On the Road Plot Summary
Salvatore Paradise, an aspiring writer, meets the enigmatic Dean Moriarty after the break up of his first marriage. He is immediately fascinated by him and disappointed when Dean is attracted by the charms of his other friends. Even though Dean is in New York, where Sal lives, he doesn't see him much. Sal decides to go on the road that spring. His trip is ill-fated from the start, and he loses a day of travel, requiring him to take the bus rather than hitchhiking. The bus makes it to Chicago and he continues hitching rides, meeting up with another hitchhiker who borrows his shirt and ditches him for another ride. In Denver, after a long journey, he meets up with his friends Carlo and Dean only to find that they are not longer acceptable to his other group of friends. His friends get him a nice apartment and try to set him up with a girl. Dean is sleeping with two women, Camille, his girlfriend, and Marylou, his wife. Sal stays in Denver for a while, but then turns back to the road to join his friend Remi in San Francisco. With Remi, he works as a security guard on a military base, but this only interests him for so long. By the time Remi's girlfriend is ready to kick them both out, he is happy to leave. He takes a bus with money sent from his aunt and meets a beautiful Mexican girl named Terry. Things go well between them and soon he is living with her and her crazy brothers picking cotton for a living. Even though it is subsistence living, he is happy. When the colder weather comes, he finds that he has no more work and even though he doesn't want to, he leaves Terry and crosses the country for home.
The next time Sal sees Dean is between Christmas and New Year's when he shows up at Sal's brother's house in Virginia with a couple of other people. Dean is back with Marylou, even though he divorced her and married Camille. Dean is in a frantic state of mind and he offers to help Sal's brother move some of his stuff to New York. They drive all night with a car-load of furniture and get to New York City. Once there, they unload some of their stuff and turn back around. They drive straight back to Virginia, where they pick up Sal's aunt and turn back around for New York. After the New Year's holiday, they have to go to New Orleans to pick up the wife of one of their companions. Dean drives into the night and they must steal gas because all of their money gets wasted on a speeding ticket. When they arrive in New Orleans, their friend Old Bull Lee isn't home and his wife is too drugged up to help. They go out to the bars.
They stay in New Orleans for a while with Old Bull Lee, but even his lifestyle bores them after some horse races and bar nights. Dean, Marylou and Sal climb back into their car and head for California. They have barely enough money to make it, but after picking up some passengers and borrowing some money, they do. When they arrive in the city of San Francisco, Dean immediately runs back to Camille and leaves Sal and Marylou alone. Marylou gets them a hotel room on credit. Soon after this, however, she leaves with a rich man one night and Sal is alone. Dean comes back only to ask after her. Sal waits for a check from his aunt and then leaves San Francisco.
Sal returns to Denver the next year and works for a while, but is unhappy there without Dean, so he goes to look for him in San Francisco. Dean has crippled his thumb and is working on the railcars. Camille has had his first child. Camille is not happy to see Sal. Dean and Sal spend a night on the town with some other girls who ridicule Dean. When Camille throws him out, Sal and Dean go to find Dean's father in Denver, but are unsuccessful. Dean's antics make him unpopular with the locals and Sal gets himself in trouble when the lady whose house they're staying in reads a letter he writes, describing how easy life is there. After Dean has a wild night of car stealing, they have to leave town. They drive someone's limousine straight to Chicago without any sleep. Once in Chicago, they wreck it in a night on the town. They hitch to New York where Dean meets a new girl he loves.
The next year, Sal decides to go on the road and travels to Denver with plans to go to Mexico. Dean shows up at the last minute wanting to drive him to Mexico City. They drive for a long time and stop in a town where they go to a whorehouse. When they finally get to Mexico City, Sal is too sick to appreciate it and Dean just turns around and leaves him there.
The next time Sal sees Dean, it is brief, as he is leaving for a concert with Remi. After Dean turns the corner, Sal never sees Dean again.