HINSDALE – Their grandpa drove a Jeep in the Army and one of their first Christmas presents was even a motorized flame-red Power Wheels Jeep. To them, the car is a symbol of freedom – a vehicle that could go anywhere and take them anywhere.
And it did.
"We actually have this old family video in which our parents are teaching us the word Jeep," said 24-year-old Ashley Hill.
Last year, right after the Hinsdale Fourth of July parade, Ashley and her sister, Brittany Hill, set out on a cross-country Jeep Wrangler adventure after some extended planning in local landmarks, including Corner Bakery, Starbucks and the Hinsdale Public Library.
"Growing up here, you know families, you run into old teachers and that's what's so cool about a town like this – the heritage," Ashley said.
Brittany, 27, is a graduate of Nazareth Academy, but before Ashley could finish high school the family moved out to Arizona. Both would eventually attend and get degrees from Arizona State.
But the sisters said their roots have always been in Hinsdale, as they routinely visit family, especially during the spring and summer.
After college, the sisters got jobs promoting Jeep across the country. Music also spoke to the Hills and influenced them on their Jeep journey, including the song "The Weight," by The Band, which is written about a trip to Nazareth where Martin guitars are made.
The Hills then came up with the idea to get Martin guitars involved as a sponsor.
"Our project was to travel around with these guitars and meet with different American legends," Ashley said. "We packed the Jeep up, threw the guitars in and brought our mom along as a photographer."
The trip started in Hinsdale, went to Wisconsin, Toledo, Nazareth, Philadelphia, New York City, and eventually through Arizona and San Diego. The sisters then took a national park adventure in Yellowstone with the last stop coming in April at the Inn and Spa at Loretto in Santa Fe, N.M., and a visit to the Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs.
One does not travel without finding some degree of weird. Of all places, it happened to Brittany and Ashley while visiting the notorious Sleepy Hollow with a scene that could have been straight from "The Ring."
"While we're watching this turtle investigate us, this child pops out with no one else around, not a car anywhere, and our mom was with us at this point. She just starts talking to him and says, 'Hi,''' Brittany said.
The trip was to go around and talk with American legends, either musicians or just people in the community, but in the end they said it became much more about learning about themselves and knowing they could go on this adventure.
"Whatever your dream, aspiration, interest – don't wait until you're too old to do it, just do it now and find a way," Brittany said.
Whether it's driving around veterans in the local Fourth of July parade or just going for a joy ride, the Jeep will always be a part of the Hill sisters' lives.
"You just look at a problem, figure out a way to solve it and the Jeep can be figurative or physical in the sense that it can get you there," Brittany said.