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So step one, I don't bother using atlas for geographic maps at all, the worldwide map resource is perfectly fine for that kind of stuff, and once you build out all your locations you can save shots of it zoomed in to the various regions you care about so don't bother hunting google images and stuff. I hated how much time I used to waste on just getting background maps.
I mostly still use atlas for network topology diagrams and application stack diagrams, I typically just take any existing architecture documentation I have and export it from visio as a jpg and use that as a background for an atlas map relating to those locations/apps. To some extent this stuff has been replaced by the new mapping feature released in 12.3, https://thwack.solarwinds.com/docs/DOC-201970
So now I don't even really need to document most of the basic l2 connections between objects, but I still might have some value for building out maps that show logical information like subnets, VLANS, and network border regions. If they added an ability to add comment blocks and maybe a few options like being able to denote groups of nodes within a "container" to the new map feature then that would almost be enough for me to completely ditch atlas and visio.
For your state to group example you don't necessarily have to create child maps. Just place the group on the worldwide map and when people click it would take them to the group details page where they can see whats up and down and such, which could save you several states worth of map building. If you want to have a logical topology map show within the group details page use this method: Custom Maps for Group Details Page
For gps coordinates I find that the easiest thing to do is not to bother with either of those API's, I just use websites like this: Batch Geocoding Tool- Lat./ Long. lookup 100 addresses Free and Batch Geocode | Latitude Longitude From Address | Free Geocoding
Dump all my sites into those and get a stack of gps coordinates in minutes. I use a modified version of this technique from alexslv to automatically associate all my sites with the correct gps info, and automatically populate any address related custom properties: Automatically Update World Map Points Based On Custom Property Value
Usually building the first round of maps is kind of tedious but keeping them updated with changes down the line is incredibly rare, almost all of my clients have tons of maps that are out of date and covered with grey dots for nodes that don't exist anymore, so you need to focus on making sure whatever you do is flexible and doesn't require you to constantly be fussing with the map editor or it wont get done.
Thank you for the very helpful reply!