It’s a car that’s hard to miss — a white 1989 Cadillac limo, covered with stickers from across the Americas. There’s even a brown suitcase mounted to the trunk and a sink inside the cozy interior.
This head-turning car belongs to Lucas Cárdenas, 35, and Florencia Bratovich, 28, of Patagonia, Argentina. After two-plus years of travel, mixed with short stops in more than a dozen countries, they’ve finally made it to their destination: Alaska.
“This was the best two years of our lives,” said Cárdenas, smiling from ear to ear.
Cárdenas conjured up the idea years ago to travel across the Americas, a distance of more than 30,000 miles. But it wasn’t until he met Bratovich, now his girlfriend, that he decided to make that dream a reality.
Cárdenas started up a limo business a few years ago in Patagonia, which is where they got the car. They picked the oldest one on the lot and installed a bed and mini kitchen inside before embarking on their journey. Now, more than 800 days after leaving home, the inside of the limo is full of trinkets from the places they’ve visited.
Despite the car’s age, they only ran into one major mechanical issue in Los Angeles that required Cárdenas to replace the engine. A lucky accomplishment because neither knew much about cars when the trip began, they said.
“But that is the reason to travel,” Cárdenas said. “To learn.”
After leaving Argentina, they trekked through Chile, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, Belize, Mexico, Cuba (sans car), the U.S. and Canada.
They traveled without watches, phones or tools. They also had no GPS at the start of the trip. It wasn’t hard to get by though, they said, because people were often intrigued by the eye-catching limo and offered to help the couple with their adventure.
“If I sit here for five minutes,” said Cárdenas, sitting in a patch of grass in an East Anchorage neighborhood, “You’re gonna see people coming to see the limo, taking pictures. That is the icebreaker — the limo.”
They stayed with all types of people, he said. Big families, small families, lonely people, poor people and rich people. After seeing thousands of miles of beautiful scenery, it was the people they encountered who made the trip.
“All the new friends, the people, I think is the best [part],” Bratovich said.
Cárdenas agrees. Before the trip, he said, he was jaded about humanity.
“That idea changed for me because we can’t even do one kilometer of this trip without help,” he said.
They found a place to stay in Anchorage when Ricardo Policicchio — who is originally from Argentina but now lives in Alaska — said he heard the couple’s interview on an Argentinian radio station he was listening to online more than two years ago. He was the first of many who offered them a place to stay.
After so much time on the road, the fact that they’ve made it to their destination doesn’t quite feel real, they said. What they’re thinking about now is where they’ll go within the Last Frontier. The Kenai Peninsula, Fairbanks and Denali are top contenders.
They’re also thinking about how they’ll get back home. Cárdenas and Bratovich don’t want to just ditch the car and fly back; they would like to ship the limo if possible and said they’d appreciate some help hashing out a plan.
Once back home, they hope to complete a book — which is already in the works — about their adventures and the people they met. They also want to host their new friends and fellow world travelers in Argentina.
“I want to spend the rest of my life talking about that trip I made to Alaska,” Cárdenas said.