12 Classic Literary Road Trips in One Handy Interactive Map

on the road mapped

Fan­ta­sy fic­tion invari­ably includes a map for read­ers to under­stand the hero’s jour­ney, lit­er­al­ly. We know that Hob­bits had to walk a long way into Mor­dor, but see­ing it car­to­graph­i­cal­ly real­ly hits home. But what of the great road trip nov­els, where the coun­try is Amer­i­ca, the jour­ney is long and often cir­cu­lar, and self-actu­al­iza­tion awaits the hero, and not an army of orcs?

Atlas Obscu­ra, Joshua Foer and Dylan Thuras’ blog of dis­cov­ery and adven­ture in the mod­ern world, have come to the res­cue with an inter­ac­tive map that plots out the trav­els of road trip-filled books, some non-fic­tion, oth­ers fic­tion­al­ized real­i­ty. Where a loca­tion is men­tioned in a text, it has been pinned to the map, and by click­ing on the pin, the rel­e­vant text is revealed. Clever stuff.

For exam­ple, the map for Jack Kerouac’s On the Road (see snap­shot above) plots out the five trips con­tained in the nov­el, and one can see the main hubs of the sto­ry: NYC and San Fran­cis­co, of course, but also Den­ver and the crazed detour town to Mex­i­co City, where Sal, Dean, and Stan Shep­hard par­ty hard in a bor­del­lo and Sal winds up with dysen­tery for his trou­bles.

zen road trip
For some­thing more straight­for­ward, check out the North­west trav­els at the heart of Robert M. Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motor­cy­cle Main­te­nance. Writ­ten in the first per­son, the novel’s nar­ra­tor trav­els by motor­cy­cle with his son from Min­neso­ta to North­ern Cal­i­for­nia, end­ing up in San Fran­cis­co, tak­ing 17 days. The philo­soph­i­cal jour­ney, how­ev­er, cov­ers wider ter­rain.

koolaid road trip
Anoth­er Bay Area tale, Tom Wolfe’s account of Ken Kesey and the Mer­ry Pranksters in The Elec­tric Kool-Aid Acid Test starts in La Hon­da, Cal­i­for­nia, a moun­tain get­away to the west of San Jose, and, as one can see, com­pletes a cir­cle of the States, includ­ing trips to both Cal­gary, Cana­da and Man­zanil­lo, Mex­i­co, where every­body is “uptight,” man, head­ing north­east to both Gua­na­ju­a­to and Aguas­calientes, where Acid Tests are admin­is­tered.

There’s more at the link, includ­ing maps for Wild, A Walk Across Amer­i­ca, and Trav­els with Charley. It might inspire a repeat read­ing of a favorite book. Or it might inspire you to just light out for the ter­ri­to­ries.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Acid Test Reels: Ken Kesey & The Grate­ful Dead’s Sound­track for the 1960s Famous LSD Par­ties

Jack Ker­ouac Reads from On the Road (1959)

The Books You Think Every Intel­li­gent Per­son Should Read: Crime and Pun­ish­ment, Moby-Dick & Beyond (Many Free Online)

Ted Mills is a free­lance writer on the arts who cur­rent­ly hosts the FunkZone Pod­cast. You can also fol­low him on Twit­ter at @tedmills, read his oth­er arts writ­ing at tedmills.com and/or watch his films here.

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