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My Plan to Drive the Panam Highway South

Updated on January 4, 2019
Peter Strahm profile image

I am an avid traveler. After driving from Kansas to Alaska, my brother and I decided to try to drive south to Tierra Del Fuego.

Preparing to leave Kansas posed with a map Fritz and I painted

Inspiration

On June 23 2017 my brother Fritz and I along with a friend, loaded up into a Toyota sienna minivan and started driving north. We started in Sabetha Kansas, with a goal to drive to Deadhorse Alaska. On this Epic trip we met with many adventures including touring the oil fields and the arctic ocean at Deadhorse, and halibut fishing in Homer. Little did we know that an idea would cross Fritz’s mind around the start of the year 2018 that would cast the Alaska trip entirely into the shade. The idea to drive from Sabetha Kansas to Ushuaia Argentina, thus completing the Pan-am highway from top to bottom.

Research

My first reaction was are you serious, but I soon completely fell for the idea. I spent the first six months of 2018 arguing with Fritz before he would make a commitment. Then the planning started. Fritz had already done some research, but now he started buying a lot of books and looking up people who had driven the Pan-am previously. He bought approximately 20 lonely planet guidebooks. Fritz also followed several groups online who had done a similar long road trip. All the research made us feel better about the safety issues.

Recruiting

The first major consideration was do we want anyone else along. We thought some company would be nice, especially to share the expense. To our complete disbelief we found recruiting a very, very hard task. We soon got in the habit of inviting everyone we met along, as well as trying all of our old acquaintances. We tried young people, we tried old people, we tried widowers and young single guys just out of school. To make a long story short we found only one 36-year-old bachelor named Ben from Alto Michigan who is weird enough to go with us.

How Much Time

At first, we thought this trip would take a couple weeks. After some research however, we found out how much there is to see on our route, we decided to rethink. We have settled for 10 weeks to 3 months. Ben will be with us for only 6 weeks. He will fly home and we will continue on. The current plan is still subject to change as nobody has bought tickets home as yet.

Our Van

Vehicle

Next, we started discussing vehicles. There is a lot to consider, such as, four-wheel drive, age, mileage. We settle for another Toyota Sienna with 215,000 miles on it. The disadvantages to this vehicle are no four-wheel drive, average mileage, and high miles. The advantages are that it is a cheap old beater that will not be much of a loss if wrecked or if we are unable to sell it. It seems to be in very good shape and with Toyota longevity we hope it will make it. We are going to try to sell the van in South America.

Starting time and basic plan

We plan to leave Kansas on January First 2019. The first leg will be to Panama where we will ferry around the Darien gap to Cartagena Columbia. The second leg is from Cartagena to Ushuaia. We don’t know complete details on the exact route. There will probably be a lot of last-minute discussion. Ben likes to plan on the road.Our current lifestyle plan is to take the seats out of the van and sleep in the back like we did in Alaska. When we are needing a shower and a washing machine we will stay at a hostel and clean up. The current plan is roughly three days camping to one night in a hostel. We will probably try to fix about half of our own food just to keep our expenses down a little bit.

Very Excited

I am not sure how to put into words what this trip means to me. Epic, escape, exhilarating, I don’t really know how to say it. I simply love the idea of driving the western hemisphere from tip to tip. The things I am looking forward to most is learning some Spanish, eating strange food, and meeting other people driving the pan-am.

I am planning on writing a series of articles about the most interesting things we see. Also Fritz and I have started a YouTube channel to post pictures and videos on.


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    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      2 years ago from UK

      I look forward to reading your articles. In my view you can't beat a good Toyota. We had a Previa for many years and it did us well. I understand from others that there are many old Toyotas still going strong in Africa.

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