My little brother John John

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

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

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"

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

School on the road

Me on the left, my little sister Jenny on right.

Teotihuacan Ruins, Mexico

Teotihuacan Ruins, Mexico

My mother Beverly with me and Jenny

Xochimilco floating gardens, Mexico

Xochimilco floating gardens, Mexico

Only one country into the trip, my mother looks drained.

Me at Xochimilco

Me at Xochimilco

This is probably where I fell in love with Mexico. I felt like a princess.

With Jenny

With Jenny

Long gas lines in San Blas, Mexico

Long gas lines in San Blas, Mexico

Our vehicle took a bit more to fill than most.

My father, writing home for money

My father, writing home for money

Breakdowns in Mexico left us broke, with two continents to go.

Popsicles and ponchos

Popsicles and ponchos

My father's face starting to show the strain of the trip.

Camping near Puerto Angel, Mexico

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

Jungle camping in Central America

This rig, with two little girls on board, always attracted attention.

Me, in El Salvador

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

Earthquake damage in Nicaragua

We camped among the ruins of Managua, the capitol.

My father, showing off dinner

My father, showing off dinner

The best meal we had in Central America -- by far.

My mother and Jenny, in Costa Rica

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

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

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

Crossing rivers in Central America

Pan American Highway

Pan American Highway

And this part didn't even require four wheel drive.

Busted wheel

Busted wheel

My father had to hitchhike into dozens of towns, replacing wheels destroyed by the weight of the camper.

I was the skeptical one

I was the skeptical one

Trying to put on a brave face for my father behind the camera.

At the Colon docks, Panama

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

Crossing to South America

I threw up so much my mother made me throw away my shirt.

Unloading camper in Cartagena

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

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

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

Me feeding Llamas, Machu Picchu

Making it to this sacred spot literally felt like a miracle.

Crossing a stream in South America

Crossing a stream in South America

Finding safe camp spots meant off-roading, and relying on the kindness of strangers.

The farm, Bolivia

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

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

Iguazu Falls, Brazil

Camperless, we made the rest of the journey by bus and airplane, ending in South Africa.

Photographs by David Bruce