ATLANTA-Boston has its ``Freedom Trail.'' The Oliveira family of Brazil recently concluded its ``Freedom Trip.'' Ask them about their journey, and the family simply beams, excitedly referring to it as the ``dream of a lifetime.'' That it was.
Dalton Oliveira, a retired judge in Brazil's capital city of SÃo Paolo, had always dreamed of driving from his home to Alaska. But one of his biggest concerns was mechanical breakdowns, and especially tire problems.
Last April 4, with their 1973 Chevrolet Suburban stuffed to the gills, the Oliveiras left SÃo Paolo on their 35,000-mile jaunt to the land of the midnight sun.
The car was conventional in every way except that Mr. Oliveira heeded a friend's advice and filled the four 16-inch Pirelli ``Scorpion'' light truck tires on the vehicle with nitrogen.
It was provided by Air Products and Chemicals Inc., an Allentown, Pa.-based company that markets nitrogen as a superior tire inflatant because of its safety, performance, environmental and cost benefits.
The family said it did not repressurize the tires during the entire trip, which ended July 15 in Alaska. Actually, the only tire problem they encountered was a puncture when a rock fell off a mountain side and blew out one of the tires.
Recently, the Oliveiras-Dalton, his wife, Lydia, 24-year-old son Murillo, and six-year-old daughter Marilia-were in Atlanta at the Air Products' booth at the National Tire Dealers & Retreaders Association's trade show touting the reliability of nitrogen-filled tires.
Mr. Oliveira told TIRE BUSINESS the family's remarkable journey through 15 countries took them across mountains, through valleys, in tropical as well as sub-zero temperatures.
While they had no run-ins with bandits in remote areas-something they feared-their biggest problem was ``the traffic in big cities,'' he said. ``It's far more dangerous driving in cities like Los Angeles and New York.''
They had tried to make the trip last year but were thwarted when a war in Peru closed the border.
With her limited English, Mrs. Oliveira described the night the family spent in Costa Rica watching an active volcano erupting. In Stewart, the first city in Alaska they entered, they were awestruck seeing a black bear and its cubs.
Marilia, who was five and in kindergarten when the trip began, studied the history of the areas the family visited, though her mom said she was a bit disappointed in Alaska: she wanted to see the wintertime phenomenon of the Aurora Borealis, but the family arrived there in the summer.
Mr. Oliveira said the family is already planning to make an 800-kilometer walk from the border of France to the north of Spain when Marilia turns eight.