Driving the Pan-Am Highway
The ultimate road trip is not Route 66, PCH Route 1, or Highway A1A; the ultimate road trip is the Pan-American Highway that begins in Prudhoe Bay in Northern Canada and ends all in Ushuaia at the southernmost tip of South America. The Pan-American Highway is a mix of official roads, unofficial roads, and the Alaskan highway. If you do decide to take the ultimate road trip from North America to South America, there is one important spot along the road that is nearly impossible to cross: the Darién Gap.
Many drivers have attempted to drive the Pan-American Highway in a variety of different cars. From Jeeps and Land Rovers to the infamous Chevy Corvair, drivers have undertaken the challenge of driving the 30,000 miles, but most get stumped at the Darién Gap, which is a swampy area between Colombia and Panama. This environmentally sensitive area also contains tropical rainforest and the Atrato River Delta, which makes it incompatible for any road development.
The most unusual attempt at crossing the Gap and reaching the end of the Pan-American road was by a Chevy Corvair. Dick Doane Chevrolet from East Dundee, Illinois joined with the Chicago Tribune to drive three Corvairs to Rio de Janeiro. The team used a fuel truck and support vehicle due to the lack of driver support on the road in the extremely rural areas of Central America. In 1961, the cars made it Columbia, short of their final destination. In 1972, the British Army took a snapshot of one Corvair rusting in the Colombian jungle.
Over 50 years later, the Darién Gap remains the only section of the Pan-American highway without a road. It is possible to pass through the Gap on foot, but only with armed guards due to kidnappers and robbers who stalk the ground.