US Nationwide Literary Road Trips
Our literary-themed nationwide road trips feature a plan for the road including maps with detailed markers and links to writers’ pages on authoradventures.org.
US Literary Road Trip #1:
Bad Boys of Books Interactive US Road Trip Map
The Bad Boys of Books National Road Trip of the US, an example of a trail organized by theme, is a tongue-in-cheek tribute to the guys with gusto, writers whose fearlessness won hearts and earned respect.
These writers attracted attention and gained success by expertly challenging what was popular. The more we understand the twists and turns of their lives, the more we can appreciate their work and the lessons taught through their words and example.
Click here for the interactive version featuring names, addresses, routes between stops, and authoradventures.org pages connected to each marker: Bad Boys of Books National Road Trip Map.
The Bad Boys Road Trip begins in Massachusetts, takes you south to Key West, westward to Los Angeles and continues on to circle the nation, ending in Maine.
Starting in the Northeast:
1. Jack Kerouac – Massachusetts The original hipster known as the literary lion of the counter-culture Beat generation.
2. Henry David Thoreau – Massachusetts The author of Civil Disobedience was imprisoned for refusing to pay his taxes.
3. Mark Twain – Connecticut His clever wit and edgy perspective changed the way generations of readers thought.
4. Washington Irving – New York Known for his “headless horseman,” this man of letters totally got it about copyright infringement. If he knew what was happening today, where people assume anything online is publicly owned, he would be leading the charge against the tide of “stealers.”
5. Stephen Crane – New Jersey He pulled writing ideas from his own bohemian lifestyle, accrued serious debt as an over-spender, and had several major illnesses that stemmed from his Bowery days before dying at the age of 28.
6. Benjamin Franklin – Pennsylvania A genius. A scientist. An inventor. Some might even say he was a wizard. Nothing would stop this man from pushing the boundaries way ahead of his time.
Heading to the South:
7. Edgar Allan Poe – Virginia American literature’s earliest writer of frightful fiction married a 13-year-old cousin when he was 27 and died mysteriously on the road.
8. Thomas Wolfe – North Carolina One of America’s strongest writers was not liked by his neighbors for coming a little too close to reality with his fictional characterizations, then, sadly died of an illness at the young age of 37.
9. Ernest Hemingway – South Carolina This rabble-rousing winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, and a Pulitzer Prize, was a bull-fighter with several doomed marriages.
10. Stephen Crane – Florida And here he is again, that hard-livin’ writer!
11. Ernest Hemingway – Florida That same rabble-rouser, only this time you can see just how well he lived in the Shangri-La of Key West!
12. F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda Fitzgerald – Alabama This couple was the toast of the town in the Roaring Twenties, but their freewheeling lifestyle caught up with them when the economy collapsed.
13. William Faulkner – Mississippi Too short to serve in the U.S. military, he lied about his birthplace and the spelling of his name in order to serve in the Royal Air Force of Great Britain and later became known for exaggerated war stories. His writing challenged the status quo of The South.
14. The French Quarter – Louisiana (Tennessee Williams, William Faulkner, Jack Kerouac, and more) This was a hot-spot for all sorts of life choices of major writers.
15. O. Henry – Texas Charged with embezzlement, he fled to New Orleans and then Honduras before serving a three-year prison term in Ohio.
16. Witter Bynner – New Mexico Witter Bynner’s place was Party Central for the likes of D.H. Lawrence, Aldous Huxley, and many other writers, artists, and Hollywood actors.
17. Zane Grey – Arizona Known as the “greatest storyteller of the American West,” he was also known for having a harem of mistresses across the decades of his marriage, including a teenager he dated at age 50.
18. Musso & Frank Grill – California The favorite watering hole for the likes of F. Scott Fitzgerald and William Faulkner still serves the old favorites right on Hollywood Boulevard.
19. Jack London – California Imprisoned at age 18 for vagrancy, he published stories about his experience as a “hobo” before battling the harsh elements of the Klondike in a search for gold.
21. Mark Twain – Nevada America’s favorite writer began his newspaper career here and challenged the prevailing perspectives of his day.
22. Ezra Pound – Idaho Though he had tirelessly supported writers early in their careers, Pound became a pro-Fascist supporter of Benito Mussolini and was confined to a mental asylum in his later years because he was not considered stable enough to stand trial for treason.
23. Buffalo Bill – Wyoming No buffalo had reason to feel safe with this frontier rock star around. He killed more than 4,000 buffalo in his lifetime. And he attracted a lot of women. According to theRochester Morning Herald (1879), “If any lady wishes to behold one of the most perfect and handsomest specimens of manhood in existence, she will have to go and see William F. Cody.” More than 70 million people around the world saw his shows.
24. Theodore Roosevelt – North Dakota Truly a tough guy, Theodore Roosevelt dealt with the grief of losing his mother and wife on the same day by heading alone to the Badlands frontier of North Dakota, which built up his bravery, courage, and physical health. Later he took charge of the Rough Riders in Cuba and then became a United States president after President William McKinley was assassinated. When Roosevelt was president, he had no vice president.
Traveling to the Midwest:
25. Sinclair Lewis – Minnesota His neighbors wanted to kick him out of town because the characters he wrote about sounded a little too familiar.
26. Mark Twain – Missouri America’s favorite writer, who questioned pretty much everything, led readers to do the same.
27. Ernest Hemingway – Illinois There’s that rabble-rousing writer again!
28. Kurt Vonnegut – Indiana His books challenged the status quo and earned a place on many Banned Books lists.
29. Zane Grey – Ohio America’s top writer of Westerns was quite the womanizer during his long marriage.
Returning to the Northeast:
30. Frederic Remington – New York A tough guy who embraced the vigorous lifestyle of the West, including an investment in a saloon, brought us art and writings about cowboy bravado like no other.
31. John Dewey – Vermont Fired from his first job in education because of office politics, he forged on to become one of America’s most influential writers in the education field.
32. Stephen King – Maine In high school, he produced a satirical newspaper called the Village Vomit and went on to become the most successful American horror writer of the late 20th century and beyond. He has also played in a rock band with other writing luminaries. The movie Stand By Me, based on his story The Body, about adolescent boys who discover the dead body of a missing boy, is considered semi-autobiographical.
If you wonder about the female counterparts to “Bad Boys of Books,” click here for our Pioneering Women interactive map.
US Nationwide Literary Road Trip #2:
Pioneering Women Writers Interactive US Road Trip Map:
Drive the route of history-making women writers.
Walk in their footsteps.
Five centuries of American women who pioneered new ways of living and writing, from autobiographical chronicles to prize-winning fiction, are featured on this interactive map. All of the landmarks on this trip are open to the public. The road trip begins with the women writers of Plimoth Plantation in Massachusetts, moves south to Florida, then through the lower Midwest, on west to New Mexico, then north, then heads east, ending with the Rachel Carson home in Pennsylvania.
Beginning in the Northeast:
- Pioneering women like Mary Ring and Martha Harding bravely boarded the Mayflower for a new land as young wives of craftsmen and kept meticulous written records about life at Plimoth Plantation that still benefit our knowledge of history today. Read more about this fascinating place on our William Bradford page.
“Jo March.” a character central to Louisa May Alcott‘s classic book, Little Women, was “the first American juvenile heroine to act from her own individuality –a living, breathing person rather than the idealized stereotype then prevalent in children’s fiction” (louisamayalcott.org). Adjacent to the home is the school of transcendentalism, the epicenter from which it began to flourish through New England.
- Edith Wharton was the first woman to be awarded the Pulitzer Prize for fiction (1921). Her best-known works are Ethan Frome, House of Mirth and The Age of Innocence. She wrote more than 40 books on many subjects.
- Harriet Beecher Stowe sent publishing records into the stratosphere with an anti-slavery book that turned the world on its head, Uncle Tom’s Cabin. 10,000 copies were sold in the first week in a world without phones, internet, or even automobiles. The quantity of unauthorized reprints published worldwide in its first year cannot be fully calculated but was more than a million in England alone.
New York poet Emma Lazarus, of American Jewish descent, reimagined the symbol of the Statue of Liberty. Her poem, “The New Colossus,” established it as a beacon representing opportunity and freedom for immigrants fleeing to the US.
- Pearl S. Buck, a child of missionaries, spent 40 years in China and wrote the classic novel, The Good Earth, which cast a worldwide light on the plight of Chinese women, of which very little was known at the time in the US. She won a Pulitzer and the Nobel Prize. This location is the headquarters of Pearl S. Buck International, which carries on her mission “to explore and appreciate other cultures.”
- Scientist Rachel Carson‘s book, Silent Spring, was not taken seriously until the world caught up to her foresight about the damage of chemicals to the natural environment. Her writing was decades ahead of its time. Carson lived in Montgomery County and the park was named after her following her death.
- Chef Julia Child‘s Mastering the Art of French Cooking was the groundbreaking culinary book that set the standard for cooking instruction. Her kitchen is on display at the American History Museum of the Smithsonian Institution.
- Pearl S. Buck, author of The Good Earth, winner of a Pulitzer and the Nobel Prize, was born at this location.
Heading to the South:
- Thanks to historian Adelaide Fries, we have detailed historical records of Moravians in Old Salem, North Carolina, dating back to the 1700s.
- Margaret Mitchell‘s novel, Gone With the Wind, written while she was convalescing from an illness, made Mitchell an instant celebrity in 1936 and earned her the Pulitzer Prize. The movie that was based on the book became an icon of American cinema.
- Juliette Gordon Low started Girl Scouts in 1917. Still thriving more than a hundred years later, its handbook has been an instruction book for girls on subjects ranging from survival in the wilderness to entrepreneurship.
- Anthropologist and author Zora Neale Hurston lived in many parts of Florida while writing novels and researching folklore. The daughter of formerly enslaved persons, she landed a scholarship to prestigious Barnard College, became a fixture in the Harlem Renaissance, and is best known for writing the social commentary novel Their Eyes Were Watching God. The museum named for her is in the first independently governed African-American town.
- Teacher and author Martha Munzer was the first woman to earn an electrochemical engineering degree from M.I.T. She published 11 books, beginning at age 52, about conservation, ecology, and the history of her town, Lauderdale-By-The-Sea. (A focal point of the book and the city is the pier, which has attracted “boatless fishers” and divers for decades.)
- Journalist and environmental activist Marjorie Stoneman Douglas, whose father launched the newspaper that became The Miami Herald, was the first to devote incalculable time toward conserving the Everglades, which became Everglades National Park. She also founded the influential Friends of the Everglades in 1970. Her book, The Everglades: River of Grass, became an environmental classic.
- Harper Lee won a Pulitzer Prize for her book, To Kill A Mockingbird, one of the most popular American novels about social injustice of all time, and required reading in many high schools nationwide. It also yielded an Academy Award-winning movie by the same name.
- Writer and photographer Eudora Welty won a Pulitzer Prize for the book, The Optimists Daughter. She also received the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the French Legion of Honor, and was chosen as the first living writer to be published in the Library of America series.
- The Story of My Life is the autobiography of Helen Keller who, due to a childhood illness, lost her vision and hearing. Her book, and lectures in 25 countries, raised new levels of public awareness of what it is like to manage major physical challenges throughout life and what can be accomplished with drive and determination.
On to the Midwest:
Laura Ingalls Wilder is the author of the “Little House” series about family life during the 19th century. This is the place where she wrote the classic series about frontier life. More Laura Ingalls Wilder destinations are to come on this national road trip.
- The first American female cartoonist, Rose Cecil O’Neill joined the staff of Puck, a magazine of political satire, as an illustrator. She was a women’s rights activist and worked hard for the cause of giving women the right to vote. She wrote novels and poetry and was known for having a wide circle of creative and interesting friends. She was especially known as the creator of the famous Kewpie doll.
- The Little House Museum is at the location of the home of author Laura Ingalls Wilder, who wrote about life on the frontier through her “Little House” books. The museum sits on the land once owned by her family.
- S.E. Hinton‘s The Outsiders, written when she was 15, was essentially the beginning point of popularity for young adult reality fiction. It won the ALA Best Young Adult Book Award. The movie theater played a central role in the book and the movie based on it, which was also filmed there.
To the Southwest:
- Willa Cather studied life at the pueblos, including Isleta Pueblo, while writing the ultimate book about the earliest years of missionaries in New Mexico, Death Comes for the Archbishop.
- Artist Georgia O’Keeffe authored One Hundred Flowers, which introduced nature in ways previously unseen that set a standard for future artists. The museum displays her work.
- Ghost Ranch offers a view to the mountain that inspired artist and writer Georgia O’Keeffe to paint. Her books and paintings educated the public on the natural beauty of the Southwest landscape.
This house is part of the hometown tour of Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Willa Cather, author of Death Comes for the Archbishop, My Antonia, O Pioneers! and other groundbreaking books about life in the rugged frontier. The tour includes Cather’s modest childhood home as well as the one that bore her friendship with Annie Pavelka, the inspiration for “Antonia” of My Antonia.
To the Northern Midwest:
- DeSmet offers the historic homes of Laura Ingalls Wilder, author of the “Little House” children’s book series about her family’s life on the frontier.
- This museum, a testament to Laura Ingalls Wilder, can direct you to a private family farm nearby which allows public access for a small donation. On the farm, you can see what remains of the Ingalls’ dugout house on Plum Creek. You can also wade in Plum Creek.
- Wanda Ga’g‘s Millions of Cats is known as the first picture book published by an American artist. It is one of few picture books to win a Newbery Honor award and remains the oldest American picture book in print. Her home is open to the public by appointment.
- Birchbark Books is the only independent bookstore launched and owned by an award-winning woman author. Louise Erdrich‘s many novels about Native American life are popular books for all ages.
- The museum sits on the land once owned by the family of frontier author Laura Ingalls Wilder, who wrote the “Little House” series.
- This is the hotel that the Ingalls family ran in Burr Oak when frontier life author Laura Ingalls Wilder was a child.
- Gwendolyn Brooks was a tour de force African-American poet who won the highest awards in American literature for her work, beginning with being the first African-American to win a Pulitzer Prize in 1950. This playground park is named after Brooks, a lifelong Chicago resident.
- Born a slave, abolitionist and women’s rights advocate Sojourner Truth was the first black woman in US history to successfully sue a white man who had illegally purchased her five-year-old son. The Narrative of Sojourner Truth was dictated to a friend because she never learned to read. Her best known speech, Ain’t I a Woman, remains required reading in many schools. In the last decades of her life, Truth made her home in Battle Creek. This museum offers the Sojourner Truth Exhibit Room which has the only known copy of her signature.
- Ellen G. White authored countless books and articles related to vegetarianism and health. She helped launch the Seventh Day Adventist denomination. Her home is part of Historic Adventist Village and is where she wrote books that would become Seventh Day Adventist standards.
- The Harriet Beecher Stowe House in Cincinnati is where the author of the worldwide record-setting anti-slavery novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, lived before she was married. Abraham Lincoln was said to have coyly suggested the novel led to the Civil War.
Return to the East Coast:
- The Rachel Carson Homestead in Springdale is the birthplace and childhood home of environmentalist and author Rachel Carson. Her four books gained considerable attention decades after they were published, the most successful being Silent Spring.
US Nationwide Literary Road Trip #3:
Wagon Tour for Laura Ingalls Wilder Fans
In honor of the 150th birthday of Laura Ingalls Wilder, midwestweekends.com published a road trip that follows the homesteads of the beloved pioneer author. We share our experiences of many places on that same route here:
In addition to the homesteads of Laura Ingalls Wilder, we recommend a stop at the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library, which is a great halfway point, to see its ongoing Wilder family exhibits. For even more details about the author’s life, read an article about lesser known parts of her history here: latimes.com/books.
Far removed from prairie life, travelers to the South can visit a Laura Ingalls Wilder stop in the Florida panhandle called the “Laura Ingalls Wilder Homestead Park,” which is on the site where the author and her husband lived briefly (1891-1892). The park features a marker and is near the historic church of the era but the house is no longer there. We recommend adding it to the Alabama Author Adventures Trail rather than the Florida Author Adventure Trail, as it is closer to the Alabama border. Read about it here: Laura Ingalls Wilder Homestead Park.
Recently, the American Library Association renamed a national literary achievement award that was originally named after Laura Ingalls Wilder. For both the American Library Association and Author Adventures, this does not diminish the important contribution of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books to the overall history and catalog of US literature.
The Wagon Tour:
US Nationwide Literary Road Trip #4:
Interactive Map of War Writers National Road Trip
This trip begins with the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library in Massachusetts, runs south to the Hemingway House in Key West, then west to the National Steinbeck Museum in California, then north through the Theodore Roosevelt National Park, on back to the Frederic Remington Museum in upstate New York.
Click the interactive map and watch the place markers connect the stops. Click the markers to see the place names, addresses, and author links.
Starting in the Northeast:
- John F. Kennedy: World War II Lieutenant in the U.S. Navy (MA)
- James Fenimore Cooper: War of 1812 Midshipman in the U.S. Navy (NJ)
- National Civil War Museum (PA)
- James Madison: Revolutionary War Colonel in the Virginia Militia (VA)
- Carl Sandburg: Spanish-American War Private in the U.S. Army (NC)
- Elmore Leonard: World War II Petty Officer Third Class in the U.S. Navy Seabees (SC)
- Juliette Gordon Low: World War I (the founder of Girl Scouts; Girl Scouts and Girl Guides helped the war effort, occasionally serving as spies) (GA)
- Stephen Crane: Spanish-American War and Greco-Turkish War correspondent (FL)
- Ernest Hemingway: World War I ambulance driver and correspondent for the Greco-Turkish War, the Spanish Civil War, and World War II (FL)
- J.N. “Ding” Darling: World War II anti-Nazi editorial cartoonist (FL)
- F. Scott Fitzgerald: World War I Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army (AL)
- William Faulkner: World War I Royal Air Force Reserve Unit (MS)
Heading West to the Northern Midwest:
- Ralph Ellison: World War II Merchant Marine (OK)
- Lew Wallace: Civil War Major General in the Union Army (NM)
- Ernie Pyle: World War II correspondent (NM)
- Louis Zamperini: World War II Captain and Bombadier in the U.S. Army (CA)
- Edgar Rice Burroughs: World War II’s oldest war correspondent (CA)
- John Steinbeck: World War II correspondent (CA)
- Charles M. Schulz: World War II Staff Sergeant in the U.S. Army (CA)
- Richard Hugo: World War II First Lieutenant and Bombadier in the U.S. Army (WA)
- Ernest Hemingway: World War I ambulance driver and correspondent for the Greco-Turkish War, the Spanish Civil War, and World War II (ID)
- Buffalo Bill Cody: Civil War Union Army Private (Chief of Scouts) (WY)
- Theodore Roosevelt: Spanish-American War Colonel in the U.S. Army and Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Navy (ND)
- Louis L’Amour: World War II Lieutenant in the U.S. Army (ND)
- August Wilson: Vietnam War cook (MN)
- J.R.R. Tolkien: World War I Lieutenant in the British Army (WI)
- Ernest Hemingway: World War I ambulance driver and correspondent for the Greco-Turkish War, the Spanish Civil War, and World War II (IL)
- Ambrose Bierce: Civil War First Lieutenant in the Union Army (IN)
- Louis Bromfield: World War I ambulance driver (OH)
From the Midwest Returning to the Northeast for the Final Stop of the US Loop:
Willing to go the extra distance? Add these unusual stops:
- Julia Child‘s kitchen at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in DC: Child was a research assistant in the Central Intelligence Division of the Office of Strategic Services during World War II
- Homer Hickam, of West Virginia, known as the main character of the book Rocket Boys, which inspired the movie October Sky: Hickam was a Captain in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War — his childhood haunts are all over this hidden hamlet
- John Graves, who worked to preserve the Brazos River in Texas, was a Captain in the U.S. Marine Corps in World War II