Monday, July 23, 2012

Jack Kerouac and U.S. Route 6

Jack Kerouac's famous false start in On The Road is recounted in this HuffPo article by Malerie Yohen-Cohen. I'm not convinced, as the author suggests, that Kerouac is responsible for Route 6 being ignored because of his bad experience trying to hitchhike on Route 6 near Bear Mountain Bridge (search for Bear Mountain, NY with Google Maps and you'll see the bridge crossing the Hudson River). Besides, she is hawking her book and what better way to get attention for a travel book than to throw in a Kerouac reference?

Regardless, I grew up in a little Pennsylvania town - Wellsboro - situated directly on Route 6, and you can practically drive (or hitchhike) the entire breadth of the United States on this one road. Currently, it seems that its eastern terminus is Provincetown, Massachusetts and its western terminus (once in Long Beach) is Bishop, California (according to this website). Google Maps seems to confirm these terminal points.

I know the general terrain Jack was hitchhiking through near Bear Mountain, and in a torrential downpour/thunderstorm, it could be foreboding indeed. Too bad he didn't stick to his plan and stop in my hometown, but here's what we're left with in Jack's own words:
It was my dream that screwed up, the stupid hearthside idea that it would be wonderful to follow one great red line across America instead of trying various roads and routes.
Sounds like a Kerouaction-in-waiting to me: hitchhike or drive across the entire U.S. on Route 6. Throw Malerie's book - Stay On Route 6; Your Guide to All 3,652 Miles of Transcontinental US Route 6 - in your rucksack for the trip along with your salami sandwiches and jar of Cheez Whiz.

Happy travels. And say hi to my friends in Wellsboro on your way through.


Baltimore Colts fan said...

Other 2-lane trips worth mentioning are Old Route 66, the Lincoln Highway, and Old US 80; lots of vintage relics and engaging landscapes along these historic trails.

Malerie Yolen-Cohen said...

Hi Rick - OK, You got me. Yep, I am trying to "hawk my book" but while doing extensive research before taking my cross-country trip, I was trying to come up with theories about why so few people know about Route 6 much less travel it. Kerouac's On The Road was influential and had he made that crossing completely on 6, the highway might have been bestowed with mystique to rival Route 66! But I REALLY appreciate your blog post and publicity for my book. Going to get my Cheez Whiz and The Beat Handbook now!