Jack Kerouac’s Hand-Drawn Map of the Hitchhiking Trip Narrated in On the Road


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.”

You can find lec­tures (1 + 2) on Ker­ouac’s writ­ing in Yale’s course, The Amer­i­can Nov­el Since 1945, which appears in our col­lec­tion of 825 Free Cours­es Online.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Jack Ker­ouac Lists 9 Essen­tials for Writ­ing Spon­ta­neous Prose

Pull My Daisy: 1959 Beat­nik Film Stars Jack Ker­ouac and Allen Gins­berg

Jack Ker­ouac Reads from On the Road (1959)

Jack Kerouac’s Naval Reserve Enlist­ment Mugshot, 1943

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.

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