Cover image for My American adventure : big things happen when you reach really high!
Title:
My American adventure : big things happen when you reach really high!
Author:
Burritt, Amy, 1983-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Grand Rapids, Mich. : ZondervanPublishingHouse, [1998]

©1998
Physical Description:
xviii, 254 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780310227946
Format :
Book

Available:*

Library
Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Status
Central Library E169.04 .B89 1998 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
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Summary

Summary

Never before has anyone set out on a journey across America to see all fifty states, with a goal to interview all fifty governors, and do it in fifty weeks. That's exactly what Amy Burritt did. And she was only twelve In My American Adventure, Amy relates her story in a voice accessible to us all, as she gives a unique perspective of the United States, its politics, history, and people.


Excerpts

Excerpts

Foreword Charles Kuralt would have been proud of Amy Burritt.     The late newsman, known and beloved for his more than twenty-five years On the Road with CBS, lived a life of great adventure, traveling the back roads and small towns of America, and meeting many colorful and friendly folks along the way.     Like Kuralt, Amy and her family toured the country in a motorhome, discovering each day the fascinating diversity of the cities and states of America. From her travels, Amy learned what Kuralt knew: there is always another good story just around the next bend in the road.     In October 1995, Amy interviewed me in Lansing as part of her project, "America Through the Eyes of a Student." She asked thoughtful questions and impressed me with her enthusiasm and persistence. I was happy to share with her why I feel Michigan is special. I could see why Amy was ultimately successful in her pursuit of all fifty states and their governors: she was having fun.     Amy has captured all of the fun and adventure of her family's extraordinary journey in this, her first book, My American Adventure . Her story is a compelling one and fulfills a dream that many people, young and old, have shared: to visit every one of the United States.     This book is more than just a good read. It is a testament to the power of education. By making learning fun, Amy's parents, Emily and Kurt Burritt, have opened the door to remarkable achievement by Amy and her brother Jonathan. Recognizing the importance of education and her own ability to read and write, Amy plans to contribute a portion of her book's proceeds to literacy organizations.     Kuralt would have been proud indeed. --Governor John Engler my new home "Jon," I yelled, "It's here! It's here!" We both rushed out the door to see our new home cruising down the driveway. It was huge. It looked like a gigantic bus. It was cream with burgundy stripes, and the name on the side was Bounder . We waited by the driveway as it rolled to a stop.     "Can we get in? Can we get in?" Jon and I shouted in unison.     "Sure." Dad smiled as he opened the door. I stepped inside and looked around. It was a house on wheels. It had everything. A stove, refrigerator, two TVs, a VCR, and even a microwave. Above the steering wheel was a small television. "Dad," I asked, "is this your own little TV?"     "No, that's the back-up camera, so I can keep an eye on the car that we'll be towing behind us."     "Wow, they think of everything. Look at all the cupboards."     I walked down the hall and opened a door. It was the bathroom. At the back of the motor home was a bedroom with a queen-size bed and more closets. Opening every door, I investigated each empty space. I knew this was Mom and Dad's room.     "But where will I sleep?" I asked Dad.     "Right here, Amy," he said, pointing to the table.     "On the table?"     "Yeah, look, it folds down into a bed." Dad moved the cushions and quickly changed the booth into a bed. "And Jon," he continued, "you'll sleep over there on the couch, and you'll both be able to use your sleeping bags."     "Awesome," I said, "now I won't have to make my bed every day."     I sat on the cushions and motioned for Max, our springer spaniel, to jump on my bed. "Max, you can sleep right here next to me."     Traveling in this motorhome was going to be a lot more fun than the Minnie Winnie we used to own. The Bounder was so much bigger. But then so was the trip.     I remember when I wasn't so excited about our trip, just a few months before, when Mom and Dad first made the announcement.     They'd called my younger brother Jon and me into the living room for a family meeting. That's when they told us what they were planning.     "You want to do what?" I shrieked. "You mean we're going to leave home? Just travel around the country for a whole year?"     "That's our plan," Dad smiled. "We want to take you to all fifty states."     "Why?" I asked, shocked that my parents seemed so nonchalant about such a crazy idea.     "Why what?" Dad's eyebrows raised.     I slumped back in my chair, a hundred thoughts running through my head. "Why do you want to do it?"     "For lots of reasons, Amy," Dad explained. "To begin with, your mother and I have always had a dream to travel and see our country. Plus, you and Jon are growing up so fast. Someday, in the not too distant future, you'll have lives of your own. I want to spend time with you guys now, so we can experience these things as a family."     "Are we gonna fly in a plane?" Jon asked. He was seven and loved airplanes. If flying was involved, Jon would go for the idea. I, on the other hand, wasn't convinced.     "Yes," Mom answered. "We'll fly to Alaska and Hawaii, and we'll travel in a motorhome to visit all the other states."     "But what about my friends?" I asked. "And our store? Our house, what about our house?"     "Slow down, Amy," Mom laughed. "Those are all details we still have to work out, but we've decided to take the trip in tours so we can come home every ten weeks for a short break. You'll be able to see your friends then and share some of your adventures with them."     Ten weeks. Sounded like an eternity. I couldn't imagine a whole year.     "We also wondered what you thought about interviewing the governor of each state during the trip," Dad said.     "Me?"     "Yes." Mom smiled.     "Why?"     "Because you'll be going to every state, and we think that by interviewing the governors and keeping a journal, you could share your experience with other kids," Mom explained.     "How would I do that?"     "Maybe you could publish a book about it."     "Me? Publish a book?" I was overwhelmed by all this news. "Can I think about it for a while?"     "Sure," Mom said.     I went for a long bike ride that afternoon. I was excited about the idea of trying to accomplish something as unusual as meeting every governor in the United States. It seemed like an impossible goal, but somehow that made it even more appealing. I wasn't sure where we would start, or how I could accomplish something so big, but I did know if I wanted to do it, Mom and Dad would find a way to help me make it happen. And it would definitely be a new adventure.     As I explored our new motorhome, reality began to set in. We really were leaving. Maybe a year wouldn't be so bad. We would have all the conveniences of home, and there was plenty of room for Max.     I went to bed that night feeling confused. I was excited about the trip, but part of me didn't want to leave my friends. Maybe, if I had known then about all the new friends I would meet traveling over the next year, from prisoners and politicians to people like Captain Vectra and Dina with her dolphins, I wouldn't have felt so torn. That night, though, I could only picture my best friends, Melisa and Brittany, sleeping in the house across the road, and I didn't want to leave them. We did everything together.     I lay awake a long time that night, listening to the wind blow through the woods surrounding our house and thinking. Adventure was my middle name. I took every chance I could to explore new places. The woods to me were like the ocean was to Columbus. I spent every summer roaming those woods with Melisa and Brittany. We loved to stuff ourselves with wild blackberries and strawberries, build teepees, climb trees, share secrets and discover treasures, going home only after we were too tired and aching to go any farther. I tried to imagine the adventures I'd have on a trip across America. What would they be like without Mel and Britt?     I started thinking about the junkyard. The three of us had discovered it during one of our hikes through the woods. It was hidden down in a small valley, just beyond a ridge of pine trees near our houses. Since then, it had become one of our favorite places to go. We liked to think of it as our secret place, where we could go and no one could find us.     There was one object at the junkyard that sent chills down our spines. Near the bottom of the hill, there was a big wooden box that looked like a coffin. The box was latched shut, and the hinges on the top were rusted and falling apart. Our curiosity about what was inside the box had begun to get the best of us. Our imaginations would run wild with the idea that there might be a dead body inside. One time, we found a glass eyeball and a set of false teeth nearby. Maybe they belonged to whoever was in the box. We were always trying to convince each other to open it.     One day, after not finding any new treasures, boredom drove us to the one last thing we had yet to uncover. We looked at the mysterious box. With no words spoken, we looked at each other in silent agreement. This would be the day. Shaking, we all walked down to the box, put our hands on the lid, and counted.     "One ..." I slid my fingers under the edge, ready to pull it open.     "Two ..." I glanced up at Brittany. Her eyes scanned the box.     "Thr--"     "Let's wait," I interrupted suddenly. "We can look in there anytime."     I shivered in bed, remembering how scared we were about the box that day. "Anytime" seemed to be slipping away. I wondered if the girls would go to the junkyard while I was on my trip and open the box without me.     I walked over to my bedroom window and looked at Melisa and Brittany's house across the road. The moon cast a faint light on their porch. I put my hand against the glass, Would they miss me?     A week later, Mom, Dad, Jon, and I walked into the lobby of Traverse City's Park Place Hotel. "Do I have to talk to her?" I asked. We were meeting with our first dignitary, Michigan State Representative Michelle McManus.     "You might as well get used to it now, Amy. This is just the beginning," Dad said.     "Thank you for taking the time to meet with us," Mom said, shaking bands with Michelle. She was thin with dark curly hair and glasses.     "You're welcome. I'm happy to help," she answered. We told her about our plan to travel to all fifty states.     "Wow, you must be excited about this, Amy. What a project."     "Yes, I am."     "I think it's a great idea, but I'm not sure what kind of response you'll get from the governors' offices."     "Can you tell us where to begin?" Mom asked her.     "Well, I would suggest you start by writing letters to each of the governors. In fact, I'd be happy to write a letter of endorsement for you."     Her endorsement letter arrived in the mail a few days later, along with other letters from our State Senator George McManus, Lt. Governor Connie Binsfield, and Governor John Engler of Michigan. We included all of the letters in the request packets we sent to the governors.     We all worked hard making the project come together. After the request packets were addressed, we took them to the post office on May 19. I'll never forget that date. The postage came to over fifty dollars. I was so glad to be done with the packets. After they were mailed, we waited for the governors to respond.     Exactly one week later, Mom received a phone call. "Hello?" Mom's eyes widened and she signaled us to be quiet. We froze. I could hear my heart beating. "Yes it is ..." she said in her business tone of voice. All of a sudden, a big smile came across her face. "That's wonderful ... she'll be excited to hear that ... sure, that'll work out fine ... Okay, thank you ... Good-bye."     "Who was it?" I asked.     "Oh, nobody special. Just the governor's office in Kentucky." She paused, then smiled. "And the governor said he would meet with you!"     We all screamed. You'd have thought we just won the lottery. But, no, it was better than that. My first meeting with a governor was scheduled. I couldn't believe it, a governor actually wanted to meet with me. I took a deep breath. It hit me then. We were committed to doing this trip, and I would have to be prepared for my meetings.     Over the next few weeks, the calls continued to come in. Before we knew it, thirty governors had agreed to meet with me. I was feeling nervous. I'd never done any public speaking before, let alone interviewing, but Mom and Dad assured me I'd be prepared.     I practiced my public speaking every night. For the fifth night in a row, I stood in front of my parents and read aloud from a book on the history of the state of New York. Why they chose that book, I don't know. It was hopelessly boring.     "Stand up straight," Dad said.     "Speak clearly and don't rock on your shoes," Mom added. "Amy, how many times do I have to tell you," she sighed, "don't chew your nails." I couldn't help it. It was one of my bad habits.     Even though I was excited about the trip, I still had some misgivings about it. I felt like Melisa and Brittany were tired of hearing about the trip. They didn't want me to go, and every time we talked about it, they were reminded I'd be leaving soon. I didn't blame them. It had to be hard for them, too.     Four weeks before we were scheduled to leave, Mom and Dad called me into the living room.     "What's this all about?" I asked.     "Max," Dad said.     "Oh, I've already figured that out. He's going to sleep on my bed." I smiled.     "Well, Amy," Mom began, "we're realized we can't take Max with us."     "What? Why not? He won't be any trouble."     "Amy, it's not that he'll be any trouble," Dad explained. "He just needs a lot of room to run. Keeping him cooped up in the motorhome wouldn't be fair to him."     Max belonged to Dad, but he was special to me, too. I spent a lot of time with him when he was a puppy, teaching him tricks and playing ball with him. Max always followed me through the woods on my adventures. He loved to chase birds. Even when they were flying way up in the sky, Max thought he just might be able to catch one. (He could be pretty dumb sometimes.) I didn't think Max cared about what was "fair," he just wanted to be with us.     Dad told me that a family interested in giving Max a new home was on their way over to meet him. I was hoping the family wouldn't like Max and that we would have to take him with us, but that wasn't the case. They fell in love with him right away. He seemed to like them, too, although Max liked everyone. I was sick to my stomach.     I pulled Mom aside. "What if they're mean to him and don't treat him nice?" I asked, my voice quivering.     "Amy," Mom said softly, "they seem like nice people, plus they live on a farm, which would give him a lot of room to run." Somehow that didn't make me feel any better. I began to wonder if the trip would be worth all the sacrifices I was making.     When the time came for them to take Max, I cried. I tried to convince Mom and Dad we could manage with him on the trip, but they'd already made up their minds. I showed Max's new family all the tricks we taught him. With teary eyes, I gave him the commands, and he obeyed without hesitation.     "Sit, Max," I said. He sat down. "Shake. Good boy. Lie down, roll over." Melisa, Brittany, Jon, and I posed with Max for one last picture. We all put our arms around him and said good-bye. I gave him one final command. "Go for a ride, Max; get in the car." Once again, he obeyed.     Even Mom and Dad were choked up as Max rode off with his new family. Everyone was silent, and my throat hurt from swallowing back my tears. I felt like part of me was gone forever. Our other dog, a bichon frise named Shasta, wasn't sure what to think. She wasn't even a year old, and Max had been like a big brother to her. I picked her up and held her tight. At least she was small enough that we could take her with us. I lay in bed that night wondering how Max was adjusting to his new home. My poor orphan dog. I hope they love him as much as I do , I thought, as I cried myself to sleep.     Time seemed to fly by. Before I knew it, Dad found renters for our house, so I had to pack up the stuff in my room. It was hard to decide what to take with me and what to pack away for a whole year. I pulled out a small wooden box from underneath my bed. Grandpa made it for my eleventh birthday. I'd memorized every line in the grain of the oak wood. Inside were my favorite treasures. I carefully wrapped the small glass bottles and broken pieces of porcelain in newspaper and set them back into the box. I poured the buttons and rusty metal pieces around the inside edge and shut the lid. I looked around my room as if I was saying good-bye to an old friend. It was strange to think about someone else living in my room, especially when I found out it would be a boy.     With just two weeks left before we departed, we moved into the motorhome and stayed at a local camp. One morning, Dad had to take it to the RV dealer to get an awning attached. When he started backing the motorhome out from the campsite, he forgot to put down the TV antenna. It hit a big branch and broke off completely. It tumbled over the windshield and landed on the ground in front of the motorhome.     "Doggonit!" Dad said. "We haven't even left town yet and I have to repair something." I couldn't believe he forgot to crank it down. That was a one hundred dollar mistake, but I had a feeling he wouldn't do that again.     In the days just before we left, some of the local media, the Traverse City Record-Eagle and a few local television and radio stations wanted to talk to us about our trip. Tom BeVier, from The Detroit News , interviewed us in our motor home.     "How are you able to get out of school for a whole year?" he asked.     "Well, I'm homeschooled, so this is just part of my education," I told him. I also showed him the sweatshirts we'd made with our logo on the front, which read, "America Through the Eyes of a Student." That was the name of our trip.     "I wish you luck, young lady," Tom said, shaking my hand.     WTCM, a country radio station, had asked us to do a live interview. We walked into the studio. The deejay was wearing headphones, and he was surrounded by a panel of buttons and flashing lights.     "Hello," he said, in a voice I recognized. It was Jack O'Malley, the host of the morning show.     "Hi, I'm Amy," I said.     "So, I hear you're going on a trip around the country. That sounds pretty exciting."     "Yeah, I can't wait to go."     Jack invited us to sit down in front of a big microphone. "I'm going to ask you some questions about your trip, so just talk into that microphone," he told me.     "What will be your job on the trip, Amy?"     "I'm going to interview the governors and write a book."     "Now, why do you want to do that?"     "Because, how many kids have gone to all fifty states, with a goal to meet all fifty governors and wrote a book about it," I answered. "I think kids like to read stories about other kids. At least I do."     The time went by quickly as Jack took turns asking each of us questions. "Emily," Jack said, looking at Mom, "would you be willing to call us with a live update from the road, say, once a month?"     "Sure, I'd be happy to," Mom agreed.     "And, Amy, maybe you could talk to us occasionally, too!" Jack smiled. Me? I thought. I'll leave that up to Mom .     A few days later, Aunt Sue threw a going-away party for us at the beach. Friends and family came to say good-bye. My cousin Audrey gave me a silver pendant with a lizard on it for a going-away gift. She knew I liked lizards.     "You know what, Audrey?" I said. "I'm going to take this lizard to every state with me and it will be a special souvenir." I thought it would be neat to have something special that traveled with me to all fifty states.     "Cool," Audrey said, with a smile on her face. I put the pendant around my neck and wore it for the rest of the day.     After all the anticipation, I was excited about our trip. I was ready for my new adventure to begin, but it was hard to say good-bye to everyone.     "Amy, do you really have to go?" Melisa asked.     "I wish I could say no, Mel," I said, trying to find a way to tell her and Brittany how much I was going to miss them, even if I was really happy about taking the trip. I never found the right words. hitting the road ... The following Saturday, Dad drove the motor home to Grandma and Grandpa Peckham's house, where we would spend our last night. Early the next morning as I listened to Grandpa pray for a safe journey, my eyes filled with tears. My bands were sweaty and my stomach knotted. There was no doubt I'd need strength to make it through the entire year.     "Amen," Grandpa said, as we all squeezed bands. Grandma and Grandpa went down the line giving each of us a hug.     "We're going to miss you," Grandma said, choking back her tears.     "You, too, Grandma." I watched them waving good-bye from the edge of the road until they were out of sight.     It was July 30. Dad began singing "On the Road Again." It's such an obnoxious song. Unfortunately, I'd hear it many more times over the next twelve months.     I walked back to the bedroom and flopped on the bed. I felt the pendant on my necklace fall across my neck. I ran my fingers over the silver and followed the design of the lizard. Dad had sold his business, we'd given away our dog and rented our house. My whole life was messed up. I tried to hold back the tears, but I couldn't. I was leaving behind so much of what was important to me, my room, my dog, my woods, and, most of all, my friends.     We drove for hours. I felt a little better by the time we stopped along the Ohio Turnpike to cook dinner at a truck stop. There were lots of motorhomes pulling off the highway and staying the night. While Mom cooked dinner, Jon and I played around the trees at the edge of the woods. We spotted a small toad and began chasing it.     Mom called us in. While I was eating, I looked down and noticed my lizard pendant was missing. I began frantically searching the floor and then the cushions. I couldn't find the pendant anywhere. I ran out the door.     "Amy," Jon called, "I'll help you find it." We searched the area where we'd been playing but couldn't find it anywhere. I was so mad at myself for losing it. Discouraged, I went inside, pulled out my sleeping bag and set up my bed. I lay there thinking about what I would say to Audrey. Maybe I would find the lizard the next day.     Early the following morning, I put my bed table up and went outside to look once more. I still couldn't find it. How am I going to tell Audrey I lost her present on the very first day of the trip? I was really mad at myself.     After everything was secured in the motorhome, Dad started to drive away. That's when we heard it. Crunch. We all looked at each other with wide eyes.     "Doggonit!" Dad said, pounding the steering wheel. He slammed the RV into park and stormed out the door. We looked at Dad through the windshield as he bent down to pick up his fractured antenna off the ground. I wanted to laugh, but then I saw Dad's face and I knew better. I managed a look of sympathy, but all I could think was, I'm glad it wasn't my responsibility to lower the antenna .     Dad and I both learned a valuable lesson our first day on the road. I learned to keep my special treasures inside the motorhome, and Dad put a Post-it note on the dash: "Hey, stupid, is the antenna down?" tour one new york vermont maine new hampshire massachusetts rhode island connecticut new jersey pennsylvania ohio michigan Chapter One New York a bite of the big apple Welcome to New York. We all cheered when we saw the green welcome sign. Dad stopped at the edge of the road to get a picture of Jon and me in front of it.     "Here we are, our very first stare," Dad said, as he stretched and looked around the landscape. This was officially the beginning of our fifty-state tour.     Our first stop was Niagara Falls. From everything I'd heard about them, I was expecting something really cool, but as I peered over the metal railing surrounding the falls, I was disappointed. Maybe they would have looked more impressive if I'd seen them from the bottom, during one of the boat tours that take you underneath the falls.     We walked back to the motorhome. I hopped in, grabbed a pop out of the fridge, and sat down at the table to drink it as Dad started to drive away. It was neat to be able to travel down the highway and sip a pop or eat snacks anytime. The big windshield allowed us to have a good view. It sure beat riding in the car and getting motion sickness.     We stopped at a campground on Lake Erie to spend the night. Dad took our bikes off the rack so we could explore the area. It was pretty as the sun went down, its rays reflecting off the lake, first yellow, then orange. The horizon slowly darkened, and the colors eventually faded into the night. It was a picture-perfect ending to our first day in New York.     The next day we traveled through western New York. I was surprised to see rolling hills, trees, lakes, and vineyards. It didn't look much different than northern Michigan. I guess whenever I thought about New York, I'd only imagined New York City. I realized the state is more than just the Big Apple.     Dad was still adjusting to all the new sounds of the motorhome. Whenever the pots and pans rattled, he'd send me on a search to stop the annoying sound. Inserting rubber mats between the pots and pans quickly became part of our routine before hitting the road, along with securing the refrigerator, making sure nothing was sitting on the counters, and locking the motorhome door so it didn't fly open on the highway. Oh yeah, and lowering the antenna.     We were slowly making our way to New York City. We drove all day, until it was time to find a campground. That was Mom's job, to look through the campground guidebook, find one that was easy to get to and not too expensive. She found one that sounded really nice, so Dad turned off the highway. The paved road eventually changed into a dirt road that wound through woods and places that were barely wide enough for our motorhome. We drove for miles following the small wooden signs directing the way to the campground. Dad was beginning to worry we'd driven too far off the highway.     "Honey, where are you taking us?"     "I'm just following the directions in the book." Mom was funny. In order to read a map, she had to turn it in the direction we were traveling, which is probably why Dad was getting worried. He was almost ready to turn around when we finally found the campground.     It didn't look at all like the beautiful description in the guidebook. What I saw was more like a scene out of a horror movie. On a hill was an old hotel with lots of windows and broken shutters. The red paint was cracked, worn by the wind and rain. It looked deserted, haunted, and it gave me the creeps. As darkness set in, a light rain began to fall, making a plinking sound on the roof as we sat looking at the place.     Up another steep hill, a bunch of old camping trailers were lined up in rows. They looked like they'd found their final resting place. Mounds of clutter lying around the trailers made it look more like permanent housing than a campground. I had a weird feeling about this place. I didn't want to stay, but it was late and Dad was getting a headache. We didn't have any other choice.     The campground office was in a rundown trailer. Mom and I went in to pay for a campsite. Turning a wobbly knob, we opened the creaky metal door. The awful smell of cigarette smoke and musty carpet choked me. Behind a dark wooden desk stood a lady with pink curlers in her hair and deep wrinkles in her face. She was wearing one of those dresses that some grandmas like to wear, with big gaudy flowers and no sleeves. In the background, I could hear the murmur of a television. I glanced around the room. Piles of papers and dusty books cluttered the office. A sticky flytrap with ancient prisoners embedded in glue hung in one corner. I wondered how many years it had been there. Sunbleached blue curtains hung over the windows, making the room dark and dreary. Mom asked hesitantly about a campsite for the night and paid the twenty dollars. Anxious to get back outside for some fresh air, I stepped in front of Mom to get out first.     We drove the motorhome up to the top of the hill. I noticed a bunch of kids watching us. Their eyes widened as the RV came closer. Most of the kids were running around barefoot, wearing grimy tank tops and shorts. They didn't seem to care that it was raining. Dad pulled our shiny new bus into a site, turned off the engine, and went to lie down. The kids began surrounding the motorhome. They stood there silently, shifting their stares from the front of the motor home to the back, as if it were a UFO that had just landed in their backyard.     Mom suggested Jon and I go play with them, but we were too chicken to go out the door. A freckle-faced boy in a faded blue T-shirt was inspecting us very carefully. He looked like he was about my age. I watched him as he slowly walked around the motorhome, his eyes scanning it from top to bottom. His straight brown hair was uncombed, and tattered jeans worn through the knees revealed a dirty gash. He stopped near the back of the motorhome. Slipping his hands into his pockets, he seemed to take a particular interest in my bike on the rack. I wondered what he was thinking. Maybe he didn't have a bike of his own. Maybe he wanted mine.     After a restless night, I woke up early, anxious to check the bike rack. I was happy to see that everything was there. We left as soon as the breakfast dishes were done and everything was secured, but the sight of that lonely looking boy in the faded blue T-shirt stuck with me.     Since May, when we had mailed the packets to all the governors, Mom's job had been to call their offices and arrange my interview meetings. She'd already been able to set up many appointments before we left Michigan, but here we were in New York, and she still hadn't been able to schedule a meeting with Governor George Pataki in Albany.     It takes a lot to upset Mom, but on her way back from the pay phone, where she'd made her tenth call to Governor Pataki's office, her face was a bit red. She looked as if she was ready to explode. Instead, she walked up to the side of the motorhome, looked me in the eye, and said calmly, "I think we'll let this one go for now."     "What happened?" I asked.     "We'll try again later." Boy, I knew she was mad when she evaded my questions, but I really wanted to know what Governor Pataki's office had said.     "What happened?" I asked again.     "Governor Pataki's scheduler just hung up on me."     "Oh, great," I said, waving my arms in frustration. "We're not getting off to a very good start!"     I took that first rejection very personally. It hurt my feelings to think the governor didn't want to meet with me. Suddenly, interviewing all fifty governors of the United States seemed to be an impossible dream. I worried if things didn't go better with the other governors, I was never going to reach my goal. Later in the trip, I would learn to roll with the punches better, knowing it was often the governor's staff making decisions, not actually the governor.     August 4 ... Been through lots of New York. Finger Lakes, Ithaca, Plattekill. Visited Roosevelt's childhood home and Vanderbilt mansion. The Vanderbilts were a very wealthy family who made their fortune in the railroads. They have mansions all over the place. Tomorrow, the Big A .     New York City. It's big. It smells. It's home to the Statue of Liberty, or so I thought. We met up with Gordon, an old friend of Mom and Dad's, who lives in the city. His blonde hair was a bold contrast to the rigid features of his face. His sharp jaw line and high cheekbones gave way to deep blue eyes that sparkled as he spoke.     "C'mon guys! We've got places to go and people to see!" Gordon said.     The first thing we did was eat a great breakfast at one of his favorite places. I learned one thing right away: New Yorkers love their food. New York City has every kind of restaurant you can imagine, from Chinese to Greek to Italian. You can eat in a small outdoor cafe or an elegant dining hall. There are so many choices. It's fantastic!     We moved fast through New York City. Gordon wanted to show us as much as he could in one day. After breakfast, we headed down the street to our first stop, the Museum of Natural History. I liked hearing all the sounds of the city: horns honking, the beeping sound of trucks backing up, people calling out for taxis, and street vendors selling their goods. There was a constant hum of activity. Gordon walked briskly. I was glad I wore my tennis shoes. We practically ran through the museum, snapping pictures as quickly as we could.     Forty-five minutes later we were walking through Central Park, the greenest spot you'll find in New York City. A man in old ragged clothes, looking as though he hadn't bathed in weeks, was digging through a trash can. I stopped to watch, curious about what he was trying to find. He just kept pulling out pop bottles.     "Mom, what's that guy doing?" I asked.     Mom looked at me sadly. "Amy, in New York a pop bottle is worth a nickel." I shuddered, and a sick feeling rushed through me. He must be collecting them to buy food , I thought.     "C'mon, Amy, let's go," Mom said, pulling my sleeve. As we hurried along, Jon complained he couldn't walk anymore, so Gordon picked him up and carried him on his shoulders. Knowing he couldn't carry Jon all day, Gordon decided to get his car. He left us at the Metropolitan Museum of Art to wait for him. We had only forty-five minutes to tour the entire place before Gordon returned, so we only saw some of what was there. I wanted to stay longer to look at the armor display, but Gordon said, "We don't have enough time, if you want to see the rest of the city. Besides, it'll give you a reason to come back."     We spent the rest of the day cruising around the city in Gordon's green jeep, with the top off. Gordon turned on the radio, and we were driving through downtown Manhattan with the wind blowing through our hair just like in the movies. I felt as though I was on top of the world. Gordon was in the advertising business, but by the way he was swerving in and out of traffic like a maniac, Mom said he should have been a cab driver.     We passed Trump Tower, Grand Central Station, and the marquee for the Late Night Show with David Letterman, displayed in big bold yellow letters. We saw the building where NBC airs the Today Show and the spot where people line up every morning to try to get on TV. Next, we went to Wall Street to see the New York Stock Exchange. Wall Street is a narrow street with tall buildings along its curb. Gordon pointed out all the sites as we flew by. I noticed a sign that displayed a large number, somewhere in the trillions, and the last digit was spinning so fast I couldn't even read it.     "Gordon, what's that sign for?"     "It represents our national debt."     "You mean our country is that far in debt?" I asked in amazement.     "Yeah," Dad said, "and the worst thing about it is your generation has to pay for it."     "That's not fair!" I yelled over the noise of the traffic. "How do they expect us to pay for it?" I couldn't believe the government was spending money it didn't even have faster than I could count it.     In the distance I saw the one landmark I'd heard so much about, the Statue of Liberty. Gordon pulled over at the yacht harbor of the World Financial Center so we could get a good look. It was far away and seemed little compared to what I'd imagined. There was a misty rain falling, and log was rolling into the harbor.     Finally, we took a break and had dinner at an outdoor cafe. I sank into a chair under a teal umbrella.     "When we're finished with dinner, I'll take you guys down to the Pier," Gordon said. He still had plenty of energy left to keep going. I think he was running on Energizer batteries. After dinner, I managed to find enough energy to walk along the Pier and look at all the shops. I leaned on the railing and gazed at the George Washington Bridge. I understood what "whirlwind tour" meant.     Although our day in the big city was coming to an end, Gordon wanted to send us off with one final, delicious memory. We stopped at another cafe for dessert. Mom and Dad reminisced about old times with Gordon while Jon and I scouted out the goodies. We decided on the super-duper, triple-layer chocolate something-or-other cake, made with several layers of different kinds of chocolate and topped with huge shavings of dark chocolate. It was the most awesome dessert I'd ever seen. Gordon was certainly a great tour guide, and his taste in restaurants was pretty good, too.     After an exhausting ten hours in New York City, I was glad to be in the car heading back to the motorhome. Staring out the window, I thought about the lights on Broadway and the fancy places like Trump Tower and Wall Street. I tried to remember the last number of the national debt, and I wished I would've saved some of the super- duper, triple-layer chocolate something-or-other cake for the kid in the faded blue T-shirt back at the campground. Chapter Two Vermont texas falls "Wow! Look at all the different flavors!" Jon exclaimed, running up to the brightly colored ice cream counter. "I want chocolate almond. No, I want Chunky Monkey. And ... and ... and can I have mint chocolate chip, too?"     "You can have whatever kind you want," Dad laughed, as he rubbed Jon's bristly hair.     "How about Rainforest Crunch? Or peanut butter cup?" I asked.     There must have been forty different flavors to choose from at Ben & Jerry's ice cream factory in Stowe, Vermont, and, like Jon, I had a hard time deciding.     "Mom, can I have a double scoop? Please?" I batted my eyelashes, but it didn't seem to have the effect I was hoping it would.     "You better go with a single," she said, pointing to a small boy licking melted ice cream off his cone. "Look at the size of them."     "But, Mom, that's not very much."     "All right," she said, "just this once!"     I pondered what flavors I should get as I walked around the outdoor area of the factory. It was set up like a fair. At one table, two little girls were making gigantic bubbles, at another someone was offering free face painting.     I returned to the counter where Dad was standing. "I've decided on chocolate chip cookie dough and a second scoop of mint chocolate chip." It's my favorite.     "Coming right up!" Dad said in a deep radio voice. I leaned against the counter waiting for my ice cream.     "Oh, thanks!" I said, as the guy behind the counter handed me my double dip. I licked the top and let the cool minty ice cream slide down my throat. It felt good in contrast to the hot August weather.     We ate our cones while we waited in a line to take the factory tour. We were told that at the end there would be a quiz. Wait a minute , I thought, this sounds too much like school! I tried to pay attention anyway.     We watched a movie about the ice cream factory's early beginnings, and we walked through the factory. We saw how the ice cream is made. The quiz at the end of the tour consisted of one question: "What three ice cream flavors were named by people outside of the Ben & Jerry's factory?" I raised my hand. The guide picked the lady right in front of me, but she didn't have the right answer. Then he chose me.     "Chunky Monkey, Chubby Hubby, and Cherry Garcia," I answered.     "You're exactly right," said our guide, and he tossed me a frozen Peace Pop. I ate a few bites of it, but was too full to eat the rest. Jon was more than happy to take care of it for me. He's always so helpful.     At the end of the tour, we realized it was getting late. Dad was anxious to get to our next campground before dark.     "Guess what, guys?" Mom asked. "Our next campground is on a lake."     "That's just great," I moaned, as I lay on the couch in the motorhome, my stomach churning from too much ice cream.     I was feeling better by the time we pulled into Limehurst Lake Campground. Jon and I waited in the motorhome while Mom and Dad registered at the office. Out the front window I could see a beautiful lake with two diving boards.     "Yes!" Jon and I shouted, as we gave each other a high-five. Mom and Dad set up our campsite, and Jon and I ran for the lake. The diving boards were awesome. That was my idea of a great campground.     We'd received a letter before we left Michigan informing us that the governor of Vermont would be on vacation during our week in his state, but Mom still wanted to drive to Montpelier and meet with the governor's scheduler and tour the capitol building. Mom was hoping we could make an appointment for a later date. Dad had agreed it would be easy to return to Vermont later, since we were on the east coast and most of the states were small and close together.     Mom walked up to the secretary seated at the desk. "Hello," she said. "My name is Emily Burritt, and I'm here to make an appointment for my daughter, Amy, to see the governor."     "Well, his schedule is pretty full today," said the secretary.     "You mean he is here?" Mom questioned. "That's funny, the letter we received from your office said he was going to be on vacation this week, so we're here to see if we can reschedule the meeting for another time."     "Um, maybe I better let you speak with the scheduler." The secretary picked up the phone and made a call. "The scheduler will be with you in a moment," she told us as she put down the receiver. "You can have a seat." As we waited in the governor's reception room, I noticed several people looking at us through a small glass window in the door behind the secretary's desk.     "Mom, can I videotape those people looking at us?"     "No," she said, "I don't want to run our battery down."     Twenty minutes went by and several people were leaving the office. Finally, Mom walked over to the secretary.     "Is it going to be much longer?" she asked. The secretary called the scheduler again.     "I'm sorry, she went to lunch," the secretary told Mom.     "What do you mean she went to lunch?" Mom asked in disbelief. "We have been sitting here for twenty minutes waiting to see her, and she decided to take a lunch break?"     "I'm sorry. Would you like to come back later?"     "No, just have her call me."     We gathered up our stuff and left the building. I felt really rotten. I couldn't understand why we were treated this way. Weren't they supposed to be serving the public? If this was how politics worked, I didn't like it.     "Don't take it personally, Amy. It's not worth getting upset about," Dad said.     Still I couldn't help feeling hurt. Why should a governor talk to me, anyway? I'm just a kid , I thought. The car ride back to the motorhome was quiet. It seemed to take forever. I was irritated and just wanted to take off my stupid dress.     After our family devotions the next morning, Jon and I dug into our schoolwork. I was creating a timeline of American history on the computer. Mom was working with Jon. He was coloring pictures of historical figures like Paul Revere and George Washington and then pasting them on a timeline of his own.     "Has anyone seen the scissors?" Dad asked. "They're supposed to be right here in the pencil box."     "They might be in the school bin," I said, pointing to the plastic container on the floor.     "You know, if everyone just put things back where they belong, it would make our lives a whole lot easier," he complained.     Dad is a neat freak. His motto is: "There's a place for everything, and everything should be in its place." Sometimes, it was hard to keep things organized in such a small space, especially when we were doing our schoolwork, because our books were usually strewn everywhere.     "If you guys can get this place cleaned up and organized, maybe we'll go on an adventure," Dad said.     "No problem," Jon grinned, throwing his books back into the bin.     Jon and I had no idea where Mom and Dad were taking us, but we grabbed our backpacks and piled into the car. We followed the back roads through the towns of Roxbury, Warren, Grandville, and Hancock. We saw lots of dairy farms and old covered bridges. Everything was so green. The car whined to a stop at the side of the road.     "Where are we, Dad?" I asked. He pointed to a sign that read "Texas Falls." "Why would Texas Falls be in Vermont?"     "Maybe it's the biggest waterfall in Vermont," Mom said, "and they decided to name it after Texas because everything is big in Texas."     The real reason didn't really matter; it was a great place to have some fun.     I looked at Jon and said, "Where there's water, there's got to be adventure!" I scrambled out of the car with Jon following close behind.     When I came to the edge of the bank, I could hear water rushing below. A slippery dirt path led clown the steep hill, covered with knotty tree roots. I used them for steps, carefully edging myself down the bank.     I was doing okay until my shoe slipped on a mossy root, and I started sliding down the slope. I caught a glimpse of the path below as I slid faster and faster. I was headed right for the waterfalls. I tried to grab onto a root, but it slipped through my fingers. I reached out for another stick and missed again. Finally, I jerked to a halt when my hand caught the end of a long root. I stood up slowly, grabbed onto a low branch over my head, and took a minute to catch my breath.     That was close--too close , I said to myself. I looked up and saw Jon leaning over the bank.     "Are you okay, Amy?" he hollered.     "Yeah, I just slipped." I climbed carefully back to the top.     "Your arm is bleeding," Jon said, pulling me up the last few inches. I looked down at it.     "I know. So is my knee." I brushed the dirt off my shorts, determined not to let a few cuts keep me from exploring. "C'mon, Jon, let's go climb those rocks on the other side." We ran across the bridge to the large rocks near the river. From there we could walk to the river's edge. The water was crystal clear.     "Jon, feel the water, it's really nice." Jon reached his hand down into the river.     "Brrr!" he shrieked. "It's freezing, Amy!"     I took off running and laughing. I love it when I get him like that.

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