There are few things more quintessentially American than a road trip. The country's vast size, the diversity of different regions and the incredible landscape make experiencing the U.S. from the road something you need to do at least once in your life -- or, perhaps, every summer. "Every American hungers to move," John Steinbeck wrote, observing that most of us are the descendants of migrants from other countries.
Richard Kreitner pays homage to this institution in a new interactive map of the most famous roadtrips in American literature. With the help of mapmaker Steven Melendez, Kreitner traced the trajectory of road trips taken in 12 famous works of literature, all of which are either non-fictional or told in the first person.
The results are amazing and, as Atlas Obscura says, kind of obsessive. Kreitner painstakingly hand-typed 1,500-plus quotes from books and located their coordinates on a map. The interactive version, which is definitely worth a look, lets you click on various locations to read quotes from the books, or see how different authors described the same place.
Here are five of the books he profiles. For the rest (and the interactive map), check out Atlas Obscura's site.
1. Wild by Cheryl Strayed. Even if you're not much of a literary buff, you may recognize this 2012 memoir from the movie of the same name with Reese Witherspoon. The book and movie follow Strayed as she hikes the Pacific Crest Trail and contemplates her troubled past.
2. On the Road by Jack Kerouac. The most famous road trip in American literary history features Sal Paradise (really Kerouac) and Dean Moriarty criss-crossing the U.S. in the 1940s, including a trip south of the border.
3. Roughing It by Mark Twain. This 1872 book chronicles Twain's journey west by stagecoach from St. Louis to California, and then on to the Sandwich Islands, what we now call Hawaii. Twain visits the Mormons in Salt Lake City and gold prospectors in Nevada.
4. The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe. In this 1968 psychedelic tome, Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters (including Neal Cassady, one of the main characters in On the Road) travel the country in a painted school bus. They meet the Grateful Dead, Allen Ginsberg, and the Hells Angels, and narrowly miss Timothy Leary.
5. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig. Pirsig and his son ride a motorcycle from Minnesota to California, with plenty of philosophical ruminations along the way.
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