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  • Bob LoCicero

Review: New Hampshire/Vermont Atlas & Gazetteer

Gazetteers for the New England rider
Gazetteers for the New England rider

Whether your planning a multi-day road trip or a weekend day ride getting the big picture is important. It’s also hard to do on a computer screen -- or worse -- your phone. Sometimes a good old-fashion paper map is the best tool to really understand the terrain.

Sample from the New Hampshire/Vermont Atlas & Gazetteer
Sample from the New Hampshire/Vermont Atlas & Gazetteer

Free highway maps from the department of Tourism are great for interstates and major secondary roads, but they leave off local details. These fine details are especially important in Vermont, where small town roads are a significant percentage of the State’s roads.

Enter the Delorme New Hampshire Vermont Atlas & Gazetteer. This beautiful map book contains over 100 pages of maps and information. There are 58 quadrangle maps and 18 detail city maps with street name indexes. Each quadrangle map is composed of 21 minutes longitude and 21 minutes latitude (or about 26 miles high by 18.25 miles wide). One inch on the map is approximately 1.74 miles.

So how detailed is that you ask? Very! It’s sufficient to see single lane gravel or dirt roads that are barely passable. Roads are shown at about the same level of detail as zooming in to 80% on a Google Map on a desktop PC. The maps have topographical shading and are just plain pretty to look at (at least if you’re a map geek like me).

The New York Atlas & Gazetteer covers the entire state in 120 pages, while the Maine Atlas & Gazetteer is 80 pages. The scale of the New York and Maine Gazetteers are 25 minute quadrangles, so the scale is smaller, but still very readable. The scale of these maps is approximate one inch equals two miles.

The books contain other useful travel information, like recreation areas, hiking and campground information. They also contain interesting data on state populations, distance between major cities and other state facts.

The map books are laid out so east-west maps are on adjacent pages, making east-west rides easier to plan. When traveling north-south, you’ll find yourself flipping around a lot more.

The map books are 15.5 by 11 inches, so it won’t easily fit into a tank bag or other take along luggage. If I have a section that I’d like to take on the road, I scan the pages to my computer and copy the map images to my phone.

The maps are reasonably accurate, but if you’re familiar with Vermont roads you could easily find small errors when it comes to class-4 roads. Forsha Road in Pittsfield is a good example. If you just use the Gazetteer you might assume that Forsha Road is a secondary road similar to Liberty Hill Road. In fact Forsha road is an unmaintained class-4 road with washouts, boulders and deep ruts. While this may be what you’re after on your dual-sport it isn’t likely to be something that you’d pursue on your street bike.

Forsha Road in Pittsfield is a ruggest class-4 road, but shown the same as a class-3 road
Forsha Road in Pittsfield is a ruggest class-4 road, but shown the same as a class-3 road

This reinforces the point that if you’re adventuring onto Vermont’s back roads you should use multiple sources to determine what a road is really like.

When planning a road, I like to layout my general route with the Gazetteer and then confirm suspicions with or the Vermont Agency of Transportation highway maps. Both of these sources provide valuable information on road surface and classification -- which are key to understanding the terrain on the ground.

Nothing can top local knowledge when you’re venturing off well maintained roads in Vermont. This is especially true in spring, when mud and winter conditions are a factor. Dirt roads can change drastically from year-to-year or even by a summer downpour.

I ride mostly in New England and the Adirondacks of New York. To cover all these areas I purchased the New Hampshire & Vermont Atlas & Gazetteer, the Maine Altas & Gazetteer and New York Atlas & Gazetteer.

My well worn Gazetteers are a dream machine -- capable of fueling my desire to ride in a way that Google maps never can. For that reason alone, the Gazetteers should be on every motorcyclists bookshelf.

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