June 28, 2002

The Inscrutible World Traveler


The Inscrutible World Traveler

I am weak. I admit it. I have succumbed to the desire of vicarious travel and bought the map program I have been looking at since last Christmas.

Once again, life proves my most universally-applicable bromide: It is better to travel hopefully than to arrive.

I dreamed one day that there would be a map software program that allowed the user to virtually fly over anyplace on Earth, at any altitude (even orbital heights), any speed, and with three-dimensional photo-reality options. I could envision flying along Noland Creek in the southern Smokies, cresting the rim of Big Bald on the NC/TN border; venturing out West to places I have never been, but would 'be there' in my map program. At last, on Tuesday, I was to have my dream come true.

Delorme's Topo USA 4.0 is not the program of my dreams. But it IS way cool and the more I use it, the better I like it. The shaded 2D topos are more useful than the 3D, but the latter is a step in the direction of the ultimate zoom-over-the-treetops map program that hopefully will come along before I move on to a more hospitable planet.

I have put pins on the map for many of my old favorite hikes, especially around the Wytheville area: Henley Hollow, Raven Cliffs, Walker Mountain, Grayson Highlands, Burkes Garden. More impressive are the spots near Morganton where we used to live: Grandfather Mt., Linville Gorge, Table Rock, Shortoff. Of course the Smokies near where we lived in Sylva are impressive to look at on the maps, but I never really 'bonded' with any of those remote but beautiful places. Traveling further in time and distance, I have revisted Camp Winnataska, Scarem Bluff, and the Sipsey Wilderness in Alabama where I grew up.

I have a lot of wonderful memories attached to the natural places I have known, visited, inhabited. This software is an aid to memory and a guide to such places I have not yet seen, but can visit now with ease. I can pretend, I can travel hopefully if digitally, but eventually I know I will have to return the tough world of the here and now. Or maybe not...

They went out through the revolving doors that made a faintly derisive whistling sound when you pushed them. It was two blocks to the parking lot. At the drugstore on the corner she said, "Wait here for me. I forgot something. I won't be a minute." She was more than a minute. Walter Mitty lighted a cigarette. It began to rain, rain with sleet in it. He stood up against the wall of the drugstore, smoking. . . . He put his shoulders back and his heels together. "To hell with the handkerchief," said Walter Mitty scornfully. He took one last drag on his cigarette and snapped it away. Then, with that faint, fleeting smile playing about his lips, he faced the firing squad; erect and motionless, proud and disdainful, Walter Mitty the Undefeated, inscrutable to the last.

Thank you Mr. Thurber; you feel my pain.

Posted by fred1st at June 28, 2002 07:02 AM
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