Mr. I sent me a link recently to Atlas Obscura’s “The Obsessively Detailed Map of American Literature’s Most Epic Road Trips.” It is obsessive. Richard Kreitner (writing) and Steven Melendez (map) partnered to create a compelling interactive map over which colored lines streak following the stories of Blue Highways (1982), On the Road (1957), Travels with Charley (1962), Wild (2012), Roughing It (1872), and more. With one click, you can read how a variety of authors experienced the same place. Over 1,500 passages are painstakingly linked to the map. The work is so compelling, as one person’s perception could be so different from your own. It can color your view of that place for the future.
“We walked seven miles along the mournful Susquehanna. It is a terrifying river. It has bushy cliffs on both sides that lean like hairy ghosts over the unknown waters. Inky night covers all. Sometimes from the railyards across the river rises a great red locomotive flare that illuminates the horrid cliffs.”
Today, my experience of the same river valley is somewhat flipped. My family has been making a living moving among communities in Maryland and Pennsylvania along the river for nearly 400 years. I see more loss in the absence of transportation along the rails and the river than I do terror at the machinery that used to operate on its banks. I suppose diesel doesn’t command the same respect, but I find atrophy worse than fire.