Obsessively Detailed Map of American Literature's Most Epic Road Trips
July 23, 2015 11:26 AM   Subscribe

Obsessively Detailed Map of American Literature's Most Epic Road Trips
"The...map is the result of a painstaking and admittedly quixotic effort to catalog the country as it has been described in the American road-tripping literature. It includes every place-name reference in 12 books about cross-country travel...and maps the authors' routes on top of one another. You can track an individual writer's descriptions of the landscape as they traveled across it, or you can zoom in to see how different authors have written about the same place at different times."

The books (all non-fiction):
  • Wild, Cheryl Strayed
  • The Cruise of the Rolling Junk, F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Rolling Nowhere: Riding the Rails With America's Hoboes, Ted Conover
  • A Walk Across America, Peter Jenkins
  • Cross Country: Fifteen Years and 90,000 Miles on the Roads and Interstates of America with Lewis and Clark, Robert Sullivan
  • The Lost Continent, Bill Bryson
  • Blue Highways: A Journey into America, William Least Heat Moon
  • On the Road, Jack Kerouac
  • Roughing It, Mark Twain
  • Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert Pirsig
  • Travels with Charley, John Steinbeck
  • The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, Tom Wolfe
posted by kirkaracha (20 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the data visualization began to take hold...
posted by gwint at 11:29 AM on July 23, 2015 [15 favorites]

I'm starting to consider the idea that the word 'epic' is no longer awesome.
posted by thelonius at 11:42 AM on July 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

This list needs a bit of creativity to include the most iconic and seminal "road trip" of them all -- Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
posted by lewedswiver at 11:42 AM on July 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

Also needs the Lewis and Clark expedition.
posted by beagle at 11:51 AM on July 23, 2015

No Confederacy of Dunces?
posted by rhizome at 12:07 PM on July 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

This is a good place to plug the very excellent Nabokov in America: On the Road to Lolita by Robert Roper
But Nabokov in America finds its narrative heart in his serial sojourns into the wilds of the West, undertaken with his wife, Vera, and their son over more than a decade. Nabokov covered more than 200,000 miles as he indulged his other passion: butterfly collecting. Roper has mined fresh sources to bring detail to these journeys, and traces their significant influence in Nabokov's work: on two-lane highways and in late-'40s motels and cafés, we feel Lolita draw near, and understand Nabokov's seductive familiarity with the American mundane. Nabokov in America is also a love letter to U.S. literature, in Nabokov's broad embrace of it from Melville to the Beats. Reading Roper, we feel anew the mountain breezes and the miles logged, the rich learning and the Romantic mind behind some of Nabokov's most beloved books.
posted by Fizz at 12:12 PM on July 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

I sincerely believe that the Griswold family vacation should have been included.
posted by HuronBob at 12:15 PM on July 23, 2015 [5 favorites]

Wow, I just rabbit-holed down that Atlas Obscura site for my entire lunch break. Thanks for the link!
posted by xedrik at 12:16 PM on July 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

No Confederacy of Dunces?

Like, the trip on the SceniCruiser? Where else does anyone go? I guess Myrna drives down from New York? Also, I'm now enjoying the possibility that this book is non-fiction.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 12:22 PM on July 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

No Little House In The Big Woods? No Grapes of Wrath?
posted by GuyZero at 12:26 PM on July 23, 2015

Where the fuck is In Cold Blood??
posted by chrchr at 12:29 PM on July 23, 2015 [3 favorites]

Shame they stuck to trips mostly within the U.S....

Yeah, Franklin's journey to find the NW passage would have rocked.

The books (all non-fiction):
On the Road, Jack Kerouac

Is definitely fiction, though it's based on real characters.
posted by Mental Wimp at 12:46 PM on July 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

It would have been trivially easy to include A One Thousand Mile Walk to the Gulf, given how few places John Muir names. He was more interested in the land, in "pushing on in a general southward direction by the wildest leafiest, and least trodden way I could find, promising the greatest extent of virgin forest."
posted by gray17 at 12:52 PM on July 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

Also, no map for The Grapes of Wrath? Come on!

"To anticipate a few objections...The Grapes of Wrath's [road-trip passages] are brief compared to the sections about poverty and persecution in California..."

[ On the Road] Is definitely fiction, though it's based on real characters.

"To be included, a book needed to have a narrative arc matching the chronological and geographical arc of the trip it chronicles. It needed to be non-fictional, or, as in the case of On the Road, at least told in the first-person." Sure, it doesn't make sense, but at least it's a rule.
posted by kirkaracha at 12:58 PM on July 23, 2015

I would add two fictional road trips:

Even Cowgirls Get the Blues by Tom Robbins and The Road by Cormac McCarthy.
posted by nofundy at 1:20 PM on July 23, 2015

Clicked to look for the adventures of Can o' Beans, Dirty Sock, Spoon, Painted Stick and Conch Shell in Skinny Legs and All and was disappointed.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 1:22 PM on July 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

speaking of Tom Robbins...
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 1:22 PM on July 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

No Adventures in the Unknown Interior of America?!!!!

(This is a really fun project maybe its author will open it up so others with their own ideas about what should be on the list can contribute routes and quotes and help it grow.)

My Cabeza de Vaca hurts.
posted by notyou at 1:45 PM on July 23, 2015

No Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas? Cuz that's a true story.
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 7:31 PM on July 23, 2015

I came down here to complain that Lolita was overlooked, but on my way saw Fizz's comment and since I hadn't heard of Nabokov in America I am happy.
posted by chavenet at 3:20 AM on July 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

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