Driving the Pan American Highway from Alaska to Argentina

Last Updated on December 9, 2021 by Chris and Lindsay

Our mission has always been to drive from Alaska to Argentina.

But, two years later, we find that this route has been anything but straight. 

It is possible to drive from Deadhorse, Alaska at the top of the world to Ushuaia, Argentina at the bottom of the world in just over 5 weeks.

The wold record for this drive is under 25 days. 

But we weren’t aiming for a world record. In fact, we were just aiming for the world and hoping that in doing so we’d hit something. 

Well, I butchered the whole aim for the moon and land in the stars expression. But you probably get the point. 

For us, travel was about the journey and not the destination.

In fact, I have been to Ushuaia in the past. I did so with a pack on my back and dreams of one day traveling to Antarctica.

But despite my childhood lust for imagination and adventure, I had never been to Alaska. 

I think that’s why we had to go. That and we felt a definite calling from God to begin this new chapter in our lives. 

But sometimes I wish we had just driven from our home in Florida to Deadhorse and then turned the truck around and driven straight to Ushuaia. 

Our truck broke down, seemingly catastrophically, at mile 28,543 from leaving Florida.

We had edged our way around Salt Lake City and were just outside of Heber City, Utah when a womp, womp, womp noise came from the engine.

Shortly thereafter the power all but died and we limped to the shoulder. 

This experience cost us several months of travel and several thousand dollars in repairs. But what we gained in experience and motivation seems to have offset our losses. 

We are now once again traveling north.

We’re not supposed to do that again until we reach Ushuaia and have to proceed north in some manner having completed our trip from Alaska to Argentina.

But we haven’t completed the journey. In fact, we’re not even a quarter of the way through it. 

I think part of our reluctance to drive straight from Alaska to Argentina was knowing that we didn’t have the means to do so.

Sure, the road is only 14,000 miles if you drive it straight (which hardly anybody does).

But we were running out of money, bleeding nearly $2,000 per month just standing still and, though we could not see the future, we sensed that something big would break. 

At 28,543 miles it did. 

And by that count, we should have been somewhere in Mexico on our way back. I hear that Mexico is great in fall. You can swim with whale sharks, hike Mayan ruins and drink yourself to laughter on tequila. 

But that is not how our story goes. Our story goes like this. 

We left Florida for Alaska in March 2018. We drove north and west, in the general direction of Alaska, but had some crazy ambition to try to drive to the other 48 drivable states in the process.

We made it 350 miles before our refrigerator broke on us and cost us a week of trying to fix it.

Then late winter storms pushed us from our course and made us question why we thought trying to drive to all 49 states was worthwhile.

Of course, we had a plan for worthiness.

Our goal was to serve a family in each state – helping some child with cancer, Crohns Disease or in foster care or adoption.

This was to be the measure by which we crossed a state off our list. 

Turns out helping people was a lot harder than we thought too. We were turned down from one volunteer activity after another.

It seems you have to have mighty large scissors to cut through all of the red tape in America when it comes to visiting families in hospitals and adoptive settings.

All we wanted to do was to cook a meal, clean the house or spend an afternoon in the park with families going through terrible times. 

But even in our stubbornness, we couldn’t cut the red tape.

So we decided, in Las Vegas of all places, that it was time to get back on track to the mission for which we were called to wander.

It was time for Alaska. 

This part of our journey took another few weeks as we meandered our way north.

We were dragging our feet to some degree because at the time Lindsay required an intravenous infusion every eight weeks to keep her immune system from attacking itself.

She has Crohn’s Disease and any doctor, including hers, would tell you that you’re not supposed to drive to Alaska, let alone Argentina when you have Crohn’s Disease. 

But that too was part of our story. We wanted to encourage and inspire other people going through similar difficult situations to pursue what others would say is not meant to be. 

In other words, we believe there is a calling deep inside of us far greater than the sum of our circumstances.

When you tap into that calling it becomes compulsive and it compels you to acknowledge its existence. 

Whether or not you pursue this calling is up to you.

It’s kind of like a red pill/blue pill Matrix sort of thing. Once you know its there you have to make the conscious decision to ignore it. 

That was our call to Alaska. And on July 5, 2018, at 3:07 am we arrived in Deadhorse at the top of the world.

The sun doesn’t set at this time, so sometime around the time the sun rose somewhere else in the world we woke up from a brief nap, boarded a bus and made the last 15 miles to the edge of the Arctic Ocean.

We stepped into the water, turned and faced each other, and excitedly realized that the ONLY thing we could do now was to turn south and drive. 

So we drove, but not straight. Alaska has so much to see and do it is foolish to come so far and ignore it all.

We spent days camping on the beaches of Homer Spit and Seward. And we saw more salmon in rivers than we ever knew existed.

We drove along and through some of the most spectacular mountains on the face of the earth.

And we slowly, but surely, accepted that we absolutely loved our life on the road – at whatever the cost. 

And boy was the cost steep, literally. Between the repairs and the fuel we plowed through the little savings we had to make the journey to Argentina.

We had overcome recent financial trouble with the IRS, an accounting error in a former business I ran that ended up costing us our entire savings.

So we cashed in a small retirement I had from teaching and said let’s drive until we find a way to sell our story. 

We’ve since been driving now for two years. And the road has not always been straight.

In fact, we’ve traveled north in order to travel south several times. This experience in Baja is nothing new. 

But now we are primed for what we believe is our last northward drive until the wheels fall off, metaphorically, or we reach Ushuaia. 

As the plan goes, we’ll be holed up in Arizona for a little while as we spend time with friends, make some upgrades to our camper and send Lindsay back to Florida for some routine Crohn’s appointments.

Upon our reunion, we’re headed straight to the Mexican border, where we’ll keep heading south until we hit the Darien Gap – the uncrossable portion of land between Panama and Colombia. 

From there we’ll have to ship our truck camper to Colombia where we’ll pick up the trail again and keep plugging along toward Ushuaia.

The thing of it is, we’re pretty certain we’re not going to make it. And that’s ok. Because we love this life on the road and all of the adventure, and misfortune, we’ve encountered. 

For us, journeying is our life and that is just fine with us. 

Had we broken down in Mexico we’d have another story to tell. But as it is, this is our story and it starts with a calling to wander…   

About Author