In July 1947, Jack Kerouac began the part of his life he called his "life on the road."  His purpose, according to a letter to friend Hal Chase, was to know the United States as he knew "the palm of [his] hand."  "My subject as a writer is of course America," claimed Kerouac, "and simply, I must know everything about it."  In Kerouac, biographer Ann Charters likens Kerouac to "the American pioneers a hundred years before."  According to Charters, Kerouac "wanted to come as close as possible to their style and their experience of the West." 

Ten years after Kerouac first set out for the Bear Mountain Bridge, Viking published On the Road.  Cited as "an historic occasion" by New York Times reviewer Gilbert Millstein, the publication of Kerouac's second novel marked a new beginning for the Beat movement. 

Almost instantly, Jack Kerouac became a "romantic hero, an archetypal rebel, the symbol of [his generation's] own vanities, the symbol of their romantic legend."  And "as he wrote it down the legend became, finally, the one reality of his life."  Thus, although On the Road is a work of fiction, it is also a memoire of Kerouac's road experiences.  This site attempts to merge these experiences with those of Kerouac's narrator, Sal Paradise, by taking On the Road for a ride.

Recreating Sal and Jack's Journey

Below are links to geographical recreations of four of On the Road's five parts.  Each recreation includes a map of the entire trip made during that part of the novel, as well as closer looks at the components of that trip.  The four sections also include links to photographs and maps of specific cities, a sample of Kerouac's letters, and reviews of the novel.  These links are also available below, under "Jack Kerouac's America."
Part 1: Patterson, NJ to San Francisco, CA via Denver, CO and San Francisco, CA to Patterson, NJ
Part 2: Patterson, NJ to San Francisco, CA via New Orleans, LA
Part 3: San Francisco, CA to Patterson, NJ via Denver, CO
Part 4: New York City, NY to Mexico City, Mexico

Jack Kerouac's America

Kerouac's New York
Kerouac's Denver
Kerouac's San Francisco
Letters From the Road
America Responds to On the Road: Reviews from Across the Nation