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Have you read John Steinbeck’s “Travels with Charley”?

By Chuck Woodbury
PUBLISHER
Have you read John Steinbeck’s wonderful account of traveling around America with a home-built RV? Many RVers I’ve talked to through the years have told me that reading “Travels with Charley” spurred their sense of wanderlust that ultimately led them to buying an RV and hitting the road.

I have read “Travels with Charley” at least four or five times, and given it as a gift to at least a dozen friends. Along with “Blue Highways,” it inspired me to take up RVing.

In 1962, along with his French poodle, Charley, Steinbeck drives the interstates and the country roads in a home-built truck camper he names Rocinante, dines with truckers, encounters bears at Yellowstone and old friends in San Francisco. Along the way he reflects on the American character, racial hostility, the particular form of American loneliness he finds almost everywhere, and the unexpected kindness of strangers. Some of his experiences you will recognize as similar to those you’ve experienced yourself.

If you have not read the book, it’s available at most large and used bookstores as well as at Amazon in both printed and Kindle editions.

So have you read it?

 

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Carson Axtell
5 days ago

Read “Travels With Charley” when I was a teen, back in the 60s-70s, but the travel bug really bit me when I watched the TV program “Then Came Bronson” back at about the same time. About a decade later I had bought a motorcycle and proceeded to put about 25K miles under the saddle, mostly camping out with motel stays every 4-5 days to clean up and do laundry, and then back on the road for my 2-3 week annual vacations, weather be damned. I highlighted my routes on a wall map, and in a few years there was a vast spider web of highlighted highways on it from the Mexican border well up into British Columbia, between the Rockies and the Pacific Coast. I’m still convinced that motorcycling is the best way to travel.

David Nestor
8 days ago

We have a standard poodle named Charley and have named our coach Rosinante.

Ran
8 days ago

I have an original travels with Charley and the print in paperback is so small, can’t read it! Even with my bifocals! Maybe they have a large print version?!

Brenda
10 days ago

Several years ago, after reading one of Chuck’s articles on RV Travel, I purchased both of his recommendations, “Travels with Charley” and “Blue Highways.” I read and enjoyed “Travels with Charley.” I had forgotten about “Blue Highways” until now. I found it on my bookshelf and will start reading it soon.

Gregg
11 days ago

I’ve never heard of it before, but now I’m intrigued to read it!

Neal Davis
11 days ago

I read “Travels with Charley” many years ago. I plan to reread it in the coming months. I wonder if it did provide a subconscious desire to travel in an RV, but I cannot be sure. I do recall enjoying the book but probably missed some of his most serious themes because of my young age and accompanying naivete.

Robert Julich
11 days ago

Yes, I read Travels with Charley while in Vietnam. Came back, traveled with wife #1 and had 2 kids along the way. Took a 20 year break and now on 26 years full time with wife #2. Thank you John Steinbeck!

Sharry
12 days ago

I read it once a year for inspiration. Love it! Cannot believe so many folks haven’t even heard of it. So sad.

meg122847@hotmail.com
12 days ago

Read it plus the later book written by a person who duplicated the trip. I believe it was a GMC truck. He even had the camper built by the same company who did first.

tom
12 days ago

Years ago. Perhaps time for a re-read.

Drew
12 days ago

Yes,
and just like “The Grapes of Wrath” a true classic. His custom International truck sold recently at auction to some very lucky bidder. In my opinion it belongs at the Smithsonian.

Shannon
12 days ago

Honestly, I’ve never heard of it and I’m a voracious reader. This has now been added to my list of books to read. I look forward to getting my hands on this book.

Bonita
12 days ago

If I recall correctly, the camper was commissioned by the author (with many specifications according to his needs) and delivered to his home in Long Island. Not at all a home build, but personalized by a truck manufacturer. Great reading!!

Thomas D
12 days ago

Yes I read it. I am not a reader and thought this might be a good book to read about camping. I was very disappointed. I thought maybe I’d read Steinbeck s grapes of rath, but after that I’d really have to think twice.

Drew
12 days ago
Reply to  Thomas D

Thomas,

If you read the introduction, you’d have remembered Steinbeck’s reason for his trips. He needed to know more about the people he’d been writing about during his life and realized the best way to do this was to meet these people and interact with them. The New York plates on the truck were the basis of many comments from people in the book.

Barnjai
12 days ago

I actually listened to it years ago. I love audiobooks and the narrator of this one was good. That helps! I think I need to listen to it again as we travel the US with Barney.

Keith Nichols
12 days ago

75% of respondents haven’t read it?! That’s astonishing. It’s John Steinbeck, for crying out loud.

Drew
12 days ago
Reply to  Keith Nichols

🙂

Carl Jones
12 days ago

Read it multiple times and it has, in fact, spurred my interest in seeing the whole country. While I didn’t build my rig I have rebuilt it and plan on doing the around the country thing in a couple of years. Mine is a 1968 Ultra Van.

Gerry
12 days ago

Read it many years ago (60+). Re-read it once. I still have my paperback version.

Suebee
12 days ago

I read it a couple of years ago and really enjoyed it. My son gave it to me as a gift before we set off on our five month cross country trip with our 2 dogs.

Andrew Kapusta Jr
12 days ago

I read Travels with Charley in High School in the 1970’s. It was an optional read for my English class. If, I remember correctly, Steinbeck built a camper for his truck and wanted to travel the United States to meet fellow Americans with his dog “Charley” during the turbulent ’60s. It was a trip that I wanted to take. The food, sites, smells, and friendships made are lasting memories. I feel Steinbeck captured America at its best and worst of times during his travels with Charley. A journey that lasts forever.

Russ W
12 days ago

Great review!