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Petrolheads’ Playgrounds: The Pan-American Highway

In this new series of articles we’ll be looking at some of the most famous, the best, or the most fun stretches of road for all the petrolheads who love driving. No matter how long or short, if the stretch of road is fun to drive, we’ll talk about it. For this inaugural article we’re looking a roadway that is actually one of the longest roadways in the world. In fact, it is indeed the longest roadways in the world, depending on how exactly you calculate it: The Pan-American Highway.

The Pan-American Highway exists more as a concept than an actual road that one can drive in some parts here and there, but for the most part the Pan-American Highway is indeed a series of roads and motorways (as opposed to a single motorway as the name somewhat misleadingly suggests) that stretches from Alaska in the very north of the Western Hemisphere and extends through Canada, the United States and Mexico, all through Central America and down through the western half of South America ending up in Tierra del Fuego, Argentina.

Driving the Pan-American Highway will take you through 14 countries and although there are stretches of it that aren’t officially part of the network of roads, you’ll be able to go almost anywhere in the Americas.

The concept for the highway as been around nearly as long as cars themselves have been around. While driving more than a hundred or so kilometres was extremely challenging in the early days of the motoring history for reasons of infrastructure (in the same way that it’s only now that purely electric cars are hitting the mainstream as the infrastructure to support them on the road grows), the dream or the desire to have a road that connects all of the Americas has been there for the past 100 years.

In a world as ours now where we’re seeing an increase in isolationist and nationalist tendencies and a harking back to an allegedly simpler or more authentic time, it’s pleasant to be reminded that even one hundred years ago—when travel wasn’t possible in the way it is today—we, as people, were trying to connect with other people, cultures, and countries. And perhaps that is the ultimate mystic of the Pan-American Highway.

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