Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Kids making maps of the city

Often it's said that you don't really know how to get around a town until you spend time driving in it.  If you are just a passenger you don't pay as much attention to where you are or where you are going.  When I moved to this location about 15 years ago the first thing I did was go to AAA and get a local map of the city and another of the county.  Then as I drove around I marked things down on the map.  Sure the first thing I did was mark down the Taco Bells and the McDonalds.  Then the grocery stores, hardware stores, post office, banks, etc. 

I spent hours on the maps.  I learned the names of the roads and I learned the distances between the main roads.  Around here the roads may stop and start but most are from one end to the other about 20 miles in length.  This goes for the main north/south roads and the main east/west roads.  I can name each road that runs on the section lines.  These are the main roads through the city and of course are one mile apart.  There are also main roads bisecting the sections too, which is the half mile mark.  There are also main roads on the 1/4 mile.  Many or most of these intersections have signals once you get in the city limits.  Out in the country the stop signs are usually at the section corners. 

By learning the roads, and the order they go in, it's about impossible to get lost.  This is something that I'm teaching the grandkids.  We make it into a game.  Army daughter doesn't want to learn that way.  She wants to be given specific directions.  Drive to this road, turn right, drive to that road, turn left, drive to this road turn left.  The problem is if she misses a this or that road she will be completely lost.  Now with work often I'm given directions such as drive down the road till it forks, keep left, turn right past the turkey ranch, follow that around the bend, etc.  But that's with country roads, not in the middle of the city. 

Two examples happened this past week of Army daughter not knowing where she was going.  She's been here for 8 months and the grandkids really noticed her confusion.  Army daughter didn't know how to get to her new house.  Her new street is parallel to our street.  In fact, it's only 1/2 mile north of our street.  We live on a section line, her new home bisects the same section.  Her house is about 17 miles away but it shouldn't matter.  It's only 1/2 mile north of our street.  Although I told her once you get into town turn right for 1/2 mile.  Then just turn left.  It won't matter which street you turn right on.  Any will do.  This wouldn't work for her.  She was in a panic.  She had to get to her new house.  Give her street names so she could turn right or left.  Do not give her a map.  Do not draw it out.  Just street names with right or left.  I could see the 10 year old looking at her aunt in amazement.  Girl said just go down the street and turn right anywhere you want.  Then turn left.  Nothing doing.  I had to give her a street name to turn right on. 

The second example was finding the babysitter's house.  Baby granddaughter goes to a sitter once or twice a week because of Army daughter going to school.  Army daughter wanted me to meet the sitter and know how to get there in case I was able to pick up the baby.  Ok, I'll follow you but where does the sitter live?  She couldn't give me an address.  She did tell me that it was off a certain street and since we had just left Costco she didn't know how to get to that certain street from where we were at.  We needed to go two miles north and 2 miles east.  Instead we drove in circles.  We drove in more circles.  Finally she got back on to our road and drove toward home then turned around and drove to the sitters house.  Why did she do this?  Because she could only get there if she drove coming from the street and direction that she knew by heart.  On the way home from the sitters I drove ahead of her this time.  I had never been on the sitter's street but instead of backtracking I continued driving down that street, knew the direction to get me home, and drove down several streets I'd never been on.  Funny, I made it home without a problem. 

The entire county is set out in a grid.  And, the addresses are all equivalent to where the parcel is.  Everything is listed as either east or west.  If the address is 13000 E. Whatever Road then it's 13 miles east of the north/south line.  If the address is 7500 S. Whichever then the property you are looking for is 7 1/2 miles south of the east/west line.  It's very easy. 

Back to our game.  Girl was making maps.  She said she was teaching her cousin how to get to school.  Never mind that her cousin is 10 months old!  So she drew the map from our house to the school which is five miles away.  The map looked great.  Then I said what if the road is closed at the main corner?  She drew the map going down a side road.  What if the road is closed just past our house and you can't go that way?  She then went the opposite direction down our street and drew the map adding an extra mile but still making it to the school.  Oh no!  Now that road is closed!  What are you going to do?  I don't know was her reply.  Not good enough.  What if I'm out of town and something happens and Great grandma is here watching you.  What if she has to get to the school and all these roads are closed?  How are you going to direct her to your school?  Girl then figured out another way.  What if that road was closed?  She figured out yet another.  All told, she was able to come up with enough different routes to school to get past any emergency that may block roads.  Her final map took a route about 10 miles in length to get to school.  I was impressed.


  1. Great post. I was taught by my father about roads and numbering. Here we have 8 numbers in a mile, so the numbers help with the distances. We also have "Roads" going north and south, "Avenues" east and west. I just had this kind of conversation with a colleague at school in trying to determine where a student lived. Using road number and address knew where it was exactly.

    Your granddaughter is impressive. It's nice to again see young people take and interest in living skills.

  2. I retired in 1999. I had to give up jogging a few years before that. But I love to walk. I have walked every road and alley in my city. You don't really get to know a city until you have walked it all. In particular I search out those right of ways from one street to another passing between two house lots. They occur most often at the end of cul de sacs and offer short cuts if you know about them.

  3. I seem to figure things out your way. I just need to understand the system and major streets and I can usually find my way. Granted that it only good for so far. Since this county is so big and includes Las Vegas I have just focused on our section rather than the entire county though I know a few of the major cross streest in most of the city areas to be safe. Great thing to teach!

  4. You have the MOST impressive, most enjoyable posts than the majority of other bloggers out there. I daily look forward to your insight, wisdom and wit. Great job with the grandkids, and love the stories about army daughter.