The Velcro on my Rand McNally road atlas had been rendered useless. Tan carpet fuzz from the back of the Jeep embedded itself irrevocably into the hook side of the mechanism.
The map was considered a "just in case" for getting lost, which happens often. The atlas was purchased well before there was something called a Google to provide maps on something called the internet.
That road atlas was aspirational. I bought it hoping that maybe I could travel a lot of those blue lined roads over the course of my life.
But suddenly the road atlas had meaning. It was more than a "just in case," it was an essential tool.
The page for New Mexico was well worn, but the page for California was starting to show the dirt and grease of eager fingers tracing a path over and over again. A reduced scale journey west to my new home.
The compass rose became my bouquet, a present from the universe, welcoming me to my new life.
At a holiday cocktail party, the map became obsolete. A friend and professional truck driver wrote directions on the back of an envelope. "This is the faster way to go, you'll shave several miles off the trip," he told me.
He'd personally traveled those roads. Roads that were visible to me only as lines on a page in my mind.
He was the first of many milestones on my journey.
The tattered envelope with scrawled black pen, "I-40 west to Barstow" wasn't anywhere near as magical as the pages produced by Rand McNally, but it was more useful, more functional. I clung to that envelope because my life really did depend upon it.
And then, finally, it was time.
May 1997, just a few days before Memorial Day, I climbed up behind the wheel of my Jeep while my best friend strapped into the passenger seat and took possession of both the envelope and the Rand McNally.
I-40 was a road I knew. Straight. West. No worries. Grants passed by quickly. Then before we knew it, there was Gallup.
Then the Arizona border.
My tires made a noise as they passed over, and I cried. I didn't just cross this border casually. It meant something. It was a new frontier.
The entire State of Arizona lay ahead. Since Arizona was familiar, it eased me in. We settled into the miles while listening to Tom Jones and George Strait. We listened to everything I had in that Jeep and then tried to find decent radio stations.
Six hours. That's how long it takes to traverse the State of Arizona.
Then my tires made another small sound and another border was crossed.
I was in California. I didn't cry this time. Simply renewed my resolve and kept driving.
That was thirteen years ago, but it could be yesterday for how fresh it remains in my mind.
May I never lose my resolve. May I never lose my desire. May I never lose my ability to read a good old fashioned road map.
All it takes is a map, a little guidance from someone who bothers to care, and a step in the right direction and you can find your way.
If only someone could draw a map to help me navigate the more difficult emotional roads in my life. Those are uncharted.
I am both mapmaker and traveler and the journey never ends.
But the compass rose is still just as beautiful.
This week's Theme Thursday is map.