Pan-American Highway USA

The Southern Adventure Begins

April 21, 2023 to May 6, 2023
April 21, 2023 – Phase Two – Going South
Our granddaughter sent Bluey and Bingo to accompany us on our adventure.

“The dreaming, research, planning, and preparation are all done. This is really it! We are on our way to Argentina!!! The first stop is only four hours down the road because we are both exhausted.”

That is what I wrote on April 21st, 2023 when we left on Phase Two of our Pan-American journey after spending the previous seven weeks outfitting Lucy. The plan was to take the next 14 months traveling to Ushuaia, Argentina to dip our toes in the ocean and complete the Pan-American. You can see in the first map above, that plan was interrupted in Costa Rica as we needed to come home for private reasons. The lesson here is that a key skill of an overlander is their ability to adapt and keep going. There are a million things that will go wrong on a trip like this. We dealt with some in Phase One to Alaska, we will be dealing with more in this post, and we dealt with more in Costa Rica. The goal isn’t to prove one’s fortitude against all odds, it is to live an experience completely with all the joys and all the difficulties. Doing that is hard, but it changes you and creates memories for a lifetime. It isn’t arriving at some destination that makes the trip worth it, it is the act of living all of the experiences, appreciating the cultures, meeting the local people, eating unfamiliar food, learning to speak a new language, crossing rivers without a bridge, driving bumpy dirt roads, discovering breathtaking landscapes, finding wildlife in their native habitat, and solving all of the inevitable problems that eventually add up to an unforgettable journey. There is no rule that one has to do the Pan-American in one continuous journey. Some have done that, but many have not. So, Phase Two will take us to Costa Rica, and Phase Three will start in 2024 to continue with the rest of the adventure.

The trail is the thing, not the end of the trail. Travel too fast, and you miss all you are traveling for.

Louis L’Amour
April 22, 2023 – Princeton

Our first overnight stop was in Cortland, New York, about four hours from home. Spring was in full bloom already. We didn’t get on the road until late Friday, so we got to Cortland at about midnight. I think I went a little too economical on the room as there was no hot water in the morning and it was a little noisy. They did reduce our price to half due to the lack of hot water. The next day we drove to Princeton for a visit with my brother and his family. We got stuck on the I380 for an hour and a half due to a fatal accident. The trucker behind us was pretty worked up about getting held up just six miles from home.

We are in Princeton, about 8 hours into our trip and Lucy has broken down already. The ABS light came on about an hour out of Princeton. Luckily we are staying with my brother, so we extended our stay a few days, and Jim connected me with his favorite mechanic who squeezed us in and fixed it. We also took the opportunity to reorganize the back of Lucy as some things weren’t working smoothly. We should be back on the road tomorrow. Thanks Jim and Penny.

April 26, 2023 – Princeton

There have been no updates in a few days because we are still in Princeton at my brother’s house. Two more issues turned up on Lucy. She was leaking gas and transmission fluid. So we stayed and had those issues fixed. Not fun having to solve so many issues so soon in our trip but it has been fantastic spending almost a whole week with my brother, Jim. We will finally be getting back on the road tomorrow. We intend to cross the USA quickly as it is so close to us in Canada that we travel there all the time. So, some long driving days coming up. For tonight, Sue and I are watching one of our favorite movie series, Back To The Future.

April 28, 2023 – Buchanan

We really feel like we are traveling now because, as you can see, it is raining, and has been all day. It feels like a continuation of Alaska, which is appropriate, given that constantly raining was a theme of the northern portion of this trip. We just ate at this ordinary family restaurant which had fantastic food.

After our great meal in Buchanan, Virginia we drove on to Abingdon, where we stayed for the night.

April 29, 2023 – Tuscaloosa

From Abingdon, we drove to Tuscaloosa, Alabama. The day ended with some disappointment. The ABS light came back on and the transmission started leaking again. Two of our three fixes in Princeton didn’t work. Since it is Sunday tomorrow, making it difficult to get a mechanic, we are going to drive all day to Houston, Texas where we will go to a Jeep dealer. Lucy is safe to drive, even with the ABS light on.

April 30, 2023 – South Houston, Texas

We made it all the way to Houston today. Our biggest day of driving. It was interesting crossing the Mississippi and the bayou. We will come back someday in Griego and Seven. We are staying in a hotel tonight as we are tired from all the driving. Our goal tomorrow is to find a place to fix our transmission and ABS issues again. We will start at a local Jeep dealer because perhaps they will have the knowledge to truly fix it.

May 1, 2023 – Galveston Island State Park

We visited a Jeep dealer for a diagnosis and quote to fix our mechanical problems on Lucy. We need some of the transmission seals replaced, which was what they did in Princeton, so they either did it wrong, or it is a different seal that has failed. Unfortunately, the Jeep dealer can’t get the parts for at least a week so we searched elsewhere. We were referred to Eagle Transmission in Friendswood, Texas. It was a bit late in the afternoon by the time we found them, so we booked a diagnosis appointment for tomorrow and went to camp in Galveston Island State Park. Below is our first night of camping. Hamburger helper for dinner, of course. We are checking out all of our camping systems so that we can fine-tune anything while we are still in the USA. So far so good. The temperature is definitely warm enough here (it wasn’t warm enough in Ottawa when we left).

Garmin said to turn right. Good thing, because otherwise, we would have ended up in the Gulf of Mexico!
May 2, 2023 – Johnson Space Center

Today we had a fun day as we waited for Lucy to be diagnosed by Eagle Transmission. We spent the day at the Lyndon B Johnson Space Center in Houston, where mission control for the Apollo moon landings was. We toured the actual room where the first moon landing was monitored. It was a big thrill for me as I remember watching the landing at school and that very room was on TV. As I walked into the building I imagined the ground control crew walking into the very same building for their six-hour shift monitoring Apollo 11 all those years ago. The other thing that struck me as I toured the space center was how small and primitive the first manned capsules that orbited the Earth were. Those guys were brave.

We now have the results of the diagnosis. Eagle says a seal on the transmission is leaking. We had the same diagnosis from the Jeep dealer on Monday, but they couldn’t fix it until maybe next week, and at twice the price of Eagle. We have an appointment to get the leak fixed on May 4th. They were super good guys who were trying to get us back on the road as soon as possible, they were just waiting for the parts. They charged nothing for the diagnosis whereas the Jeep dealer charged $275 just to look at Lucy. Some Texans are just great people.

May 4, 2023 – Eagle Transmission

May the fourth be with you. We are hoping it is good luck to have Lucy fixed on May 4th, Star Wars Day. Austin and his team at Eagle Transmission in Friendswood, Texas have Lucy back in great shape. They fixed the transmission leak and gave the whole Jeep a once-over. They say we are good to keep going, which is a fantastic relief. We have not had an ABS issue since the one time in Alabama so we feel that is not a problem. Eagle transmission cleaned up some residue from the axle seal leak we had fixed a month ago and that may have been the cause of the ABS trouble.

After the relief of getting Lucy fixed in the morning we had a reset on the trip. We have been constantly worried about something since leaving but we are putting that behind us starting today. We had a relaxing afternoon on the beach and a fantastic celebratory dinner. Tomorrow we head for San Antonio, Texas where we have an Airbnb for two nights while we prepare for the Mexico border crossing on Sunday.

May 6, 2023 – San Antonio, Texas

We had a great day in San Antonio, Texas exploring the river walk and Los Alamos. We took a boat cruise along the river and had dinner in one of the riverside restaurants. Everyone was complaining about the high humidity combined with 34 C, but that is just a normal summer day in Ontario so we loved it. In fact we find the restaurants are too cold with the AC. We definitely skipped spring this year and drove straight into summer. Tomorrow it gets real as we cross into Mexico.

Cheers, Chris

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