12 American literary road trips mapped!

Now you too can take a jazz-age excursion or a continental hippy trip, courtesy of these cartographers
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Atlas Obscura's literary road-trip map
Atlas Obscura's literary road-trip map

Unimpressed by guide books this summer? (other than these of course!). Then maybe you're looking for vacation inspiration on the wrong shelves. Over at the pop geography site, Atlas Obscura, contributors Richard Kreitner and Steven Melendez have mapped the road trips from 12 key works of American literature, from Mark Twain's 1872 trip Roughing It to Cheryl Strayed's 2012 best seller Wild.

There's routes for F Scott Fitzgerald's jazz-age memoir The Cruise of the Rolling Junk; Tom Wolfe's high sixties trip, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test; Robert Pirsig's seventies philosophical inquiry Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance; and John Steinbeck's more sedate Travels with Charley, as well as America's definitive beat book, On The Road by Jack Kerouac.

 

Kerouac's On The Road as featured on Atlas Obscurax
Kerouac's On The Road as featured on Atlas Obscurax

Kreitner and Melendez chose not to include books such as Hunter S Thompson's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, where the journey – from LA to Vegas in this case – is too brief to reveal much, cartographically; or titles like Lolita, where the geography is a little too obscure for accurate mapping.

It's a fun exercise, especially when the routes are laid one on top of the other. The digital map makers admit that some destinations aren't as accurately marked as they would like; “I beg forbearance if you, a hermit in the mountains of Wyoming, find that I have pinned Mark Twain’s reference to Horse Creek in a place where it could not have been” writes Kreitner. Also some routes, such as the one for On The Road, might lead you to believe that the book describes one single journey, rather than a series of trips.

 

Detail from Atlas Obscura's literary road-trip map
Detail from Atlas Obscura's literary road-trip map

Still, there's plenty of summertime enjoyment to be had here, whether you're a Marmon 34 Speedster driver, like Fitzgerald; a Honda Superhawk rider, like Pirsig; or a simple hitcher, like Kerouac. Find out more here; and for more on the greater world of maps, including Kerouac's own plotting of his trips, check out a copy of our forthcoming book, Map, here.


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