How many of you know about John Steinbeck’s book called “Travels With Charley: In Search of America?” In 1960, the author took a road trip around the United States in his new three-quarter-ton GMC pickup truck fitted with a custom camper-shell.

The trip was a “bucket list trip” for Steinbeck as he knew that he was dying from a terminal heart condition.

In his book he writes:

“I took one companion on my journey – an old French gentleman poodle known as Charley. Actually his name is Charles le Chien. He was born in Bercy on the outskirts of Paris and trained in France, and while he knows a little poodle-English, he responds quickly only to command in French. Otherwise he has to translate, and that slows him down.” John Steinbeck.

I bet you, as an RVer can relate to the journey with the faithful dog friend. I know I can. We have two dog friends with us currently as we RV. Interestingly one is named Charlie.

Steinbeck was native to Salinas, California but started the trip from New York and roughly followed the outer border of the United States covering about 10,000 miles. Steinbeck called his camper truck “Rocinante” (after Don Quixote’s horse) and you can see Rocinante today at the National Steinbeck Center in Salinas

Steinbeck was fifty eight when he took his trip. An age that many of us take our first RV trip. In his book he writes about his intrigue with mobile homes. According to a wikipedia article on “Travels With Charley” , he thought that mobile homes showed a new way of living for America. If you don’t like a given place you should be able to pick up and leave. I don’t know how many times I have heard a fulltime RVer say those words in my previous twenty-five years of RVing.

John Steinbeck's three-quarter-ton GMC pickup truck fitted with a custom camper-shell.

John Steinbeck’s three-quarter-ton GMC pickup truck fitted with a custom camper-shell.

Having been away from Salinas, California for twenty years when he took his road trip in 1960, he describes what he sees in detail in his book. Salinas and Monterey areas are the settings for many of his pre-1960 novels.

Even though Travels with Charley is suppose to depict Steinbeck’s road trip, in recent years critics insist that there is much more fiction in the book that real events. An article from the New York Times in April 2011 discusses the “reality” of Steinbeck’s book.

Regardless of how much of Travels with Charlie is “real”, most people will agree that it is a good read, especially if you are an adventurer and passionate about travel as Steinbeck was.  My recommendation is that you give this book a read if you haven’t already and let us know what you think. We’d love to hear from you.  Happy travels friends!

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