Both the short story and the novel open in a post-apocalyptic Southern California, in a hellish world shattered by nuclear war decades before. Several surviving police states have emerged in place of the former United States. Hurricane-force winds above five hundred feet prevent any sort of air travel from one state to the next, and sudden, violent, and unpredictable storms make day-to-day life a mini-hell. "Hell" Tanner, a convicted killer and the last Hells Angel alive, is offered a full pardon in exchange for taking on a suicide mission - a drive through "Damnation Alley" across a ruined America from Los Angeles to Boston — as one of three vehicles attempting to deliver urgently needed plague vaccine.
The 2000 AD comic had a long running Judge Dredd story arc that was an adaptation of the story (but the journey is in the reverse direction). In which Dredd and Spikes Harvey Rotten (the greatest Punk alive) journeyed across the Cursed Earth Between Megacity1 (on the U.S. East Coast) to Megacity2 (on the West coast) to deliver a vaccine to the 2T(Fru)T virus. It was also subject to a number of copyright violations.