- In December 2018, I drove from New York to California with my family in an RV camper.
- During the trip, I gained an appreciation for how diverse and varied America’s landscape can be.
- In Montana, I saw snow-capped mountains that towered above the surrounding countryside.
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In the winter of 2018, my family and I decided to travel across the country in an RV camper. For almost three weeks, we drove from New York to California and then back across the country. From mountains in Montana to the desert in Arizona, I gained a deeper appreciation for how diverse and varied the landscape in our country is.
Here are 15 of the most beautiful places I saw during my trip.
In the winter of 2018, my family decided to travel across the United States by RV — this was our route.
We had talked about taking a trip like this for years, but when I graduated from NYU in December 2018, we finally had our chance. My parents had bought an RV camper, which we decided to tow across the country.
My parents drove from their home in the South to pick me up in New York City, and we started our journey west.
Chicago was brightly lit, and the many lights formed a glowing tapestry around us.
To navigate the city’s attractions, we unloaded the camper for a few hours in a parking lot.
My dad wanted to try deep dish pizza, and I had always wanted to see the famous metallic bean. Chicago was a sprawling city that stretched out in every direction. It felt similar enough to New York to make me nostalgic for the city I had left, but Chicago was its own beast – a maze of concrete and steel around me. At night, the city lit up and the many lights formed a glowing tapestry.
In Iowa, I found large plots of farmland stretching in all directions — something that was actually incredibly beautiful.
Many might not find Iowa a beautiful place with its seemingly vast fields of crops. In the winter, the crops had been harvested, and only empty fields greeted us on either side. But the place had a certain charm. These were the farmlands many had tried to associate with the South, but despite being from there, I had only ever this view in movies.
Eastern South Dakota has a never-ending horizon, too.
We spent the night outside of a dusty gas station because all the campgrounds for miles around were closed for the winter. When we woke in the morning, we were greeted by a seemingly never-ending horizon.
Located in South Dakota, Badlands National Park has epic canyons and rock formations.
The rocky formations looked like the jagged teeth of giants. The wind cut through the crevices, hitting my face. Exploring the trails, I skipped across the rocky terrain and for a moment, I felt like I was an astronaut exploring another planet.
In western South Dakota, the landscape transformed into forests and mountains …
We spent the night in a campsite at Rapid City, which felt like a sliver of civilisation surrounded on all sides by frontier. In the day, we drove west, trying to find where the buffalo roam. The road curved through the trees where cell phone signal abandoned us, and we didn’t see another car for miles.
… and there were frozen lakes topped with snow.
It was cold enough in mid-December for the lakes to be frozen solid. Leaving the comfort of solid ground, my feet slid as I tried to maintain my balance.
When I returned safely to the truck, I looked back in amazement wondering how I had gone over 20 years of my life without seeing anything like it.
In Montana, we stayed in a campsite overlooking snow-capped mountains …
As we approached the campsite, three deer darted in front of us and through the campsite. We were one of only four campers at the campsite, and we slid the money into a lock box, which would be collected in a few days by the owner.
From the camper, I stood and stared at the mountains. Bringing my hands to my face for warmth, I felt like I was in a dream. Growing up in Alabama, I couldn’t even imagine what Montana or its mountains would look like.
… and nearby, a river churned with chunks of solid ice.
The river couldn’t decide if it wanted to flow or freeze up like the lakes, and the result could only be described as a convenience store slushie. Stopping the truck, my dad decided to dip his hand in the river to see how cold it was. He quickly brought his hand out, holding his finger tips and cursing.
Most of Yellowstone was covered in snow and only partially accessible via automobile.
In the winter, the snow covers much of the park so most of it becomes inaccessible to anything but a snowmobile. Though we only saw a fraction of the park, it was one of the most beautiful places I had ever been.
The snow collected on the mountains several feet thick. At the top of a ridge, a group of deer lazily stared down at us as we waded through the banks.
In Washington state, the interstate cuts through a forest of evergreens.
On both sides, the tall trees stretched over hills and up mountains. In the winter, they resemble a winter wonderland with snow collecting on tree branches. For miles, the tall evergreens occupied our every vantage point.
Though it was difficult to navigate, Seattle was worth the trip.
The roads in Seattle were narrow for a camper, and the hills didn’t help matters when we were trying to navigate through without hitting anything.
I had always dreamed of making it out to Seattle and the Space Needle.
In Northern California, the Redwood trees were a sight to behold …
Getting to the Redwoods required driving down a winding road that felt treacherous at night, especially when towing an RV. We spent the night in a Walmart parking lot in Crescent City.
Staring up at the Redwoods, I understood what an ant must feel like staring at a blade of grass. Most of the trees were as wide as a car and stretched so tall that I couldn’t see the tops.
… and the sunsets made me feel like I was standing on the edge of the world.
Heading down California’s coast, we stopped at a secluded area of beach to watch the sunset. The sky was a fiery orange and gold that slowly turned to purple. I felt like I had finally reached the horizon, only to watch it trickle away.
Though it’s mostly known for its films and night life, Hollywood also has gorgeous views.
I saw more people in Hollywood than I had in the previous two weeks. They packed the roadways and trails looking for sunshine and adventure. Dropping off the camper at a campsite, we drove up to an overlook where we could take in the Hollywood Hills.
On the way back, we passed through the Arizona desert.
I had previously seen Arizona a year prior when we went to the Grand Canyon, but I didn’t realise how much I missed it until we were driving through again. Arizona offers some of the most beautiful desert landscape I’ve seen, with its sand-whipped canyons and rock formations.