ZEBULON — Home to 4,000 residents and a minor league baseball team, it would seem that this 104-year-old eastern Wake County town has accomplished more than enough to put itself on the proverbial map.
Yet when Michael Craig last week whipped out his official 2011 North Carolina map printed by the Department of Transportation, he could not locate his hometown.
"I wanted to find a lesser-known road back home from Goldsboro to avoid the traffic on 795, but Zebulon wasn't labeled," Craig said.
"I could only surmise that we'd been incorporated into a greater metropolitan Lizard Lick, which is the only municipality shown (on Craig's map) between Wendell and Wilson," he said.
Fortunately for Craig, the unincorporated township of Lizard Lick - famous for its reality television show and lizard races - has not annexed its way up N.C. 97. And Craig was able to find his way home safely.
But others may not be so lucky. Those who rely on the state-printed maps to find their way to Zebulon, Kenly, Selma or 21 other North Carolina towns may end up lost.
The names of NC 24 towns were printed in white instead of black in 10 percent of all 2011 DOT maps due to a "computer glitch."
"This year, we used a whole different type of software package than what we've used before," said Nicole Meister, a DOT spokeswoman. "We started printing (the maps) then realized that the names of some towns were being printed in white."
The towns that were "whited-out" had nothing in common with each other, she said.
"It was completely random," she said. "We don't know why it was these towns that were printed in white."
DOT is also unsure how many of error-filled maps were printed and shipped off across the state.
Of all 2.25 million maps printed by the department in 2011, Meister estimated that 225,000 of them were printed with errors.
"And we've had quite a few people from Zebulon, probably more than any other town, point that out to us," Meister added.
None of those calls came from Zebulon town leaders. Town Manager Rick Hardin and Mayor Bob Matheny were unaware of the map mishap. Matheny said he was "astonished" that Zebulon was excluded and that no one from DOT called to let him know.
"I had no idea we had been excluded from any map," Matheny said. "We're very much alive and well in eastern Wake County ... I hope (DOT) does some sort of recall."
But Meister said a recall is unlikely: DOT isn't worried about a decline in tourism to Zebulon or the other whited-out towns.
"Most already know about the places they are traveling to," she said. "... most people have GPSs now anyway."
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