GE­OG­RA­PHY

History Revealed - - GREAT ADVENTURES PAN-AMERICAN HIGHWAY -

The Con­ven­tion on the Pan-Amer­i­can High­way was signed in 1936, yet four years later, the route was ill-de­fined and ex­tremely rough. Richard­son re­lied on gut in­stinct and lo­cal di­rec­tions to nav­i­gate, and the ex­pe­di­tion was de­pen­dent on good will through­out, from lo­cals, farm­ers, fel­low trav­ellers and busi­nesses.

1 18 NOVEM­BER 1940 Detroit, United States

The trio sets off on the easy leg of the ex­pe­di­tion, from Detroit to the Mex­ico bor­der, en­joy­ing good-qual­ity roads across the US.

2 30 NOVEM­BER No­gales, US–Mex­ico bor­der

The ex­pe­di­tion crosses into Mex­ico and drives to­ward Guay­mas, mak­ing 54 miles dur­ing the first af­ter­noon. Soon, how­ever, ev­ery­thing changes, as in­fra­struc­ture and sealed sur­faces evap­o­rate and the ad­ven­ture proper be­gins.

3 10 DE­CEM­BER Mazatlán, Mex­ico

Hav­ing spent ten days drag­ging the Ply­mouth through the mud, the three cel­e­brate Mazatlán’s paved streets, ice cream, Coca-Cola and ocean views. To save money, they sleep rough on a rock by the sea.

4 15-25 DE­CEM­BER Mex­ico City

A frac­tion of the size of the mod­ern mega­t­ropo­lis, the trio find Mex­ico City a pleas­ant place with good roads and en­joy a meet­ing with the fu­ture pres­i­dent, Miguel Alemán, im­press­ing on him the im­por­tance of the high­way. They de­part on Christ­mas Day, pass­ing Popocatépetl, an ac­tive vol­cano just south of the city, tak­ing treach­er­ous moun­tain tracks to­wards Oax­aca.

5 FE­BRU­ARY 1941 Tal­is­man Bridge, Gu­atemala

Af­ter three months on the road, and with Sul­li­van hav­ing just flown back to the US for spare parts, the car en­ters Cen­tral Amer­ica by crossing the Tal­is­man Bridge from Mex­ico into Gu­atemala.

6 MARCH-APRIL Gu­atemala City – Managua

Racing (in vain) against the ap­proach­ing rains, the trio thun­der along the good roads of Gu­atemala and El Sal­vador, be­fore com­ing un­stuck in the muck of Hon­duras and Nicaragua, where their progress slows.

7 APRIL-MAY San Jose, Costa Rica – Panama City

Af­ter five months on the road, the Ply­mouth is placed on a train to Puntare­nas to cir­cum­vent Cerro de la Muerte (the Moun­tain of Death), and then an­other train to David, Panama’s sec­ond city, from where they drive to Panama City.

8 27 MAY Bo­gotá, Colombia

Hav­ing ar­rived in Colombia at Bue­naven­tura, aboard the El­liot Line ship, the gang trav­els to Bo­gotá. They leave the Colom­bian cap­i­tal six months and nine days af­ter de­part­ing Detroit, not yet hav­ing trav­elled even half way to Cape Horn.

9 JUNE Ecuador – Peru – Chile

Af­ter a train jour­ney through Canyon Di­ablo to Guayaquil in Ecuador, and a boat trip to Talara in Peru, the team drives to Lima. On Mon­day 23 June, they leave the Peru­vian cap­i­tal to mo­tor 560 wash­board miles through the desert, be­tween the An­des and the Pa­cific Ocean, to Chile, where the arid Ata­cama Desert awaits them. The car loses a wheel twice dur­ing this sec­tion.

10 JULY Patag­o­nia, Ar­gentina

From San­ti­ago, with the moun­tain roads ren­dered im­pass­able by win­ter con­di­tions, the trio load the Ply­mouth onto a Trans-An­dean Rail­road train and travel into Ar­gentina. Driv­ing via Men­doza and Bahía Blanca into Patag­o­nia, they’re joined by Valde­mar Mel­ton in a Chrysler car, but the ex­tra man, trau­ma­tised by the driv­ing con­di­tions, flees the ex­pe­di­tion in Río Gal­le­gos.

11 MON­DAY 28 JULY Ma­gal­lanes (Punta Are­nas), Chile

Nar­rowly es­cap­ing the cling­ing mud of El Distrito Cho­co­late, the trav­ellers ar­rive in Ma­gal­lanes. Sul­li­van ca­bles TheDetroitNews: “Af­ter two weeks of mud, the ex­pe­di­tion pulled into Ma­gal­lanes, world's south­ern­most city, at 10:15 this morn­ing. Stop. Fif­teen thou­sand seven hun­dred and forty-five miles by our speedome­ter.”

12 19 AU­GUST Cape Horn

The Fools de­part Ma­gal­lanes pier on the Gal­varino, headed for the true end of the con­ti­nent. “So we made Cape Horn,” Richard­son writes, when he’s re­cov­ered from the bat­ter­ing the sub­se­quent storm served up. “Ap­prox­i­mately six­teen thou­sand miles south from Michi­gan's Great Lakes; home of the au­to­mo­tive in­dus­try which will one day make cars again in­stead of tanks. And those cars will travel rapidly and com­fort­ably over rib­bons of pave­ment through those thou­sands of miles over the great Pan-Amer­i­can High­way, span­ning two con­ti­nents.”

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