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  • Writer's pictureBeth Hildebrand

America Is Still Beautiful: Our Family’s Adventure Across America












This past fall, our family agreed we’d all like to take a road trip across America and back – in our minivan.  Yes, an RV would be nice but a minivan will do.  We thought this summer would probably be the best time because our kids, age 15 and 11, are at a great age to really remember and enjoy it, plus our oldest will be getting a summer job next year!  We feel so blessed and grateful that my husband’s request at work for a 3 week vacation was given.

So, we had some planning to do – which thankfully is an interest and great talent of my husband’s.  We had to decide first of all where we planned to go.  All the way to the Pacific ocean to put our feet in the water and be able to say we did, or focus more on the mountainous and canyon terrain before we got to California?  Even though my husband and I have flown to the Pacific a few times and wanted to the kids to have the experience, we also wanted to go to some places none of us had ever been.  We decided to go farther north than west and went as north as South Dakota and as far west as Arizona, focusing our exploration in South Dakota, Colorado, Utah and Arizona.  (We discovered a website called Roadtrippers which we highly recommend because helped us plan our trip and directed us to some places we probably wouldn’t have known about if we hadn’t used it.)

I really enjoy traveling and seeing new places.  I even enjoy staying in hotels.  One cold, winter night, though, I saw my husband looking online at campgrounds. I think my eyebrows raised a few inchs and inside I thought, “Camping?!  Seriously? Ugh. Please no.”)  Then I said it out loud – but just the word “camping?” with a “seriously” tone in my voice.

I know I’m outnumbered three to one in our family when it comes to the camping thing though.  And when you’re going to be on the road for three weeks, $18 a night to reserve a campsite is looking nicer.  But honestly, the real reason for the camping was for the experience – to be on the other side of the country sleeping under the open sky – and praying to see stars and not rain drops.  (That prayer was answered because the camping was in the top 5 of my favorite parts of the trip.)

After weeks of planning, preparing, and even practicing packing (so we knew all we needed to take would fit), we left our driveway on  Saturday, June 13, at 8am.  We’re really going to do this?  This could turn out to be an disastrous experience like the Griswold family had on their vacation!  (We watched that movie by the way on Father’s Day in our hotel in Richfield, UT and had some good laughs.  There were a lot of places in the movie we had been or were about to go to, but Christy Brinkley wasn’t in our picture!)  The kids were super excited and also kept saying, “I can’t believe we’re really doing this,” with grins on their faces.   What laid ahead we had not idea.  What we were about to experience we had not clue.  But we did know is that we were doing this together.

The minivan was loaded to the max and so were our hopes.

As our van took us through Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, Iowa, South Dakota, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina and back home to North Carolina, we saw so many different landscapes.  There were so many cultures we experienced and trains we raced. There was so much we learned.  But what I enjoyed the most was getting away with our family, leaving behind routine and getting off the beaten path and going on a little adventure where we could forget the worries of the world for 21 days.


Since the four of us were together 24/7 and most of the time in close quarters – whether it be in our van, tent or hotel room – we had the opportunity to talk.  There was “off electronics” time each day so we could look out the window and see new things.  For a good portion of the trip we were in the middle of nowhere with no phone/internet signal anyway, so we looked around – at rows of corn in Iowa, pronghorn antelopes grazing in fields in Wyoming, rugged plateaus in Utah, snow capped mountains in Colorado, and Native Americans’ jewelry booths on the side of the road in Arizona to name just a few.  And we talked – about school, sports and many random things.  And since we were in close quarters with no where else to go, it was a great time to talk about God, His Word and what it says about some of the issues that took place while we were on our trip.  When we get away from normalcy, it’s a good time to talk about things you don’t normally talk about.

And when you’re taken away from complacency and take an adventure without the things you’re used to doing all.the.time. you’ll be glad you did.  You can become refreshed and renewed.

We didn’t talk the entire time either because we lovingly gave each other times to ourselves to think, imagine, journal, read, listen and view beautiful places we’d never seen before.  To my surprise there was a lot of silence too – meaning no music.  Most of the time when we tried to find a radio station – all we heard was static because we were really in the boone docks where there was no reception.  We had access to listen to Pandora but we only used it once.  We just enjoyed what we saw more than needing noise.

I saw that America is still beautiful.  It was what I needed to see because I’ll be honest – lately when I think of America, it’s easy for me to think of it in a more negative light with all that’s taking place these days.  I don’t want to think that way, but with the media and what’s happening in our towns and the globe, it’s an easy trap for the evil one to zap joy right out of  me.  I’m standing firm though and clinging to the joy of the Lord.  This trip was a gift from God for me to be reminded that there’s still beauty in this country.  God is still with us and He’s HUGE like the mountains and canyons we saw.  He’s still detailed in His work like flowers along the river to the necessity and power of the flow of water.  He’s still the same God who created all we saw millions of years ago – He is the same yesterday, today and forever.

I think this trip was so good because it’s something special we can carry with us in the times to come where we might need to remember them to get us through not-so-good-times that might lie ahead.

There’s so much to share about what was going through my mind during our trip – so much there’s no way I can put it into one post.  So, I’m going to take the next several ones and share some of the stories from our travel and you’re more than welcome to hop in and go on this adventure with me to see that America is still beautiful.  I even plan to write a post about all the things we did to prepare for this trip that worked for us if you want to do something similar in the future – so stay tuned!

{You’re welcome to subscribe to my blog and receive my latest post in your email whenever I share a new adventure.}

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