The Lost Art of

Tri­an­gu­late your way out of trou­ble

Motorcyclist - - Contents - —Zach Bow­man

EMILY MILLER DOESN’T trust GPS maps. “Maps are re­ally great, but maps can lie,” she says. “Or you can lie to your­self and want to be­lieve some­thing on the map is what it is when it is not.”

As the driv­ing force behind the Re­belle Rally—a women’s off-road nav­i­ga­tion rally raid that re­quires par­tic­i­pants to forgo GPS and any tech that con­nects to the in­ter­net—a fair por­tion of her life re­volves around get­ting from one place to an­other the old-fash­ioned way.

Nav­i­ga­tion, Miller says, be­gins with know­ing ex­actly where you are and where you want to go. It sounds sim­ple, but few can look at the wilder­ness around us and pin­point our lo­ca­tion with­out a nudge from the elec­tronic gad­gets in our pock­ets. It’s a dan­ger­ous de­pen­dence when we’re just a small ac­ci­dent away from be­ing cut off en­tirely. The fix?

“Ev­ery­one should un­der­stand tri­an­gu­la­tion,” Miller says.

Sim­ply put, tri­an­gu­la­tion is the process of us­ing land­marks you can both iden­tify on a map and see with your eye to fix your po­si­tion in space—and it’s as easy as hav­ing an un­der­stand­ing of com­pass ba­sics. Miller learned the hard way, by taking a Coast Guard nav­i­ga­tion course then test­ing her skills at the Ral­lye Aïcha des Gazelles in Morocco.

“I paid at­ten­tion to all the parts that I un­der­stood, and the sec­ond it didn’t make sense, my eyes would cross,” Miller says. But the skills even­tu­ally come to­gether, and in the African desert it’s almighty im­por­tant that they do. “You get out there and re­al­ize that, to be the best rider you can be, it’s about know­ing where you’re go­ing, how to get there, and how to be smart about it. Of­ten you’re alone.”

You don’t need a nau­ti­cal bent or a trial-by-african-fire to learn tra­di­tional ori­en­teer­ing. There are re­sources all over the coun­try de­signed to give you an old-school nav­i­ga­tion foun­da­tion.

“REI of­fers a map and com­pass course,” Miller says. “It’s the same thing, and it’s a great way to start.”

Past that, Miller says nav­i­ga­tion novices can avoid the pit­falls she’s en­dured in her years of driv­ing and nav­i­gat­ing with a sim­ple rule: “Just slow down,” she says. “You can only ride as fast as you can nav­i­gate.”

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