7 questions with Eagle author Gari Stroh
Vail CO, Colorado
EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado ” Call it the double black diamond of road trips. In 2004, Gari Stroh drove from Colorado to Argentina, traversing more than 30,000 miles on the Pan-American Highway. And he did so in a 19-year-old diesel truck with 163,000 miles on it.
Stroh chronicles the journey in his self-published book, “Overland.” In an interview with The Vail Daily, the 37-year-old Eagle resident chats about noshing on sheep’s brain, traveling solo and those pesky military checkpoints.
1. Vail Daily: You sampled sheep’s brain in Argentina. What did that taste like?
Gari Stroh: It was kind of bland, actually. It didn’t taste like much at all. It was just more the sight of it was kind of scary because I’d never had that before. I don’t know if I would order it again. Probably not.
2. VD: What surprised you the most about traveling the Pan-American highway?
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GS: I had a lot of fears before I went down there from the media and from other people that I talked to that had never been down there before, and all the previous wars that Central America had had in the ’80s, so I had a lot of fear about, you know, bandits and getting robbed and all that stuff. What I found was the complete opposite… when I started to relax a little bit into the trip, I really just started to enjoy the journey so much more because the people were so friendly and there were no bandits waiting to attack me. I was just met with an incredible kindness and hospitality.
3. VD: You made the entire journey in a Mercedes-Benz Gelandewagen with 163,000 miles on it. Where is that car now?
GS: It’s in a storage unit resting but it’s a phenomenal car, such a reliable car. It runs on diesel, which you can get anywhere. I would take it again in a minute. It’s an incredible, durable car.
4. VS: What was your most dangerous experience on the road and why?
GS: I didn’t really have any dangerous experiences. I mean the car never broke down. I would say the scariest problem was in these counties the military is everywhere, you know? And you’d be driving along the peaceful countryside and all the sudden you come up upon a military checkpoint. I was never threatened or anything but you have to stop, shut the vehicle down, show all your paperwork. The guys are standing around with machine guns and trucks. They’re not pointing the guns at you but they’re just wanting to see who you are and if your documentation is in order. And a lot of times they’ll search the vehicle, you know, for drugs or whatever, but if you’re humble, I think, and sincere and all you’re paper work’s in order, and you’re not acting like a jerk, everything goes fine …
5. VD: Why did you decide to embark on this trip alone?
GS: First of all it’s hard to find people (who can) take that much time off. People have conventional jobs and there’s absolutely no way they could take a year and do that. And I think I’m a clearer thinker by myself. I observe more and I’m more alert. My writing’s clearer. My photography’s better … It’s a luxury to be able to make your own hours and rules.
6. VD: You are a beer brewer by profession. What inspired you to get involved in writing?
GS: Well, we sold our family business in 1999 and I just love to travel. I always have. I love taking pictures and I love seeing the world kind of at ground level, you know, that’s why I take a car when I go on these trips, or a motorcycle. For me, just to travel for travel’s sake is kind of aimless wandering, so I need a purpose, like a job, when I’m on the road. It makes me feel kind of better about myself, so I just kind of started dabbling in writing and I landed a gig with a Mercedes-Benz Club magazine, and I’d done a little bit of travel writing before, so it kind of gives me a purpose on the road, which I like.
7. VD: What have you been doing since your big trip?
GS: Well, focusing on the book. I got the book finished last spring and it was at the printer all summer and it just came out in September. I also work on a wheat ranch in the summer for about a month and a half …
High Life Writer Sarah Mausolf can be reached at 970-748-2938 or firstname.lastname@example.org.