We still talk about it, the Summer of 2021, when my sister and I joined our two families in one RV and set off from sea to shining sea, (and back again), over the course of about eighteen days. “Our Big Summer Trip,” as it has come to be affectionately known, was truly epic. It was cozy! There were nine of us and long stretches of driving. But oh, the immense beauty of these United states as we traveled! Truly, the variety of the terrain, the trees, the rivers, the plains had us all very often fighting for window space.
My four homeschooled kids had just finished an amazing year of studying American History with two excellent teachers, covering native peoples and the Pilgrims through the establishment of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. They read several wonderful books including, Pilgrim Stories, The Landing of the Pilgrims, Glenn Beck’s Being George Washington, 55 Fathers, The Great Little Madison, and several more. They watched quite a few films like 1776 and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington as they learned how our Republic was formed and what it means to be a citizen. They finished the year primed and ready to see America, her National Parks, and historical sites up close.
The trip left an indelible impression on each of our kids and I asked them, and their cousins to share a favorite highlight. Here they are from oldest to youngest:
21 years – “I loved the trip, but the coolest part was getting caught in an epic rainstorm
in Washington D.C. with my two cousins. We had taken an Uber to get to the Jefferson Memorial and it got crazy. There were people huddled inside when we got there and it was cool to ride out the storm reading the quotes of Jefferson on the walls, with families from all over the country.”
19 years – “Independence Hall is an incredible place. Every day, representatives from thirteen colonies gathered together in a room in the stifling Philadelphia heat, and discussed the future of America. While the war against the British raged on, a quieter war raged inside that building. I could feel the power of that place the moment I walked in. I tried to picture how it must have felt to carry that great of a weight on your shoulders. It made me grateful for all of them – the ones out fighting on the front, and the ones fighting in Independence Hall.”
17 years – “The Thomas Jefferson Memorial stood out to me a lot. It’s one of the smaller, more overlooked locations, but it sheltered us from the rain , and it was still very neat experience to read the words in the memorial of America’s Pen. I’m forever grateful For Thomas Jefferson’s contributions to our country, he deserves to be remembered.”
14 years – “The freedom Walk in Boston was so moving because seeing all of those
places, like The Old North Church, Bunker Hill, The Boston Massacre site, and the U.S.S. Constitution, where it actually happened and seeing them first hand and the reality and beauty of it all was amazing.”
14 years – “The Lincoln Memorial was
really special because it reminded me of Mr. Smith goes to Washington, and the World War II Memorial because it was so big and showed all the theaters we fought in. It was overwhelming.”
9 years – My favorite was Mt. Rushmore because I loved learning all the history and seeing all those heads up there!”
“Our Big Summer Trip” was a great time for family bonding and for helping us understand our country more fully. We have vowed to go again as soon as we can. Sometimes we forget to visit the little historical sites in our own backyards that help tell our country’s story. My sister lived in New York City for 20 years, and our RV trip was her first trek out to see the Statue of Liberty.
Whether you are taking an epic cross-country journey this summer, or staying home, enjoy the history and the beauty that is available. Hopefully, like us, you'll make memories and inspire you kids to love their country.