The Last Mile

For some, breaking away from the norm and living a life of adventure becomes, well, normal. When it comes to folks like Loren and Patty Upton, I maintain that Merriam Webster should add “Upton” to the definition of the word adventure.

Back in June of 1984, the couple packed up their CJ-5, affectionately called Sand Ship Discovery, topped off the tank, and departed Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, for what would become one of the most significant vehicle expeditions of modern times. Their plan was to thread a path through North and Central America, and eventually partition South America in a zigzaggy kind of way to Ushuaia, at the southernmost tip of the continent. But rather than shipping their Jeep from Colón, Panama, to Cartagena, Colombia, they followed the Pan-American Highway to its terminus in Yaviz—and kept driving. For the next 741 days they slogged, winched, chopped, and dug their way through the inhospitable jungles of the Darién Gap. It was the first, and as far as we know, the last “all land” vehicle crossing of the Gap—one of the most arduous feats to date.

Surviving the Americas and the Darién, they boarded a ship for Africa with the intent of driving from Cape Agulhas, South Africa, to Gamvik, Norway, the northernmost road in Europe. From the expedition’s inception, the Upton’s goal was to keep the tires on the ground, avoiding ferry passages unless absolutely necessary. They were successful in their quest with one exception, a political roadblock that diverted them from completing a short section between Israel’s West Bank and Jordan.

More than three decades later (Loren is now 82) the couple is determined to return to the Middle East and connect the missing link in their 5-year, 56,000-mile odyssey—and they will be doing so in the venerable Sand Ship Discovery.

The duo’s adventures have been almost completely self-funded, and every dime they had went into supporting their shoestring budget. They are currently in the process of restoring their old steed, as well as scraping funds together for transportation to Israel, and need our help.

While they have rarely asked for assistance, for this last hurrah they started a GoFundMe campaign. We at Expedition Portal and Overland Journal are committed to helping the Uptons, visionaries in the overland world, complete their decades-old dream. Find out more at and join us in supporting their cause—contribute what you can on their GoFundMe link Keep an eye on the Journal for an upcoming article about their 5-year World Odyssey.

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Chris spent his formative years riding dirt bikes with his dad in the deserts of Southern California and Baja, Mexico, which led to a lifelong quest for adventure. He is handy behind a viewfinder and at the keyboard, and brings four decades of international travel experience to Overland Journal as Editor-in-Chief. His career, which includes work for National Geographic Adventure, Four Wheeler, Hot Rod, and Autoweek, has taken him through 50-plus countries and to every continent. He has also served as correspondent to magazines in a dozen countries and in as many languages. In 2013 he was part of the Expeditions7 team that crossed Antarctica and he has recently been inducted into the Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame as a pioneering journalist. When not behind the camera Chris can be found on The Office (his sailboat), or undertaking meticulous “research” for upcoming articles in locales such as Tequila, Mexico.