It's a long way, 3 million miles. In the UK, where I'm writing this, Land's End to John o' Groats, the length of the island of Great Britain, is the proverbial long way, but at 874 miles it is less than 1/3,000th of the way. Route 20 in the United States is much farther, stretching 3,365 miles from Boston, Massachusetts on the east coast to Newport, Oregon in the west. But you'd have to drive the route back and forth 445 times to chalk up the miles. The Trans-Canada Highway? Three hundred trips end to end and back again.
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There is some debate as to the longest meaningful road trip that can be made on Earth, but Cape Town in South Africa to Vladivostok in Russia, near the North Korean border is certainly a very long way: 14,037 miles bypassing north of Mongolia. Google Maps estimates it would take 284 hours to drive, and the directions contain 389 steps. You'd have to complete that journey more than 200 times before you approached 3 million miles, by which time your passport would have swollen to epic proportions with all the extra pages of cross-border stamp marks.
Viwa, one of Fiji's Yasawa Islands, is a haven for aquatic leisure pursuits. It also has the distinction for being about as far away from Timbuktu in Mali as it is possible to get. Though the phrase is falling out of favor (perhaps due to the demystifying powers of the internet), "from here to Timbuktu" is still shorthand for "a long way," Timbuktu itself having been the archetypal land of mystery in the minds of lesser-traveled Westerners (which until fairly recently was almost all of them). If you live on Viwa, "from here to Timbuktu" is about 12,300 miles: less than half a percent of 3 million miles.
To get anywhere close you have to talk in planetary terms. The circumference of the Earth at the equator is 24,901 miles (roughly twice the distance between the afore-mentioned near-antipodes, obviously). So one way to think of 3 million miles is 120 and a half circumnavigations of the Earth as the crow flies. At an average of 238,857 miles away, you'd have to travel to the moon and back more than six times to cover the distance. The circumference of Jupiter, at 279,120 miles is 9.3 percent of the distance.
What's the relevance of 3 million miles? It's the record-breaking distance Irv Gordon has driven in his 1966 Volvo 1800S, though not all at once, obviously. Gordon reached the incredible milestone after years of touring the United States, ever since he bought the car on a Friday in 1966. He made a flying start that holiday weekend, returning to the dealership on the Monday for the car's 1,500-mile service. He crossed both the 1 and 2 million mile marks in New York, but to crack 3 million, his Volvo was transported to Alaska, one of the final two states where Gordon was yet to drive it.
A testament to incrementalism and well-made machines, he reached the milestone on September 18 at the Kenai peninsula. "It's more about the trips that got me to the three million miles and what I have experienced getting there," Gordon says. I think we can all agree, he's come an awfully long way.
Press release: VolvoView gallery - 4 images