Traveling with Steinbeck

Walking Zeus in Fort Pierce, FL

In the midst of my journey around the country, I discovered John Steinbeck’s book, Travels with Charley: In Search of America about his own trip with his faithful dog around the United States.  Like Steinbeck, I also have companions on my journey, my husband, Jim, and my only cat, Zeus.

In his late 50’s, Steinbeck decided he wanted to take a trip around the country to see the America up close that he wrote about so often in his novels.  He felt like he was out of touch with the country, and wanted to explore the different regions, climates, terrains, and re-connect with the people.  In order to not have people recognize him by his name, Steinbeck decided to not stay in motels, but to travel the back roads in a camper.  So he had a custom camper built on the back of a brand-new truck – his own personal turtle shell.    He outfitted it with all the basics and more – a double bed, a four burner stove, a heater, refrigerator, a chemical toilet, and lots of storage.  The storage cabinets overflowed with all the items he thought he might need including tools, emergency food, writing supplies, reference books, all those books that he meant to read, and on and on.  Like most people who travel this way, he overloaded the camper, taxing his truck.

What I found most interesting was when he began his journey.  Steinbeck writes that he planned to take this trip right after Labor Day in September.  He thought it would be a quieter time to travel with all the children back in school and their parents back to work.  But that year, his trip was delayed due to a hurricane.  Staying in what he called “his little fishing place” on Long Island, New York, Steinbeck ended up experiencing the brunt of this hurricane.  Almost losing his favorite sailboat named after his current wife, Fayre Eleyne.  Luckily, Steinbeck and his family along with the sailboat survived the storm, and he decided to still head out on the trip in late September.  The hurricane happened to be named Donna, and took place the month of September that I was born in 1960.

Steinbeck wrote about driving north from New York to Massachusetts, visiting one of his sons at a prep school.  He may even have driven close to the Cape Cod hospital where my family celebrated my arrival.  I found the coincidence intriguing.  There Steinbeck was, heading out on his journey around the country.  And I was just beginning my journey on the earth, named Donna.  Not for the hurricane, but named after my Dad, Donald Herbert Fisher.

And now, here I am, writing about my trip around the country, taking the reverse route of Steinbeck’s trip.  He traveled north, taking the northern route across the United States, and circling back through the south, and arriving home in New York City.   I left Cape Cod in December of 2014 heading south, and making a big circle around the country, and returning to Cape Cod in September, 2015 before heading out again on the road in November, 2015.  Steinbeck left in late September 1960, but his trip was barely three months, returning just before the Christmas holiday.   He didn’t spend as much time in each area of the country, but he did seek out his favorite spots.  His goal was also to spend more time talking to people along the way.   While I was more interested in catching up with family and friends along the route while visiting the national parks, and savoring more of the natural beauty of the country.

We had different goals for our circular route of America.  But I still find it amazing that I made this trip in my 50’s as well.  Steinbeck felt a need to do this journey on his own – perhaps to prove to himself that he wasn’t too old for solo adventures.

I have traveled with my husband, Jim, and our devoted cat, Zeus who was as great a traveling companion as Steinbeck’s dog, Charley.  Maybe even more so because Zeus left his home in California more than two years ago.  Since then, he has endured over 18,000 miles of riding in the truck (while we traveled over 30,000 miles), and has lived through various climates all around the country.  Zeus survived a close call with a tornado, a hail storm, numerous rain storms, a brief snow squall and lots of sunshine on the road.  He may not have been the ambassador dog like Charley, greeting people on the road.  But Zeus does attract a lot of attention, walking on his leash as he explores river banks, woodland paths, and sandy beaches.  It seems many people haven’t seen a cat walk on a leash with such ease and grace as Zeus.

Now with the arrival of summer, I notice more families at the campgrounds, showing up with their campers piled high with their toys of boats, bikes, fishing poles, inner tubes and on and on.  They set up their campsite, and kick back and enjoy their summer vacation.  For me, it’s a different experience.  I’m not on vacation from a 9 – 5 job.  This is my life – living full-time in an RV, and traveling around.  This is my home where I write, watch television, surf the internet, cook meals, walk the cat and still take time to enjoy the camping lifestyle.

This summer has been different with Jim working as the Camp Host for the Holiday Hills RV Park in Utah.  We are staying in one campground with some responsibilities – the main one being to stay put in one place, and be on call the days that Jim is working.  Being a responsible person, Jim still maintains the work ethics of his corporate career.  He may begin work a little later, but then he’s available some nights until 10 pm, putting in 12 hour days.  I have to remind him to take breaks throughout the day, and that he doesn’t need to work so hard.  It’s funny how some habits are hard to break.  By Labor Day, I think we’ll both be ready to head out on the open highway again which is right outside our door.  We’ll be back to exploring and living the full-time RV life.

And yet, I can sense a new beginning on the distant horizon.  We’ve met some people who have been living the full time RV life for years, but they also seem to have favorite places that they return to as well as visiting family and friends around the country.  I imagine the new beginning will come into focus when our time at the campground nears its end.  It always seems to involve going through at least one ending before the new beginning shows its face.   And so the journey continues.

By Donna Fisher-Jackson, M.A. © 2016
Donna Fisher-Jackson, M.A., CHT is a Certified Hypnotherapist, Western Astrologer and Author who counsels clients through her business of Iris Holistic Counseling Services on the road at She has published the self-help book, The Healing Path of the Romantic: Type Four of the Enneagram Personality Type System and a novel, Clara & Irving: A Love Story of Past Lives, based on the true story of a Romantic. Both books are available in a print and Kindle edition on  Donna is currently working on a new book – a travel memoir of her life on the road.  ♥



About Donna Fisher-Jackson

After traveling for three years around the country in her Bighorn RV, Donna Fisher-Jackson, MA, CHT now makes her home on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. She is still a part-time RVer, and her latest book, "Living the RV Lifestyle: Practical Advice and Personal Tales from Life on the Road" is available on Amazon. For seventeen years, she lived in Northern California where she pursued studies in Western Astrology, Holistic Counseling, Hypnotherapy and Past-Life Regression. Donna completed certification in Astrological Counseling with the Astrology Institute West in the San Francisco Bay area. During her time in the Bay area, she also graduated with an M.A. in Counseling Psychology specializing in Holistic Studies from John F. Kennedy University in Northern California. Her counseling business, Iris Holistic Counseling Services, began in 1999. In her counseling work, she shares the insights of Hypnotherapy, the Enneagram, Dreamwork, Western Astrology and the Mythic Tarot. She specializes in life transitions, relationship issues, mid-life, career/vocation and life purpose.
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4 Responses to Traveling with Steinbeck

  1. Great photo of you and kitty Donna, it’s interesting that on my walk in the hills here in Cambria I ran into a lady from Palo Alto who has a dog named Charley, I immediately knew the connection with Steinbeck, and she affirmed it

    He was from Salinas, and actually wrote The Grapes of Wrath in Monte Sereno, very close to my Saratoga house, also did you know that Olivia de Haviland and Joan Fontaine lived in Saratoga and went to Los Gatos high school?

    I think your travels are wonderful, I was going to take mom on a desert southwest trip but need to wait until late September as I was just down there in Palm Desert in 121’F heat, not fun

    Been following Lisa Transcendence Brown and Lisa Rising Berry and a few others, the energy is intense for me to deal with in general, the body having to do lots of integration, BTW are you familiar with the prophecy of Peter Deunov and the arrival at this time of the Cosmic Fire, the Azoth? He wrote in the 1940s, very fascinating

    I send hugs and much love, be well, Bless, daphné/Kachinabluestar 🎼🎵🐱🌐🏁🎶😄

    On Saturday, July 2, 2016, Living an Awakened Life wrote:

    > Donna Fisher-Jackson posted: ” In the midst of my journey around the > country, I discovered John Steinbeck’s book, Travels with Charley: In > Search of America about his own trip with his faithful dog around the > United States. Like Steinbeck, I also have companions on my journey, my > hu” >

  2. Thanks Daphne for your note. Yes, I did find out about Steinbeck’s history when I was living in the San Francisco Bay area. I think he even lived up in the Santa Cruz Mountains at one time. He’s certainly a colorful character. I think I enjoyed reading more about his life than actually reading his books. The energy has been intense here as well. Hopefully, there is some relief in sight. Take care and enjoy your summer on the coast. With Love and Light, Donna

  3. Hi Donna, Jim & Zeus 🙂
    What a wonderful post about Steinbeck! Always so good to hear from you. David & I fly to Providence on Thursday, July 14th, for 2 weeks in Westport Harbor. Guess we won’t see you there this year. We’ll spend the first week with my childhood friend, than we’ll move down the road toward the beach, on the Westport River for another week in a rental house. My daughter Elizabeth & wife & 2 kids (Jackson almost 13, Esme just turned 9). It’ll be so much more fun playing with the kids in the ocean this year, hopefully doing some sailing in a friend’s boat, renting bikes for the week, and of course eating seafood.

    We are well & healthy, with great energy for age 75. Chad & Adam await July 31st (or thereabouts) for the birth of their baby daughter via surrogate — so exciting!! This is #6 grandchild — 5 girls & 1 boy. They are all so eager to meet their new cousin Nina (I love the name). I decided to designate this child our Harmonic Convergence! So life is spectacular for us, and we feel very blessed every single day. I am enjoying learning how to “BE” more” while still also “DOING” lots of fun things, including my beloved yoga.

    Have a glorious summer in Utah, and a beautiful autumn of more travel and blue skies. I think of you frequently and send blessings your way.
    Always love,
    Susanna & David

  4. Hi Susanna, So nice to see your comments . Have a fabulous time in Westport with your family and friends. That is so exciting about the new arrival! I would love to do a birth chart package for her parents. I’ll send you an email. Take care and enjoy your summer trip to Westport. Love, D

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