Travels with Charley: In Search of America

Travels with Charley

By John Steinbeck

At fifty-eight years old, John Steinbeck decides to answer the question “what are Americans like today?” by going on a road trip with his poodle, Charlie. On his nationwide trip, he ventures into small towns and big cities where he encounters friendly Midwesterners, hurricanes, those who believe aliens exist, and is given lost directions simply because he was from out of town.

John Steinbeck’s son said that the real reason he went on this trip was because he knew he was dying, and wanted to do one last spectacular thing. His trip spanned 10,000 miles, following the edges of the country starting in New York, going up to Maine, to the Pacific Ocean, to the Deep South, and back to New York again.

About the Author

John Steinbeck was born in 1902 in Salinas, California. He wrote over twenty-seven books, including Of Mice & Men, The Grapes of Wrath, and East of Eden. He won several awards for his writing, including the Pulitzer Prize for The Grapes of Wrath and the Nobel Peace Prize for Literature in 1962. Steinbeck was a well-traveled man, serving as a World War II correspondent and then later in Vietnam. He was also quite inspired to write when he traveled, so he did it as often as he could. He died in 1968 in New York City.

Related Events

M. Christine Byron and Thomas R. Wilson

Michigan’s Roadside Attractions

Monday, July 8, 2013, 7:00 pm
Main Library – 111 Library Street NE

If you have traveled on Michigan’s highways and byways, chances are that you’ve stopped at places like Castle Rock, seen Paul Bunyan, and defied gravity at the Mystery Spot. Tourist attractions like these sprang up on the roadside landscape as Michigan expanded its highway system from the 1930s through the 1970s. Pull off the road for some fun, interesting, and sometimes quirky experiences! Relive memories of visiting natural and man-made wonders—from deer parks to dinosaur gardens; from scenic sand dunes to the world’s largest Indian; from mine shafts to scenic towers. Stop for pie at the Cherry Hut, cross the Bridge for a pasty, and enjoy a Jones ice cream cone in Baldwin. Don’t forget to bring home some souvenir pennants and a pair of moccasins. Take a trip with authors M. Christine Byron and Thomas R. Wilson along Michigan’s roads and visit some of the state’s iconic roadside attractions. Some places are long gone; others still lure
travelers off the road.

Vintage Trailer Show

Vintage Trailer Show

Saturday, August 17, 2013, 10:00 am – 3:00 pm
Outside the Main Library – 111 Library Street NE

Explore the wide-range of vintage trailers, including Airstreams and other favorites from years past. See the great design and innovations in camping over the years. If you are interested in showing your vintage trailer, please contact Melissa Fox at 616-988-5400 or


Airstream: Custom Interiors

Saturday, August 17, 2013, 3:30 pm
Main Library – 111 Library Street NE

The VanderPloegs bought their first airstream trailer 13 years ago and their third one just two years ago. They are currently in the process of a complete renovation. This program will show some amazing photos of early trailer design and trailering life from the 1920′s in and vintage air streams in particular. Jon will share insights from his own project and from the expert renovators at Woodland Travel Center.

A Night with John Steinbeck

A Night with John Steinbeck 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013, 7:00 pm
Main Library – 111 Library Street NE

Join Grand Valley State University English Professor Dr. Sherry Johnson as she leads a discussion on questions of travel writing, as well as what one who goes in search of America at this contemporary moment might find.