Atlas Obscura's Guide To Literary Road Trips Map Will Keep You Bookish Travelers Busy All Day


If you'll excuse me, I now have plans for the next 14 hours thanks to Atlas Obscura's Guide to Literary Road Trips — an "obsessively detailed," annotated Google Map of the most epic U.S.-based road trips in American literature. Spanning 12 memoirs and novels published from 1872 until 2012, this ridiculously amazing map allows all of us to search every single place-name reference in the books, not only with quotes from the books themselves, but via Google street view so we can see it through the traveling author's eyes. The coolest part? When certain places overlap and you can see the difference in how authors spanning decades or centuries view the same landscape. I'm going to now apologize to everyone's boss or teacher for bringing this delightful time-suck to your attention.

Writer Richard Kreitner created this literary road trip map for Atlas Obscura — a collaborative, Web-based guide to the "world's wondrous and curious places" — because he calls himself a "freak for the American road trip." He sorted through American literature to find 12 books were the road trip wasn't just an addition to the story but it created thematic narrative arc. It couldn't be too short, such in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas ; to scattered, as in Lolita ; or too removed from the major themes, as in The Grapes of Wrath . In chronological order of publishing date, the following 12 books are available on the map:

  1. Roughing It by Mark Twain (1872)
  2. The Cruise of the Rolling Junk by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1934)
  3. On the Road by Jack Kerouac (1957)
  4. Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck (1962)
  5. The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe (1968)
  6. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig (1974)
  7. A Walk Across America by Peter Jenkins (1979)
  8. Rolling Nowhere: Riding the Rails With America's Hoboes by Ted Conover (1984)
  9. Blue Highways: A Journey into America by William Least Heat Moon (1999)
  10. The Lost Continent by Bill Bryson (2001)
  11. Cross Country: Fifteen Years and 90,000 Miles on the Roads and Interstates of America with Lewis and Clark by Robert Sullivan (2006)
  12. Wild by Cheryl Strayed (2012)

Things get particularly busy on the Northeast Coast and out near Carson City and Reno, on the border of Nevada and California.

Here's how the Reno, Nevada area is described by Strayed in Wild in 2012:

...and Kerouac in On the Road in 1957:

...and in Blue Highways in 1999:

Moving to the East Coast, there's, of course, New York City.

F. Scott Fitzgerald in 1934:

Bryson in 2001:

And Wolfe in 1968:

Isn't it incredible to think of these distinct and accomplished authors, each with their own voice, occupying the same tiny parcel of land across decades? I know, I could do this forever. All the applause to Atlas Obscura — and all the apologies to anyone who tries to talk to me today.

Image: IFC Films