How to Use a Road Map

road map image

Last weekend, I did the unthinkable. It was something I never imagined having or wanting to do in my life. I couldn’t believe myself. I actually used a road map to navigate my way from point A to B. I know what you’re thinking, “Why would anyone ever use an actual map when you have a bunch of fancy gadgets that provide drivers with in-depth directions to nearly every place imaginable?” Good question. I asked myself the same.

SO, it’s Saturday, August 18. I pack for a small road trip and plug the address of my destination into my Jeep’s navigation system before taking to the road. Everything was fine and I was on my way with the help of my GPS — until I was about 100 miles outside of St. Louis and ran into a detour. No big deal, right? My navigation will just re-calculate my route and I will carry on with my trip. That’s a pretty simple scenario to imagine in this situation, but that’s not what happened. Instead, my GPS gave me the wrong information and started to lead me to an entirely different city. Again, no big deal. I will just use the Map app on my iPhone. Oh wait! That won’t work either. I’m in a rural area, where my cell phone doesn’t get any service.

Like most technology-dependent individuals, I start to panic because the world of smartphones and computerized maps has turned its back on me.  I knew I should have taken that extra step and printed driving directions through MapQuest, but I didn’t because I put so much trust into the modern world.

After panicking for a mere 30 seconds or so, I remember that there is a hidden gem inside my glovebox: a road map my dad gave me when I turned 16 and got my license. I immediately scrummage through the compartment, tossing out random things like tissues, Hot Wheels, gloves, and paperwork. I even stumbled upon a CD, another ancient thing from the past. After all that digging, I finally strike gold and find the map. I take it out, try to pinpoint my location, then turn the oversized piece of paper a few times so I can actually read it correctly.

Five minutes go by, I locate myself on the map (literally) and plan out my directions. I take to the road again and just like every good story, this one ends with a happy ending. I survived the detour, found an alternate route and made it to my destination — the old-fashioned way! And again, just like every good story, this one has a moral: learn how to read a road map, even if the idea seems completely preposterous and absurd, because you never know when your technology-advanced devices could betray your undying trust and faith.

Here Are a Few Tips to Reading a Map:

  1. Buy a map of the state or city where you will be traveling.
  2. Learn common symbols like the compass, topography lines, mile and kilometer scale, and latitude and longitude.
  3. Figure out where you are.
  4. Determine the location in which you wish to goUse the map index to find the town you’re traveling to. The index is arranged alphabetically, so the towns are easy to find. Next to the town name, you will see a series of letters or numbers, or both, which indicate the location of the town on the map.
  5. Plot out your course in your mind or with a pen.
  6. Travel to your destination.

A Few Things to Keep in Mind:

  • Take into account the quality of the roads.
  • Not all maps are accurate, some could be outdated.
  • Try to stay on marked roads or trails.
  • Pay attention to signs along the highway and mile markers.
  • Always bring an extra set of directions.

About Brittney French

Brittney is a journalist and media relations specialist who lives in St. Louis, Mo. When she's not blogging for Lebanon Ford, she is the author of a women's column and also writes about music, events, and St. Louis sports. Having little knowledge in the automotive industry, Brittney provides valuable insight on cars for those who may be in the same boat. She can be found on Facebook and Twitter @brittfrancois.