It’s the road trip of a lifetime for a couple of freewheeling adventurers who are riding on the ultimate set of wheels – a sleek stretch limousine.
But the 1989 white Cadillac that’s been home for the past two years to Lucas Cárdenas and Florencia Bratovich is hardly the picture of luxury.
Outside, the once-shining white paint job is crackled and peeling – a casualty of the road and four difficult days on the world’s largest salt flat, Salar de Uyuni, in Bolivia.
And on the inside, instead of plush leather seats and plenty of leg room, there’s a cramped-looking bed next to a tidy stainless steel sink, one-burner stove and small cupboards for storage.
But the road-battled, muddy machine is home for the pair, who landed in Surrey just in time to join the parade and the classic car show at the Cloverdale Rodeo and Country Fair, May 16 to 19.
Since setting out from Patagonia, in their native Argentina, on Feb. 23, 2012, Cárdenas and Bratovich have visited 17 countries, sightseeing along the way, and amassing a collection of tiny souvenirs, from dashboard hula girls to eraser-sized models of Aztec pyramids.
They plan to arrive at their final destination – Alaska – when they get there.
“We are travelling without watches and without cell phones,” Cárdenas told The Reporter.
They are chronicling their exploits on a website – America sin Limites (America without limits) – and on Facebook, where friends old and new are following their adventures, written in Spanish.
The pair doesn’t have a set itinerary, preferring to go where the road takes them – visiting with new friends along the way.
A Cloverdale resident who heard about their adventures on Argentine radio contacted Cardenas, 35, and Bratovich, 27, inviting them to stay with his family.
“Five months later, we’re here,” Cardenas said.
Another B.C. family who met them during their three-month stay in Costa Rica has invited them home to Squamish.
“They’ve been following us on Facebook all this time. They invited us to stay,” Cárdenas said, remarking on what a small world it is when it comes to travel.
They enjoy getting off the beaten path, preferring the small towns.
“We never know” where they will be going next, said Bratovich: They take out the map and choose their next destination.
The pair has driven their 23-foot-long limousine nearly the entire way across the Americas by land, a journey to Cloverdale of an estimated 48,000 kms or 30,000 miles.
The only exception was getting to Panama from Columbia, a distance of about 100 km of jungle and lawlessness. The limo had to be shipped by boat. Cárdenas and Bratovich flew.
Despite the myriad of countries in southern and central America on their itinerary, “We’ve never had any problem with violence or anything,” Cárdenas said. Ironically, after all this time and distance, they recently got robbed in Seattle, WA. A scammer talked them out of $25 for a parking pass only to run off with their money.
By necessity and budget, they’ve become adept at auto repair.
The lengthy limo’s engine had to be replaced in Los Angeles – a great place to find rare auto parts, it turned out. They found a used engine on Craiglist.
“We replaced it and it’s running fine,” Cárdenas said.
The unusual sight of a white Cadillac limousine draws admirers and the curious. The pair is used to drawing a crowd of spectators.
Every morning we wake up to faces,” Cárdenas said.
They make travel money by selling copies of their self-published book outlining their adventures, and framed photos they’ve taken along the way.