M is for Map Reading

Yes, I am old enough to remember having to navigate by either atlas or state map when we were doing road trips. In fact, I still prefer “seeing” where I need to go rather than being directed that way by GPS.

map of the world book laid open on brown wooden surface
Photo by John-Mark Smith on Pexels.com

Map reading is a skill that I’ve had for most of my life. It always just clicked and that was really lucky for my dad when he was driving.

He was a planner. He would figure out the exact route we were going to take from start to finish. Road construction and detours were his nemeses. He would know how far we were going to go each day and where we were planning to stay.

My mom didn’t travel as much as my dad so she was more of a “give me directions to where I’m going by turn or road,” kind of person. And maps were a complete mystery to her.

Before I could read, my brother was the navigator. I actually have no idea if he was good at it or not, but he must have been competent enough to keep the map out of my mom’s hands. Then he went to college and we went on a trip that wasn’t just straight back and forth from Colorado to New York.

We were going from Colorado along the coast to Biloxi and Destin where my dad had spent time during his Air Force days. He wanted to introduce my mom to his adopted “mom” and then spend a day or two at the beach. So, we had to go “around” San Antonio where we were staying for a couple of days to see the sights.

Notice use of the term “around.” My mom had the atlas, it was rush hour and he had planned for us to go from I-10 to I-410 to avoid downtown traffic. She didn’t warn him in time to get over and so we had to go through horrid traffic. Yes, that’s a pain, but then she found a way to get back to 410.

Except, yeah, it didn’t. It took us off the interstate, into the city center and one way streets. By this time, they were both getting annoyed with the other, but the final straw came when she told him to turn at the next corner, but couldn’t tell him if it was a right or left. She had no idea how to tell and he pulled off into a parking lot and tried to show her.

Nope. It didn’t work. Two and a half hours later we finally made it to the motel, found a place that was open for dinner and ate in silence. My dad rarely ever got that upset with my mom, but it was icy between the two of them.

We went back to the room and he pulled out the atlas and showed me the directions that he had written down for the next day. We traced it on the map and I became the family navigator until I left for college.

I have no idea how they survived after that. My dad would never have used GPS and my mom never touched a map again that I know of. I think it was mostly traveling places where the map wasn’t needed anymore–lol!

It still makes me laugh years later remembering her incredulous look when he asked her which way to turn and she replied, “It doesn’t say.”

Wicked Wednesday

7 Replies to “M is for Map Reading”

  1. Haha great memories here. My parents were good with navigating on those long road trips, but then again, it was one straight drive up north. I love being able to read maps!
    ~ Marie xox

  2. A great story… I too always have a map open when navigating even if GPS is on – I have to see the road and the area all around on the map, as we go – It is so much more special like that
    May xx

  3. That’s hilarious. I’m not great with maps either, and I become easily flustered in traffic. He’ll, half the time I don’t know my left from my right! I have no idea how I earned a masters degree, but it certainly wasn’t with the map-reading part of my brain.

  4. GPS has made our lives much easier. At the very least, this sometimes allows you to avoid traffic jams and other obstacles that you will never see on the map, no matter how good it is.

  5. Everything is changing. Now it doesn’t even occur to me to take paper maps with me, even when going on a long journey. Perhaps more of a concern is the battery level.

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