Print this page

Leaving Steinbeck in the Dust

Thursday, 21 October 2010 05:50 PM Written by 

ARCATA, CA. -- McDonald's

 I know where I am on Oct. 21, 2010 -- here, in Northern California:  30 days and 6,681 miles from where I started this crazy trip in Pittsburgh on Sept. 21.

 Where were John Steinbeck, his wife Elaine and Charley the poodle 50 years ago on this Thursday in 1960? Almost surely back in Seattle near the airport, where I left Tuesday morning.

 Since Steinbeck had to wait at least three days in a motel for his wife to fly out to Seattle, and then he apparently gave her a tour of Seattle's Waterfront, I'm now several days and 400 miles ahead of him. He no doubt made a point to watch the last Nixon-JFK TV debate, which was held on this date in 1960. 

 It was probably late Friday or Saturday that the three Steinbecks started south to Oregon and California redwood country.

I have no idea if they took US 101 the entire way along Oregon's coast and passed through California's coastal redwoods for miles south of Crescent City, as I did. DSC_1979_copy

I find it hard to believe that Steinbeck would have passed up Oregon's coast entirely, since Elaine had never seen its splendors. But he never mentions it in the "Charley" book or in his original  handwritten manuscript that detailed his and Elaine's experiences as they traveled south.

 "Travels With Charley," as we have seen, is not a reliable/true chronological or geographical account of its author's trip. Even with the help of the original manuscript, the Seattle-San Francisco leg remains a mystery with few clues about where he was and when.

In the book Steinbeck says he took Charley to southern Oregon's redwood country. And Elaine Steinbeck told biographer Jay Parini they saw Oregon's redwoods. Did Steinbeck go down the Pacific coast and then cut inland?  Don't ask me.

In the next two hours I'll try to find the old resort in California near a grove of redwoods that Steinbeck  described stopping at with Elaine.

The place was virtually empty and he said they stayed there "for several days." If by some miracle I find it, I'll take a few photos and try to make San Francisco tonight.photo_big9_copy

San Francisco is the next place we know for sure Steinbeck and Elaine and Charley were and when they were there -- in a suite at the St. Francis Hotel from Oct. 26 to Oct. 30.

Well, actually, Charley wasn't there. He apparently was in a kennel. At least I won't have any trouble finding the Westin St. Francis.


Commenting policy | How to report abuse
Commenting policy | How to report abuse
To report inappropriate comments, abuse and/or repeat offenders, please send an email to and include a link to the article and a copy of the comment. Your report will be reviewed in a timely manner. Thank you.