It is with sadness that the passing of Loren Lee Upton, 87 years old, is announced. Loren was born in Southern California on June 15, 1935, and passed away on August 9, 2022, at his home in Salmon, Idaho, where he lived with his wife, Patty. His death came after a long struggle with Lewy Body/Dementia.
He joined the Marine Corps on September 30th, 1952, at the age of 17. Because of his young age, he had to have his family’s permission. He contracted rheumatic fever and was honorably discharged on September 30, 1956.
He was a big man…6’4” in height. He loved the outdoors and had a special affinity for deserts, spending time in many of the deserts of the world. Death Valley was a particular favorite of his. He was a Marine, a Carpenter, an Explorer, and a Visionary with a zeal for adventure. He had a career in bridge and highway construction as a field superintendent and loved this work because it provided a constant flow of field problems to confront and overcome on a daily basis. “If it doesn’t work, damnit, make it work!” He was a teacher and motivator who enabled people around him, including sometimes complete strangers, to discover abilities within themselves that were previously unknown to them. He continually set very difficult goals and challenges for himself. A glimpse of his nature is a quote from his wife: “Loren is without the slightest doubt the most determined, positive thinking, obstinate person I’ve ever met”.
Early on in his life, he was fascinated by the stories he read about the great explorers in world history describing their expeditions and adventures. As a result of his interest in the accomplishments of these great men and women, he began to formulate a plan and set a life goal for himself of mounting an expedition of his own to accomplish what had never been done before, a circumnavigation of the globe from North to South in an American made vehicle. Additionally, to make this odyssey even more challenging he decided to make the primary imperative of this adventure that it be completed by land only. Apart from the crossing from the tip of South America to the tip of South Africa, using water to advance the progress of the expedition was just not allowed. The Expedition was named “Roads’ End to Roads’ End.” The challenge was to complete a land-based trans-global journey by starting from the end of the road in the far north of Alaska to the end of the road in the far north of Norway. The route was to proceed south to the tip of South America, then by boat to the tip of South Africa, and then north to Norway from there.
Beginning with a large self-modified pickup truck, he soon changed to smaller more maneuverable Jeeps as they were narrower and required a smaller path to be chopped through the jungle undergrowth. He met his future wife Patty while traveling in Panama. They fell in love, and Patty joined the expedition from that point onward. Loren frequently said that the ultimate success of the Expedition was a direct result of Patty’s organizational skills in addition to her own personal resourcefulness and strength of character. A remarkable individual in her own right, her contribution was essential. They complimented each other very well. Loren’s skill was to go in a straight line no matter what was in the way. Patty would deal with logistics, interaction with local authorities, and all other organizational issues. She was helped by the fact that she had traveled extensively as the daughter of a Marine. It’s impossible to relate the hundreds of impossible situations he and Patty found themselves faced with. In typical Loren fashion, he took these challenges head-on and pushed them aside. No situation was ever going to deter the completion of his life goal.
On one occasion they found themselves stranded with a broken axle in the middle of the Sahara Desert. This was before the availability of GPS devices and they weren’t sure where they were except that they thought they were somewhere near the Nile River. After locating the Nile, they created a floatation device by lashing together anything they had that would float…plastic water jugs, toolboxes that they sealed the seams off with silicone, gas cans, etc. They dragged this assembled mess over to the river and jumped in clinging to their float. After days of floating downstream they finally arrived at a village where, after scrambling out of the water, they were promptly arrested as the local authorities could not believe that they survived spending so much time in a river that was thick with crocodiles.
It all began on June 15, 1975, when Loren headed south in his 1972 Ford F250 Pickup. There were several misadventures and bad luck that prevented him from achieving his goal. It wasn’t until June 15, 1984, after he had met Patty, that the final departure took place from Alaska…headed south. Five years later, Loren and Patty reached Roads’ End in Norway on July 4, 1989. However, at the border between Israel and Jordan, they were prevented from crossing one section only one mile in length. Loren was an extremely principled individual. He decided that he could not claim the record for the circumnavigation of the globe until this one mile was finally crossed. It required the permission of the Israeli government. It took 20 years of submitting requests before the OK finally came. They returned in May of 2018, and after some issues starting the Jeep, and with major assistance from local Jeep enthusiasts, and with Patty driving the Jeep for the first time, finally drove the one mile, the Final Mile.…made a U-turn and limped the one mile back with the Jeep starting to miss and sputter. It was May 3, 2018. It was in perfect character for the trip. One last crisis to face and deal with after 43 years of trying and overcoming. It was a fitting end to the Odyssey.
The chronicle of this adventure is being prepared in a book written by his wife Patty. Here is a piece written by Patty Upton and dedicated to Kandi Lee Upton and Carrie Marie Mercier (Patty’s daughter). It embodies the spirit of grand romantic high adventure that Loren and Patty lived their lives by… “If I can give you nothing else, I want to give to the both of you the desire to go forth, venture into the unknown, explore - out back of beyond!! There is a wide wonderful, exciting world out there just waiting to be explored, all you have to do is open the door! You will make mistakes in life; it is part of living and growing. However, please do not make the greatest mistake of all and do nothing with your life.”
Loren Upton is survived by his wife Patricia Upton, his son Wyatt Wayne Upton, granddaughter Kandi Lee Yedor (Upton), his great-granddaughter, Sparrow Lee Yedor (Upton), and a very special nephew, Laurence Upton, who, without his hard work, long hours and Upton determination the Final Mile would not have been the success it was.
Loren will be interred in the Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Boulder City, Nevada, close to his beloved desert.