Travels With Steinbeck

“Rediscovering This Monster Land.”

Imagine retracing the route that John Steinbeck and his dog Charley followed in 1960, which was the inspiration for Travels with Charley. In a few weeks, accompanied by my dog Nellie, I will drive and camp around the U.S. just as Steinbeck did in 1960. Join me in celebrating the 50th anniversary of Steinbeck’s trip.  Look right here for regular regional news and photos from around the U.S.

Steinbeck distilled his journey for Travels with Charley down to one question, “What are Americans like today?” That question will be my guide. I’m not so interested in how things have changed: computers, cell phones and the ubiquitous purveyors of designer coffee, but how we as Americans are different—especially after the fall of 2008. That is the fundamental question I want to answer.

While driving and camping around the U.S., I’ll delve into issues that reflect Steinbeck’s interests, as well as examine attitudes toward the Obama administration and responses to the widespread economic downturn. I’ll draw parallels to the 1930s as depicted in Grapes of Wrath, and the 1960s as described in Steinbeck’s two final works of nonfiction, Travels with Charley and America and Americans. This “travelblog” will include landmarks that Steinbeck described, and feature interviews with colorful contemporary folks. It will weave in biographical information about Steinbeck and quote from his body of work. Like Travels with Charley, the entertainment value of my blog will rely on elements of adventure and discovery inherent in travel combined with the intrinsic humor of a story about a man and his dog. It might also be entertaining to observe this “old dog” learning new tricks as I master this blog and do fancy things like add photos and even a link or two.

And speaking of dogs, you’re going to love my grand-dog Nellie. Nellie is a Chow/Lab mix. She has a handsome copper-colored face and warm brown eyes. Her tiny eyebrows arch and move to express myriad human-like facial expressions. Nellie will be an ideal traveling companion. I pick up Nellie where she lives in Salt Lake City on September 8th, 2009 and we are off to the East Coast and eventually Sag Harbor on Long Island, Steinbeck’s point of departure.

There is one thing Nellie and Charley had in common—French. Charley was born and trained in France and he responded most quickly to commands in French. English slowed him down, Steinbeck wrote, because he needed time to translate. My French son-in-law, Paul trained Nellie in French. Bon chien! But, poivre moi, after two failed attempts at learning the language, you have just read the extent of my French. Luckily, one of us is bilingual—Nellie.

That’s it for my first post.  Much, much more to come. I look forward to hearing from you as we travel with Steinbeck this fall and, to quote him, “rediscover this monster land.”

Greg Zeigler

Travels with Steinbeck: In Search of America Fifty Years Later

Copyright (c) 2009


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  1. * Dimmie says:

    Sounds like a wonderful adventure!

    | Reply Posted 8 years, 9 months ago
  2. * Becky says:

    Bon voyage, Greg. It will be fun to follow your travels. This reminds me of my “Travels with Molly” starting in New Haven, CT and going across the country to Aspen and then MT, SLC, on to San Diego and up the coast of CA to OR and Seattle, WA , then on home via Rt.80. Molly was my companion as we drove in my red VW bus. I kept a journal and found it recently. It was a view of Am. from dog walks and beach walks and parks. You will have a grand time.

    | Reply Posted 8 years, 9 months ago
  3. * Virginia says:

    Wish I could walk in your shoes or ride in your seat! What an admirable undertaking.

    | Reply Posted 8 years, 9 months ago
  4. * Jane Roth says:

    We are enjoying reading the blog! What a great idea!

    | Reply Posted 8 years, 8 months ago

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