Stephanie made the most important decision regarding our wedding planning.

She picked a theme.

The place and such are secondary when it comes to wedding planning, but a theme is key. She had already shot down my idea of planning a Back to the Future wedding, so the ball was firmly in her court.

photo of a map bought while wedding planning by daniel j. hogan

No Nine Inch Diameter Trees Allowed! Photo by me.

Her theme for our wedding: adventure.

To fit the theme, Stephanie decided she wanted to gather up as many old maps and globes she could find.

Which led to our adventure at the Michigan State University Surplus Store one chilly morning.

Stephanie learned the surplus store had a stockpile of maps via their Facebook page and sent me a text: Want to go on an adventure to MSU Surplus tomorrow morning? :-)

I said sure.

Then she told me she wished to arrive when they opened at 7:00 AM. “I don’t want anyone else getting those maps!”

The MSU Surplus Store is a veritable cave of wonders. Michigan State University is huge, and therefore acquires a lot of stuff—and the cast offs end up at the Surplus Store.

Books, computers, John L. Smith collector plates: All of these, and more, populate the shelves at the MSU Surplus Store.

And it is about a well-kept secret as Pamela Anderson’s cleavage.

Stephanie and I pulled into the parking lot at 6:50 AM and joined a lengthy line at the door. Stephanie was nervous, and feared others in the line were after her maps. Several young men discussed their strategy over a drawing of the store’s floor plan: one would go to the projectors, the other the laptops, and another the PC towers.

The seconds ticked down, and an employee headed for the door, key in hand. The door groaned as it opened, and those first in line made for the aisles like Vikings fresh from their longships.

I paused to take in the controlled chaos, but Stephanie pulled on my arm. “No time for that! The maps! Find the maps!”

Like a half-asleep, poor man’s Indiana Jones, I searched the towering shelves and never-ending aisles. No maps, but I did spot an ALF comic book and scientific equipment right out of a b-movie.

“I found them!” Stephanie yelled. I walked as a fast as I could (running is frowned upon).

There were maps all right, ranging in subject and size. I held one up, “I don’t think this is even a country anymore.”

“Even better,” Stephanie said as she rolled up a map showing the average pine cone distribution of Otsego County in 1957 and another displaying chipmunk migration patterns in Michigan’s thumb area.

“Do we need a map showing conifer swamps in Schoolcraft County from 1939?” I asked.

“Yes,” Stephanie said. “We need all the maps.”

“All of them?”


Our arms filled with brittle, yellowed maps, we made our way to the front counter with a level of care usually reserved for nuclear waste or election mailers.

“How many?” the cashier asked.

We performed a hurried count: 47. Yes, 47 maps.

“That’ll be $79,” the cashier said, which worked out to about $1.68 a map. Not bad. Like celebrities learn with facelifts, it always pays to buy in bulk.

On our way home, I looked at the box of 47 maps in the backseat. “So, what are you going to do with these, anyway?” I asked.

Stephanie stared down the empty road. “…I haven’t figured that out yet.”

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Daniel J. Hogan is a geek living in Michigan.
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