Roads End to Roads End – Loren Upton’s World Odyssey

by Curtis Guise on January 12, 2018

Loren Upton set out on his Roads End to Roads End expedition June 15th, 1984 in his 1966 CJ-5 Jeep named the Sand Ship Discovery.  The goal was to travel around the world, all on land except for the South Atlantic Ocean. Loren’s adventure started in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska on the Arctic Ocean, farthest road north on the North American Continent. In October 1984 Loren reached Panama and was joined by Patricia Upton for the rest of the journey.

Remaining true to the original goal, the Upton’s found an all-land route through the Darien Gap. The road-less Darien Gap is over 125 miles of mountains, thick jungles, rivers, and a vast marshy swamp that separates Panama from South America. They had spent a total of 741 days to travel 125 miles, from the end of the Pan-American Highway at Yaviza, Panama to the beginning of a road system in Colombia at the town of Rio Sucio on the Atrato River. They were the first to navigate through the Darien Gap in a vehicle and possibly the last as far as anyone knows.

Before finally completing the Darien Gap Loren had made three previous attempts. The first was in 1975 with a 1972 Ford F-250 but that journey was cut short when a member of his expedition was mysteriously shot and killed.  The second attempt was with a new CJ-7 Jeep in 1977. Loren and his team successfully crossed the Darien Gap, including 12 miles with the Jeep tethered on top of two local piraguas (dug-out canoes) through the Atrato Swamp area of Colombia. Because they traveled 12 miles on the river Loren did not consider it an all-land crossing. This second expedition abruptly ended when the CJ-7 tumbled 300 feet down a cliff while navigating a narrow foggy pass in the Andean Mountains.  The third attempt was in 1979 with a new CJ-5 Jeep which was cut short when they encountered a corrupt Columbian park official who would not let them pass and they were forced to leave without the Jeep.

Loren was determined to take one American-made vehicle on his Roads End to Roads End expedition, not a series of them. The Upton’s World Odyssey with their CJ-5 Sand Ship Discovery officially ended on the Fourth of July, 1989 at the Sletness Lighthouse in Gamvik, Norway. But one section of their journey was not complete and known as “the final mile”.

While traveling through South America and continuing the goal of an all-land expedition, they had to reach Egypt. The only safe option was to turn eastward in Central African Republic and head for Sudan. In order to remain entirely on land from Africa to Europe, they had to drive through the Middle East. At this time in September of 1988, they were unable to drive from the Israeli Occupied West Bank into Jordan because of the delicate political situation. Traveling through Lebanon at that time was not an option. After several attempts, they got to within one mile of the Jordanian border and had to turn back.

Loren is now in his 80’s and has been restoring the Sand Ship Discovery with the goal of returning to complete the final mile of his World Odyssey. Although the Upton’s rarely have asked for help during their expeditions there is a GoFundMe account setup for anyone who would like to help them fulfill their dream of completing this amazing adventure.

GoFundMe link

Read more details about Loren and Patricia’s adventures and see more photos at

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