Was This Steinbeck's Inspiration?

Tuesday, 19 October 2010 09:37 AM Written by 

SEATTLE-RENTON -- Holiday Inn

This place on old US 10 near the Idaho-Washington border may be all that's left of where John Steinbeck stayed Oct. 15, 1960, on his way to Seattle.DSC_2060

Steinbeck described it in detail as a ratty motel/tourist cabin/gas station/grocery store complex in "Travels With Charley."

In a long scene with copious dialogue, Steinbeck depicted how it was run by a he-man hunter/drinker who had no wife but had a stereotypically gay son who was clearly trying to come out of the closet.

I couldn't find out much about the house's history when I drove by it Sunday night. But yesterday I talked to its owner, Ron Rex, by phone from here in Seattle.

In 1960, seven years before Rex bought it, the place was a bar, a grocery store and a gas station. It was called the Canyon Store and had four cabins that it rented out.

The Canyon Store was owned and operated not by a macho man with a 20-year-old son who wanted to be a hairdresser but by a single woman named Judy McKeever who had help running the place from a couple that lived with her.

Confirming whether it's the place Steinbeck and Charley stopped is something I'll have to do next time I take a 6,000-mile drive on the Steinbeck Highway.

Meanwhile, anyone interested in buying a place that may have inspired Steinbeck to write one of his more memorable fictional scenes in "Charley" can take a virtual tour of the house at KarenHulstrom.com.

It looks like a steal $199,000 -- and it's only a few hundred feet from I-90.

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