Wrapping the Trip That Took Me.*
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.”
It is Monday November 9th, and I’m on my way home. This Friday when I arrive in Jackson it will have been 68 days on the road and approximately 15,000 miles around America—an adventure of a lifetime.
What lies ahead? I left barely knowing how to post to a blog and am returning with close to 265 fans on the Travels with Steinbeck Facebook page (and I appreciate every one of you—really, I do.) In short, I have learned so much on this trip. The support of friends, new and old, and the interest from so many blog followers is humbling beyond belief. For years I labored alone with this dream (with the obvious exception of Dimmie’s unwavering support). Now, I’ve been joined by my brother, David as we work to raise funds for a documentary of this trip—and all of you.
What lies ahead is a book—to be completed early next spring—a documentary film, if the funding can be secured, and a teacher’s guide. In the last two months, I spoke with the students at ten schools about John Steinbeck, his life and work, and my adventure—and I would love to continue with that. It was pure joy to share my passion for Steinbeck and this pilgrimage with so many. The students were wonderful.
Here are a few highs and lows:
Best Commercial Digs: Bishop Farm Bed and Breakfast, Lisbon, New Hampshire.
Worst Commercial Digs: Too Kute-KOA, Canaan, Maine, (signs that refer to “tinkle” and “poop”).
Best Camp: KOA, Lewiston, New York.
Worst Camp: Tye RV, Tye, Texas (planes, trains and automobiles).
Best Road Sign: Sign on steep mountain road above Georgetown, Colorado. “Truckers—no brakes? Stay on I-70! Do not exit into town!” (crash somewhere else).
Worst Road Sign: “325 miles to El Paso” (Texas).
Most Amazing Steinbeck Revelation: “Dad hadn’t ever camped prior to the Charley trip.” Thomas Steinbeck.
Most Amazing Realization: It might seem obvious but television does not accurately reflect the mood of this great country, nor our people. I never heard a word spoken in anger. I never witnessed an angry gesture.
What Are Americans Like Today? Hopeful, caring, optimistic, positive, still dreaming.
Worst Day: Knocked the trailer off the blocks trying to hook up on the Santa Barbara to San Diego day, and it went downhill from there.
Best Day: Yes sir! Big Sur!
Best Country and Western Lyric. “I know what I was feelin’ but what was I thinkin’?”
Best Meal: Court of Two Sisters, New Orleans.
Worst Meal: Various and sundry “hot” motel breakfasts.
Coldest Temperature: 23 degrees and snowing in Western North Dakota.
Warmest Temperature: 93 degrees and sunny in San Diego.
Sweetest Connection: The Acadian/Cajun link—French spoken in northern Maine and western Louisiana.
Most Surprisingly Beautiful Terrain: Both Eastern Kansas and Central Texas delighted me.
The Thing We As Americans Most Need to Remember. We are fighting, and our young people are dying, in two wars.
The Thing We Should Most Appreciate as Americans. The beauty and diversity of this “monster land” and of her people.
Change that Steinbeck Would Find Most Encouraging. Several of our major waterways, such as the Niagara River, have recovered from past abuse.
Change That Steinbeck Would Find Most Discouraging. Casinos—they are ubiquitous.
Best State Slogan. New Mexico. “Land of Enchantment.”
Best State Flag. Texas Lone Star (so sad to see it at half-mast).
Best Advice. “Remember who wrote it.” Gail Steinbeck
Worst Advice. “Just take a left, a right, two lefts and another right.”
My Hero. My man, Max. David Swift photo to right.
My Mentor and Guide. JS (I bade him farewell in New Orleans when I turned back to the west).
Sweet Notes: So, so many wonderful warm supportive gestures. So many warm wonderful people. I am humbled, and I am grateful.
Thank you for riding along. Let’s talk again soon, shall we?
Travels with Steinbeck: In Search of America Fifty Years Later
Copyright © 2009
“We find after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us.” John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley.