Thursday, August 9, 2012

Three Roads


A very necessary part of an expedition is to test the vehicle thoroughly in what is known as a "shakedown" drive. Tyler and I had been to Lowe's the day before, trying to figure out a cost-effective solution for rooftop storage. In the end, he found an ENORMOUS lockable cargo carrier on Craig's List, about 150 miles away. It was the perfect opportunity to test every system in the car.

With Kansas being so flat and the roads being so straight, I did not need the GPS.
On a heartbeat, I put some transmission fluid through the dipstick tube, checked my oil, fueled up and got on US 400 on to Pittsburg, KS. The car fared incredibly well, and, after 160 miles of non-stop driving, I saw nothing needing replacement other than my items on the list (CV axles, some suspension bushings, shocks). The car purred like a kitten. On my way back I drove for about half an hour on a dirt road, trying to replicate the conditions of vibration/roughness/bumps I might find down in the Americas. Still, flawless. In fact, Livingstone the 300TD ran better after the drive!

Whatever does not happen on Earth, happens up in the sky!
May I add a little paragraph about the joy of driving in Kansas. Yes, the land may be as flat as Dracula's pulse, but it allows for the sky be the protagonist of each and every landscape. The sunsets are one of the most breathtaking displays of color I have ever seen; minute by minute, the clouds become faint brushstrokes you'd swear Bob Ross had laid up in the big, panoramic blue. There are bright pinks, oranges, purples, browns... all transitioning into each other ever so delicately, so lightly, one could not but feel blessed to exist under this majestic dome. It is a wonderful spectacle to witness while being on the road, with the afternoon wind soothing your temples and singing along to the radio. And, once the night settles, the crops become quiet and the world is all yours.


Many of you have asked me about the route. Unfortunately, due to time constraints and the wonderful rush that the US Department of Immigration has put on me, I will have to depart from Wichita instead of the planned starting point, North Wales (PA). It's a shame, since I wanted to say goodbye to all my friends in the PeachParts Mercedes-Benz community in the annual BenzFest. Oh, well... I shall have a glorious return sooner or later!

For those curious about where I will be going and where I will be stopping, here's a map that I have been using to keep track of the NGO's where I plan on volunteering...

It's a HUGE map. To zoom in, click on it!
If you live along the route or you have any recommendations about someone/something to visit (especially if it automotive-related!), let me know! This route does not have to be set on stone.


Ever since I took my first road trip I have loved the incredible practicality of a GPS; it has saved me many a time from making very time-consuming mistakes. For this matter, I did a bunch of research and found out there is no such thing as a perfect world-wide GPS. In any case, what comes close to one is the Garmin Mapsource WorldMap database, a network of major roads that will give you some basic pointers on where to go. In combination with local paper maps and Tyler's iPhone in places where I can find wifi (not hoping for the best here), I should be more than served.

Garmin Mapsource - Worldmap all of Latin America... and done!
The software installed without problems in the computer and transferred to the GPS in a less than five minutes. Upon looking into my unit, I saw the main arteries in every country, scrolling through Mexico and Argentina as testing. I even simulated a drive to Tegucigalpa and it worked! In combination with other orientation devices (including the compass that I glued to the roof of the car), I should only get lost "enough" to make experience interesting and be in control of my route. Being a native Spanish speaker helps lots, and will help me not stick out too much.

Next up... a whole post dedicated to health preparations for the traveler!

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