John Steinbeck is one of the greatest and most popular American writers. Some think Cannery Row is his greatest novel, others East of Eden. For Clay there is only one Steinbeck novel that the world could not live without: The Grapes of Wrath.

This week-long journey is a lovely mix of talk about Steinbeck’s books and exploration of the California that inspired some of his best work. Spirit of place mattered to Steinbeck. The Gabilan and St. Lucia Mountains, the Salinas River Valley, Salinas itself, Pacific Grove, Carmel, and Monterey are as important as the characters in his fiction. He often pauses to describe the landscape of his youth. And he had a love affair with the great row of canneries in Monterey that gave him his closest friendship in life—with Ed Ricketts—and the setting for some of his most enchanting fiction.


The adventure begins with an evening with Steinbeck himself, portrayed by our host and humanities scholar Clay S. Jenkinson. Because Steinbeck was a reluctant and often petulant interviewee, he’ll be presented to our guests by Russ Eagle of North Carolina, Clay’s dear friend and one of Steinbeck’s greatest fans.

Our days will begin with after-breakfast book discussions, because Clay believes you cannot come to terms with Steinbeck’s California landscapes without a significant encounter with Steinbeck’s prose—his powers of description, his imagination, his political and social concerns, his capacity to create narrative.


After our playful but searching discussions we’ll venture out to explore Steinbeck’s world. Your cottage is within walking distance of the Point Pinos Lighthouse and the Pacific tide pools where Steinbeck and Ed Ricketts worked and played, while developing their philosophy of the interconnectedness of life, the futility of trying to deny the dynamics of nature, including human nature, and the ways in which groups (the phalanx) have “purpose” that eludes the understanding of mere individuals, whether they are brine shrimp or Oklahoma preachers.

Come join the adventure as we explore great landscapes and great literature with old friends and new in Steinbeck Country.



Day 1 — Saturday, March 2nd

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Welcome to Steinbeck Country! Gather this evening along the shore of the beautiful Monterey Peninsula in Pacific Grove, California, for your welcome reception offered by your host, humanities scholar Clay Jenkinson. After a quick orientation meeting, we will take an evening stroll down to the edge of the Pacific Ocean surf to take in the ocean mists and salty air. Then we will have the opportunity to meet the great man himself, Pulitzer Prize-winning author John Steinbeck. Mr. Steinbeck, who is famously shy about public appearances, will be interviewed by our own Russ Eagle, who has spent his

Travel Day

Day 2 — Sunday, March 3rd

World War II and the end of the sardine canning boom would forever alter this place. At the end of Steinbeck's novel Cannery Row, Doc recites a portion of "Black Marigold," a love poem written in Sanskrit in the first century. Perhaps Steinbeck wanted to leave the reader with a wistful sense that colorful Cannery Row, like young love, would not last forever. Your day begins with retreat discussions about the Cannery Row of Steinbeck’s memory, the publication of the novel in 1945, and its critical reception. (It is Russ Eagle’s favorite work of Steinbeck). Inspired by Steinbeck’s characterization of Cannery Row as “a poem, a stink, a grating noise, a quality of light, a tone, a habit, a nostalgia, a dream,” we will venture out to the landscape that inspired Steinbeck’s fiction. We will stroll past Steinbeck's house on 11th Street; venture inside Lee Chong’s Market, (now a patisserie); walk in the footsteps of The Palace Flophouse and Grill; and enjoy a visit inside Doc’s Lab, Ed Ricketts’ Pacific Biological Laboratories. We’ll enjoy a delicious evening meal tonight on Cannery Row—avoiding, if possible, the bar fights, liquor thefts, and chicanery of Mac and the Boys!

Cannery Row • Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 3 — Monday, March 4th

Steinbeck in The Log from the Sea of Cortez:

"This is a simple thing to say, but the profound feeling of it made a Jesus, a St. Augustine, a St. Francis, a Charles Darwin, and an Einstein. Each of them in his own tempo and with his own voice discovered and reaffirmed with astonishment the knowledge that all things are one thing and that one thing is all things — plankton, a shimmering phosphorescence on the sea and the spinning planets and an expanding universe, all bound together by the elastic string of time. It is advisable to look from the tide pool to the stars and then back to the tide pool again."

This will be a wonderful day of sea adventure. Our morning begins with another hot breakfast, then off to hike along the oceanfront trails to enjoy some tide pools at Point Lobos State Park. Early afternoon offers you time to explore: the Monterey Bay Aquarium (your ticket is included), a favorite lunch spot perhaps, and the local shops. In late afternoon we will discuss the marvelous friendship of Steinbeck and Ricketts, their shared passion for marine life and their adventures on the Sea of Cortez. Ricketts helped Steinbeck develop what they called non-teleological thinking: the view, expressed by Jim Casy in The Grapes of Wrath, that things “just is,” and that human attempts to find purpose in life are as futile as they are logically pointless.

The Log From the Sea of Cortez • Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 4 — Tuesday, March 5th

A day spent with Steinbeck’s masterpiece, The Grapes of Wrath, including meals from the Salinas Valley, the “salad bowl of the world,” and hiking along the central California coastline. Steinbeck on writing The Grapes of Wrath:

"Throughout I've tried to make the reader participate in the actuality, what he takes from it will be scaled entirely on his own depth or hollowness. There are 5 layers in this book; a reader will find as many as he can and he won't find more than he has in himself."
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Steinbeck took seriously the working conditions and the experiences of the agricultural workers in California’s great Central Valley. He felt a particular sympathy and affection for Okies—displaced agrarians from Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas, and Kansas. After writing a series of newspaper articles collectively called “The Harvest Gypsies,” Steinbeck turned his genius to the plight of the Joad family as it journeys to the fabled California peach fields to start a new life. Steinbeck, who had worked in the lettuce fields near Salinas, and on ranches in the foothills near the California coast, knew whereof he spoke. And as he contemplated the degradations suffered by the Okies, his soul was filled with righteous anger. The result was one of America’s greatest works of art, The Grapes of Wrath, published in 1939, controversial then, controversial even now, and yet one of the most widely read novels in America.

The Grapes of Wrath • Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 5 — Wednesday, March 6th

Steinbeck in Travels with Charley:

"I drove up to Fremont’s Peak, the highest point for many miles around. I climbed the last spike rocks to the top . . . This solitary stone peak overlooks the whole of my childhood and youth, the great Salinas Valley stretching south for nearly a hundred miles, the town of Salinas where I was born now spreading like crab grass towards the foothills. Mount Toro, on the brother range to the west, was a rounded benign mountain, and to the North Monterey Bay shown like a blue platter."

Today we discuss one of Steinbeck’s most popular titles, Travels with Charley. It was on this trip that Steinbeck viewed the region known as Steinbeck Country for the final time, atop Fremont Peak. We’ll end the afternoon by making the same trip, and reading that famous passage on the very spot where Steinbeck sat with his dog Charley back in 1960.

We cap the evening with fine dining at Fandango in Pacific Grove.

Travels with Charley • Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 6 — Thursday, March 7th

Steinbeck about Salinas:

"Strange how I keep the tone of Salinas in my head like a remembered symphony."

This morning we will visit National Steinbeck Center in Salinas, where among things we see Rocinante, the famous truck that Steinbeck drove around the country with Charley in the fall of 1960. We’ll also have a special viewing of the archives at the center, including some rare Steinbeck documents and possessions. After touring the museum and visiting the gift shop, we’ll two blocks to have lunch at Steinbeck’s boyhood home on Central Avenue. The house is a beautiful Queen Anne style Victorian house, and it contains many Steinbeck treasures. From there we’ll visit Steinbeck’s grave at The Garden of Memories cemetery, and we’ll also have time to explore Old Town Salinas.

Later, it’s back for our wrap up discussions, a bit of free time to do any final exploring on your own, and then our farewell dinner party.

Sweet Thursday • Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 7 — Friday, March 8th

Today is your travel day. We’ll get you back to the Monterey Airport in the morning for your journey home. For anyone wanting to stay in town until later in the day or for additional days, the airport is a short cab ride away.

Meal: Breakfast


March 2-8, 2019
All-Inclusive Tour
6 Nights, 
Price Coming Soon

Your retreat begins and ends at Monterey International Airport. Your package includes pickup and transportation from and back to the airport (airfare is not included).

Also included: a professional tour director; interpretations by nationally-acclaimed humanities scholar Clay S. Jenkinson; all activities; speakers; lodging; meals (except lunch on Day 3); transportation throughout your tour; museum, state and national park fees; journals; gifts; hotel baggage handling; state and local taxes; hotel and restaurant gratuities. A $400 non-refundable deposit will secure your reservation. Please read our Terms and Conditions enclosed. Price is per-person based on double occupancy. Traveling single? No problem. We can easily match you with a roommate. Please inquire about our single supplemental fee if you would prefer a room of your own.