it's about eight days before I'm to head out on my great Steinbeck trip, in which I'll be tracing the route that John Steinbeck took for Travels with Charley
almost exactly a half a century ago. Wish me luck.
There will be three fundamental differences between Steinbeck's journey and mine:
- I'll have no dog with me. However, I'll be carrying an Opus doll -- you know, the penguin from Bloom County and Outland -- with me. Opus has traveled with me before, most notably while tucked in the parachute container of my hang gliding harness while I was soaring Marina Beach in California. (I'd dispensed with the parachute since my entire flight never topped one hundred feet above the level of the seashore there, and a parachute would have been useless. One hundred feet is about normal at Marina Beach, by the way.)
- My route will be a little different, in two respects. First, I'll be starting and ending at the John Steinbeck Center in Salinas, California, rather than at John Steinbeck's home in New York. Second, I'll be traveling clockwise around the country instead of counter-clockwise. I'm taking the northern leg first, just as Steinbeck did, and for the same reason: to travel that route in the early fall, when the weather is likely to be more clement.
- John Steinbeck traveled in a brand new truck with a camper package, which was rare enough in those days to attract attention and serve as an ice-breaker for conversations with people he'd met en route. I will be traveling in a thirty-nine-year-old Volkswagen Westfalia Camper, which is (I hope) now rare enough to attract attention and serve as an ice-breaker for conversations with people I'll meet en route. VW buses are almost the perfect vehicle for this; nearly everybody I've met has had fond reminiscences about these, and delights in telling the stories.
Steinbeck's truck was named "Rocinante" after Don Quixote's donkey. My bus is named, simply: George. It wasn't a name I gave it. The previous owner started calling it George over thirty years ago, though, and a certain respect for tradition mandates that I not rename it. So George it is, and George it will be. Besides, "Rocinante" had already been taken.