What do Jack Kerouac, Mark Twain, F. Scott Fitzgerald and John Steinbeck all have in common? Well, apart from being a) American, b) men, and c) self-serious writers, they’re also d) massive road-trippers who documented their various voyages across the U.S. in classic works of literature.
Did these authors imagine, as they took their respective, anecdote-laden expeditions across the Land of the Free, that their journeys would one day be plotted on an interactive map so that their readers might later retrace their footsteps? Seems unlikely, but this being the Internet Age, that is of course exactly what has happened.
Writer Richard Kreitner and map-maker Steve Melendez painstakingly scoured the pages of 12 modern American books for clues about the routes their authors took while writing them, and compiled them all into this fascinating map on Atlas Obscura.
It’s an ambitious work of literary cartography, and one sure to inspire many road trips. Interestingly, not all of the journeys were made by car: some were by foot (Wild by Cheryl Strayed; A Walk Across America by Peter Jenkins), others by motorcycle (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M Pirsig) – while others still had less to do with vehicles than they did states of mind (The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe).
Bringing the 1500-plus literary entries together must have been almost as much work for the map’s creators as taking the trips themselves. Which, now that we think about it, sounds like a pretty good way to spend this coming Christmas break.