Travels With Steinbeck

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.”


Best Western, Buda, Texas. The flags say it all.

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.


Bambi got a bath in Buda.

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.


I'm thinking we could use that blessing 24/7.

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.


Many thanks to many kids of all ages for riding along.

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.”

Would I Do it Again? I would, I really would (if Dimmie would come with me).Max -profileTWS

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.


Best photo: Kiva, Acoma Pueblo, New Mexico

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

“We find after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us.” John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley.


Trackbacks & Pingbacks


  1. Greg,

    Ed and I have followed you along your journey. We know how much this adventure has meant to you. Congratulations on the completion of your trip around America.

    We’ll keep in touch.

    Dianne and Ed

    | Reply Posted 9 years, 10 months ago
  2. * Ruth Ann says:

    What an extraordinary odyssey. Well done! Thank you for allowing me (us all) to follow along. But remember that like Homer’s hero, more challenges await once you arrive home…!
    I also thought of T.S. Eliot’s wonderful poem Little Gidding, another work about the grand journey. I paste the lovely last lines here as a congratulatory gift.

    What we call the beginning is often the end
    And to make and end is to make a beginning.
    The end is where we start from. And every phrase
    And sentence that is right (where every word is at home,
    Taking its place to support the others,
    The word neither diffident nor ostentatious,
    An easy commerce of the old and the new,
    The common word exact without vulgarity,
    The formal word precise but not pedantic,
    The complete consort dancing together)
    Every phrase and every sentence is an end and a beginning,
    Every poem an epitaph. And any action
    Is a step to the block, to the fire, down the sea’s throat
    Or to an illegible stone: and that is where we start.
    We shall not cease from exploration
    And the end of all our exploring
    Will be to arrive where we started
    And know the place for the first time.
    Through the unknown, unremembered gate
    When the last of earth left to discover
    Is that which was the beginning;
    At the source of the longest river
    The voice of the hidden waterfall
    And the children in the apple-tree
    Not known, because not looked for
    But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
    Between two waves of the sea.
    Quick now, here, now, always—
    A condition of complete simplicity
    (Costing not less than everything)
    And all shall be well and
    All manner of thing shall be well
    When the tongues of flame are in-folded
    Into the crowned knot of fire
    And the fire and the rose are one.

    | Reply Posted 9 years, 10 months ago
  3. * Heike says:

    I would like to quote one of my favorite poems, too!
    Again congrats on your trip from over here and have fun writing the book! talk to you soon!

    Frost (1874–1963). Mountain Interval. 1920.

    The Road Not Taken

    TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood,
    And sorry I could not travel both
    And be one traveler, long I stood
    And looked down one as far as I could
    To where it bent in the undergrowth; 5

    Then took the other, as just as fair,
    And having perhaps the better claim,
    Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
    Though as for that the passing there
    Had worn them really about the same, 10

    And both that morning equally lay
    In leaves no step had trodden black.
    Oh, I kept the first for another day!
    Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
    I doubted if I should ever come back. 15

    I shall be telling this with a sigh
    Somewhere ages and ages hence:
    Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
    I took the one less traveled by,
    And that has made all the difference. 20

    | Reply Posted 9 years, 10 months ago
  4. * Marilyn Osborne says:

    Wow! With so many miles behind you, you must be both fulfilled and exhausted. I’m sure it feels good to be pointed in the direction of home. Stick your head out the window, make some noise, and let the rush of air make your hair all crazy! I shall miss these morning blogs. Thanks for the ride!

    | Reply Posted 9 years, 10 months ago
  5. * Tom Armstrong says:

    Max is going to be bored to tears hanging out in the kitchen. Our best to you and Dimmie. Thanks for the lift. TA

    | Reply Posted 9 years, 10 months ago
  6. * Jamie Laurens says:

    Such fun to ride along. I enjoyed the Worst/Best list. Safe travels home and enjoy putting your feet up. Happy trails and congratulations!

    | Reply Posted 9 years, 10 months ago
  7. * Jeanne says:

    Good work, bro. You dreamed your dream. I’m proud of you.
    Don’t put your feet up, get out from behind that wheel and get moving (sorry, I just channeled Mom).

    Big love from Utah.

    | Reply Posted 9 years, 10 months ago
  8. * Bruce says:

    Ah, the re-entry. Best wishes! I look forward to hearing more of your experiences , and the reflections thereof.

    | Reply Posted 9 years, 10 months ago
  9. * Debbie Weller says:

    Welcome home! Great fun following your travels. Looking forward to the book in 2010.

    Love the East Coast Wellers

    | Reply Posted 9 years, 9 months ago
  10. * Art FitzSimmons says:

    My father’s favorite book. I always wanted to do this trip.

    | Reply Posted 9 years, 5 months ago
  11. * Dawn says:

    Is the book published, yet? Where can one pick up a copy??

    | Reply Posted 9 years, 2 months ago

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