Surely most ardent readers of Jack Kerouac’s novel On the Road have tried to map Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty’s American journey. Above, partially alleviating your own need to take the pains of sketching out that great Beat journey yourself, we have a map drawn by the author himself. Pulled from Kerouac’s diary, it traces the route of a hitchhiking trip of July through October 1948, which no doubt fueled the still-potent literary impact of his best-known book, which would see publication almost a decade later in 1957. Each stop has a label, from the iconic American metropolises of New York City, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C. to the less-known but no less evocative smaller towns like Des Moines, North Platte, Laramie, and Selma.
For a representation more strictly reflecting the fiction, see Michael J. Hess’ map of Paradise and Moriarty’s route across the country. It offers passages straight from Kerouac’s text about all the places they stopped briefly, stayed a while, or only mentioned, like Salt Lake City, “a city of sprinklers” at dawn; Flagstaff, whose “every bump, rise, and stretch mystified my longing”; Omaha, home to “the first cowboy I saw”; and the Indianapolis Paradise enters on a bus which has just “roared through Indiana cornfields.” Writer Dennis Mansker, on his own site, has created four separate interactive maps, each covering one of the novel’s parts. He also includes a rundown of the road story’s four major vehicles, including the 1949 Hudson seen just above. “This is the car in which they blast off to New Orleans and the West Coast, January 1949,” Mansker notes. “Like all of Dean’s cars, this one really took a beating.” But Dean’s cars just had to take it, since, as the band Guided by Voices once sang, “Kerouac Never Drove, So He Never Drove Alone.”
Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture and writes essays on cities, Asia, film, literature, and aesthetics. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on his brand new Facebook page.