For the longest time, I was thinking of ways to document the states that Charlie and I have visited together. When I was younger, my dad bought a U.S. map and sticker set and documented all the states the family visited. Summer after summer, the family headed out of town with a pop-up camper hitched to the back of the Suburban or some other big vehicle. New York. Nebraska. West Virginia. Texas. Kansas. Personally, I think I’ve visited half of the states — maybe more than half. My dad still has the incomplete map hanging up in his garage, and I smile every time I glance at it. Ah, summer memories.
Anyway, one of our friends has a really cool magnetic U.S. map stuck to his refrigerator. Whenever he visits a state, he buys a state magnet and sticks to the U.S. map. Brilliant. I was sold. I wanted the magnetic U.S. map. I wanted to buy state magnets. However, I didn’t want to pay more than $50 for the just the map! What? Really? I searched all over the web for a replica or something similar to what my friend has, and I found nothing within my budget. I really wanted to start the project because Charlie and I were going to hit TWO new states — Missouri and Kansas — during the houseboat trip. One day, inspiration hit me.
All I needed was a U.S. map. I could frame the map and then use cute little tags or mock thumb tacks to mark the states Charlie and I had visited. But where would I get a U.S. map? When you walk into a local retail store, where would you begin to look for a map? School supplies? Office supplies? Books? Travel section? I had no idea. Not to mention, I needed the perfect map. I didn’t want a plain boring map, but yet, I didn’t want a map that had too many distracting graphics and elements. My perfect map would be colorful, have the state name printed in the state, and the state size would be just big enough for me to stick a little tag in the area.
I love back-to-school sales. Even though I haven’t been in school for a very long time, I still love the sales. I have another reason to love school supply sales because I found my perfect map. Charlie and I were walking past an aisle of school supplies when the perfect map caught my eye. Charlie thought it was too small, but I thought it was perfect. And for $3, I wasn’t giving up my perfect map. Charlie was just going to have to trust my vision. A black frame was sitting in my hobby room doing absolutely nothing except collecting dust. I centered the U.S. map on a piece of cardboard that fits perfectly inside the frame. Pages from an old atlas provided a nice and simple background around the map, and ribbon lined around the border around the map, dividing the map and the atlas paper.
Thanks to the power of the web, I found a blank highway sign art and doctored it to be the perfect size for the map. After adding the state abbreviation and the year Charlie and I visited the state together, I stuck them to the correct state. I found four of my favorite photos from our travels so far and added them to the outside border of the map. The project is one big scrapbook page, and I love it. I already love working on it. I plan to frame everything (I need to clean the glass part as my Riley cat decided to nap on it for some odd reason) as Charlie and I have no plans to visit any new states in the near future. I’m OK with the plan that I will have to reframe the map every now and when Charlie and I enter new states. But isn’t that kind of the point? People look at the map and see how many states we’ve visited. I am so glad that inspiration hit me.