Maine, at Last

I’ve been in Maine since Monday night. Internet is spotty here and I’m behind my writing.
After Vail, Colorado, another ski paradise and a multi million resort town, Denver and its sprawling suburbs smelled of the common fabric of the USA. Strips of malls with names as familiar as your kids’ names make somehow anyone feel at home.
The big Wyoming sky welcomed us as did the lovely Little America hotel in Cheyenne. We left early morning for Omaha since storms were threatening Des Moines and Chicago, our original destinations.
Omaha as any place with harsh winters knows the true meaning of summer. Musicians played outside, people of all ages crowded the terraces and laughter rolled along the paved streets of the Old Market district.
We spent a lovely evening in South Bend, home of Saint Mary College and Notre Dame University. The night before winds howling as fast as 90 MPH un-rooted many trees and the old campuses were littered with branches and debris. It didn’t take away the old fashionned charm and sense of peace of the campuses.
The name of Rochester brings images of industries, Kodak and harsh weather. The old part of town however soaks in rich history. Unfortunately museums were closed on Monday and we only saw the High Falls, a mini Niagara Falls in the heart of Rochester.
Our last stretch to Maine took us through more familiar landscape reminding me of my first years in Massachusetts. I keep a special place in my heart for the Northeast, still uncertain of the reasons. Is it because my son was born in Boston, one of my favorite American cities? Is it because I became a US citizen in Massachusetts? Is it because of our lake cabin in Maine? Is it because France is only an ocean away?
In this upper corner of the country, history is too loud to ignore it. Often, as I do in France, I think that if stones could talk, they would have a lot to tell in New England.
I am now in Maine. At last.

Across the West

More than 3000 miles separate my home in California from my home in Maine. Between June 14 and June 21 we’ve actually covered more than 3500 miles door to door since we explored a slice of Utah and Colorado.
After Zion, National Park and its canyons cut with a saw blade, we entered a bucolic territory of rolling hills. We visited Cove Fort built in 1867 by the Mormons as a welcoming center for the travelers on their way to the west. The beautiful architecture and furniture are under the care of Mormons who stay for weeks in a row to guide visitors through the fort.
The road to Grand Junction was windy and storms conditions worried us enough to change our itinerary. We paid a quick visit to Grand Junction which has made an obvious effort to revamp its downtown with art displayed along the sidewalks.
The Colorado River accompanied us all day long on Thursday. Often it rolled like an ocean. Rafters, colorful buoys, bobbed on its crests. Independence Pass was open and we pushed our way to Aspen.
I was curious to taste the flavor of the snow resort whose reputation has reached every posh corner of the world. Nested like a precious jewel in a cushioned box, Aspen is a treasure resting in a lush green valley. Yet, after the raw beauty of the deserted canyons of Utah and the roaring Colorado River, there was something too polished about Aspen that kept me guarded. A glance at the several real estate offices that elbow posh boutiques selling fur coats, preppy clothes and latest sport apparel is enough to know that Aspen unveils its irresistible charm to only a few.
Since I was enthralled in Three Cups of Tea and had just spoken to my daughter, a student at UC Berkeley, I felt uncomfortable and a bit angry, strolling picture perfect streets populated with beautiful people. Greg Mortenson, building schools in remote parts of Pakistan and Afghanistan and my daughter working in programs for the homeless in the East Bay struggle with the needs of people who have nothing. More than often, money is tight to provide the minimum.
Uneasiness tugged at me during my brief visit to Aspen. I am aware that a town or a city is much more than an obvious façade and that people in Aspen must be nice and kind, avid outdoorsy and protective of their beautiful town. However, when houses are on the market for more than several millions dollars and thousands of Americans are loosing their jobs and their homes, I can’t help wondering how disparities can be so wide, how wealth can be so excessive when so many today struggle to afford basics necessities.
There were lovely cafés in Aspen. Tucked in alleys or shaded by large parasols, they begged the visitor for a stop. However, my husband, our two youngest kids and I decided that lunch in the small valley town we passed on our way to Aspen would be more appropriate.

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