If you’re a fan of 20th-century American literature, then assuredly you’re familiar with On The Road, Jack Keroauc’s classic tale of traversing our great country. While reading the novel, you start to wonder what all that travel would be like. From trains, to buses, to rented jalopies and hitch-hiked rides, Sal Paradise, Dean Moriarty and a host of other Bohemian compatriots take in the great West, from New York to Mexico. But with all that locomotion, you might ask yourself, how long are they on the GD road?
Well, thanks to graduate student Gregor Weichbrodt and Google Maps, we now have an answer: 17,527 miles. Or 272.26 hours. The directions, as parsed by Google Maps API, are compiled into a 55 page manual, titled On The Road for 17527 Miles, and is available to read or buy online, or in print. Don’t expect to see a bullet point list of directions, though. Weichbrodt presents the directions as ordinary text in a book and arranged them to match the chapters of the novel.
Kerouac’s was not a trip of efficiency. But, if you’ve ever endeavored on a road-trip, you know it’s not about making good time; it’s about all the sights, sounds and potential experiences that await you.
Flying is amazing because even though a flight to New Zealand is at least 12 hours from anywhere in America, a boat to New Zealand would take such an astronomically longer time. Flying allows us to get to far-away places in no time. It’s efficient. You can also get wildly drunk while doing it. But while flying, you don’t get the cultural immersion that comes with seeing every mile of the journey the way you do traveling by car, train, or foot.
Many first-time readers of On The Road struggle to understand the point of a narrative without well-defined conflicts and a conclusion seemingly devoid of climax. Considering Sal Paradise’s quixotic 17,527 mile trek up, down and across the United States, it’s clear the intent was the journey; the destinations merely served as sources of entertainment, places of refuge and establishments to drink.
And that’s why in 2014, the book, as well as the companion turn-by-turn directions, are such vital reminders for us to slow down and appreciate what little time off we have each year. Kerouac sums it up better than I could ever hope to:
“But why think about that when all the golden lands ahead of you and all kinds of unforseen events wait lurking to surprise you and make you glad you’re alive to see?”
So if you haven’t read it before or it’s been several years, treat yo self to On The Road, and more importantly get out on the road yourself. It might not be summer yet, but it’s always the right time to plan your next vacation.