Travels With Steinbeck

The Route takes me back to my Roots.

A weary road warrior.

A weary road warrior.

The farmhouse in which my father was born, along with his 6 brothers and 5 sisters.

The farmhouse in which my father was born, along with his 6 brothers and 5 sisters.

Toni, my agent, handler, dog wrangler and all around angel.

Toni, my agent, handler, dog wrangler and all around angel.

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.”

Itinerary: I-81 north through Virginia, West (By God) Virginia and Maryland to Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

Steinbeck’s route: There is only one interpretation of what Steinbeck writes of this section of his trip—he was suffering from burnout and homesickness. There is only one way he could have gone as he sought the quickest way to the Pennsylvania Turnpike, Route 11 to Carlisle, Pennsylvania, which was once the western terminus of the turnpike; that’s where the pike hits the Tuscarora Mountains just east of the Susquehanna River flowing toward the top of the Chesapeake Bay.

The Landscape: Sweet fertile farmland (and the occasional sub-division of homes), for sure, but rolling foothills to the Appalachian Mountains to the immediate west.

The Steinbeck Connection: “I bulldozed blindly through West Virginia, plunged into Pennsylvania and grooved Rocinante to the great wide turnpike. There was no night, no day, no distance.  I must have stopped to fill my gas tank, to walk and feed Charley, to eat, to telephone, but I don’t remember any of it.” Travels with Charley

Profile: I spent two very happy days with my “farm” family in Carlisle. My close association with these good folks was mostly in childhood when my parents would get us all together here in Carlisle. My father, Jacob Zeigler was teaching at Kiski School, a boarding school for boys near Pittsburgh and my brothers, David and Jake, and sister, Jeanne all grew up on the school campus. Dad liked to return to the farm he grew up on as often as possible and expose us to wonders of true rural living.

Let me just say briefly, there is something very special about being around relatives. It may be the common ruddiness to the cheeks, color to the hair and lilt of the tongue.  There is a comfort—no doubt atavistic—a fullness in the heart that says, I’m safe here, I belong here, these are my people.

This is how it went. Soon to be second wife to my cousin Steve Zeigler, Toni Berger took me under her wing and set up speaking engagements at two high schools and a press interview, and saw to other needs such as gas and propane. Cousin Steve changed the oil in my car and was clearly pleased to reconnect. Cousin Patsy Reich put me up for two days, did my laundry and cooked delicious farm breakfasts. I tried to do my humble unskilled part by buying everyone dinner and washing Patsy’s windows too high for her to reach.

There is a revealing American story of three generations here. My father grew up with eleven siblings; there were seven boys and five girls total. He was the only one to attend high school. His brother Sam and my Aunt Mary had Patsy, Shirley (now living in San Diego) and Steve. Steve and Patsy live near the family farm, now mostly subdivided and leased. Sam, a very smart and gentle, but physically powerful farmer never attended high school, his son Steve never attended college. Steve’s four children from a former marriage include a Vet, a doctor, an HR specialist who just finished college, and a builder who, like his grandfather, can fix anything. The builder, Jake Zeigler, at 19, has already purchased his own home and just bought five lovely hay-covered acres right across the street from the house in which his grandfather, and his namesake, my father, grew up.

Sweet Notes: Toni, Steve, Patsy—I’m deeply grateful, not only for the kindness but for the connection. You kids at Cumberland Valley High and Carlisle High were great! Thanks 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


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  1. * Steve & Toni says:

    Hi Greg – glad you made it to CT today – good luck on the rest of your journey – you are a “rock star” – we’ll be traveling along with you – it was wonderful having you visit – we look forward to the next visit with the rest of your family! Love and Best Wishes for an exciting and safe journey – give Max a kiss from us!

    | Reply Posted 9 years, 1 month ago
  2. * Michael Klimkos says:


    I don’t know if you recall who I am but I was one of the kids who grew up on “The Flat”. I saw your article in the Carlisle Sentinel this morning and when I saw your picture I said, “I know that guy.” The resemblence between you and your father is remarkable. It sounds like a pretty cool project you are working on.

    I have been living here in Carlisle for the past 25 years and was just in Saltsburg last week to fish in of all places, the Kiski River for smallmouth bass. It’s not the same river of our youth. A remarkable improvement to be sure.

    I will pass this website along to Rick and Linda.

    | Reply Posted 9 years, 1 month ago
  3. * Robyn (Zeigler) Strickler says:

    My father, Donald Zeigler, only child and son of Earl, brother of your father, passed on your blog. Very interested in genealogy and perused your site. Will definitely visit back to “travel along” with you! Like your father, it is always sweet to set foot back on family ground. As you know, my father resides on a piece of land from the homestead and our roots are deeply planted there. With cousins around the corner, nothing beats family. Take care and will visit soon! Safe travels!

    | Reply Posted 9 years, 1 month ago

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