An unseasonably warm mid-March weekend—the perfect time to load up the car, grab your favorite travel guide, and head out on a road trip. Too many new travel guides come out every week even to list in the Tip Sheet’s on-sale calendar—this week alone sees new editions on Ireland, Scandinavia, Rome, Australia, Scotland, Munich, Venice, Canada, Montreal & Quebec City, Paris, Italy, Honolulu & Oahu, China, Los Angeles, Athens, the Beartooth Mountains, and Nigeria—so chances are, wherever you live, you'll find a number of good choices for your next daytrip.
Unless, that is, you’re an Alaskan, in which case there’s basically one choice, and it’s probably already in your car: The MILEPOST, the 64th edition of which Morris Communications will publish March 20. And while other travel guide publishers are looking for ways to reach their customers online and through their phones, The MILEPOST continues to expand its print edition without worrying too much over the app revolution—after all, the area they cover isn’t the most reliable for internet and cell service.
The undisputed road bible for Alaska and environs, The MILEPOST has been published yearly since 1949—ten years before Alaska became a state—when the Alaska Highway was opened for civilian traffic after WWII, and garages could be as far as 600 miles apart. At the time, it was a 72-page saddle-stitched affair put together by one William A. “Bill” Wallace and his publisher, Bob Atwood. Though the staff size is still modest—three in editorial/production, another six or so on the road—the 2012 edition is a hefty 784 pages., with 693 photos and about a hundred maps, and covering an incredible 14,000 miles of road, which takes about five months of driving every year to cover.
The mission, managing editor Kris Valencia told the Tip Sheet, has remained the same throughout the book’s 64 year history: “To guide travelers mile-by-mile along our Northern roads, which despite the years that have passed, remain fairly remote, with services few and far between in some areas. We like to say we want to make sure visitors don’t miss anything but the potholes—although sometimes those can’t be avoided.”
New editions of travel guides are legion in our nation’s bookstores, and it can be difficult to quantify the value of an update from year to year. “What’s new in this year’s book compared to last year’s is a frequently-asked question from our customers,” said Valencia. “It’s not unusual to see people driving around with books that are five years old, or more. But roads do change, businesses close or new ones open, and as assistant editor Claire Torgerson, production/art director David Ranta and myself can attest—after four intense months of putting together the new edition—there is a lot of new information in the new edition.” Besides a new cruise-ship round-up, the new edition also includes 26 pages of schedules for ferries and railroads in Alaska and British Columbia.
With the book out, Valencia and company can start planning for next year’s edition: “We cover an immense segment of North America, approximately 14,000 miles of road, and we try to log every mile during the summer.” Naturally, the operation isn’t ignoring the online side of things, especially as they sell more than half their stock to the lower 48 states. Already, they’re offering a digital copy of The MILEPOST for everyone who buys the print edition, and will soon be offering a digital-only edition. Preliminary work has also begun on a MILEPOST app, but it’s the publication’s opinion that their customers aren’t necessarily seeking a digital substitute for their product—when it comes to reliability, you can’t beat an up-to-date 800-page reference book riding shotgun.