Milepost

The Alaskan Traveler’s Bible

Before we left for Alaska, someone suggested that we might want to take along the Milepost. “Milepost?” I said. “Is that some kind of map?”

“Yeah, it has maps, and it tells you where you can buy gas and stuff,” my advisor responded.

And so at the last minute I purchased a copy of the Milepost. I finally cracked it open in Bozeman and discovered that it contained more than just maps and listings of gas stations.

I also discovered that one can get to Alaska via multiple routes. The 750-page guidebook has details for each of these routes. Details such as where to find gas stations, restaurants (and reviews), campgrounds, popular hikes, possible wildlife viewing hot spots and every pullout along the route.

It took me a while to figure out how to read the Milepost—the compilers present the information based on each highway. You have to choose your route first, and then find the names of each highway you want to travel. The Milepost tells you at what point along the route you will find each thing. For example, along the Alaska Highway, at mile 1012, you will find a doubled-ended, paved pullout where you can pull over and camp for the night.

Teams of researchers drive the routes yearly during different seasons, verifying details and making sure the book has current information. If the Milepost says that one had better fuel up in such-and-such town because one won’t find gas for 200 miles, we made sure to top off our tank (and our gas cans).

The further we traveled, the more we trusted the Milepost. Until we left Liard Hot Springs.

The Milepost Looses its Effectiveness

In Dawson Creek, at the official start of the Alaska Highway, we dutifully reset our odometer to zero to coincide with the Milepost. By our second day of travel, we noticed that the local road markers didn’t match up with our odometer. To make things worse, each Canadian province seemed to have different standards for how often to place the markers.

milepostI tried to figure out the formula for the difference between our odometer and the Milepost. Despite my deficiencies in math and the metric system I determined that our odometer showed an approximate 19-mile difference. Suddenly, the Milepost lost its golden glow. In order to figure out the location of the next pullout, I had to do math.

Our very next stop made me laugh. Watson Lake, Yukon Territory, has a collection of over 77,000 road signs—none of them local. If a traveler feels lonely or lost, she can stop at the Sign Post Forest. It abounds in mile posts, directions and signs from cities near and far. Life feels like that sometimes, doesn’t it? So many signs, so many voices crying out with advice.

So many signs, so many people insisting they know the 'right way.' #write31days Click To Tweet

The Importance of Calibration

We decided to pull over early that night, and catch up on sleep. By this time, though, we weren’t exactly sure where we were. We pulled into a rest area, only to find a ‘No Overnight Camping’ sign.

We consulted with the Milepost and a map of the Yukon Territory.

“I think we’re on the road that leads to this campground,” Pedro said.

“I don’t think so,” I argued. “I think we’re here.” I pointed to a place on the map. We decided to drive down the spur road to the left. If we arrived at a campground, Pedro won the bet. If we didn’t, I won.

After driving four miles, the road headed away from the mythical campground. We found a wide spot in the road and pulled over for the night about a mile past a cluster of buildings.

The next morning I awoke early and went for a run and discovered our exact location. We had ended up a mile west of the town of Champagne on the old Alaska Highway. I spent twenty minutes wandering around taking photos of the buildings, old cars and wildflowers before resuming my run back to the trailer.picmonkey-image-2-copy

“I know where we are!” I told Pedro when I returned.

“Good. Now we can figure out exactly how far off our odometer is.”

We spent the next fifteen minutes comparing our Milepost with a map of the Yukon Territory and a calculator. We also determined that if we didn’t take any alternate routes, we could make it to Chistochina, AK before suppertime.

Internal Calibration

As we packed up and readied for our last day of travel, I thought about the Milepost and how every person uses it differently. Everyone has different goals for their trip, even though they all share the same destination.

Ask any twenty people visiting Alaska, and no two of them will have experienced the exact same trip. Most of them have consulted the Milepost, though. People don’t usually read every single word in the Milepost—but those who have read the most feel the most prepared for the journey.

And calibration. Without calibration, the effectiveness of the Milepost diminishes. You get the picture. The Milepost reminds me of the Bible. It serves as a guidebook to the kind of life that leads to a personal relationship with Jesus and an eventual destination of heaven.

But if we read it and consult it without proper calibration (asking the Holy Spirit to guide us as we read and study), we end up lost, confused, and befuddled about our location, salvation, and destination.

Beauty Tip #12: Make sure you’re calibrated before you read your guidebook.

Q4U: Have you ever found yourself off-track because you failed to calibrate before you studied the Bible?