Travels With Steinbeck


Max in the Box!

Max in the Box!

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

This Post from Ami’s Acres RV Park in Glenwood Springs, Colorado on 9/9/09.  Ami’s is a beautiful, clean park and owner Craig couldn’t be nicer.

Itinerary: Approximate miles yesterday—350.  I-15 South of Salt Lake City to U.S. 6 up Spanish Fork Canyon through Price, Utah to I-70 at Green River, Utah. I could only go 60 on 6, but 70 was easy on 70.

The Landscape: I have always loved Central Utah; the sere beauty of the Book Cliffs and San Rafael Swell often overlooked for the admittedly gorgeous convoluted country further south that is home to five national parks.  However, once you turn east on I-70, and lasting all the way to Colorado, even the most diehard desert rat would be hard-pressed to find topography of interest.  I must say the sign that read simply, “Eagles on Highway” was interesting—although I didn’t see any—and I would guess unique. Let’s call it a very desolate beauty.

I had never driven I-70 through Central Colorado before and except for I-90 across Western Montana it may be the loveliest stretch of super-highway in the country. At first the brown and grey rubble-filled mountains are without foliage like Eastern Utah, but the bottomlands are lush with orchards and vineyards. The highway winds along the Colorado River for miles as the mountains green up with elevation. It was a hot one, though, the temperature at Fruita, Colorado was 93 degrees at 5 p.m.

Profile: Just want to say a word about Penny and Rick, a young industrious Salt Lake couple with an angelic five-week-old daughter who is African-American. My guess is, Penny and Rick wanted a baby, got one and are thrilled. Race was not, is not, a factor. These two folks went through a four or five year ordeal trying to locate a child. Rick was quoted as saying he refused to get excited this time until he was holding the baby. Recently when asked if he was sleeping through the night, he said, “No, I just stay up all night staring at Fiona while she sleeps.” I suppose some would say adopting a child of a different race bears additional responsibility. I would argue that blended families and mixed races (say, like Tiger and Barack) are the future and ultimate end to racial tension. Proximity eradicates ignorance.

Most importantly, what Penny and Rick are doing could not have happened fifty years in Utah when Steinbeck was traveling around America.

In New Orleans for Travels with Charley, Steinbeck witnessed adult white females called “Cheerleaders” in the media, being cheered on by the crowd while they heckled small black children trying to integrate schools. He had no tolerance for the powerful preying on the weak and he wrote  that this display of virulent racism made him physically ill. We’ve come a long way…but, our President spoke to America’s school children yesterday and many American families, especially in Utah and Texas wanted their children to remain at home. One cartoon depicted a protester yelling at little children, “He’s trying to indoctrinizate your brains.” Let’s set politics aside for a second, and just let me ask, what about this man would make you think he is not a person you could trust your kids to for a weekend, let along have him speak to them? Unless of course, this is all about race.

The rig, featuring the Airstream Bambi named Winnie.

The rig, featuring the Airstream Bambi named Winnie.

The Steinbeck Connection: Still several days before I intersect with the last leg of his actual route in Georgia but I have a recommendation.  (And please remember, I’m a student of Steinbeck and do not purport to be a Steinbeck scholar.) Read The Log from the Sea of Cortez at the same time you read The Pearl and you will understand a great deal about John Steinbeck’s process—as actual experience feeds nonfiction and nonfiction shapes fiction. You will also marvel at his timeless control of the language and beautiful imagery in either genre.

The Dog: Within fifteen minutes of home on the first day of the trip I realized the benefit of a small adaptable dog. Due to severe space limitations, there was only one place for the blue tub I use for food and that was also the only space for Max. I plopped him down on a towel in the bottom of the tub. He looked around as if to say, “This is different,” and promptly did what he does best, curled up and went to sleep.  Now that we have the Airstream, Max has ample room to roam in the car.

Max had his first walk in Salt Lake City since his dental surgery—once around the block. He did well. Very perky. A large gray-haired woman sitting on a stool to weed her flower garden said “hello,” and “cute dog.”

Max loved the admiration of the wonderful second graders at Rowland Hall.  He is sending them his first postcard from Colorado today.

Sweet Notes: So many friends sending their best wishes, (even calling) spreading the word, and riding along. The new look of this blog compliments of Libby—you’re the best. Thanks to Toni for complicated coordination in Carlisle and for riding along.

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


Trackbacks & Pingbacks


  1. * Ami's Acres Campground says:

    Great trip – hope all was well at our park. I love the concept and hope you have a safe but rewarding trip.

    Hope Max can manage with his teeth situation.

    Take care,

    Ami’s Acres Campground

    | Reply Posted 9 years, 2 months ago
  2. * Jeanne Zeigler says:

    and off you go…

    It was really great having you here speaking to our second graders (check out the school’s website for the write up.) At our closing meeting discussion on Tuesday, it was decided that it was even more interesting than the prez’s speech!
    We are looking forward to your cards from the trail.

    Have fun, use your map, and talk to lots of strangers…

    Love from yer sis

    | Reply Posted 9 years, 2 months ago

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