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Some Book Nerds Made an Interactive Map of the Most Famous Road Trips in American Literature

It plots out the trips of everyone from Kerouac to Steinbeck to Cheryl Strayed.

by River Donaghey
Jul 22 2015, 4:27pm

Screenshot via Atlas Obscura.

Read: I Thought Becoming Jack Kerouac Would Cure My Depression

The road trip has always been a hallmark of American literature, and now we have finally reached a point in our technological advancement where a couple of book nerds can plot out all these famous trips in a handy interactive map called, appropriately, "The Obsessively Detailed Map of American Literature's Most Epic Road Trips."

Included in the map are 12 of the most well-known American road trips ever put down on paper, including Kerouac's On the Road, Mark Twain's Roughing It, and Cheryl Strayed's 2012 best-seller Wild.

The benefit of this project, writes one of the creators, Richard Kreitner, is to "see how different authors have written about the same place at different times," and "ruminate about what those differences say about American travel, American writing, American history."

Pouring through all those books and plotting all these travel coordinates seems like a herculean task, but the result is pretty extraordinary. While the interactive map plots the routes of 12 different literary classics, Kreitner explains that some classics—even though they involved travel—just didn't make the cut. Lolita, for example, was a little too messy—the "road-trip passages are scattered and defiant of cartographical order." Sorry, Nabokov.

Credit goes to Neil Cassady, who was at the driver's seat for two of the 12 books on the list—he hitchhiked around with Kerouac in the 40s and then showed back up to pilot the Furthur bus for Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters when the 1960s rolled around.