In 2015, I published an interactive map of the routes followed by the authors of twelve of the most famous road-trip books in American literature: On the Road by Jack Kerouac, Roughing It by Mark Twain, Wild by Cheryl Strayed, and so on. This was a passion project I worked on for many months. I started by underlining in red ink every mention of a place-name in each of the books. Then I typed the relevant sentences into a spreadsheet and found the GPS coordinates of the places mentioned in them. I passed the spreadsheet off to the talented designer Steven Melendez to create the map. To my surprise and delight, the map went viral. It was covered in papers around the world, including The Guardian and the Washington Post, and I was interviewed by journalists from Australia to Italy to Iran. Later the map was included in a collection of the best infographics of 2015.
On a four month road trip around the country in 2012, with my then-girlfriend and now-wife, we often went out of our way to visit any place remotely connected with Bob Dylan. Thus, in the Mississippi Delta, we made a point of searching out Highway 61. In Minnesota, we went well out of our way to do a drive-by of his childhood home in Hibbing. And in Ohio, with the sun going down and no idea where we would end up sleeping that night (incredibly, given that we had woken up in Chicago, it ended up being Niagara Falls), we stopped to search out some covered bridges in Ashtabula, the small name-checked in “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go.”
The next year, with my friend Thomas Bollier, a fellow Bob Dylan fanatic, I went through the lyrics of every song Bob Dylan ever wrote and logged the coordinates of each place he mentioned. Chris Kirk turned that data into a map that allowed the user to click a point, read the lyrics, and even listen to the song on Spotify. I have no idea, of course, whether Dylan himself ever saw it, but the map was promoted on his site.