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What Happens When A Small-Town Family Visits The "World's Largest"... Whatever!

World’s Longest Highway; Cycling from Alaska to Argentina

When I tell you that today’s post is about bicycling the world’s longest highway, you will be correct in assuming I’m not talking about me and my brood. This month’s guest post is from Nancy Sathre-Vogel of Family on Bikes, who – along with her husband and two sons – traversed the western hemisphere on bicycles! Their unforgettable 17,300-mile journey took them three years (I’m tired just typing those words). Her twin sons, now 13, are Guinness World Record holders as the youngest people to cycle the length of the Americas.

The End of the World!

Almost unbelievable, right?! Here’s what Nancy told us about their journey:

Where we went, and who was coerced into going:

We cycled the length of the Pan American Highway – the longest road in the world. It stretches from the northern edge of Alaska all the way down to the tip of South America. As far as being coerced??? Ummm… you can’t really coerce someone to pedal a bike 17,000 miles!

WHY did you go there, exactly?

Now THAT is a good question. Because we’re crazy, perhaps? Or because it’s there? Or maybe it was because we wanted time together as a family before the kids grew up and flew the coop and no longer wanted to travel with ol’ ma and pa.

Okay, what was so cool about it?

What gabillions of things were cool about it?

  • Cycling past reindeer on the northern slope of Alaska
  • Pedaling southward for 300 miles before we even reached the Arctic Circle!
  • Visiting Santa Claus in North Pole
  • Riding past enormous herds of wild bison grazing on the side of the road
  • Waking up in the morning to an incredible hushed silence and pulling back the tent door to reveal a deep layer of snow covering our bikes
  • Motorcycle escorts through each and every Mexican city we passed through
  • Heading out into the jungle in Belize and floating down rivers where we weren’t even sure where we’d end up
  • Riverside hike in Belize. I'm guessing no cell signal.

  • Arriving into my Peace Corps village in Honduras after 25 years away!
  • Watching iguanas scurry across the road in front of me
  • Crossing the Bridge of the Americas over the Panama Canal
  • Panama Canal

    At the Panama Canal

  • Setting foot on South America for the very first time
  • Climbing 6000 vertical feet into the Andes from the coastal lowlands
  • Stumbling into Carnival in Ecuador when we had no idea the celebration was happening
  • Battling headwinds and blowing sand for 1500 miles along the Peruvian coast
  • Climbing one massive 15,000-foot climb from the coast to an Andean pass in 225 miles
  • Having to take a 400-mile detour through Boliviawhen a city we needed to pass through was closed due to a strike
  • Reaching Argentina – our last country
  • Being treated like royalty in Mendoza, Argentina and having the red carpet rolled out before us!
  • Seeing guanacos leap gracefully over the fence as we arrived on our bikes.
  • Watching penguins waddle
  • Arriving at the end of the world in Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina after having pedaled 17,300 miles through fifteen countries in nearly three years.

How it rated on a scale of 1 to 10 (1 = snoozefest, 10 = add to your bucket list)

Some days I’d rank down at about a -30 on the enjoyment factor, although I’m not sure snoozefest is an apt term. Other days I’d place somewhere around a +47 for sheer enjoyment and enterrainment. And then there were all those days in between…

If this type of extreme nomadic life on two wheels intrigues you, check out Sathre-Vogel’s new book, “What Were We Thinking?” It’s the compelling travelogue of her and her husband’s pre-kids adventure bicycling the back roads of Asia for a year!

Santa Claus

Meeting Mr. Claus at his home in the North Pole


  1. Fiona said,
    September 21, 2011 @ 3:57 pm

    That is incredible – I am in complete awe… One woman, THREE boys, and biking everyday?! Hats off Nancy!

  2. Mike said,
    September 22, 2011 @ 9:10 am


  3. sandra J baldwin said,
    September 23, 2011 @ 11:04 am

    are you going to write a book of all this. i just orded “what were we thinking?” keep us all posted.

  4. September 23, 2011 @ 5:39 pm

    Thank you all! Ours was a fantastic journey for sure. Although we are loving our time here in Idaho, we miss our time on the road. Who knows what the future will bring.

    Sandra – I am in the process of writing a book about the Pan Am adventure. It’ll be a while before it’s done, but it’s in the works! Thanks!

  5. October 6, 2011 @ 6:51 pm

    Cant wait on the enjoyment factor.

  6. October 19, 2011 @ 3:57 pm

    What a great journey, i like it!

  7. November 23, 2011 @ 9:37 am

    Hope to experience biking as you guys did. Great adventure!

  8. December 20, 2011 @ 10:52 am

    What a great experience, looking forward on your next journey.