We had a subscription to National Geographic when I was young, back when you couldn’t buy it on the newsstand, and it seemed like being part of a secret club. And every few issues, a bonus! One would arrive with a map inside.
Not just any map, mind you. A National Geographic map — the best a boy could get. I would pore over them for hours, looking for lochs in Scotland, mountains in Chile, deserts in Namibia, weird places in Yugoslavia.
So I’m feeling a bit sentimental over “Read a Road Map Day,” which I found out just a few minutes ago was today. I didn’t have it circled on my calendar, I admit.
I still have road maps in my car. Perhaps it was seeing the early days of online maps, when asking for directions always steered you toward the nearest interstate (sorry, Yahoo, but I am NOT going from San Angelo to Austin via Abilene). Or perhaps it is an antiquated sense of masculine pride that, damn it, I know where I’m going … but I never cared for GPS. And I’m not going to ask my phone how to get there.
So let’s celebrate road maps today. Here are five odd places you can get to from Austin (with links to an online map, because, well, this is the internet) …
1. Ding Dong Tx. On Highway 195 between Killeen and Florence. The name is said to have come from a sign on a store owned by early settlers Zulis and Bert Bell.
2. Oatmeal Tx. On FM 243, southwest of Bertram. The annual Oatmeal Festival (in nearby Bertram) began in 1978 as a parody of the then-hot chili cookoff craze.
3. Click Tx. Off County Road 308, west of Texas 71 between Horseshoe Bay and Llano. Now a ghost town, it was named for settler Malachi Click.
4. Dime Box Tx. South of State Highway 21 and Old Dime Box. In the 1940s, a CBS broadcast kicked off a March of Dimes drive from Dime Box, according to the Handbook of Texas Online.
5. Nada, Tx. On Texas 71, between Columbus and El Campo. Even before I learned the name was Spanish for “nothing,” I was always amused by the sign on the town store. “Well if it’s Nada Grocery Store, what is it?” was the joke that never got old. But the name comes from a third source: najda is the Czechoslovakian word for “hope.” Rounding out the odd, the town’s original name was Vox Populi.