I love maps. I make them every day and decorate the walls of my house with them. That being said, there are times when a map is not the best way of representing geographic information. Shocker I know.
Take the Washington DC Beltway for instance. A street map, even a good street map, of the area is really confusing.
A better way to think of the area is to turn the beltway (I-495) into a big clock with 12 o'clock being Silver Spring (about the most northern point) and the Potomic River being at 6 o'clock. Then you fill in the rest of the hours with roughly the locations.
Doing this has prevented me from getting lost. I can keep track of what exits I am passing as I travel from New Carrollton to Silver Springs.
I hope this helps!