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Travels with Charley, in search of America
In high school I read John Steinbeck’s “Grapes of Wrath for the reading list.” I know I was impressed but 55 years later I do not know any more why I was impressed. I started reading “Travels with Charley; in search of America” from the library but could not finish it in time. He got the Nobel prize and died in 1968.
Reizen zonder John, op zoek naar Amerika
Years later, I had travelled already in different states of the US, Geert Mak wrote “Reizen zonder John, op zoek naar Amerika.” He and his wife made the same trip as 50 years before John Steinbeck did. The trip started in Sag Harbor, where John Steinbeck owned a house with a cabin in the garden. So now I was travelling on Long Island I went searching for Steinbeck in Sag Harbor!
From Hauppauge where I stay, I drive to Sag Harbor. Early because of Labor Day weekend. Labor Weekend is the end of the summer season for many Americans, and this is often combined with a weekend getaway.
The roads give a cadence of driving over a ridge every time, which in combination with my own music determines the rhythm of the trip. (Over an hour’s drive). The landscape is incredibly green (people spray a lot), rolling and with beautiful views of the water.
2 Bluff Point Road
I immediately want to go to the address 2 Bluff Point Road where Steinbeck lived (alternating with New York). He and his third wife Elaine bought the house in 1955 and used it until his dead in 1968. After he died the Elaine inherited the house and after her death, her sister. That started a long running family battle between Elaines sister and John Steinbeck’s children from an earlier marriage.
I read something about a Monastery Order that people could invite to the house, but that is the last thing I know when I arrive at the location. Geert Mak described in his book that he secretly slipped into the garden. I have less courage myself, but for me it is all about getting a taste of the atmosphere.
On the road are signs asking if you do not want to leave the car near the house, so I ask a man, standing in the shade of a tree, where I can park the car. After parking, he asks if I am here for the guided tour. A guided tour, what a surprise. A bit later than the official start, I am joining several ladies for the tour in the house, cabin, garage, and garden.
My Little Fishing Place
The house Steinbeck called “my little fishing place,” was purchased in March 2023 by a non-profit Sag Harbor Partnership. And the hope of opening it up to the public is now realized. How lucky am I to be one of the first visitors.
Walking in a place where Geert Mak had to secretly walk into the garden is a special experience in a very calm environment. As mentioned, Steinbeck lived partly here and partly in New York. As one of the co-creators (son of the Italian storekeeper on Main Street) tells us: “Steinbeck wanted a place at the end of the world and with a view of the sunset from his writer’s cottage he found it in Sag Harbor.”
One of the ladies who kindly receives us is the owner of the bookstore on Main Street. I tell her about Geert Mak’s book, “Reizen zonder John,” she is interested and asks me to write down the information about Geert and his book. Writing this blog, I looked up if it was translated. And it is in various languages including English. I am not sure if it is available at this moment but this is the link to the publisher. There will certainly be an upturn in sales!
In the garden you will find a unicorn, as in the days John Steinbeck lived there.
- For a reservation look at this site
- The tour was free, at the end you can donate in cash or via QR code.
- Outside you can take pictures but inside the house, guesthouse, and garage (with its labeled chests of drawers) you are asked not to do that.
- I arrived by car but if you walk from Mainstreet in Sag Harbor it is about a 20 minutes’ walk.
- And if you are in Sag Harbor visit the bookstore Canio’s books. One of the owners is the lady who so kindly added a lot of information to the tour. (So sorry for her, I visited the other bookstore in Sag Harbor. I discovered back home that Main Street Sag Harbor has two bookstores).
- more about Long Island here
- Other travel tips in the USA
Did you ever make a trip because of a book, game, TV serie? Please let me know in the comments. And who knows maybe next time are you Searching for Steinbeck in Sag Harbor!