A book review written by a dog travel enthusiast, for dog travel enthusiasts.
There’s a plethora of Travels with Charley (by John Steinbeck) book reviews, and most promise a good read.
This book review is different because I am reviewing Travels with Charley based on these points of interest:
- Does Steinbeck provide practical advice for taking long dog road trips?
- Was the book entertaining and did it hold my attention? Did it have enough “dogisms” to please the dog-lover in me?
- Was I inspired to take my own long dog road trip around the USA?
The short answers are: yes, yes and yes.
Conquer Self-Doubt and Exhaustion
As with the other two books I’ve reviewed about crossing the country with dogs (Travels with Casey and Dogtripping), Steinbeck expressed hesitation at the start of his journey. Just like the other two authors, Steinbeck also arrived home exhausted.
My take-away from this is to:
- Plan the trip you want to take and go, realizing that initial apprehension is natural. Don’t let it cancel your trip
- Plan for travel time-outs and get plenty of rest so you can end your trip content, not exhausted.
Steinbeck Advice I’ll Take
Steinbeck doesn’t actually give advice, but these are lessons he learned:
- Choose a “tough, fast, comfortable vehicle…” and take good care of it.
- Pack light and batten down the hatches.
I judge now that I carried about four times too much of everything.
- If crossing the US border, be sure dogs have all the shots and papers required, including this required by the US (so you can get back in!)
- If you want a taste of America, get off the interstates and away from box store chains that whitewash regional character.
- Have a plan (and 1st aid kit) in case a dog gets sick. You don’t want to be figuring out how to go about finding a reputable veterinarian when you’re in the middle of a canine emergency.
Steinbeck Advice I Won’t be Taking
- Pack plenty of booze so you can play hostess in your RV.
- Let your dogs run around everywhere leash-less.
- Wash your clothes by soaking in soap and water in a can, to be agitated by the rumblings of the vehicle.
I liked reading Travels with Charley. (Spoiler alert –>) I don’t even care whether or not he actually traveled the whole journey and talked to the people he professed to having conversed with.
I plan to read the book again when I take my own epic dog road trip adventure, if only to remind myself to observe and experience local flavors.
Were there enough stories about Charley? As a dog lover I say “no”. Charley does not get top billing in the book. But the subtitle is “in Search of America”. He does sprinkle many of his tales with Charley and the reader does get a sense for the character of Charley, and the love and respects Steinbeck has for his dog.
He was born in Bercy on the outskirts of Paris and trained in France, and while he knows a little Poodle-English, he responds quickly only to commands in French. Otherwise he has to translate, and that slows him down.
Yes. I was inspired to cross this great country, take note of its variety and its people, and to show my dogs the sights, smells and sounds as we go.
He is a good friend and traveling companion, and would rather travel about than anything he can imagine. If he occurs at length in this account, it is because he contributed much to the trip. A dog, particularly an exotic like Charley, is a bond between strangers. Many conversations en route began with “What degree of dog is that?”.
Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley is a good read and will satisfy the dog-lovers (although I wanted more stories about Charley). While it inspired me to take a dog-trip I was reminded that the road can be a lonely place for a single traveler. Despite a constant companionship of dogs.
I recently read and reviewed three books that might inspire my own long dog road trip and provide insights into dog travel realities:
- Travels with Casey by Benoit Denizet-Lewis
- Dogtripping by David Rosenfelt
- Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck
This is the final review of this series.
Disclosure: The words and opinions expressed in this review are strictly my own with no outside influence. I purchased “Travels with Charley” myself. I’ve had no communication with the author, publisher or anyone else associated with this book.