A Season of Stuff is a writing challenge that I will be doing for the length of Spring 2016. The plan – to pick some object from within my personal possessions each day and write about it – its history, its significance, etc. Come on in – check out my stuff.
“Circumnavigate this body of wonder and uncertainty.
Armed with every precious failure, and amateur cartography,
I breathe in deep before I spread those maps out on my bedroom floor.”
– The Weakerthans
We might have a problem here at Torley Manor. We like maps…and we have a whole lot of them…and we just keep getting more.
Today in the mail we got the Purple Lizard maps that cover Rothrock State Forest and Bald Eagle State Forest here in Pennsylvania. The reason for this purchase is that in just under 2 months now, Emma and I will be heading out for a mixed-surface mountain bike excursion in the middle of Pennsylvania from its northern border to its southern border. Despite being a mountain bike trip, much of this will still take place on regular roads, with much on forest roads, though a decent amount will indeed be off-road on trails.
I’ve been doing a lot of lot of figuring out the cue sheets for our trip in the last couple weeks, spending a lot of time with a GPS’d version of a Google Map and comparing that with another Google map. This has been great for the actual road portions of the trip, but has not been terribly helpful for the trail portions of the trip. Most of these trails don’t show up on the map and clicking over to Google Earth doesn’t help much at all because in central Pennsylvania everything just looks like trees (so many trees!)
I spent a little time on the mtbproject.com website recently trying to track down these trails on there and while many of them appear there, the interface can be a little bit busy to try to figure out how the trails interact with the roads. But links from mtbproject.com led me over to the Bald Eagle Mtn Bike Project (baldeaglemtb.org). And on their website they had these Purple Lizard maps for sale and I realized they covered an area where we would be jumping from trail to trail. It seemed like a good idea and they accepted Paypal for payment, which was great because I remembered I had a whole bunch of money sitting in Paypal from some Etsy sales over the winter. FREE MAPS! (or a close equivalent).
Emma and I are both extensive planners. When it comes to our bike trips, we usually have our different roles. I’ve become the route planner and general navigator. So I spend a great deal of time with maps (both paper and online) familiarizing myself with the route, understanding the junctions and transitions, calculating mileage and figuring out the lay of the land (there’s a lot of climbing on this upcoming trip!) and locating where we can get water, food, etc. It seems a bit excessive and maybe I overdo it, but so far we haven’t gotten majorly lost, haven’t starved and haven’t run out of water. So I think it’s probably good.
Fuckin’ maps. Gotta love em.
1) First heard the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s song “Maps” on a mixtape that Emma made for me early in our relationship. Rick Gribenas (RIP) also put that song on a mix CD that he gave to a bunch of friends before moving away to Chicago for grad school. F’n love that song.
2) Emma has a topographic map of the Sideling Hill area of Pennsylvania as the basis of the sleeve tattoo she has on her right arm.
3) Years ago, shortly after Spak Bros opened up, Emma took Ryan a pie over to the shop for maybe his birthday? Anyway, in return Ryan drew us a map to a patch of raspberry bushes that existed down in the holler. It was a wonderfully crude map and we still have it around here somewhere. Unfortunately we never made it down to the patch and I believe it is now gone under UPMC’s new parking lot.
4) As a housewarming present when we bought our house back in 2004, our friend Ally Reeves gave us a screenprint as a present that was a map of future climbing trees that they had planted around the Pittsburgh area.