In the fall of 1960 John Steinbeck set out across the United States with his French poodle Charley. He had custom made camper fitted to his truck and named his home on wheels Rocinante in honor of Don Quixote’s horse. It had been over 30 years since the publication of his first novel Cup of Gold and Steinbeck felt like he had lost touch with the American people who had inspired such literary classics as The Grapes of Wrath, Cannery Row, and Of Mice and Men. Over 6 weeks he drove and explored and wrote. Eventually his essays from the road became the book that inspired me: Travels with Charley: In Search of America.
60 years later I am emulating his adventure, heading East in a Maza CX-3 that I have lovingly christened Rocinante Numero Dos. Over four months I will see all 48 states, take a cruise down to Havana, Cuba, cross the border into Juarez, Mexico, and drive parts of Canada to the north of Maine as I drop down into Niagara Falls. My journey will end in Seattle where I will hop a cruise to Alaska and then fly to Kona to edit my essays into my own eventual book: the non-fiction Travels with Starchman: In Search of My America and a series of short stories entitled United Scenes of America.
The significance of the year is not lost on me. The 2020 presidential election is on the horizon and as I write this first article the Democratic field is crowded with 18 candidates. I am not looking to get involved in politics but I am sure I will be hard pressed to avoid them all together. However, I hope to report what I, a lifelong resident of Mariposa, see on the road and what America looks like to me, a writer and a teacher. This is to be a book about the places and the people and hopefully the things that unite us.
So join me for the next 16 weeks as I strap a tent to my roof rack, update the KOA app on my iPhone, and download enough Audible books to last 15,000 miles. I plan on visiting the classics from The Grand Canyon to Monument Valley to the Capital Mall with a liberal sprinkling of the bizarre from Roswell to the Lizzie Borden Murder House to The Mall of America. I’d love to hear your suggestions for music, books, local cuisine, and friendly relatives who will let me do a load of laundry.
You can contact me and find out more at www.UnitedScenesofAmerica.com