Dr. Fixit; July 1984

I recently saw an ad for an old fashioned map of the world engraved on a copper plate. It was about three feet square and of course the continents were all out of proportion. The idea was that you would hang this prominently on your office wall and it did look attractive. After I ride my bike around the world, I'm going to freehand a map of the world based on my recollections and get it engraved on a copper plate for the wall. Maybe I should commission Mike Ruedy to draw the map so that it gets done in this lifetime.

I'm becoming something of a connoiseur of map style as a result of using various AYH trip maps. You can really tell a lot about a leader from his maps. The way that trippers use maps tells you a lot, too.

On the really well organized trips, the road will be marked with arrows. So long as you follow the arrows, you do not need to look at your map for directions. Invariably the maps for these trips are simple line drawings which exclude all details except for the correct route. Thus your map is either unnecessary or else it is useless except as an artistic souvenir of the trip you would have taken if you had not wandered into terra incognita.

Many leaders of short trips also painstakingly draw these sketch maps. In this situation the map is useful for directions until you get lost. The threat of wandering into the unknown blank areas (traditionally these areas were labeled with the phrase "here be monsters") helps to keep a group together through thick or thin. It also prevents quickly picking an alternative route when it turns out the marked route is blocked or when fatigue, bad weather or injury makes a hasty retreat the preferred option. The nice thing about a sketch map is that once you are lost the map is so completely useless that you have no compunction against burning it to send up smoke signals in case someone is looking for you.

Other leaders just xerox the county or bike map and don't bother to mark the route at all. This encourages creativity in the trippers; with no marked official route, all is fair. The lack of terra incognita removes a large element of suspense and adventure from the ride, however. My favorite maps are copied with the route marked as well.

Watching how people carry their maps is almost as interesting. Some trippers carefully fold their maps and then shove them into a sweaty pocket. As the day wears on the map gradually disintegrates. At some critical juncture it is removed from the pocket; a crucial portion may actually fall off or the printing on part of the map may have been completely dissolved so that nothing remains. Flagrantly destroying your map like this risks the leader's wrath. I once had a batch of maps made up for a trip I led that gave the map destroyers a nasty surprise. I used special paper which had invisible ink preprinted and then the map was copied over the top. When the sweaty pocket crowd had dissolved and abraded the map detail off the surface, the sweat activated the invisible ink so that the map now showed a different route that led them down a steep gravel road and ended in a swamp.

Maps can be put in the plastic pocket on the top of a handlebar bag. You can tape a map on the lower portion of your Zzipper fairing. You can fold the map and stick it into a pack.

Before Big Al froze to death, he used to tatoo maps of his favorite rides on various parts of his body. He needed to carry a mirror to be able to see some of the maps, and had cleverly tatooed those in mirror image form. It was kind of embarassing for him to check some of these maps depending on just where they were tatooed. Big Al never actually rode the Paul Bunyan or Peppin Pooper, but he had tatooed these maps prominently on his chest as a kind of status symbol.

Since Big Al was trying to ride the Ironman when he met his demise, we had the Ironman map carved on his tombstone. We put an X at the spot where he froze to death (the X was off the marked route, since he was lost at the the time). We labeled the spot "Here be monsters."

(After this article was published at least one trip leader began to label the large blank area in the center of his maps with the traditional phrase.)