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Teen-ager Writes of U.S. Travels

May 2, 1998

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) _ Amy Burritt thought her parents had gone crazy when they said they wanted to sell their share of the family business, rent a motor home and roam the country for a year.

They also wanted to meet the governor of every state.

``You want to do what?″ Amy demanded. ``But what about my friends? And our store? Our house, what about our house?″

That was in mid-1995. Over the next year Amy, brother Jonathan, and parents Kurt and Emily Burritt would drive from coast to coast, fly to Alaska and Hawaii and meet 44 governors. All 50 governors signed a sweatshirt for Amy.

Now, 15-year-old Amy has written and self-published ``My American Adventure: 50 States in 50 Weeks.″ The 254-page hardback went on sale Friday in her hometown of Traverse City.

The national publication date is May 15. Three days later, Amy will start a book tour that will reunite her with at least 10 governors who have agreed to sponsor or appear at her signings.

Gov. John Engler, who wrote the foreword and helped Amy chase down some of his more elusive counterparts, joined her at a bookstore Friday during a northern Michigan campaign visit.

``I’ve learned that if you set your mind to it, you can accomplish anything,″ Amy said. ``But I didn’t know just what I was getting into at first.″

Drawn from journals kept during the trip, her book is a travel guide, history text and personal memoir.

She reflects candidly on personal struggles, especially the fraying of ties to her best friends during their months apart. She relates amusing misadventures, such as when her dad knocked off the 34-foot motor home’s television antenna.

In Vermont, she narrowly escaped falling down a waterfall. In Louisiana, she learned to suck brains out of boiled crawfish. She swam with dolphins in Hawaii, watched bighorn sheep butt heads in South Dakota and made friends with homeless children at a Rhode Island campground.

But the governors provide some of her most vivid memories. Some curtly offer little more than a handshake; others grant interviews and reflect on their lives and work.

Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening surprised the Burritts with an invitation to a reception and tour of the executive mansion. The day Amy turned 13, Alabama’s Fob James serenaded her with ``Happy Birthday.″

In Connecticut, Gov. John Rowland makes sure she left with a bigger haul of souvenirs than New Hampshire provided. ``They’re cheapskates up there,″ he said.

A profound statement came from Brereton Jones of Kentucky, who said a recent near-fatal helicopter crash taught him to seek ``a purpose greater than ourselves.″

The Burritts didn’t meet Evan Bayh of Indiana; Tom Ridge of Pennsylvania; Mel Carnahan of Missouri; William Weld of Massachusetts; Lawton Childs of Florida; and Pete Wilson of California.

The trip’s low point was a gloomy Easter in Alaska, where Amy tearfully begged to go home. But when her mom reminded her that ``we aren’t quitters,″ Amy resolved to keep going.

``That was a real turning point,″ Kurt Burritt said. ``She made a determination to finish what she’d begun and from then on you could see a change in her. We left with a girl and came home with a young lady.″

Amy’s quest ended at the 1996 Republican National Convention in San Diego, where Gov. David Beasley of South Carolina escorts her onto the noisy floor to meet George Voinovich of Ohio and George Pataki of New York. Afterward, she and Beasley exchanged high fives.

Doid the experience make her want to go into politics?

``There’s a chance ... but I won’t even try unless I know I can change things, make a difference,″ she said. ``I wouldn’t run for office just to be there.″

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