With winter winding to a close, there is no better time to hop in the car, roll down the windows, and enjoy the warm breezes of spring as you venture off to places unknown. From John Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley to Jack Kerouac’s iconic On the Road, literature is ripe with tales of road trips, penned by authors sharing their experiences traveling the country. With summer fast approaching, isn’t it time to imagine your own cross country adventure?
Over the years I’ve often planned hypothetical road trips for myself, drawing zigzagging lines with a Sharpie across maps of the United States, hopeful to take my own journey one day. But of all the lines I have drawn, my favorite always takes me a southern route from the North East down through Georgia, Mississippi and Louisiana. I believe one reason it’s my favorite route is because the South has been so vividly portrayed in literature. From the grandiose to the grotesque, Southern writers from Flannery O’Connor to Margaret Mitchell have painted brilliant portraits of the South in their works.
While I long to witness the natural beauty the South has to offer, see the Mississippi River and experience the splendor of the Louisiana bayou, I am sure even these urges have their root in my experience of Southern literature. So it only makes sense that on any road trip through the Southern U.S., literary travelers pay homage to the literary greats that lived and wrote there. While New Orleans is well known for its associations with literature, from Tennessee Williams to Truman Capote, the South is brimming with less well-known but equally fascinating ways to connect with literary history.
In Atlanta, Georgia, let the wind take you in the direction of the Margaret Mitchell House and Museum on Peachtree Street. While it took Mitchell almost a decade to finish the epic Gone with the Wind, you can tour the museum in a couple of hours, viewing her living space and a selection of her letters. Travel to Atlanta this April 20-22nd, and receive free admission to the house during the Atlanta Dogwood Festival, an event that draws artists from around the world.
If you take your adventure to Savannah, visit the one-time residence of writer Flannery O’Connor. While A Good Man is Hard to Find, the author’s childhood home, located on East Charlton Street, is not! The house where the author resided from 1925-1938 contains some of the original furnishings. For more O’Connor memorabilia continue on to Georgia College and State University, where there is a room dedicated to the famous alumnus that houses her writing desk and typewriter, among other artifacts including the author’s own personal library of more than 700 titles.
In Mississippi, honor William Faulkner with a visit to his Rowan Oak estate located in Oxford. Originally built in 1844, the property is now owned by the University of Mississippi and visitors are admitted to view the space where Faulkner lived and worked for over thirty years. The Oxford, MS Convention & Visitors Bureau offers a more extensive map of “Faulkner Country.” So download one here, and meander at your own pace through the stomping ground of this twentieth century great.
Like John Steinbeck wrote in Travels with Charley, “we do not take a trip; a trip takes us.” The next stop is up to us.