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1946-1949 Bike and Jeep Trip from Argentina to Alaska

• CATEGORIES: Features, Magazine • TAGS: .

UPDATE: This is an extensive update to the 2017 post about Pedro and Carlos Rocasalvo’s 1946-1949 trip from Argentina to Alaska and back.

1955-02-kaiser-willys-news-fairbanks-argentina-trip2

CREDIT: February 1955 issue of the Willys News. The photo shows Pedro Rocasalvo and some helpers using boards and a railroad track to help the jeep cross a deep gorge. This was part of the return trip to Argentina.

On June 5, 1946, two brothers, 24-year-old Pedro and 19-year-old Carlos Rocasalvo, mounted bicycles at their home in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and began an adventure north. They carried 80lbs of baggage and $100. Their ultimate goal was to reach Fairbanks, Alaska. They expected the trip to last five years. Their father, a clothing goods salesman, was against the trip, but the boys were confident that they’d be okay.

1948-03-16-wilimington-daily-press-journal-pedro-carlos-rocasalvo

CREDIT: March 16th, 1948, issue the Wilmington Daily Press journal, Wilmington, California.

A budding journalist and photographer, Pedro and his brother supported their trip through serialized and syndicated reports to twenty-six newspapers back in Argentina. The pair planned to film their journey and use their notes and articles to write a book about their adventure.

During their trek to the United States, the pair survived four crossings of the Andes, a “ringside seat at Bolivia’s revolution”, and hacking their way through 300 miles of Colombian Jungle that proved the worst part of their trip. During their 26 days in the jungle, they shot and cooked their own food. In the evenings, the brothers slept in trees, but had to select the trees carefully due to snakes and other animals.

At Colon, Panama, the exhausted boys were diagnosed with Malaria; they were treated for the disease and slept for four days.

Once in the United States, the pair’s lack of English didn’t slow them down. Eventually, after twenty-seven months of riding, they reached Los Angeles, arriving in March of 1948. While in Hollywood, Pedro studied photography at Paramount’s photography school for a month.

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CREDIT: Pomona Progress Bulletin, Pomona, California. Pedro and Carlos Rocasalvo receive American Youth Hostel passes.

Soon, they were back on their bikes again, arriving at the YMCA in Portland, Oregon, in June of 1948. There, an interpreter named Celita Dextre, fluent in Spanish and English, was brought in to help the boys tell their story. There may have been some sparks between Pedro and twenty-three-year-old Celita, because she surfaced again later in the trip.

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June 17, 1948, issue of the Dayton Herald, Dayton, Ohio.

After additional stops in Seattle and Vancouver, the pair made a hard ride for Fairbanks.

The brothers reached Fairbanks on July 22nd. There, they received a Willys MB from the Mayor, a gift from the Fairbanks Rotary Club and a local Willys dealer.

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CREDIT: Sacramento Bee July 22, 1948. The boys reached Fairbanks.

In early August, Pedro and Carlos pedaled to Circle City, the end of the Alaska Highway. It also marked the end of their journey northward.

On August 20th, 1948, the brothers began their trek back to Argentina, but this time driving their jeep. Joining them for the return journey was Celita Dextre. It turned out her father was an engineer working in Alaska. At some point following the brother’s exit from Portland, Celita had made her way north to Alaska (either with her father or to visit him) and, probably, to meet the boys again.

While not addressed in any articles, the gift of the jeep coinciding with Celita’s addition to the journey must not have been a coincidence. In fact, while most articles claimed the jeep was a gift, at least one article suggested the brother’s had purchased it from the money they’d made off their newspaper articles. I could find no articles from Alaska to verify either story.

Apparently, Celita hated the cold and was all-too-happy to leave Alaska. She was also interested in seeing more of the North American continent. So, the opportunity to join Pedro and Carlos on their drive south was too good to refuse. Her plan was to accompany them as far as New York.

In late August, the trio reached Edmonton, Canada.

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CREDIT: The Edmonton Journal, August 30, 1948.

In mid-September, they reached Bismarck, North Dakota.

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CREDIT: Bismarck Tribune September 21, 1948.

From Bismarck, the three stopped in Minneapolis, then went on to Chicago. There, Carlos’ malaria re-surfaced, making him too ill to continue. So, promising to reunite with Pedro and Celita in New York, Carlos stayed behind in Chicago to recover.

1948-11-26-mountain-echo-shickshinny-pa-rocasalvo-meet-chicago

CREDIT: November 11, 1948, The Mountain Echo, Shickshinny, Pennsylvania,.

From Chicago, Carlos and Celita passed through Detroit, eventually reaching Rochester, New York. There, a pair of articles accompanied their visit.

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CREDIT: December 07, 1948, issue of the Democrats and Chronicle, Rochester, New York. Pictured is Pedro Rocasalvo and Celita Dextre.

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CREDIT: December 14, 1948, issue of the Press and Sun Bulletin, Rochester, New York.

This is where the trip’s newspaper articles appear to end. Pedro likely did drop off Celita in New York, because she does not appear in later photos.

Below is a rough map of the boy’s trip between June of 1946 and December of 1948.

1946-1948-rocasalvo-brothers-trip

This map of the boy’s trip represent where they went between June 1946 and December 1948. Eventually, Pedro landed in South America with his jeep. Whether he drove or shipped there isn’t clear.

However he did it, Pedro did return with the jeep back to South America and we know this because a February 1955 Willys News article about Pedro included photos of his return trip. Below is an excerpt from that issue:

Scannable Document

CREDIT: February 1955 Willys News

Meanwhile, as Pedro made his way back to Argentina, Carlos remained behind in the Midwest. Whether it had to do with his illness or whether he was sick of traveling, by September of 1949, twenty-two-year-old Carlos was ready to park his bike and enroll in a three-year missionary school.

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CREDIT: September 10, 1949, issue of the Star Tribune.

Pedro passed away in July of 2019, but according to his daughter, Carlos was still alive at age 93.

 

12 Comments on “1946-1949 Bike and Jeep Trip from Argentina to Alaska

  1. John S Dilsaver

    I hope we can find out more about the bike trip and the jeep trip, it’s fascinating. I’ve done some bike touring, Buenos Aires to Fairbanks is wonderful!

  2. David Eilers Post author

    I’ve written Hugo about it. I’m hoping he can learn something since he’s in Brazil.

  3. megan

    Carlos Rocasalvo is still alive. He still resides in the united states. Its interesting to me that this article is so recent as i was looking for a an article that was published years go. Carlos Rocasalvo is my childrens grandfather It truly is an amazing story especailly when he tells its himself!

  4. David Eilers Post author

    Hi Megan,

    Thanks for your note! I would be very interested in speaking with Carlos, perhaps even writing an article about his adventure. One of the things I do with eWillys is document the stories of people who have traveled the world by jeep. I only recently stumbled across a reference to Carlos’ trip, which is why this article is so recently. I tried to learn more about trip and had some friends in Brazil searching for more info, but no one found anything.

    This past summer I led a group of vintage jeepers to Alaska. See http://www.alaskaorrust.com. With us was 84 year old Hugo Vidal, a Brazilian who first went to Alaska in a CJ-3B in 1955/56. To accompany him on his return trip to Alaska this summer was a great privelidge! My wife and I got to know him very well and we have become good friends. You can read a short article on Hugo’s trip here: http://www.deilers.com/2017-hugo-whitehorse-newspaper-article.jpg

    Feel free to email me at d@deilers.com with contact information for Carlos if he’s interested in speaking with or writing me. Or, even forwarding the old article you were hoping to find would be of interest.

    Thanks so much,

    – Dave

  5. Mayra walther

    Hi i just wanna let everybody know that Carlos is my father. He still with us , but sadly my uncle Pedro pass in April 2019. My dad is 93 years old now and still stronge. With little problems that come with age.

  6. David Eilers Post author

    Hi Mayra and Megan,

    I’ve updated the story of Pedro and Carlo’s 1946-1948 journey with newspaper articles and newspaper photos. Using newspaper reports, I was able to draft a more complete story of their trip, but, as always, there are nagging questions. This story will reappear Saturday morning May 23rd.

    Best Wishes,

    – Dave

  7. Mike

    Must have been a very different world back then, I can’t imagine this bicycle taking place in today’s world, too much government red tape and bickering.

  8. David Eilers Post author

    Mike, a different world for sure. But, there are still people biking and walking around the world. In fact, I’d say there are more resources than ever for supporting folks exploring the world. For example, here’s a couple attempting to bike every country in the world. They’ve been doing it since 2006 http://www.worldbiking.info/wordpress/about-world-biking/.

    There’s a host of forums about living, traveling and working pretty much anywhere in the world. My experience has been that other countries are much more supportive about kids traveling between high school and college; something that I think is much more dismissed in the US as a waste of time.

  9. Tom in Paris

    Great story. Bill Barriere could’ve learned a lot from these brothers. Thanks for the interesting read and photos.

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