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 http://www.DonnaFisherJackson.com. 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 Amazon.com. Donna is currently working on a new book – a travel memoir of her life on the road. ♥