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Learn to Read a Road Map for National Read a Roadmap Day

That all stops today. Today—April 5—is National Read a Road Map Day. On this highest of high holidays, the automotive experts at Wiygul are here to impart this vital lesson

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Learn to Read a Road Map for National Read a Roadmap Day 

Blindspots. We all have them. Some are bad at math, some adore it, some excel in the arts, and others would rather sit in a volcano than write a poem.

Some blindspots are more common than others. Case in point: road map reading. It's a life skill that seems to pass us by as technology increasingly replaces the old ways of doing things. Of course, there are still many scenarios where you can't count on such technology.

For such occasions, the car experts at Wiygul Automotive Clinic are here to teach you once and for all. After all, how else are you supposed to spend National Read a Roadmap Day.


#1. Know Which Way is North

This first step is the easiest. It’s impossible to read a map right without understanding your orientation. If you don't see a compass rose on your map, it's safe to assume the top indicates north.

#2. Get a Grip on the Grid

You'll notice your road map is divided into a grid format. Usually, you'll see the vertical columns are indicated by numbers, with the horizontal rows counted by letter. These make it easier to narrow down the locations of cities and other localities, which will be listed in your map's index.

#3. Check Your Roadmap's Index For Location Names




The index—usually on your map's backside—is an alphabetical list of major cities and locations. Next to each, you'll see a combination of letters and numbers corresponding to a particular grid position.

#4. Get to Know Your Map's Squiggly Contour Lines


What are all those confusing squiggly lines on my map?

They're called contour lines, and they describe the terrain's position above or below sea level. Generally, the closer the lines are, the steeper the gradient. On the other hand, lines spaced further apart represent more gradual elevation changes.

#5. Understand Your Map's Scale



The scales of maps work similarly to a model; for instance, a 1:2 map would be half the size of the terrain it depicts.

Knowing your map's scale helps you calculate the distance between objects on the map more accurately.

A road map might have a scale of 1:190,000, and let's say the distance between where you are and where you want to go is five inches.

We can figure out exactly how far that is in miles with a little math.

We multiply 190,000 by 5 to get 950,000. Now, we multiply that by 603,360, the number of inches in a mile, and we get the total: 15.9 miles.

#6. Map Icons are Defined in the Legend

Of all map features, you're probably most familiar with the legend. In t, you'll find definitions and explanations for all the symbols on the map.

Each map is different, but they have enough commonality to make some assumptions.

  • Buildings in residential areas shown in black or gray blocks (often with pink- or yellow-hued borders)
  • Forests, parks, and golf courses are usually solid green
  • Mountains are shaded in green or brown
  • White shading on mountains indicates peaks large enough to receive regular snowfall
  • Lower elevations are often shaded darker, getting lighter as the elevation increases

Knowledge Helps When All Else Fails


Nothing in life is certain, least of all the finicky technology that leaves us in the lurch when we need it most. Next time you find yourself lost without a charging cable or web reception, you'll know what to do. 

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