Five guys and a Pinzgauer head south |

Five guys and a Pinzgauer head south

Dominique Taylor/Vail DailyVail locals', from left Robbie Giardino, Brett Fleishman, Slade Cogswell, Justin Bradshaw and Mike Hovey spent some time Tuesday checking the strength of the roof rack on their Pinzgauer four wheel drive vehicle. The men leave next week on a trip from Vail to Chile. They expect the trip to take more than three months.

EAGLE COUNTY – Like Butch and Sundance, a group of local men is headed south to a new frontier. The outlaws went to Bolivia. These locals are now on the road to Chile.The men – Robbie Giardino, Brett Fleishman, Slade Cogswell, Justin Bradshaw and Mike Hovey – are school chums from Vail. Now they’re partners in adventure and real estate. As a group, they own a piece of property in Huila Huila, in the Chilean state of Patagonia. To get there, the group has decided on a novel form on transportation: a 1974 Pinzgauer four-wheel-drive vehicle formerly owned by the Swiss Army.Bradshaw built a fiberglass hard top for the vehicle, and, after paint, new tires and a thorough going-over, the “Pinz” is ready to tackle the roads of Mexico and South America.”It’s really simple mechanically,” Bradshaw said. “If we need parts, most of them are either Volkswagen parts or generic ones you can get at NAPA.”Rugged simplicity will be a plus traveling to Chile, since many roads in that part of the world are more path than highway.With five men and their gear jammed into and on top of the Pinz, there won’t be a lot of room in the Pinz, but the group is eager to head south. At the end of what should be a three- or four-month journey lies Huila Huila, a private nature preserve in one of the world’s only “temperate” – meaning it has seasons – rain forests.

By the time they arrive, it should be summer in Patagonia, which means the group will have a year’s worth of summer weather. But, Cogswell said, there’s a glacier nearby that has year ’round skiing, When they hit Huila Huila, Bradshaw plans to start building a house on a lot he owns with another partner. Bradshaw also owns property along with his four traveling mates, who all plan to work at the preserve.The planWhen asked if beer was involved in planning this adventure, the five partners just laugh.”It was a college decision,” Bradshaw said.In school at Colorado State University a couple of years ago, Bradshaw and Giardino started talking about Chile. The country has an open market, a friendly government, and foreigners can own land. And there’s desirable property for sale that’s within reach of partners who are still on the sunny side of 25 years old.With land relatively cheap and available also comes opportunity. The developers of Huila Huila “are trying to help shift the focus of the country from logging to tourism,” Bradshaw said. “It’s a great place to invest.”

The adventureOnce the idea to buy land in Chile and then drive to it was hatched, Bradshaw and his partners have spent the last year or so planning the trip. One of Bradshaw’s friends sells Pinzgauers, so the vehicle was easy enough to find.Planning also included research about how to get to Patagonia, and what parts of South America to avoid. “We just going to ship around Columbia,” Bradshaw said.Otherwise, though, it’s all driving.”And there are no short cuts anywhere.”Predictably, the partners’ parents are less than thrilled about their sons taking off on a months-long trip to the southern end of the hemisphere.”Mom’s not so happy,” Fleishman said.

“Our parents are freaked,” Bradshaw added. “But they’re supportive.”But driving is by far the most daring way to get to Patagonia.”We’ve all flown a lot,” Fleishman said. “This is a lot more exciting than flying.”While there aren’t a lot of Internet portals between Vail and Huila Huila, the partners have a Web site so family and friends can track their progress. And, once they arrive in Chile, there’s no telling when they’ll come home.”We don’t have a definite return date,” Giardino said. “We’re thinking about coming back in April or so, so we’ll have a year of summer.”Staff Writer Scott N. Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 613, or Daily, Vail Colorado

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