The Pan-American Highway runs for 24,140 kilometers (15,000 miles). Guinness World Records considers this to be the longest ‘motorable’ road on Earth. At the south it starts in Argentina and ends in northern Alaska. It’s been featured in at least two reality shows – The Kindness Diaries on Netflix (which is how we got introduced to it) and Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman’s motorcycle journey The Long Way Up.
It was conceived in 1923 as a single route to create commerce throughout the Americas though it ended up not as a single road but as a collection of highways that winds through 14 countries. Most of the time, it’s known as Route 1 or 2.
Even after 100 years of political wrangling and private and public investment, it’s not entirely complete. The Darien Gap is a famously impenetrable rain forest on the Panamanian isthmus which interrupts the Highway for about 100K (60 miles). Travelers need to ship their cars via boat to complete their trans-continental journey.
One of the 14 countries the highway bisects is Costa Rica where it acts as a national highway.
Why are we talking about this you wonder? Two reasons, the first is that our adventures were limited today and it seemed like a more interesting topic than what we learned in Spanish or ate for dinner.
The second is that exiting our Liberian neighborhood can only be done by turning right or left on this 15,000 mile path of concrete. It won’t surprise you that no music starts or bells ring when you turn onto this road. No big sign saying ‘Welcome to the Pan-American highway’ appears over your head to spotlight this enduring diplomatic achievement. It’s nothing special really, just the road to town.
Oddly though, making that turn gives us a little thrill that we talk about almost every day. We are reminded that our everyday lives take place in the context of something significant and far reaching in this world. And that’s a good thing to remember…and share.