When I was a teenager my retirement travel plans were to drive the Pan-American Highway from Prudhoe Bay to Buenos Aires with a Jeep and cat. Read more about my virtual tour.
- Retirement journey dream: Pan-American Highway
- North America
- Lower 48
- Central America
- South America
- Crossing the Equator
- Travel outfit
- Top of the World Style linkup No. 252
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Retirement journey dream: Pan-American Highway
When I was a teenager, my dream was to drive down the Pan-American Highway from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska to Tierra del Fuego when I would retire at 60. The journey would be in a Jeep with a fabric top. The top would serve as sort of a hammock to sleep on at night. In rainy or cold nights, I would sleep in the back of the car using it diagonal. My travel companion would be a tomcat. More on my cats.
The Pan-American Highway is a road network of about 19000 miles (30000 km) across the Americanas thru 14 countries. The first stretch is the Dalton Highway built during the years of the construction of the Alaska pipeline. It’s an unpaved road for most of its length giving view on the pipeline left and right. Sometimes the pipeline goes underground. The road barely permits the encounter of two trucks without collision. After hours of driving thru flat terrain with nothing but shrubs and tundra and bogs the terrain changes to rolling and then turns to steep mountains once your reach the Brooks Range. The dirt road goes over the Aitgun Pass. On one side a steep mountain wall, on the other side 200 yards or so down. Nothing but some wooden crash barriers. Any metal would break immediately at 40 below. After that ride, a break is in order, a nice place at the river. Bones from a caribou are on the ground. There must be a bear around.
Our next stop would be in Cold Foot to fuel the car, have some food at the restaurant and spent the night at the camp ground. After breakfast and a shower, the journey would bring us to the Arctic Circle. We would fuel again before crossing the Yukon, just in case. The journey continues over the wooden bridge going uphill over the Yukon with the pipeline to our left seemingly attached to the bridge. Our Jeep would have a nice makeup of mud and I would kiss off the thought of using the top as a hamlock for the rest of the adventure.
Once in Fairbanks, the Jeep would go thru the car wash. The cat would try to catch the rotating fabric. How cute and amusing!
From Fairbanks the journey would go down the Richardson Highway to Delta Junction and then follow the Alcan (short for Alaska and Canada Highway) from mile 1442 to 0 at Dawson Creek. In Alaska, much of the drive would be along mountains to the left with the Tanana river to the right. The water reflects the light of the Sun looking like liquid silver. Pink fireweed frames the meandering river and its partly muddy, partly stony bed. A black bear and its cubs cross the street about 200 yards in front of us.
We would pass the border to Yukon Territory at mile 1182. Nothing but some baracks as shelter for the border patrol. Now signs would be in metric units. We would drive along a large seamingly turquoise lake which in the aftermath would look like a long detour, but is a very scenic drive. Except for some ducks and swans there is nobody on the lake. No boots, no canoes, no ships. On the steep mountains along its shore, there are some dall sheeps. The Jeep would climb up into the mountains and then descend a bit into Whitehorse.
There we would eat a piece of salmon with a cup of milk and a big salad with a glass of wine, respectively. We would look for a nice place upstream of the Yukon dam to spend the night. Upstream, just in case the dam would break that night. We would cuddle inside the car at night.
The next day, the drive would follow the Alcan and leave the Yukon Territory at Lower Post. Then the road would wind thru the mountains of British Columbia towards Dawson Creek. Here dry winds of the prairie land play with the fabric top making noise like being on a sailing boat. It doesn’t bother the cat who sleeps on the dashboard while the Jeep brings us to Edmonton, Alberta. Sure that I would wear a comfortable, chic sightseeing outfit to explore the town.
The Lower 48s
I wanted to take the route over Calgary, Alberta and Billings, Montana and then down the Interstate 25 thru Denver, Colorado to Las Cruces, New Mexico. The Interstate 10 would take us to San Antonio, Texas. I don’t recall why I favored that route back then.
Once crossing the Mexcian border, I would regret again that I had to learn something useless like Latin instead of Spanish starting in 9th grade. The route now goes from Nuevo Laredo to Mexico City. The Mexican Federal Highway 45 and 190 would bring us to Guatemala. There would be great opportunities for sightseeing in Guatemala City, San Salvador, Managua, San José and Panama City. The Panama Canal would be a Must-see. It had always fascinated me that a waterway was cut thru an entire contry passing a mountain range and connecting the Atlantic with the Pacific.
In Coasta Rica, a 10,942 feet (3335 m) pass has to be crossed with the scary name Dead Summit. The cat would push his claws in the flesh of my legs when there is a steep descend. His purring would be relaxing after a day’s drive before we would fall asleep.
Driving farther south, I would start worrying about the Darién Gap. Would the Jeep be able to get us from Central to South America? In school, I learned that conventional vehicles couldn’t make it. I wouldn’t want to circumnavigate this terrestrial stretch by sea. Not because of the costs, but because I am afraid of being on a ship. Moreover, I wouldn’t have packed for a dance cruise.
The Pan-American Highway would lead us thru various climate zones of South America. We would see various landscapes and ecosystems, animals and cities, different culture. Columbia, Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Argentina are next. In Ecuador, Quito the second highest capital in the world (9350 feet, 2850 m) would be on the top of the sightseeing list.
I wanted to see the ruins of the Incas; the places that inspired sci-fi and so-called science writers like Erich von Dänicken to claim that there had been Aliens on Earth in ancient times. The art, culture and lamas. I always wanted to see a lama in the wild ever since I saw three in the Zoo in Duisburg when I was a 4 years old. I recall that my mom said
“Stay away from the lamas. They spit.”
Nevertheless, I went close to the fence, put my hand thru it like you show your hand to a cat. They were interested what I was doing. “They are smart to spit at people who just google at them.” I replied. Guess what? They didn’t spit at me.
Passing the equator
Once we would cross the Equator, I would open a bottle of champagne. It would be the first time being in the Southern Hemisphere. The longest stretch in just one country would now be Chile. More than 4000 km. A lot of desert and coastal haze.
At Valparaiso, Chile Route 60 would bring us across the Andes to Argentina. We would drive Argentina National Route 7 thru the Pampas to Buenos Aires. Here, I would buy some great pairs of shoes, tickets for the cat and me to fly home and a ticket for the Jeep to return home by ship as well. You don’t leave a great compagion behind.
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This outfit is nice when you have to show up in a skirt and top when on business travel. A sweater doesn’t wrinkle. And oversize is a trend right now. In the evening, the sweater dress works with leggings or jeans for a walk thru town.
When you like the outfit, why not pinning it to your Pinterest board?
Top of the World Style linkup No. 252
Welcome to the 252nd Top of the World Style linkup party.
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Photos: G. Kramm
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