Ben Oude Kamphuis is a big Dutch soccer fan with a big heart. In January he took a break from his job helping disabled kids to drive his ancient pickup from San Francisco to Brazil and just made it, spreading his positive attitude the whole way down.
Kamphuis donated soccer shoes and talked to kids about "unity through football" at schools in many of the towns he stopped in; his message is as straightforward as it sounds.
The truck, nicknamed "Old Nellie" (of course it is), has been retrofitted with a wacky paintjob and a soccer ball-looking tent in which Kamphuis sometimes sleeps. But other than that it's stock; as you might have guessed Kamphuis is old-school and prefers maps to GPS.
"To me, it's such a warm experience if you go on your own," he told KickassTrips. "People have an easier way to come up to you. If you're on your own, you have to talk to people. If I need directions, which I do on a regular basis—I don't have GPS, just a AAA map, and I get my ass lost in the mountains quite a bit—then I've gotta go out and talk. I love it."
Kamphuis seems to have a pretty great attitude about life, you can watch the lanky Hulk Hogan look-alike restore your faith in humanity with one of his previous endeavors right here:
After driving from San Fran to Baja California, Kamphuis and "Old Nellie" took a Mexican ferry from La Paz to Mazatlán, drove further to Colón, Panama where he caught another boat to to Cartagena, Colombia as he wasn't crazy enough to bushwhack the Darien Gap.
Regarding how the Chevrolet managed rough roads, he told Kickass Trips:
"There's no suspension on that thing. It's just a solid block of metal. In Mexico I'd say, 'Amigo, how far from Mazatlán to Puerto Vallarta?' And they'd say, 'No worries, amigo, it's direct, like eight hours.' And it takes me three frickin' days to get there. It's been like that all along. I thought I'd be in Brazil way earlier. But with the mountains and some of the gravel roads I travel, I can barely go 10 miles an hour, because it shakes. But it's doable. I've just gotta take my time."
The rest of his course brought him across the Andes Mountains, through Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru, ending up in the outskirts of Brasília, the capital of Brazil.
It's a hell of a way to spend six months for sure and a properly impressive accomplishment for a sixty-year-old pickup. Apparently he's going to ship the truck back to San Francisco and fly himself home sometime next month to get back to his job. Here's to hoping Old Nellie has a few more epic adventures left in her!
Hat tip to Ted Wilmarth!