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Useful Tool: Motor Carrier Atlas

By Sandy Long
Posted Dec 26th 2014 1:39AM

mcra_14_web.jpgIn your truck, you should have a motor carrier’s atlas to use in conjunction with your gps, computer, or smart phone to preplan your trips. You might think that an atlas is an outdated tool and unnecessary these days, but is it very necessary. GPS and computer directions often times are wrong or not up to date on restricted road changes. Furthermore, the motor carrier’s atlas has a wealth of information.

Need to verify how to log something? Check in the front of the atlas for the hours of service regulation. Have a light out and you are 100 miles from a truck stop to buy one? On the maps in the motor carrier’s atlas the state scale locations on your route are shown. Need a permit or want to check to see if a road is restricted? Find state regulatory contact information in the front of the atlas. Getting tired and need a rest or parking area? They are shown on the maps too. Cannot remember where the time zone change is along your route? Look for the red dotted line across the maps. Need to travel a two-lane road you have never been on before and want to know if there are any low bridges along the road? Check the front of the atlas. A lot more informative things are found between the covers of a trucker’s atlas including some fun.

One of the things I do when sitting still is to look through the motor carrier’s atlas to see about the area I am in, it is a way to both kill time and to educate myself about all sorts of things. For instance, if I know I will be laying over, I might look for interesting things to do. Golf courses, hospitals, historical sites, state parks, Indian reservations, shopping malls and amusement parks are all found on the maps in the atlas. Also found are military bases if you have shopping privileges at the PX.

Even if you are planning a vacation in your car, start out your planning with your motor carrier’s atlas. Several years ago, I decided to take my first actual vacation in decades. Since I love to collect rocks and was going to end up in Wisconsin for my 40-year reunion, I wanted to follow the Mississippi River and do some rock hunting along the way because I knew agate was located along the river. I found on the atlas Geode State Park near Kankakee Iowa, and then saw that there was a ferry across the river near there. I had never ridden a ferry before, so I did on my vacation all thanks to the atlas.

Since I was a child, I have always enjoyed watching signs go by and reading them. This gave me a love of both reading and funny spelled or sounding town names. This carried over to when I became an adult and started traveling on my own. One of my all time favorite town names is Bucksnort found in Tennesee, another is Pocotello Idaho; something about those names just makes me giggle. Guess what I found when looking through the atlas, funny town names!

Funny or strange town names makes me either laugh, smile or wonder what in the world were they thinking. Some of the best in my opinion follow. Truth or Consequences New Mexico, Boring Oregon, Cool California, Hell Michigan, Uncertain Texas, Carefree Arizona, Last Chance Idaho, Accident Maryland, Normal Illinois are a few of the ones that make you wonder if the towns or the folk in them are what the towns are named.

Then there are the slightly risqué ones that of course, only in modern times are racy, the words used to have different meanings when the towns were named. Intercourse Pennsylvania (Intercourse is an old term for gathering place or a conversation), Blue Ball Pennsylvania (got its name from an old inn called the Blue Ball), Climax Michigan (A climax means ending), and Sugar Tit Kentucky (a sugar tit was a piece of cloth with sugar tied inside used as a baby pacifier).

Funny, these are hilarious. Frog Eye Alabama, Toadvine Alabama, Spunky Puddle Ohio, Buttsville New Jersey, Snapfinger Georgia, Tightwad Missouri, Chipmonk New York, and to finish it off, Lizard Lick North Carolina. Just imagining how these town names came about can provide enough entertainment to make any downtime enjoyable. The great thing is that there are more interesting and fun town names if you look for them.

As truckers, we have to find our fun where we can find it at times. So now, you know that the motor carrier atlas you have on your truck has more worth than just an improvised table across the steering wheel to support your laptop, though it is good for that too. A motor carrier atlas cannot only get you out of a tight spot information wise, it can relieve the stress and boredom we all have at some point. Who knows it may even put you in Happyland Connecticut.

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