Travels With Steinbeck

An Open Letter to Gail Steinbeck

Come and ride along with me as I follow the Steinbeck route for Travels with Charley around the U.S. and “rediscover this monster land.”

Dear Gail Steinbeck,

What a thrill to hear from you. You had been reading my blog and took issue with my reference to John Steinbeck’s turbulent relationship with his sons, Johnny and Thom. As Thom’s wife, I would guess you are a pretty good source on this, and so I’m paraphrasing your emailed comments here. You feel the biographers got it wrong. In fact, you said they never interviewed Johnny and Thom. You said—while it is true that John Steinbeck and Johnny (who died in 1991) had a tumultuous relationship—older son Thom, your husband, was adored by Steinbeck. Finally you suggested I Google Thomas Steinbeck, author and also research the making of “East of Eden” at Oprah’s website for more information about Thom’s relationship with his father. I wanted to share this with my readers. Thank you for getting in touch.

Gail, I want to assure you and all the members of the extended Steinbeck family, I have no other intention with this pilgrimage than to reflect a great admiration and respect for John Steinbeck. I’m reading The Log from the Sea of Cortez right now and am, once again, amazed at how far ahead of his time he was on issues such as environmentalism, militarism and materialism.  His descriptions of the marine world are exquisite.

My original intention was simply to follow in the tracks of a remarkable American (and fellow vagabond) and then offer a fresh perspective on one of the great American odysseys, and on this country. As it turns out, however, I’m speaking (without charge) at several schools while on the trip and anticipate many more engagements after returning. So far, close to 400 copies of Steinbeck’s works have been purchased as a direct result of this journey. In one of the schools I will be visiting, every child in the school will have read a Steinbeck novel before I arrive to speak. I would love to know I have the blessing of the members of the Steinbeck family.

I’m planning to go off the route a bit in Southern California and will be in San Diego on October 23-25.  I hope you and Thomas will agree to meet with me?

Until then, all the best,

Gregory Zeigler

Itinerary: Tomorrow is the day we begin.  Then on Tuesday Max and I will be speaking with all the second graders at Rowland Hall School in Salt Lake, as well as folks from local television station, KSL.  Later on Tuesday I hope to make it to Glenwood Springs, CO.  That will probably be the location of my next post.

The Dog: Max has really perked up. He’s eating well and charging around the house like old times—even  letting us know when he has to go out (it’s a miracle!).  I guess nine bad teeth would be deleterious to a seven-pound dog. Wonder when they will be offering doggie implants in his size.

Sweet Notes: Clint and Virginia—thanks for the send off and the libation from South of the border.  To Anne Coldsmith, Joan Goldfarb and all the wonderful women (and one great guy) from the Senior Book Club—thanks for choosing Travels with Charley as the “read” for next spring. Yes, I accept the speaking engagement for that meeting.

Thank you for riding along. Let’s talk again soon, shall we?

Greg Zeigler

Travels with Steinbeck: In Search of America Fifty Years Later

Copyright © 2009


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  1. * Tom Armstrong says:

    You must be scrambling to leave tomorrow. As a buddy of long standing, I suggest that your Toyota be named Proscrastinante. Forget the razor…you and Max can bond with matching white whiskers. God speed to yinz both. TA

    | Reply Posted 8 years, 8 months ago

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