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GreeceBooks: Travels with Charley

“Travels with Charley: In Search of America” by John Steinbeck

It is a travelogue written by American author John Steinbeck. It recounts tales of a 1960 road trip with his French standard poodle, Charley, around the United States. He wrote that he was moved by a desire to see his country on a personal level, since he made his living writing about it. He wrote of having many questions going into his journey, the main one being, “What are Americans like today? However, he found that the “new America” did not live up to his expectations.

Steinbeck tells of traveling throughout the United States in a specially made camper he named Rocinante, after the horse of Don Quixote. His travels start in Long Island, New York, and roughly follow the outer border of the United States, from Maine to the Pacific Northwest, down into his native Salinas Valley in California, across to Texas, up through the Deep South, and then back to New York. Such a trip encompasses nearly 10,000 miles.

According to Thom Steinbeck, the author’s oldest son, the real reason for the trip was that Steinbeck knew he was dying and wanted to see his country one last time. Thom says he was surprised that his stepmother (Steinbeck’s wife) allowed Steinbeck to make the trip because of his heart condition he could have died at any time.

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