Paper maps still relevant for fall-color road trips

Early fall is a great time for road trips, and starting now Northwest motorists can enjoy some gorgeous, unique foliage.
     Western larch trees soon will turn gold, and you'll find them when crossing the North Cascades. Also called tamarack, larch trees look like evergreens but are deciduous. As fall progresses, their green needles turn golden yellow before dropping.
     We have a few larches on our property near Cle Elum, and they're particularly striking in May, too, whens they sprout vibrant green needles. 
     Southern Oregon is home to rare quaking aspen that are now turning gold near Klamath Falls. This Oregonian article highlights five destinations where you'll find stands of quaking aspen.
     If you take an extended road trip to enjoy fall color, you might enjoy the benefits of an old-school road atlas. In our increasingly paperless world, a large-format atlas still holds value. You can grasp big-picture scope, scale, and proximity in detail on a single page, without the frustration of constantly pinching or zooming on a screen.
     I love the scene from the TV show "Parenthood" where Braverman family patriarch Zeek makes his entire family take a road trip to visit his elderly mother. As the four-car caravan departs, Zeek hands everyone written itineraries and a map.
     "What is this, some sort of paper GPS?" says son-in-law Joel with a grin.
     Yes, it is. And I love maps, especially on long drives.
     Ever since my wife and I took our first road trip at age 20, we've used AAA TripTiks tailored for our journeys. The traditional versions were 4-by-9-inch paper maps, spiral-bound to enable easy page-turning. Each page progressively spanned a relatively short distance of the journey, like 50 or perhaps 150 miles, which afforded great detail showing your specific route, nearby roads, interchanges, and where to find gas, food, and lodging. Each page also folded out for larger-scale views and brief summaries of points of interest.
     Two summers ago before taking a road trip to Idaho's Sawtooth Mountains, we went to AAA in Bellevue for a TripTik. What they handed us was the new style, a bare-bones, not-very-useful version of the venerable TripTiks of old.
     But they assured us that traditional TripTiks still are available from a central AAA office, if you plan ahead and order them a few weeks ahead of time.
     I'll follow up on that before our next road trip. In the meantime, I'll be one of those guys who still tucks a "paper GPS" above the visor of his car when traveling out of town.

by  Jon Osterberg

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