Friday, July 28, 2006

Got maps?

One thing that has become abundantly clear to me about The Freehold V2--I don't know the neighborhood as well as I did around The Freehold V1.

Logically, of course, this isn't a big surprise. We lived in V1 for 13 years; we haven't lived in V2 for quite 3 weeks. We don't know the road names, the name of the hill you come down or the other you come up to get to V2 or the history of the area. We know the lake is that-away, but how far? Is there a shorter way to here from there?

Maps can answer these questions or put you on the track to the answers. As someone interested in survivalism/preparedness, the answers to these questions are important. You need to know all you can about the place you live, and it's history (at least recent history, but in my book, the further back the better).

Many people (but sadly, not most), have the lowest common denominator of maps, the highway map. Once upon a time these were given out free at gas stations, but now you usually buy them at a convenience store or somewhere similar. These maps are very large scale (something like 1 inch equals 10+ miles) and will list the Interstates, US highways, most state highways and some smaller roads. Cities and towns are marked, along with some smaller places. They give you a nice 50,000' view, but for the survivalist, they're only marginally better than nothing.

A much more useful map is one that lists all the roads with a state road number, similar to these by Delorme. I stumbled across these some years ago, and have found them highly useful as road maps. I recently used mine to shave 10 minutes off my commute from V2 to work. (You can also buy them in regional sets.)

(Handy Preparedness Tip: I've also photo-reduced the pages that cover my commuting route, laminated them and carry them in my car. Twice that's helped me avoid long delays caused by road closures.)

Useful as these are, they still leave something to be desired. There is a lot of information that is, of necessity, left off these maps. Most importantly, there is no topological information--you can't tell if an area is dead flat or a cliff.

Enter that old standby, US Geological Survey maps. The Federal government, in a fit of usefulness, has created maps of the entire county with a level of detail that may scare you. Want to locate your house? Pick up a 1:24,000 scale quadrangle, and it will likely be one of those little black dots on there. It will also list airports/airstrips, rail lines, creeks and rivers and so on. Need the elevation?--it's on there. You can also get earthquake maps, national park and forest maps, ecoregion maps and a host of other interesting and useful publications.

Not strictly map-related, but also useful is the National Geodetic Survey. These guys are the keepers of shoreline information and GPS (Global Positioning System) wizards. There are things here you need to know.

Maps have an important place in your preparations for bad times. Get some good ones now while you can.

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