Adventure

Driving to Costa Rica in 1941 took a very, very long time

I made this journey back in 2006, and it took me thirteen days in an old Subaru. It wasn’t easy, but it the road was paved nearly the entire way, food and lodging were easy to find, and I never ran out of gas.

Those poor folks made the drive in 1941, while the Pan-American Highway was still under construction. The adventurers were “big, strong, brave, and courageous,” and 98% unsure of what they were getting into. In this half-hour video, you can watch as they attempt to drive their Plymouth sedan from Washington, D.C. to Panama.

Some highlights:

Desert trails in Mexico. How fast can a car go on a donkey path? In one stretch, they went 50 miles in 25 days; on a particularly bad day, they advanced only 25 yards. It would take them three months to cross Mexico.

Guatemala pre-civil war. You can see some of the Guatemalan countryside and Maya culture before the bloody civil war that began in 1954.

“Progressive” El Salvador. Compare the images in the film with the crowded, dangerous conditions today.

Dust in Honduras. Well, that’s still pretty much the same.

Nicaraguan iguanas. You can still find them for sale alongside the Pan-American Highway today.

Costa Rica. I love the banana boat that leaves Golfito.


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Have you ever made this drive? If so, what was it like for you? I’ll dig up my old story on the trip and re-publish it here at a later date.

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