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“The road goes every onward”, but where does the road in fact go? We could always ask our handy-dandy GPS, but National Read a Road Map Day a day dedicated to going back before the time of such handy little devices. Instead it heralds back to a time when it was actually possible to hold a road map upside down, or stand over the hood of your car on the side of the road with it spread out. The map represented adventure, it represented places unseen and roads untraveled, and was the ultimate guide back to where we started. If we could find out where we were on it.

So on this day, it’s time to bust out an old paper map, it doesn’t even have to be a recent one, and discover the wonders that these maps hold. No one says the map you read even has to be recent! Ever found yourself curious about the roads that Rome was so famed for? There are maps that exist for those, showing what ends of the earth they all travelled to. But let’s assume you’re going to stick to a more modern map. Now we’re going to give you a tutorial on how to read one!

The first thing you’re going to want to do is get your hands on is a map of your local area, and a Road Atlas. This last is particularly useful, as it includes a national map plus one of each state. You can generally find these in gas stations, bookstores, supermarkets, or if nothing else you can locate one online. You’re going to want to get one that’s been printed within the last three or four years to make sure they’re accurate. Nothing worse than finding out a road or highway on a map has changed names and you’re driving right by it!

The next step is an easy one, you’ll note that almost all maps, and especially the atlas, will have a grid laid out, numbered going one direction, lettered going the other. You can use these to find the co-ordinates of your starting point, and your destination. If you check the back of the atlas or map, you’ll find that prominent towns are listed by their coordinates on the map. Locating and marking these with removable stickers will make finding them easier in the future, and give you a clear idea of your route.

The next step is doing just that, finding your route! There’s usually more than one way to get from a starting point to a destination, and there’s lots of options to take along the way. If a highway is available, those generally serve as the most direct route between two points, otherwise you’ll have to look for main roads, and side roads. It’s always a good idea to check out all of these to find the route that suits your needs, after all, the highway is fast, but it’s not much for taking in the scenery.

The way you can tell what all of these are is by checking out the ‘legend’ or ‘key’ on the side of the map. These lists of symbols will tell you how to identify cities, highways, interstates, country roads, unpaved roads and side roads, and manmade landmarks. Lots of different options for the intrepid traveler. By taking the time to look over the map and study its contents, you’ll make sure you’re never lost, even when your phone battery dies and your GPS cuts out. All of this gained by doing just one simple thing! Celebrating National Read a Road Map Day!

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