A little bit about a lot of things:

• Technology has taken over many aspects of our lives, some to our benefit but others to our detriment.

Take, for example, planning a trip.

I will use a variety of tech tools when gathering information for an upcoming trip.....and while that is helpful, I’m most comfortable when I have an atlas in my hands.

An atlas is to navigational systems what encyclopedias were to the internet.

For the uninformed.....which is probably pretty much anybody under 40, an atlas is a broadsheet book of maps. Not on a screen, but on paper. No downloading required.....just thumb through the pages until you find the desired state map. Or, if you want the bigger picture, go to the full, double-page spread that outlines the United States as a whole. That’s usually a better starting point, and then go from there to the states in question.

An atlas is a very low-tech tool in today’s high-tech world, but there is something very comforting about holding one in your hands.

Those pages reflect endless travel possibilities; the world (or at least the United States) literally at your fingertips.

To paraphrase Dr. Seuss.....”Oh, the places we’ll go!”

When traveling, the anticipation and planning are enjoyable in their own right.....and when you can lay it all out in front of you so much the better.

An atlas provides an overview of various route alternatives, with an opportunity to take a closer look at towns and attractions along the way.

We look at distance comparisons and also what landmarks each option may have to offer before deciding on a route....and even that is subject to last minute change on the go.

With mileage charts and advertisements for various attractions....well, the whole concept of an atlas is just kind of quaint, but in a familiar, homey way.

That’s not to say we forgo technology altogether. The internet is great for shopping hotels when sleepover cities are identified, for example, as well as learning more about the services and attractions that might be available in each city.

And while traveling we use navigation systems that can provide a wealth of real-time information. But we don’t depend solely on technology or take its information without question. I know of more than one person who has been steered wrong by navigation systems.....including a couple who were sent to rural Bell Road while trying to get to Newman or seeking out a gas station. Pretty lonely when you’re sitting out on a country road while your navigation system is telling you that “you have arrived at your destination.”

All the travel technology is certainly helpful.....but even in today’s world there is room for an old-school road map to help guide our way.

• The wheels of government often turn more slowly than we would like.....but sometimes the results are worth the wait.

I’m excited about plans for the Newman Community Conservation Area, a multi-component project which includes hiking/cycling trails, wetlands and a nature park on 78 acres east of Canal School Road and north of Brazo Road.

The project has been some time in the making, but more recently has built a critical momentum as the pieces begin to fall into place. That visionary project is becoming reality, and will be a valuable community asset.

For the public, the nature park will be the showcase component of the project, with amenities such as demonstration gardens of native plants, gathering areas, trails and much more.

The conservation area will be unique in our region, and may well set an example that others try to emulate.

• Just a reminder....Gustine is planning a full-fledged Fourth of July celebration this year, a very welcome return to normalcy or something near normalcy.

But those activities - the beloved fireworks in particular - do not come without a price, and I encourage residents to consider making a donation to keep that tradition alive.

I think everybody is happy that the fireworks show will be returning to the high school stadium (the fireworks will be launched from private property nearby).

That’s tradition, for one thing.

And there probably isn’t a better viewing area to be had.....although some North Avenue residents had a front row seat for last year’s show.

The countdown is here....in little more than three weeks Gustine will once again be playing host to its red, white and blue-themed celebration of independence!

Dean Harris the Managing Editor of the West Side Index and Gustine Press-Standard. He can be reached at dharris@mattosnews.com or by calling (209) 243-8104.