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America Road Trip: How To Plan A Jack Kerouac Inspired Adventure From Denver To San Francisco

When Jack Kerouac set out across the US to the Pacific Ocean from New Jersey, he had $ 50 in his pocket, the freedom of the road and the rails ahead of him, plus a glint in his eye: ‘Full From dreams of what I would do in Chicago, Denver, and finally San Francisco, I took the Seventh Avenue subway. . .

And he left, on a series of wild adventures that began in 1947 and that were to form the backbone of his vivid 1957 novel On The Road, which captures the counterculture atmosphere in postwar America.

Not having enough time to follow all his footsteps, we hit the road in Denver at the beginning of a 1,250-mile journey through five states along the route Kerouac took.

Ed Isacke of the Daily Mail started his road trip in Denver, which is a 'funky modern place with art galleries, gleaming skyscrapers and fancy restaurants.'

Ed Isacke of the Daily Mail started his road trip in Denver, which is a ‘funky modern place with art galleries, gleaming skyscrapers and fancy restaurants.’

Hit the highway - the map above shows the 1,250-mile route, which passes through five states

Hit the highway - the map above shows the 1,250-mile route, which passes through five states

Hit the highway – the map above shows the 1,250-mile route, which passes through five states

There were fifteen days ahead of life in remote stretches of the highway, staying in a small quiet city in the United States between the Big Smokes, mainly Denver (in Colorado), Salt Lake City (Utah) and San Francisco (California). The latter is the famous hangout for many of the Beat Generation, as they became known (for being ‘beaten’, tired, and occasionally ‘beatific’).

Nicknamed the ‘Mile-High City’ on the edge of the Rocky Mountains, Denver is now a lively modern place with art galleries, gleaming skyscrapers and elegant restaurants. However, in Kerouac’s time, the city center had been home to “hipsters, scammers.” . . old tramps and cowboys’ in which the writer took great delight.

Some of these characters still lurk, but these days around Larimer Street, the epicenter of nonconformity in the 1940s and 1950s, some of the best fine dining restaurants in the city are found alongside stylish clothing and jewelry boutiques. .

It is considered one of the most fashionable districts. You can still get a taste of the old ways at My Brother’s Bar on 15th Street, an old red brick joint where Kerouac is said to have drank and hung out with friends.

We raise a glass to the Beat poets of yesteryear, especially Kerouac (who transforms into the protagonist Sal Paradise in On The Road) and Neal Cassady (Dean Moriarty in the book).

Bucolic beauty: Ed from the Daily Mail stayed at a waterside lodge for a couple of days at Lake Tahoe.

Bucolic beauty: Ed from the Daily Mail stayed at a waterside lodge for a couple of days at Lake Tahoe.

Bucolic beauty: Ed from the Daily Mail stayed at a waterside lodge for a couple of days at Lake Tahoe.

Then we hit the road by ourselves. From Denver we drove first into the Rocky Mountains, staying in Central City, a former gold mining center where Kerouac had once been to ‘old taverns with swing doors’ and met a lot of hipsters in the hills. Many old and untidy buildings survive, although most are cafes or hardware stores, while there is still a lively atmosphere, thanks to no less than six casinos dotted here and there.

The northbound trip on Interstate 25 spanned vast tracts of farmland beyond the mountains to Wyoming. After turning left onto Interstate 80, which would take us to San Francisco, we stopped in the small town of Saratoga, just off the freeway.

Wyoming is an extraordinary state, larger than Great Britain, but with a population of 578,000, and there is a feeling of being one step away from the mainstream of the United States, in the middle of a vast expanse of wheat and hay fields.

End of the road: San Francisco was the last stop on the unforgettable trip.  In the photo is the famous Golden Gate Bridge.

End of the road: San Francisco was the last stop on the unforgettable trip.  In the photo is the famous Golden Gate Bridge.

End of the road: San Francisco was the last stop on the unforgettable trip. In the photo is the famous Golden Gate Bridge.

HOW TO DO IT

A 14-day flight from Denver to San Francisco from £ 2,499 pp with car rentals, hotels and return flights (bon-voyage.co.uk).

Return flights to San Francisco from £ 453 pp; tailor made trips available (flightcentre.co.uk).

12-day group tours of California and the West from £ 3,299 per person next May, including flights and hotels (travelsphere.co.uk).

Guided 18-day solo traveler tours covering the ‘Western Wonders of America’ from £ 5,449 pp, flights and hotels included (justyou.co.uk).

This is the land of trucks. Guys in camo suits and baseball caps nod to you at the gas station. At our motel, which (oddly) came with hot tubs in the garden, the veterans drank Buds and the local sheriff would pass by, park his cruiser by the entrance and come in to say ‘hi’ to the owner.

Back on Interstate 80, we reached Salt Lake City after crossing the Continental Divide (halfway between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans) on a long stretch of very straight highway.

The first sight of the capital of Utah had brought Kerouac to a state near ecstasy: ‘I saw God in the sky in the form of huge golden clouds that burned the sun over the desert that seemed to point the finger at me and say: here and on, you’re on your way to heaven. ” ‘

Inspirational stuff. And we enjoyed visiting the wonderful, almost dazzling white salt flats outside of the city, as well as the intriguing Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the center of the city. Very few abandoned poets (that we got to see) these days, but a lot of tourists taking selfies.

The trip led through the canyon lands to Elko in Nevada, where gold mining is still a major industry and yet more casinos could be found near our simple motel on Main Street. Then came the bucolic beauty of Lake Tahoe, where we stayed at a waterside lodge for two days.

Beyond was California and the sparkling ocean, after winding roads through fertile valleys and arriving in San Francisco “at the end of America,” as Kerouac had put it, and where many of his Beat poet friends had been waiting for him.

These days, of course, it’s a hub of a new conformity, with all the Google, Facebook, and Amazon headquarters nearby. Different types of hipsters in 2021.

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