Over the years, I've taken dozens of road trips across New Mexico and Arizona. There's something about the countryside of those states that is more than just visual. It's why I chose to put the journey from in the path of falling objects there.
Some of the places in the novel are entirely made up, but some of them are real. I do remember, as a kid, on those long, hot, stretches of highway, the curio shops and signs advertising "Friendly Indians," businesses that don't exist any more -- like Stuckey's or Whiting Bros. Gas -- or places where you could simultaneously see Hitler's personal car and purchase pecan rolls.
I always wondered what made pecan rolls so attractive to interstate travelers... and where they grew pecans in the desert, too.
Anyway, I'm planning on recreating Jonah and Simon's road trip with my own kids this summer (less the terrible violence, that is), to give them an opportunity to see some of the most visually and spiritually striking scenery in America.