US journeys west to east
September 26, 2011 9:40 AM   Subscribe

What cultural narratives involve an American journey from west to east?

A friend of mine just moved from San Francisco to Boston, and on her drive east, she realized that all of the journey narratives she could think of that involve travel in the US have the movement from east to west. Can you think of some that go west to east? Books, stories, movies, etc all count.
posted by rosa to Travel & Transportation (22 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford and the film have such a story, although Ford returns west again.
posted by michaelh at 9:54 AM on September 26, 2011

The Chukchi Bible has a journey from west to east.
posted by cog_nate at 9:55 AM on September 26, 2011

This is probably not exactly what you have in mind, but Less than Zero and The Secret History are both about native Californians who go to college on the East Coast (I believe the colleges in both are based on Bennington in Vermont). They focus on cultural differences rather than actual travel-- any travel in question is done by plane, and so is insignificant to the story. Both are part of a minor (but growing?) trope of young people rejecting "shallow" West Coast culture in favor of "deep" East Coast tradition, with varying success.
posted by oinopaponton at 9:56 AM on September 26, 2011

Dogma. Zombieland until they meet the girls.
posted by fraac at 10:03 AM on September 26, 2011

When Harry Met Sally starts with a drive from Chicago to New York.
posted by cider at 10:04 AM on September 26, 2011

Theodore Dreiser's Sister Carrie -- the move from the midwest (or the small town in general) to NYC is another cultural narrative.
posted by Tylwyth Teg at 10:04 AM on September 26, 2011

Laura Ingalls Wilder's On The Way Home, which is the diary she kept while traveling from South Dakota to Missouri.
posted by pie ninja at 10:11 AM on September 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

The Great Gatsby. From midwest to east, but that still counts.
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 10:28 AM on September 26, 2011

Wagons East.
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:51 AM on September 26, 2011

John Steinbeck made a round trip in Travels With Charley, though the trip back home to Long Island had fewer stops than the westward portion.
posted by argonauta at 10:56 AM on September 26, 2011

A lot of those East to West people came back, if that counts. Lewis & Clark's return trip was not uneventful.

The first cross country road trip went from San Francisco to NY. (Very amusing documentary, btw, if you haven't seen it.)
posted by DestinationUnknown at 10:58 AM on September 26, 2011

(Oops, this is a better link than the one above.)
posted by DestinationUnknown at 11:00 AM on September 26, 2011

Damnation Alley
posted by Kirth Gerson at 11:57 AM on September 26, 2011

Easy Rider
posted by yohko at 12:17 PM on September 26, 2011

Two-Lane Blacktop - and you thought James Taylor was an easy-going folk singer
posted by obscurator at 12:23 PM on September 26, 2011

Here's a good fit: I just read Bold Spirit, which tells this remarkable, true and fascinating story:

"In 1896, a Norwegian immigrant and mother of eight children named Helga Estby was behind on taxes and the mortgage when she learned that a mysterious sponsor would pay $10,000 to a woman who walked across America.
Hoping to win the wager and save her family’s farm, Helga and her teenaged daughter Clara, armed with little more than a compass, red-pepper spray, a revolver, and Clara’s curling iron, set out on foot from Eastern Washington. Their route would pass through 14 states, but they were not allowed to carry more than five dollars each. As they visited Indian reservations, Western boomtowns, remote ranches and local civic leaders, they confronted snowstorms, hunger, thieves and mountain lions with equal aplomb.
Their treacherous and inspirational journey to New York challenged contemporary notions of femininity and captured the public imagination. But their trip had such devastating consequences that the Estby women's achievement was blanketed in silence until, nearly a century later, Linda Lawrence Hunt encountered their extraordinary story."

posted by Corvid at 1:00 PM on September 26, 2011

You'll probably find more in cultural and oral history than in fiction, and I'm having trouble finding specific examples, but at the end of WWII Japanese Americans and Japanese Canadians (more officially in the latter case) who had been removed from the west coast into internment camps were encouraged to move east. Here's something along these lines, at least.

Many classic American migrations are racially or ethnically influenced -- the Great Migration of African Americans north after Reconstruction; the eastward migration of Southeast Asian immigrants through California, Texas and Oklahoma; early German and Scandinavian immigrations westward were organized in part for ethnic/racial reasons. So to find a west-->east migration that gets treated as an iconic "cultural story" rather than an individual "I moved across the country!" story, it helps to look for people who have demographic motivations for going.
posted by obliquicity at 2:06 PM on September 26, 2011

The final scene of Six Feet Under features Claire driving from Los Angeles to New York to great effect.
posted by cjemmott at 2:25 PM on September 26, 2011 [3 favorites]

I personally hate this song, but Boston by Augustana.
posted by psoas at 3:37 PM on September 26, 2011

The classic retro-sci-fi short story 'Eastward Ho!' by William Tenn, in the collection 'Alpha-4'.
posted by ovvl at 6:19 PM on September 26, 2011

Legally Blonde? Ok I'm sort of joking but I actually can think of a lot of this type of "Californian comes east to live among actual humans" trope. Of course the actual journey is usually not really covered. I'm not sure if that's what you're looking for.
posted by katyggls at 9:46 PM on September 26, 2011

"And Then We Shot The Ox"
posted by brainwane at 6:31 AM on September 27, 2011

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