but I've also had this problem with California and Illinois in the past. Ontario also does it, with Southern on one side and Northern on the reverse, but I give them a pass.) But if official state highway maps are in fact an endangered species, then I better stock up now, before it's too late.


Jeff said...

But do you have an official Rod Blagojevich Illinois DOT map?

Chris Allen said...

I think I got the map in 2007, so yes, that would make it an official Rod Blagojevich map. Yes!