No GPS, Thank You Very Much

More than one person has asked us about the GPS we have been using to chart our way across the prairies and mountains and fjords to Southeast Alaska.

My response is always the same: I don’t DO GPS.  In fact, not only do I not use a GPS (on this trip or any other trip), but I wouldn’t even think of using one. I am decidedly ANTI-GPS. I fear we are raising a generation of people who will not have the skills to read maps.

Half the fun of a road trip is poring over the map beforehand to figure out the best route, then marking your progress across the map, from one state to another, It’s always a great feeling when you turn the page and enter a new state or province. Want to know what the next town is and how many miles away you are? No problem, it’s on the map. Want to know the elevation of the major cities and towns? That information is on the map as well. Want to know which highways are “dotted” to mark their status as “scenic?” It’s all there on the map.

The map tells you where you are in relation to something big — the city, county, state, or even country. The GPS gadget on your dashboard barking out orders isolates you from your surroundings.

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We made our way to Alaska and back using the good old Rand McNally Road Atlas and the “Milepost” book (the “Bible” of the Alaska highway). From Dawson Creek to Fairbanks, it basically tells you what you will see every mile along the way.

Here are some random entries:

Milepost 1.2: Northern Lights RV Park

Milepost 156: Large double-ended gravel turnout/brake check area with litter bins to east at top of Sikanni Hill.

Milepost 270.8: Sulfur gas pipeline crosses highway overhead.

Milepost 335.7:  Turnout. Caution — watch for bears. Do not feed bears. A fed bear is a dead bear.

Milepost 375: Tetsa River Lodge, the “cinnamon bun center of the galactic cluster.” (Of course we stopped here.)

Milepost 404.6: Toad River Lodge has been a fixture on the highway since 1950. It is known for its collection of hats, which numbers more than 6,800.

Milepost 604.4: Watch for bison on the highway.

A road trip to Alaska would be a fool’s errand without this book.

So come on, folks, disconnect your GPS gadgets and get out those road atlases you used to read.