VIDEO: The Pacific-Atlantic Road Race


It’s a few days before our car rental is up, and not many more before Todd leaves Panama. This calls for some sort of grand finale.

“How long does it take to drive from one ocean to another?”

We look it up and find out two key pieces of information. One: it’s a pretty short distance, less than forty-five miles in a straight line. Two: there doesn’t seem to be any posted record for swimming in both the Atlantic and Pacific in the shortest amount of time possible.

Take those bits of information, add about fifteen minutes of Todd and I riling each other up, and you’ve got a challenge on your hands. How quickly could we go from being in one body of water to the other?

We do some research. Accessing the Pacific Ocean in Panama is tricky. Sure you can see it everywhere, but the water near Panama City is gross. You’d never want to swim in it. We find a beach called Playa Bonita (Beautiful Beach) which is pretty close by. Good enough. Finding a beach on the other side is much more difficult. We know roughly on the map where we want to be, but Google Maps doesn’t show many roads for Panama. We’ll have to wing it.

If you have to call a beach “Beautiful Beach”, then it’s a good bet that it’s not actually beautiful. The sand is pretty nice, but the water seems dirty, so we settle on wading rather than swimming. No one else is anywhere near the water.

A few Panamanians look at us strangely as we walk out wearing nothing but Speedos, set our camera up on a rock, and start talking to it. For some reason it takes us a dozen takes to get our intro right, which only contributes to the scene.

Finally we get it right, hit “start” on our stopwatches, and sprint across the beach. The rocks hurt our feet and dodging the glass and debris is a bit of a challenge, but we were on a mission. We are setting a record, unimportant as that record might be, and every second counts.

We squeeze into our rental car and Todd takes off while I struggle to set the camera up in the back of the car. We have the idea that we’ll video the whole event in one continuous shot, but the road vibrations from the poorly maintained roads and the g-forces from Todd taking corners quickly knock the camera around and stop it several times.

Getting out of Panama is stressful. By now we know most of the roads, but we don’t have the lights or traffic patterns down. What we lack in technical knowledge we attempt to compensate for in raw speed. Knowing that even if we get pulled over a quick $20 bribe is all that we’ll face, Todd routinely pushes the car to its absolute maximum, which is just over one hundred miles an hour.

We get on the highway and things go smoothly for the most part. One area is under construction and a confusing detour sets us back by five minutes. I stay glued to my GPS screen. It doesn’t have most of the roads, but I can see us moving closer and closer to the blue area that represents the ocean.

Things get sketchy as we get to the Atlantic coast. There are lots of roads and no signs for beaches. We know we’re close, but the pressure is on. It’s been 86 minutes and we really want to do it in under 90 minutes, just because it’s a round number.

“I don’t think we’re going to make it. Maybe ninety one or ninety two.”

Todd goes even faster. We’re now going ninety on a narrow but empty road near the coastline. Finally we make a gamble. A road that hooks to the left seems like it must get closer to the beach. We take it, slow down for the pedestrians, and continue to drive to where we think the beach is.

The beach has got to be right behind those shacks. “Let’s run for it.”

We jump out of the car and run through the alleys behind the shacks, disturbing roving flocks of chickens. Bystanders can only assume that we are completely out of our minds. We’re at 89 minutes, and are totally screwed if we’re not at the ocean.

Finally we weave behind some sort of monument covered in broken glass and see the waves crashing on the shore. As soon as my feet hit the water I hit the stop button on my watch. The water is so warm and pleasant that I run all the way in and go underwater. I press the water out of my eyes and look at my watch.


We made our goal with less than half a minute to spare, setting what we believe is the fastest documented time for being in one ocean and  driving to the other. Try beating us!

Make sure to check the blog later this week! I’m going to release the first couple chapters of the Life Nomadic book for free….


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