My little brother John John
Without him, my father's world collapsed. He coped by running away to the end of the world, in a home made camper.
My little sister Jenny and me
To two little girls who didn't know what was going on, the journey was a grand adventure. Our bed folded up into a kitchen table and seats during the day.
Front view of camper my father built
This was my childhood home, the shelter that healed my family after my brother died. But my father had to abandon it in Bolivia.
Rear view of "Frankenstein"
Thirty years later, I had to try to find it. And say goodbye to my little brother.
School on the road
Me on the left, my little sister Jenny on right.
Teotihuacan Ruins, Mexico
My mother Beverly with me and Jenny
Xochimilco floating gardens, Mexico
Only one country into the trip, my mother looks drained.
Me at Xochimilco
This is probably where I fell in love with Mexico. I felt like a princess.
Long gas lines in San Blas, Mexico
Our vehicle took a bit more to fill than most.
My father, writing home for money
Breakdowns in Mexico left us broke, with two continents to go.
Popsicles and ponchos
My father's face starting to show the strain of the trip.
Camping near Puerto Angel, Mexico
The calm before the night drug smugglers used our camper as gunfight cover. The story is in chapter 11.
Jungle camping in Central America
This rig, with two little girls on board, always attracted attention.
Me, in El Salvador
At the home of a dentist -- one of many "angels" who rescued our family during the worst disasters. We looked him up on the second trip.
Earthquake damage in Nicaragua
We camped among the ruins of Managua, the capitol.
My father, showing off dinner
The best meal we had in Central America -- by far.
My mother and Jenny, in Costa Rica
We were only allowed to eat mangoes in streams, where we could wash off all the mess.
Jenny taking a bath in the sink
Gold hair and a smile that was worth more than her passport.
Dave fixing the many busted wheels
A 14,000 pound camper has consequences. There were 61 separate breakdowns along the Pan American Highway.
Crossing rivers in Central America
Pan American Highway
And this part didn't even require four wheel drive.
My father had to hitchhike into dozens of towns, replacing wheels destroyed by the weight of the camper.
I was the skeptical one
Trying to put on a brave face for my father behind the camera.
At the Colon docks, Panama
This is how the camper crossed the Darien Gap, with Pantera the cat hidden in the false ceiling.
Crossing to South America
I threw up so much my mother made me throw away my shirt.
Unloading camper in Cartagena
We were locked inside a customs impound lot before a dead-of-night escape to Venezuela. That story is in chapter 24.
Sechura Desert, Peru
A photograph my father took when we found the cat we'd accidentally left behind after stopping for lunch.
Pan American Hwy, Peru
My sister broke her collar bone on the road to Cusco and it was 5 days to a doctor. That story is in chapter 31.
Me feeding Llamas, Machu Picchu
Making it to this sacred spot literally felt like a miracle.
Crossing a stream in South America
Finding safe camp spots meant off-roading, and relying on the kindness of strangers.
The farm, Bolivia
This is where, after 61 breakdowns, my father was forced to sell the truck and camper.
End of the road for the camper, Bolivia
The last place my father remembers seeing the home he built by hand. My mission was to find it, thirty years later.
Iguazu Falls, Brazil
Camperless, we made the rest of the journey by bus and airplane, ending in South Africa.
Photographs by David Bruce