In Search of Steinbeck’s RV

Jeff Regan
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Editor’s Note: Jeff Regan is a member of LTV’s sponsored content team, The Leisure Explorers. Do you own a Leisure Travel Van and enjoy writing? Learn more about joining the team.

I recently read John Steinbeck’s story “Travels with Charley”, about his 10,000 mile RV trip across the US. The 1960 road trip featured the author, his Standard Poodle Charley, and a GMC pickup with a Michigan-built Wolverine slide-in camper.

National Steinbeck Center, Salinas, California

John Steinbeck felt the need to reconnect with the country he had been writing about for decades. What was most striking for him was the look of wanderlust in people’s eyes at every stop he made, young, old, and in-between. They all liked the idea of freedom that RV travel promised on the US roads, wanted to tour his RV, and some desired to jump in and go with him!

I can’t help but think that we LTVers feel exactly the same way at the prospect of hitting the highways and backroads of North America. Even though it’s been 60 years since the book was published, we haven’t changed in our yearning to travel via RV, and with our pets. Indeed, the author often allowed us to see the country through Charley’s eyes, much like we show our pets new places to take in the experiences with us. Charley was very good at making introductions with strangers, allowing Steinbeck to learn more about Americans. Our Multi-Poo, BoBear is also very good at making introductions with strangers, usually by barking at them.

Author Jeff Regan(Steinbeck wannabe)

I was so enamored by the book(hadn’t read Steinbeck since school), that I wanted to visit the National Steinbeck Center in downtown Salinas, California. We stayed at an RV resort in the Salinas Valley putting us 34 miles away from the museum and 10 miles from Santa Lucia Highlands, a wine region known for its Pinot Noirs.

Yanks RV Resort, Greenfield, California

Here we were in the heart of Steinbeck country and seeing just how important this agricultural area is–providing the majority of lettuce, tomatoes, and strawberries to the entire country. The commercial farming sector of the Dust Bowl era forms the backdrop of several Steinbeck books including East of Eden and Of Mice and Men.

Santa Lucia Highlands, Monterey County

The highlight for me was seeing Steinbeck’s RV “Rocinante”, named after Don Quixote’s horse, in the museum. While not quite as comfortable or feature-packed as our LTV’s, it served him well, although he admitted more than once, that he brought along way too much stuff! Some things don’t change.

“Rocinante”, 1960 GMC pickup with Wolverine slide-in camper shell.
BoBear loves his Unity!
Jeff Regan

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