Around the USA in 81 days

CASCO RESIDENT Lynne Potter holds a three-month-old alligator while taking a swamp boat ride during her visit to Louisiana in October. (Photo courtesy of Lynne Potter)

CASCO RESIDENT Lynne Potter holds a three-month-old alligator while taking a swamp boat ride during her visit to Louisiana in October. (Photo courtesy of Lynne Potter)

By Dawn De Busk
Staff Writer
CASCO — Although still a big fan of the cruise ship excursion, Casco resident Lynne Potter decided to skip the high seas when planning her 2014 vacation.
Instead, she drove 18,000 miles for the sake of exploring American soil.
Before embarking on their nine-week getaway across the United States, Potter and roommate Linda Mosello spent about a year in the preparation stages. They put a map of the U.S. on their wall, and began to mark places they had always wanted to see. They researched destination spots using AAA magazines — sometimes adding, sometimes subtracting a desired locale — until it was all mapped out.
They departed from Maine on Aug. 17, and returned 81 days later in October.
When Potter returned home, she could boast of holding an alligator, although the toothy reptile was only three months old. She could describe the awe-inspiring geological formations throughout Utah. She had stood outside the Corn Palace in South Dakota, and was wowed by the colored kernels creating the mosaics, even as a few birds mistook the art for a snack. She splurged on a dinner of Dungeness crab after watching the famous fish tossing at Pike Place Market in Seattle.
When Potter once again put her feet on Maine soil, she now understood why Katharine Lee Bates had written the words — more than 120 years ago — for the song, America, The Beautiful.
“When you see people from foreign countries, and they spend their money to see what is right in our backyard, it is amazing,” she said.
“It is a beautiful country. The hand of God created these masterpieces on this canvas called Earth,” she said.
“Water erosion creating sculptures in stone — I don’t think anyone cannot believe in a higher power when looking at places like Arches National Park,” she said.

ELEPHANT ROCK, also known as Elephant Butte, located in Arches National Park in Moab, Utah. According to the National Park Service, more than one million people visit the Arches annually. (Photo courtesy of Lynne Potter)

ELEPHANT ROCK, also known as Elephant Butte, located in Arches National Park in Moab, Utah. According to the National Park Service, more than one million people visit the Arches annually. (Photo courtesy of Lynne Potter)

“In Bryce Canyon, the water and wind erode the sandstone. The rock looks so fragile; I cannot see how it keeps standing,” she said.
“You could see why the Native Americans made these places sacred,” Potter said.
“I really felt that way when I went to Yosemite (National Park.) It was so majestic and peaceful, yet strong,” Potter, said of Half Dome Rock and the valleys and stunning rock cliffs.
“You cannot enter that park without feeling something,” she said.
Not only did Potter connect with nature, but she also admired the architecture in various cities and enjoyed some human interaction.
She chuckled over the humorous headstones at Boothill Graveyard in Tombstone, Arizona. It was in that desert country that Potter and Mosello ran across a few fellow Mainers.
“We met a couple from Skowhegan who were also on vacation. They had flown down for the week. And, the woman working at the mercantile shop in Tombstone was a transplant from Maine,” she said.
On Sept. 10, they ran into a snow blizzard in Glacier National Park in Montana.
“On Sept. 11, we were in Kalispell, Montana. It was really cool. Right out on the sidewalk of the park, in full dress was a fireman, a member of each branch of service, and a policeman. Each was holding a flag. Each person was standing there saluting. It was nice to see somewhere in Montana, they were honoring what happened on the East Coast. They hadn’t forgotten. Fourteen years later, all Americans are still actively remembering 9-11,” she said.
On the West Coast, the terrain had become noticeably dry from the drought. In fact, many of the waterfalls well-known as part of Yosemite National Park had dried up and Lake Powell was at an all-time low, Potter said.
“I was talking to a farmer in California, they had to plow up five of their avocado fields because didn’t have water to grow them,” she said.
“Southern Washington and California is so dry out there. The drought has gone on for years there,” she said.
“When the tsunami hit Indonesia 10 years ago, it moved the earth’s axis two degrees. And, I think that is part of it. I think that is what we are seeing because of that,” Potter said.
During her trip, she talked to a young woman with Native American ancestry.

THIS FISH APPEARS to migrate through a brick building in Portland, Ore. The photo was snapped by Lynne Potter, who learned during her trip to the West Coast that in Seattle all buildings paid for with public funds are required to have statues. (Photo courtesy of Lynne Potter)

THIS FISH APPEARS to migrate through a brick building in Portland, Ore. The photo was snapped by Lynne Potter, who learned during her trip to the West Coast that in Seattle all buildings paid for with public funds are required to have statues. (Photo courtesy of Lynne Potter)

“Her parent’s generation is telling her generation not to have a lot of children because the earth is stressed. There is not enough clean water, clean air or land for crops,” Potter said.
“That’s an interesting perspective from people who do revere the earth,” she said.
“Seeing the drought and the effects of the drought makes me feel lucky about preserving the water quality, and what we have here,” Potter said.
One of the pleasures of traveling is trying out new food.
Potter said the Dungeness crab in Seattle and the “great” steaks in Cheyenne, Wyoming, topped her list.
“We ate in some really dippy dives that were cool. One place is on the U.S. Registry of historic places. Nothing but stools and the counters. It’s known for hamburgers and milkshakes,” she said.
“Everyone talked to you though they didn’t know you. It was a real friendly place that we really loved,” she said.
“When we were in Trinidad, Colorado, there was an Italian restaurant. The owner had spent most of adult life working in Las Vegas. Every once in a while, all the waiters would stop serving and start singing. Sometime, they’d sing an Italian song or ‘Sweet Caroline,’” she said.
“There was no rhyme or reason to it. But it was really fun. Yes, the food was good; but it was the atmosphere” that added to the dining experience, she said.
Potter’s travels showed her “the importance of zoning. Like, in Silverton, Colorado, they didn’t have zoning. You had buildings on the sides of mountains with mines above them.”
“A lot of time, (people) tried to preserve the uniqueness of their town. Like Durango, Colorado, instead of tearing down old buildings,” those structures were salvaged — along with a bit of history, Potter said.
She had seen the bar, known as a saloon, in San Antonio, Texas, where President Theodore Roosevelt went to round up his Rough Riders. During the road trip, they saw other structures that carried pieces of American history.
Mosello and Potter never booked rooms more than a day in advance. It worked out well, except around Labor Day when they were hard-pressed to find a hotel. Throughout, they kept to a night owl schedule, and spent part of the evening writing in their journals about the day’s events.
Potter felt the mixed emotions of coming back when the joy of traveling is temporarily overtaken with the reality of work that needs to be done at home.
“It was nice to get home. During our vacation, we only had three days of rain. As soon as I got home, we had three weeks of it. And, I had to clean up all the leaves in the yard,” Potter said.

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