Rand-McNally atlas: rebuilt from the ground up

By , Travel editor of The Christian Science Monitor

Calculating the miles per gallon on any motor trip couldn't be simpler now that Rand McNally has released its latest road atlas. A short ruler or any straightedge (a pencil will do) placed across a chart on the inside back cover, gives the answer in a trice. Even a pocket calculator is mediocre by comparison.

That's just one new feature in what is being billed as the first all-new McNally atlas in 20 years.

On a recent trip to toronto, the atlas did all that I expected of it and more. It showed me the way (its prime purpose); told me the mileage (570) on a quick reference chart, and indicated which were the toll roads and which were not; it pointed out historical and other places that might be of interest en route (the Sonnenberg Gardens would have lured me off the New York State Thruway on a more leisurely trip); provided me with a telephone area code map (had I wished to phone ahead) with accompanying time zones and with a kilometers-to-miles chart to help with the road signs once I crossed into Canada. It told me the city of Toronto's population (633,318) and that of every other city, state, or province in North America for that matter. And that's not all. Area statistics, altitudes, and state park topographical maps put it as firmly in the school reference library as in your car.

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Oh, for the record, my six-cylinder van with overdrive averaged 19 miles per gallon. All I needed to know was the mileage, the number of gallons consumed since the last fill-up, and the most time-consuming part of the calculation was to turn to the back cover of the atlas.

Since 1960 the Rand McNally road atlas has been updated each year. But much has changed in the past two decades -- new communities have sprung up, some have disappeared; travel patterns have altered; gasoline prices have soared unbelievably. So the Rand McNally editors realized that to address the needs of today, the old atlas had to be scrapped and a new one rebuilt from the ground up , so to speak.

The new emphasis is on efficient trip planning to conserve time, fuel, and money. Reference coordinates now are placed one inch apart for quick referral.

The Rand McNally road Atlas provides map coverage from Tapachula at the southern tip of Mexico, to Inuvic in Canada's North West Territories for $4.95 -- the cost of about four individual service-station road maps.

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