Editor's Note: If you follow our social media accounts, you may have seen a picture this past fall of Karl Cassel, Susie's oldest son, sporting his LBK mittens during his trip of a lifetime he and three friends started last August. They drove from California to Patagonia, on the southernmost tip of South America, on the Pan-American Highway. They completed their adventure Dec. 19, and we thought you'd like to hear about the experiences Karl had with his mitts. Here's his account.
After nearly 5 months, 18,000 miles, and having my passport stamped in 13 countries, I'm home and enjoying the presence of friends and family, home-cooked meals, and my own bed.
When I graduated from Wheaton College last May, I'd spent 16 years of my life spent in school. I was excited, and slightly daunted, by the thought of leaving the yearly routine of a typical school year. I was approached by my friends James and Caleb about this Pan-American road trip, and decided it was too great an opportunity to pass up during in this pivotal time of transition in my life. Project:GoThere was born. After months of planning the trip's endless details and working three jobs over the summer to acquire sufficient funds, the time came for Theodore, the fourth member of the trip, to join us in San Francisco. Our journey to Patagonia began there. Just before I left, my mom stuck a pair of LBK mittens in my bag and told me to take some photos of them along the way. I didn't think much of it until we began encountering situations—such as climbing mountains—when I needed them. I was SO THANKFUL for them, and so were the other guys! We made our way through the southwestern US, visiting and staying with various friends and family. In Central America we spent all but 6 or 7 nights in various hosts' homes, people we'd connected with via Wheaton College's alumni network and other avenues. We saw jungles, beaches, bustling cities, and navigated many windy/mountainous roads as we made our way through the tropical region.
My LBKs made their first appearance as we had a frigid run-in with snow and ice while hiking Mount Cotopaxi (elev. 16,000 ft.) outside Quito, Ecuador. Even though two of the other guys had bought gloves for this activity, we were passing the mitts around for five-minute warming sessions between us. They were so much warmer than the gloves, and they couldn't say enough about the mitts! (As you can see, they earned a "thumbs-up" from me, and Theo's wearing them in the group photo below.)
As we put our car on a shipping container to meet it in Cartagena, Colombia, Theodore and I chose to sail through the tropical San Blas islands off the coast of Panama.
Once in South America, reunited with our car, we continued south, hugging the west coast of the continent. MY LBKs were pressed into service again atop Machu Picchu (elev. 7,972 ft.)in Peru. (Photo above.)
Once we made it to Patagonia, the southern tip of Chile and Argentina, we experienced more appropriate LBK weather. I loved using my mittens on some of our frigid hikes in Torres Del Paine (elev. 9,462 ft.) and Tierra Del Fuego (elev. 8,163 ft.) National Parks next to glaciers, rushing rivers, crystal clear lakes, and volcanos. They also served as a makeshift pillow in my sleeping bag (photo above).
My LBKs even did a great job warming my hands on our boat tour through the Beagle Channel (photos left and below—my mitts are hanging over Caleb's shoulder), just outside Ushuaia—the southernmost city in the world. I was also thankful for them during our trek through the southern tip of the Andes Mountain Range that surrounds the city.
This trip was a learning laboratory unlike any other. Through firsthand experiences, problem solving, and navigating the never-ending situations and choices that required us to think for ourselves in new ways, we did what we set out to do. We heard people’s stories and learned from their cultures, careers, and life experiences. The things we took away from this journey are like gold to me.
Key Lessons: HOSPITALITY: We benefited so greatly from people's hospitality. Everyone was so generous and kind as they welcomed us—most having never met us before—into their homes, housing and feeding us. DILIGENCE: This trip had its fair share of challenges—car breakdowns in obscure places, interpersonal tension from endless hours spent as a group, navigating a host of countries' driving styles and road conditions, among a myriad of others. We learned how to take each day as it came, putting our trust in God and accepting His plan for the journey.
Editor's Postscript: Where have you and your LBK mittens traveled? We'd LOVE to hear about your adventures! Email us at email@example.com and we may feature you in a future blog or social media post.