Ushuaia or Bust

Follow my explorations and pictures along the way

Welcome!

Welcome to my Pan-American driving adventure. Ushuaia, Argentina is the Southernmost city in the world. So it’s Ushuaia or Bust!

I’m planning to leave some time around the beginning of 2018. So if you stumbled here now – please check back soon as I flesh out the site with plans, preparations and links to the stories fellow Pan-Am travelers I’ve found entertaining and educational.

FYI – all the pics you see on this site were taken by me. I’m still working my way through 100 GB of photos from Patagonia. This is one of my favorites so far. I call it Jack vs. the Mountain. Jack Curran, who’s a very talented established B&W photographer, was on our trip. Suddenly I’m seeing black and whites all over the place. Here’s Jack’s Facebook page.

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The Plan

In April 2018 Marc Adamus is going to take an expedition on the boat you see pictured somewhere hovering around this blog post (not the thing below, that’s a car). We’re going to get into fjords in Chile and places most people, much less landscape photographers, never go. I also went on a Patagonia expedition with Marc in 2017, which was amazing.I’ve been on I think 7 trips with Marc, and there’s always some kind of crazy adventure. This will be a new experience for all of us, including Marc. So I had to jump at this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I am an explorer at heart. I am 99% sure if I was born a 19th Century English gentleman, I would have been off exploring some dark heart of Africa or Antarctica or something – with proper fine china and dining set in tow of course.

So why am I driving? Well, apparently these sub-sub-sub-compacts are the best cars that Marc can rent in Patagonia:

I spent 10 days in one of these – whose interior design philosophy I have dubbed “Openly Hostile”. Literally I think they chose options that were more expensive, just to punish the occupants for refusing to splurge on any amenity. I decided I can’t do another trip in those cars. So I’m gonna drive down there and use my FJ instead – which also gets me a nice discount off the trip price. Should be fun to see everyone jockeying to be in the FJ. I can be bribed with beer.

So that’s the only hard and fast parameter – I have to be in El Calafate on April 16, 2018. Everything else is negotiable. I plan to leave some time around the end of 2017 or early 2018. And as fate would have it a friend if mine is also taking a motorcycle trip with some buddies through Mexico and Central America. So I will be hooking up with them along the way. They get a support vehicle. I get 4 more pairs of eyes, ears and fists.  

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To Do List

Rough and partial list of stuff I need to accomplish before the end of the year, crossed out stuff is done. PLEASE let me know what I’m forgetting:

  • learn Spanish – I spent 6 weeks with an immersive tutor – learned a lot but I feel like I forgot it all already. So I enrolled in a conversational Spanish class locally that starts Jul-10.
  • lose 40 lbs  – lost 5 lbs in 2 months – totally *not* on pace
  • get stickers of every country to put on the car as I go
  • get map of my journey stenciled on the hood like this guy (anyone know anyone?)
  • car mods – rear tire rack, inside lock box, maybe some other things – explained below.
  • start blog – DONE!!!
  • get instagram account – do I really have to?
  • 500px – need to get Patagonia and Banff albums up
  • FJ cruiser forums – make thread about trip
  • shots – 5 weeks before
  • permits – this must have been something I read but I forgot what it means
  • car insurance?
  • rent place – either AirBnB or  furnished, I don’t want to hassle with moving and storage.
  • load up ipods
  • Get PADI certified – hopefully from my buddy Saif
  • health insurance?
  • locking gas cap, gas can, lug nuts
  • 12-volt air punp, fix-a-flat
  • small printer/copier for the road? – may depend on space left in the storage box
  • international credit card (low rates)?
  • post blog on expat forums – look for places to stay and co-pilots
  • find panama shipping agent
  • AAA – get front plate

The car shown is my FJ Cruiser – 100k miles and still a pup. Estimating I’ll put 20k miles on her on the drive to South America. I plan to add a rear rack above the tire and maybe a roof rack, some gas cans, and some kind if inside locking box that’s bolted on.

The box will be to put valuables in when shipping and also thwart smash & grabbers. I figure it may not always be possible to park in completely safe places. So once they break a window and the alarm goes off, they will be disappointed to find anything worth stealing in a locked steel box that’s bolted to the floor. Then it will just be a matter of finding a new window for an FJ – which could be rough.

Also when shipping you have two options: roll-on-roll-off (RORO) or container. Containers are a little more expensive and you have to find a partner – as they fit two cars. Or if you can’t find a partner they’re a lot more expensive. From what I’ve read, finding a partner can be a pain. Both options are a gigantic PITA of paperwork and bureaucratic treasure hunts to get all the stamps, inspections and copies of everything you need – worse on the Panama side than Colombia – all for the lack of a road over 90 miles of jungle.

Also from everything I’ve read, RORO means apparently that every boat and dock employee has access to your keys. Why this is the system and they can’t keep your keys locked up somewhere I have no idea. Do they really need to move the cars that much? So apparently it’s not a question that anything of value in your car will be stolen. Dirty clothes will be rifled through but probably not stolen. However if I get me a nice steel box that’s locked and bolted to the floor, I should be able to throw whatever can fit in there (stuff like my backpacking tent which wasn’t cheap). That’s the plan anyway. Anyone know a steel fabricator?

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