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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…

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:

  1. 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.)
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Views: 18

Comment by whc03grady on September 14, 2010 at 8:16am
You should post a map.
Give us a holler when you come through Montana.
Comment by Swiftriver on September 15, 2010 at 11:00am
Have fun on your journey, John... I look forward to reading your posts.

Brian.
Comment by Greg Jannacone on September 16, 2010 at 10:44am
Wow! I'm so jealous! I was just thinking about that book this month and what a great time it really is to hit the road. Be safe and have a blast!
Comment by John LaTorre on September 16, 2010 at 11:43am
Part of the challenge for me is trying to find out what route Steinbeck actually took. I don't really have anything better to go on than the ones that can be found at:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/jillclardy/2566233086/sizes/l/in/photo...

So there'll be a lot of guesswork involved in the route.

If any of you happen to be near the route, PM me and I'll see if we can work in a meeting.
Comment by whc03grady on September 16, 2010 at 4:09pm
Well, if his most likely route between Seattle and Yellowstone is what I would imagine it to be, you'll go past us on I-90 East, just before Butte (Montana). Visit the Hearst Free Library in Anaconda during the day if you're just passing through or give me a message if you're spending more time.
Comment by John LaTorre on September 17, 2010 at 5:16pm
His most likely route would have been US 10 to US 89 which indeed goes through Butte. (Those were the days before I-90 was built.) From the maps, I-90's route looks pretty much identical to US 10's. So I will indeed be heading that way.
Comment by whc03grady on September 17, 2010 at 7:52pm
I-90 did indeed replace US 10 along most of its Western route. I still see it pop up on maps around here occasionally.
See you in a few weeks?
Comment by Shari G-E on September 19, 2010 at 11:02pm
What is your estimate for how long you'll be on the road? We hope to make it to at least one campout--hope to see you. Best of luck to you, John!
Comment by westywoman on September 20, 2010 at 8:36am
Maybe next year you can tackle William Least Heat Moon's Blue Highways route! Have fun!
Comment by John LaTorre on September 20, 2010 at 9:18am
Best estimate: three to four months. But Deb and I just found out that one of our cats may have a serious illness, in which case I may have to postpone the trip. I'll keep you all posted.

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