Leaving Wisconsin in 2003
My husband Gary and our 16-year-old dog Wipeout, in front of the 1968 Avion we would use to find the camper abandoned in Bolivia.
Our only tools to find the camper
My father's 30-year-old, 35-mm color slides, maps from 1973 and my mother's journal.
Rationalizing a bad decision
I started this trip so paranoid we'd be robbed that I hid a gun under the floorboards of the camper. It would haunt me for each of 13 border crossings.
Neither of us had ever smuggled a gun into another country. Or driven a 4-wheel-drive camper.
Getting to spend as long as we wanted in towns like this was pinch-yourself incredible. It's where I knew I had to write about this trip.
Lunchtime in Oaxaca
At first we didn't have to cook much inside our camper. The local fare was divine.
Martin: the best Mezcalero in Mexico
An added plus -- when mezcal spills inside a 104-degree camper, the stench discourages roadside searches by police looking for guns.
Campsite in agave fields of Mexico
Gary documented our journey with a still camera. Other than that, and my laptop to take notes, we ditched technology and social media and just soaked it all in.
Dancers in Patzcuaro, Mexico
Photos from Gary's collection
A man clearing land next to our campsite
Street portraits, Mexico
Street portrait, Oaxaca
Rosa from San Cristobal, Mexico
Modeling the weavings she sells at market.
Ruins near the Guatemalan border
Wipeout, taking it all in stride. She was born in Mexico after all.
Street portrait in Solola, Guatemala
Sometimes black and white is the only way to go.
Street portrait, Guatemala
Dogsitters, Todos Santos, Guatemala
The town's name means All Saints, but these turned out to be devils. It's all in chapter 12.
Lake Atitlan, Guatemala
Otherwise known as Gringo-tenanga. Or where my father smoked his first joint.
Wipeout, Lake Atitlan
We knew this trip would be hard on a 16-year-old, cancer-stricken dog. But we couldn't leave her behind.
But eventually we had to say goodbye
She was ready, long before I was. She's buried on the shores of Lake Atitlan, along with a piece of my heart.
Shawn and Susie, Guatemala
The two American volunteers who helped us recover from Wipeout's loss. You'll meet them in Chapter 14.
The dentist in El Salvador
Our first reunion with someone we discovered in my mother's journal. He saved our family on the first trip. His story is in chapter 16.
Boy selling iguanas in Honduras
He charged $10 for the whole thing, or just $1 to take a picture.
Vestiges of anti-Americanism are all that's left. The country was one of the most welcoming in Central America.
Street photographer, Nicaragua
His name is Jesus. He's never heard of the internet.
Jesus' portrait of me and Gary
When I sent this photo back home, friends thought we'd been kidnapped.
Celebrating the crossing of the toughest border yet, into Nicaragua, still terrified our hidden gun would be discovered in the camper.
The hustler we nicknamed Tough Guy. You'll meet him in chapter 17.
She's got the right idea. By Nicaragua, it was too hot to sleep inside the camper and we had to find fleabag motels.
Sandino portrait, Leon, Nicaragua
Even the graffiti is spectacular in this sun-baked town.
Yanina the publisher's wife
Finding this woman in Leon, 30 years after she nursed me through a bout of malaria, shocked me even more than her.
El Centroamericano, Nicaragua
This was the newspaper her husband published, before he got thrown in jail during the revolution. The story is in chapter 18.
Managua Museum of Art
Ronald Reagan wins no popularity contests here.
Nicaragua's National Music School
Esli and Nelly put on a spontaneous recital, just outside a row of peasants cooking over coals on the street.
One of the few buildings rising from the earthquake ruins we camped among the first trip.
My favorite bar
Managua. Underneath the National Music School. With photos of poets on the wall.
Costa Rica, the perfect camping spot
And cool enough to sleep inside the camper again. This was near Volcan Arenal, complete with toucan serenades each evening.
This one was a comfortable distance away. In Ecuador we got a little too close for comfort. That's in chapter 26.
With Arnoldo and Mariamalia
Costa Rican celebrities who showed us the magic of this peaceful country. Plus, she might be a witch. Look for chapter 21.
First stream we didn't ford
Trying to find the Costa Rican "secret" Contra airstrip used against Nicaragua.
Remains of the Iran Contra war
Gary, atop a wee bit of evidence that Costa Rica wasn't always on the sidelines.
Azuero Peninsula, Panama
That's the local moonshine she's balancing on her head. Welcome to Panama.
Me with the boys from the band
A parade we stumbled onto in Panama's Azuero Peninsula.
You can still spot baseball caps but this is true Panamanian style.
A "devil" wearing one of Darido Lopez's masks for a parade in the Azuero Peninsula.
The Hoopers, Panama
Expats who defy the stereotype and truly celebrate their adopted country. Their story is in chapter 22.
Mao the campground cat
We stayed at Panama's only official campground, XS Memories, while searching for passage to South America. Mao kept us company.
Paradise in Panama
XS Memories had a swimming pool. Whose waters were stronger than the local beer: Atlas.
Nice place to wait for a ship
We met more expats here than any other place on the trip. Its easy to see why.
Sheila and Dennis (R.I.P.)
These two started XS Memories, you'll meet them in chapter 22. Now Sheila holds down the fort all by herself.
We were sidelined for 3 long weeks in Panama, searching for a ship to Ecuador. It took my parents just as long.
The truck beat us to Ecuador
After 9/11, you can't travel on container ships. So we flew over and reunited with the Avion on the docks at Manta.
The point of no return
We were driving through a new continent, climbing into the Ecuadorian Andes.
Llama girl, Ecuador
Desolation at 13,000 feet
We detoured off the Pan American Highway to see another side of Ecuador.
Panama hats may have originated in Ecuador, but the locals prefer these stiff felt numbers.
Pan American Highway needs better repair crews.
Hotels and hostels usually let us camp on their grounds, for a small fee or the price of a meal in their restaurant.
Top of the World
Stopping to take a selfie, while we still could think straight. Driving at high altitudes takes getting used to.
The costumes almost seemed like hallucinations. We couldn't make small enough change to buy a dinner's worth of vegetables.
The glamorous side of camping
I have to laugh, looking back at the pictures my father took of me doing "homework" inside the camper he made.
Desert of Sechura, Peru
We found the exact spot where my father photographed his camper after finding our runaway cat Pantera. That shot is under the 1973 photos tab.
Northwestern Peru is filled with ancient sites, some considered haunted.
These campsite dogs were our tour guides. You'll meet them in chapter 27. Made me ache for Wipeout all over again.
Tito plowing rice fields with oxen
I thought this farmer was in his 60s. Then I saw his Nike hat. He was only 24.
Street portrait, Lima Peru
Herman Melville called Lima "the saddest city on earth." Now it might be the most heavily policed.
Lima shanty towns
We camped at the base of this neighborhood, the worst poverty I'd seen on the trip so far.
Another side of Lima
In chapter 28 you'll meet these natives, who lived through the Shining Path and still find hope and beauty all around them.
Nazca Lines, Peru
We literally drove over these the first trip. They're bisected by the Pan American. Gary and I decided to fly over them this time.
A burial ground in the desert outside Nazca frequented by grave robbers.
As a camera assistant, I'm a better 'fraidy-cat. This place gave me the creeps.
On the road to Cusco, Peru
It's no use honking the horn.
Peru at 15,000 ft.
In Chapter 30, you'll find out why the fact that Gary even got this shot is amazing. At this altitude, you can't trust what you see.
Staggeringly beautiful, no matter how many photos you've seen of it.
Woman in turquoise,Peru
My favorite photograph of South America. On the altiplano leaving Peru.
Crossing Lake Titicaca, Bolivia by barge
It was Christmas time. What a sleigh.
Lake Titicaca ferry
I would have panicked, if all the other trucks didn't take it in stride. It's all in chapter 33.
La Paz, Bolivia
Gary nicknamed these the Laurel-and-Hardy women.
La Paz, Bolivia
This was the most dangerous place to be Americans in 2004. Coups, riots, and the threat of more violence in the New Year.
Azanaques Mountains, Bolivia
We met this girl on the way from La Paz to Cochabamba. She was hiding a bruised eye.
On the way to Cochabamba.
Margit & Tia Eva
The two strongest women in Bolivia. They took us in when bridges washed out over New Year's.
L.A.-native Don, who married Margit and moved to Tiquipaya, Bolivia. Just for the hats.
Don, giving a New Years blessing
He's about to burn a q'owa, to bring us luck on the washed out roads to Santa Cruz
Don blessing camper
Those are the burning coals of aborted llama fetuses, from the Witches Market, in case you're wondering. It's all in chapter 38.
The Pan American was washed out. So we had to take carriage routes and secondary roads through the desolate highlands.
As remote as it gets. But we were so relieved to have survived collapsing roads we didn't care. It's the opening chapter.
Somewhere near Paraguay
When the Pan American is out, you cross railroad trestles. El Che died near here, a none-too-comforting thought.
With Sonja, and the camper
The key to finding the camper of my childhood was finding the woman who rescued us at our lowest point.
It's under a lean-to, propped up against a farmhouse. Migrant workers still live in it during harvest season.
The end of the first journey
The camper survived, just like my family.
Inside old camper
I kept looking for artifacts of my childhood, but all I felt was my brother's absence.
The two campers meet
My childhood home is almost as tall, without a truck, as the Avion and Ford F350 that brought me here.
Laguna Blanca, Patagonia
This was where my parents hoped to reach, so we finished the journey for them.
In Chile and Argentina, we could camp anywhere, even the base of glaciers.
San Juan del Sur, Argentina
After weeks of washed out roads and side-of-the-road camping we could stretch out and enjoy the country.
Gaucho portrait, San Juan del Sur
In these wide open spaces, I finally understood how driving heals and travel reveals.
Another campsite mascot
The peace my parents never felt in South America.
The Beagle Channel, Argentina
That expression? It's relief. We finally figured out how to get rid of the gun. It's behind us, underwater.
End of the road, Tierra del Fuego
Photographs by Gary Geboy