February 27th is the birthday of John Steinbeck, which while special in itself, is given extra significance this year since it coincides with the 50th Anniversary of Steinbeck’s cross-country trip with his standard poodle, Charley.
Steinbeck is primarily remembered for his novels, such as The Grapes of Wrath, Of Mice and Men, and The Pearl, but he also wrote a lesser-known travelogue entitled Travels with Charley: In Search of America. At the age of 62, Steinbeck decided to tour the country, which he had so often written about but hadn’t seen. He knew that he was dying of heart disease, and if he didn’t take the trip then, it was unlikely he would have a second opportunity. Thus, a few weeks after Labor Day in 1960, Steinbeck and Charley began their journey in their truck and custom-made camper, which was named Rocinante after Don Quixote’s horse.
They left by ferry from Steinbeck’s home in Sag Harbor and traveled to Connecticut. From there, they went as far north as Bangor, Maine; as far west as the Salinas Valley, California; and as far south as New Orleans before returning home to Long Island. In the book, Steinbeck frequently comments on the changes in American culture due to advances in technology and in the mass media, the differences of values and attitudes between people of different states, and the transformation of the West since the population began to grow rapidly.
Be sure to check out the Teacher’s Pet products for this great title in addition to those for Steinbeck’s other excellent works.