A Review of Travels With Vamper: A Graybeard’s Journey

by George Critchlow

Travels With Vamper: A Graybeard’s Journey by George Critchlow is purportedly a contemporary riff on John Steinbeck’s Travels With Charley, each a reportage of sorts about miscellaneous encounters experienced while on a solo road trip across the U.S.A. True to the authentic nature of such road trips, Critchlow’s account involves much more than simple, direct connections between alternative destinations. This book is at the same time a series of spontaneous recollections, autobiographical anecdotes, philosophical reflections, historical insights, and an investigative inquiry into the political portents and inclinations of a country poised on the brink — depending on your point of view — of dreadful or benignant change. After all, this is the age of Trump.

George Critchlow is a recently retired lawyer and law professor, a baby boomer who remains ambivalent about his idealistic concessions to a materialistic world, and who seeks some clarity and perspective while traveling contemporary America in his equally aged camper. Travels With Vamper is not the heavy reading one might imagine from my description, but it is filled with the intelligence and thoughtfulness derived from an educational foundation typical of the baby boomer generation, and it radiates the emotional disillusionment this generation feels after crashing from its idealistic highs, ambitious hopes, and liberal dreams, a generation who sincerely wished to make America great again. Critchlow is not opposed to probing our nation’s varied populace for their political motivations, but he is less inclined toward the clear optimism of his youth after hearing their shallow, uninformed, but passionate responses. Travels With Vamper is less a reasoned argument or closing statement than it is a highly reasonable inquiry into — and a revelation about — what happened to us between then and now.