The Last Mile: Jeep refurbished in Tri-Cities will finally finish global expedition
RICHLAND, Wash. -- Dreams do come true, sometimes it just takes some time.
Thirty years ago, a couple of explorers came just one mile shy of reaching their goal of traveling the world by car. Three decades later, they're going to finish what they started.
If cars could talk this 1966 Jeep CJ-5 would tell one heck of a story.
“It's home,” explorer Patty Upton said. “We lived in it for five years. Everything we owned was in that Jeep, we could eat in that Jeep, we could sleep in that Jeep. It is home.
It's the car that made Loren and Patty Upton Guinness World Record holders for the first all-land crossing of the Darien gap by vehicle.
“We may not be the best,” Loren said. “But we were the first.”
The Star Ship Discovery took them from the tip of Alaska to the toe of South America.
“It took them three years to bust through that jungle,” said Laurence Upton, Loren’s nephew who joined the pair in Panama.
But on their global journey, it wasn't Mother Nature that stopped them from taking an American-made car around the world.
“It's been hard to get where she is and it was very disappointing 30 years ago to go against a human barrier,” Patty said.
They were stopped short in Israel—unable to cross into Jordan because of war.
"But Loren’s goal was roads-end to roads-end,” Laurence said. “So we're shipping them back to Israel to finish that roughly one mile."
And the car that’s seen so many places gets a new life--starting in Richland.
“We've had so many good people helping us,” Patty said. “Everybody has pitched in to make this happen for us, and it's been a dream come true for Loren. Which is a dream come true for me.”
Laurence visited Patty and Loren last summer, and when he saw the Jeep again, he had bigger plans for the car that was rusted and broken down.
“I knew “Loren’s getting up there in age, and I just didn't want to see this Jeep getting into the hands of some kid that’s going to turn it into a dune-buggy.
Larry and Mike Merk of the Tri-Cities volunteered to fix it up.
“These up here?” Loren said, pointing to homemade contraptions in the car. “That's where my journals and stuff all went. It gives me an absolute thrill.”
On Sunday, the Sand Ship Discovery will start her own journey back to Israel.
“Venture forth,” Patty said. “Go out there. Explore the world.”
And in a few short months, the Uptons will meet her there--to finish their final mile together.
The Uptons plan to finish their expedition in April, and the family is looking for a museum to give their car a final resting spot.