Has it ever occurred to you that the road atlas you may still own might not be up-to-date or totally wrong in places? And that nobody bothers to update it, obviously, as so many people rely on GPS these days? My husband and I still study maps – most of you know this by now. When we go on our road trips here in Washington State, we always have our road atlas with us. I’m usually the navigator.
Have you ever heard of the town of Seabrook? Every once in a while, you might come across ads in magazines about Washington State. It’s depicted as a fancy seaside resort with numerous restaurants, shops, and nice lodging facilities. For the first time I came across this a dozen years ago in a brochure I had grabbed at SeaTac airport. Now, take a look at your road atlas. Surprise: There is no Seabrook on the map. Hasn’t been in our first road atlas of Washington State. Nor in the latest that is available in stores. Yet, it exists. Google it, and you will find it on a hillside between Pacific Beach and Ocean Groves on the Olympic Peninsula. Of course, we have come across it on a few of our trips although one very short drive-through was more than enough for us.
It could be worse, though. Have you ever been to Wenoochee Lake, the big dammed lake in the Olympic Mountains? You better gas up before you go there because the road atlas will show you a big diamond a little south of it, which signifies a town of some size. Sizeable enough to hold a gas station, you’d assume. Woe if you rely on it. Because apart from a few old mailboxes and a commemorative sign you will find nothing left of the former logging town of Grisdale. And your next chance to gas up is way over on the coast or about 40 miles down south in Montesano.
The surprises are getting even better when you are following country roads. Trust me, as a native German who used to drive in her mother country on smooth asphalt roads with rarely a pothole, Washington roads are sometimes even an adventure when they are within city limits. But in the countryside, you end up where the pavement suddenly ends entirely, even though the map still suggests a well-kempt and fairly wide arterial road. Of course, you have barely any cell phone reception in such areas, and if you really want a thrill, you keep going. I have found myself getting out of the car to move smaller trees from across Eastern Washington’s Aeneas Valley Road, which would rather deserve the description offroad piste in places. We have ended up at surprising intersections at the fringe of Capitol Forest that were in geographically different places on the map. We have ended at road blocks, seeing the continuation of our road on the far side of Lake Cushman – nothing on the map says that the dam is not for public use. Indeed, a classic GPS would have shown us. But, where would the adventure in this be?!
Shaken by back roads, stirred by the landscape, my husband and I will keep going by maps just to see what’s around besides the direct route from A to B. Whether it be dunes across the road that we slide through in the desert or burned forests or steep one-lane mountain roads with scary glimpses of what lies below. We have started mapping such surprises in our road map, as there seem to be no official corrections so far. And we know to take our time and keep our calm when we explore our beautiful, wild state.