By featuring this book as its own post I think I have made it abundantly clear how it has influenced me during my traveling life. I originally read this book in 1962, soon after it was published and have re-read it about a half-dozen times since then. In 1962, I was in the middle of my high school years. That was the time when I was devouring books by Steinbeck, London, and few others. This book started me on a lifelong journey of my fascination with John Steinbeck and just what makes America what it is. I ended up reading all of his novels before I graduated from high school.
Part of this story was about how he took a pickup truck and had a homemade camper built for the back of it. He named his rig “Rocinante” after Don Quixote’s horse. Little did I know when I read this book that I would be doing the same thing about 50 years later. 🙄 I took my truck with 100,000+ miles that was used in my furniture making business and turned it into my own version of Rocinante. I have been traveling the roads with history in mind for the last 6 years in it. I, like Steinbeck, just want to see the country on a personal level. I have many stories to tell you here about those adventures.
Here is a little of what Wikipedia says about this award-winning book:
Travels with Charley: In Search of America is a travelogue written by American author John Steinbeck. It depicts a 1960 road trip around the United States made by Steinbeck, in the company of his standard poodle, Charley. Steinbeck wrote that he was moved by a desire to see his country on a personal level, since he made his living writing about it. He wrote of having many questions going into his journey, the main one being, “What are Americans like today?” However, he found that he had concerns about much of the “new America” he witnessed.
Steinbeck tells of traveling throughout the United States in a specially made camper he named Rocinante, named after Don Quixote’s horse. His travels start in Long Island, New York, and roughly follow the outer border of the United States, from Maine to the Pacific Northwest, down into his native Salinas Valley in California, across to Texas, up through the Deep South, and then back to New York. Such a trip encompasses nearly 10,000 miles.
Steinbeck’s most famous books were probably “Grapes of Wrath” or “Of Mice and Men” both of which I have also read several times. Steinbeck had a gutsy way of describing events in his novels. A very American way in my mind.
For the last forty plus years whenever I hit the road on a vacation trip I always think of how Steinbeck described his 10,000 mile journey across America and I try to see America with his visions in mind. This book opened my world up to way beyond the small rural town I was living in.