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Overview of Travels with Charley: A 1960’s Road Trip across a Changing Nation

A shiny dark green truck with a small camper over the truck bed.
A fully restored "Rocinante" is well cared-for at the National Steinbeck Center in Salinas.

In Travels with Charley In Search of America, John Steinbeck sets out to personally discover the defining features of America with his French gentlemen poodle Charley. Embarking from New York after the end of Hurricane Donna on September 23, 1960, Steinbeck loaded up his beloved truck "Rocinante," named for Don Quixotes horse, and left his home and family behind for nearly three months to search out an answer to his question: What are Americans like today? Driving over 10,000 miles from the east to the west coast and back, Steinbeck garnered a candid view of the United States and its inhabitants. His discoveries both gladdened and distressed him. While he witnessed many improvements in the lives of Americans everywhere, he also estimated the high price Americans would eventually pay for lives filled with ease and convenience. Proclaiming that he would not trade quality for quantity, part of Steinbeck's purpose in Travels with Charley is to observe and decide if Americans will use technology and increasing convenience for good or destroy themselves and their environment for the sake of material prosperity (18).

Travels with Charley in Search of America was first published by Viking Penguin in 1962.

Photograph taken of Rocinante exhibit at the National Steinbeck Center in Salinas.