230321-Book Report

This is the second time I read “Travels With Charley” by John Steinbeck, and I enjoyed it more this time than I did the first. One of my goals for 2023 is to re-read books that have made a lasting impression on me. This is the second book I have re-read, and both of them are by John Steinbeck. He is one of my favorite authors, another favorite author is James Michener.

Travels with Charley is an amusing story of a trip taken by the author to see America. He took his giant poodle Charley as a companion in a special new pick up equipped with a self designed camper. The route begins in Long Island New York, and encircles the United States. Steinbeck’s observations of the country are simple and factual. His conversations with Charley are often amusing. One vignette in particular is about the time he is warned by a National Park Ranger to keep Charley on a leash at all times while in the park because the bears may not get along with him. Steinbeck explains to the ranger that his dog is well mannered, and does not become aggressive with other dogs, cats or wild life. Steinbeck proceeds into the park and comes across some bears. Charley goes ballistic and vicious, snarling, barking and wanting to get a piece of bear. It was a complete surprise to the owner who felt obligated to return to the ranger to apologize.

I can’t remember when it was in relation to my first reading, but I took an almost identical journey around the country with my family. I felt the places he writes about because I was there. America is a huge country when traveled by car, it is even larger when traversed by bicycle. Doing it by bicycle was on my bucket list but I never made it happen. My oldest son, however, did very early in his life.

My current wish is to travel across country once more in my limited lifetime to visit the redwood forests of California. They are by far the most magnificent living things on our planet. Steinbeck explains how he anxiously awaited to see Charley, who was a committed tree marker, react to a tree as big as a two car garage. When the time came for the dog to mark the redwood he balked, he wasn’t impressed. So his master took out a pocket knife and cut a sapling Sycamore about four feet high and stabbed it into the ground next to a redwood. Charley marked it with pride.