“On September 23, 1960, John Steinbeck loaded up his beloved truck "Rocinante," named for Don Quixote’s horse, and left his home and family behind for nearly three months to search out an answer to his question: What are Americans like today? Driving over 10,000 miles from the east to the west coast and back, Steinbeck garnered a candid view of the United States and its inhabitants.
“His discoveries both gladdened and distressed him. While he witnessed many improvements in the lives of Americans everywhere, he also estimated the high price Americans would eventually pay for lives filled with ease and convenience. Proclaiming that he would not trade quality for quantity, part of Steinbeck's purpose in Travels with Charley is to observe and decide if Americans will use technology and increasing convenience for good, or destroy themselves and their environment for the sake of material prosperity….” (Center for Steinbeck Studies)