Four Interactive Maps Immortalize the Road Trips That Inspired Jack Kerouac’s On the Road

Jack Ker­ouac’s On the Road has, in the almost 60 years since its pub­li­ca­tion, inspired its read­ers to do many things: some try their hands at writ­ing their own care­ful­ly com­posed yet care­less­ness-exud­ing prose, but oth­ers find them­selves moved to repli­cate the Amer­i­can road trip whose sto­ry Ker­ouac uses that near-inim­itable style to tell. They might do so by fol­low­ing the author’s own hand-drawn map, or the more recent­ly com­posed set of Google dri­ving direc­tions we fea­tured a cou­ple years ago. But now they have anoth­er detailed research tool in the form of Den­nis Mansker’s inter­ac­tive maps.

Mansker, him­self the author of a book called A Bad Atti­tude: A Nov­el from the Viet­nam War, has put togeth­er not one but four On the Road maps, each one detail­ing one of the road trips Ker­ouac used to cre­ate his Beat nar­ra­tive of Amer­i­ca: Map One fol­lows his sum­mer 1947 trip from New York to San Fran­cis­co by way of Den­ver and back again; Map Two, his win­ter 1949 trip from Rocky Mount, North Car­oli­na to San Fran­cis­co by way of New Orleans; Map Three, his spring 1949 trip from Den­ver to New York by way of San Fran­cis­co; Map Four, his spring 1950 trip from New York to Mex­i­co City by way of Den­ver.

“Click on one of the place­mark­ers on the map to see a quo­ta­tion from the book,” Mansker explains. “Zoom in it to see the loca­tion on the map. In many cas­es where the nar­ra­tive was­n’t clear on a giv­en place, I’ve had to approx­i­mate — apply a ‘best guess’ solu­tion to a giv­en loca­tion.” He also pro­vides infor­ma­tion on the three cars, a 1949 Hud­son, a 1947 Cadil­lac Lim­ou­sine, and a 1937 Ford Sedan (as well as a Grey­hound Bus (pro­tag­o­nist Sal Par­adis­e’s trans­porta­tion mode of choice “when he could­n’t boost a ride” with the irre­press­ible Dean Mori­ar­ty) which “them­selves became sort of minor char­ac­ters dur­ing the course of the adven­tures.”

“He came right out to Pater­son, New Jer­sey, where I was liv­ing with my aunt,” writes Ker­ouac of Dean’s return to Sal’s life in the small city that fig­ured ear­ly in that first 1947 road trip. “He was gone,” says Sal of Dean’s depar­ture from his life as he recov­ers from a fever in Mex­i­co City, the last stop of Ker­ouac’s 1950 road trip. “When I got bet­ter I real­ized what a rat he was, but then I had to under­stand the impos­si­ble com­plex­i­ty of his life, how he had to leave me there, sick, to get on with his wives and woes.” If you love Ker­ouac’s nov­el, by all means fol­low in his tire tracks — just make sure to find a more reli­able trav­el­ing com­pan­ion.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Jack Kerouac’s On The Road Turned Into Google Dri­ving Direc­tions & Pub­lished as a Free eBook

Jack Kerouac’s On the Road Turned Into an Illus­trat­ed Scroll: One Draw­ing for Every Page of the Nov­el

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

Jack Ker­ouac Lists 9 Essen­tials for Writ­ing Spon­ta­neous Prose

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer, the video series The City in Cin­e­ma, the crowd­fund­ed jour­nal­ism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Ange­les Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.


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  • Sue Hutchings says:

    4 trips across the U.S. in as many years and some­how he missed Kansas and Okla­homa every time? I love Kansas and Okla­homa. In his next life Ker­ouac needs to be more thor­ough. I’m amazed at how many places on these maps that I have already been.

  • fred krueger says:

    I used to work in Seat­tle and I seem to recall an old hotel ( dol­lar a night vari­ety} that adver­tised Ker­ouac as hav­ing stayed there on his trip writ­ing On the Road.

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