Family LIfe, Writing

GaGa’s Atlas

So…back to real life.

We broke the trip home from DC into two days, having a lovely visit with friends on Friday night.  This left us with all day Saturday to take our time coming home.  And take our time, we did!  We spread what could have easily been a five and a half hour drive into just over 12 hours.  We started out in Charlotte, heading down I-85.  Then we got off at SC-11 and followed it for what seemed like forever, until we found a turn that took us from the foothills into the mountains.  It was a beautiful trip through the Appalachian foothills in South Carolina, back into North Carolina, and down through Georgia, coming down 23/441 to where 985 hits I-85.  Luckily the boys were engrossed in their video games the whole time and we let them be, otherwise a drive like this never would have been possible.

Jared was so patient with me:  he let me navigate using GaGa’s old atlas.  I called my mom’s dad “GaGa.”  My grandfather’s atlas, besides being nearly 10 years old and falling apart from years of heavy use, is my favorite means of navigation.  GaGa gave it to me when I started driving by myself from Georgia to Iowa to see Jared in 2003, when the atlas was brand-spanking new.  I’ve always shared GaGa’s sense of adventure on the road, taking side roads and little windy roads just for the fun of it.  I also seem to have inherited a good sense of internal navigation, which I think I got from him.  The gift of the atlas just solidified the fact that I will never get lost.  It’s my favorite present ever from my grandfather.

Because of that atlas, I’ve gotten off the interstate in the middle-of-nowhere Illinois just for the scenery (which is pretty much nonexistent, BTW).  That atlas has seen me through countless detours; I routed my favorite way from Georgia to Grinnell (through St. Louis) using that atlas.  I’m fairly certain we used GaGa’s atlas when we drove to Pennsylvania to visit Jared’s aunt and uncle and meet his mom, when we went to NY back in 2004.  The atlas has seen us through five different cars.  It’s held up under my hard abuse:  water spills, sun stains, pages bent and torn in hurried searching just in time for not-too-late turns, being stuffed into pockets in the side of various car doors.

The atlas lost its first page over the weekend; the North Georgia page, which has been hanging on by a single loop now for probably a couple of years, finally gave way and broke off the binding.  There’s no way to affix it back to the book.  But, the page still reads great:  that’s what counts!

But still, there’s a sense of a dying era with the slow demise of that atlas.  Jared really prefers to use the GPS in his phone.  But as we discovered on Saturday, there are still plenty of parts in this country where data service is slow or completely lacking.  No worries with that atlas around!

There were a lot of lessons I learned from GaGa, particularly about traveling.  He always seemed to be prepared for any calamity.  He’d always told me to never let the car get down to less than a quarter of a tank full of gas.  But, I ran of out gas once early in the morning on the way to GA State once when I was living with Mother and Daddy.  Mother and Daddy had both already gone to work and I was just down the road from Nannie and GaGa in Stockbridge anyway, so I called GaGa.  I knew he already had a little portable refillable gas tank with him; he always had it.  Sure enough, he was there within 15 minutes, and filled me up without saying much of anything about it.  All he said afterward, while he chucked a little, was, “Don’t ever let the car get down to less than a quarter of a tank.”

Still, while it’s long been a novelty to simply have GaGa’s original atlas in the car, it may be time to consider purchasing an up-to-date atlas.  My instinct to preserve my grandfather’s gift has hit with an urgency with the page-tear-out-fiasco.  I thnk it’s time to relegate it to the momento category.  Plus, it does his memory no service if I get lost because of an out-of-date map.  I swore a long time ago that the atlas would be in every car I ever have, but preservation sensibility reminds me that the heat and sun and cold of various seasons is only rushing its already set-in slow demise.

I sure do miss GaGa.

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