When news of GPS giant Garmin’s purchase of DeLorme, the iconic Maine mapmaker, reached the newsroom, I nearly jumped out of my chair, rushed to a bookstore, and bought every copy of the Maine Atlas and Gazetteer that I could find.
But the question that prompted my panic bears pondering: What if, at some point in the future, Garmin decides that actual books of maps — like the Atlas and Gazetteer — don’t fit into their plans?
To be clear, Garmin has not said that it’s doing any such thing. Neither is the company saying it will continue making the map books until I’m retired, dead and gone.
So I’m worried. And as I’ve learned through casual conversations, so are many of you.
Some folks say that Bean boots are a key possession that most Mainers have in common. That’s probably true. But when you’re deep in the woods, turned around, and realizing that all of the logging roads look the same, the most welcome face you’ll find belongs to the guy who stops, pulls out his dog-eared DeLorme, and shows you exactly where you are. That guy? He’s a true Mainer, no matter what kind of boots he’s wearing.
While DeLorme has been a technological company, even those of us who’ve never purchased any of their more modern, electronic products couldn’t imagine going out into the back of beyond without that handy book of maps tucked away next to the ice scraper, or stuck in the seatback pouch.
How iconic is that book? Well, in my circle of friends, it’s up there with one-name superstars like Madonna, Kobe and LeBron. We don’t call the book by its full, tongue-twisting title. We don’t even call it The Atlas, or The Gazetteer.
When we want to check our location, or plan for the next day, we ask a simple question: “Where’s the DeLorme?”
I suspect some of you have similar relationships with your own DeLorme.
So we’re looking for your help answering a few questions.
What would you do if you didn’t have a DeLorme to consult? What if the map books went the way of the buggy whip and the VCR?
If you’re a DeLorme devotee, tell us this: How many DeLormes have you loved to death over the years? What’s the average lifespan of a DeLorme? And when it comes time to replace yours (if you ever do), how ratty does it have to become before you buy a new edition? Then, what do you do with all of your top secret notes and stars and X-marks-the-spots that you’ve carefully marked into the book over the years?
Finally, if you’ve got a DeLorme that’s particularly well-loved, we hope you’ll share a photo of it. You can send photos and responses to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.