Travels With Charley, John Steinbeck, The Viking Press, 1962, 246 pp
Travel writing, like any other genre, depends on the quality of the writing. Steinbeck being one of the best writers ever in my opinion, also being a man who understands a quest, made Travels With Charley a piece of literature. At the age of 58, he set out to drive around the United States and rediscover first hand the country he had been writing about for 25 years.
He traveled in a three-quarter-ton pickup truck with a small cabin built in the bed. With his truck named Rocinante (the name of Don Quixote' horse) and his large bleu French poodle named Charley, if Steinbeck needed lodging it was right there and if he needed company there was Charley.
The hardcover original Viking Press edition I found at my local library has a map of the journey from Sag Harbor up to Maine, across the northern states, down the west coast and across the southwest through Texas to New Orleans and back up the eastern side of the country. It is a complete package of road trip with a purpose, map, dog and Steinbeck's inimitable style of personal quirks, wry wit and unique view of life.
Rather than recount Steinbeck's adventures, which anyone can read about on the cover flap, let me just say that it was a highly successful trip with enough excitement to counteract the boredom of all the miles driven. Like many trips, it came to an end before he reached home and like any good travel book, it made me long for the open road.
(You can buy this book off the shelf in paperback at Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)