Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Doug Reminds Me of the Petrol Tank Hole

Doug made a comment on the post about the road to McCarthy. He said the pictures and text
...are great appetizers for my coming visit. Spikes in the road (shades of sharp rocks taking out petrol tanks on Ugandan roads!), mosquitos and and tropical temperatures suggest that travelling in Alaska can still present the odd challenge...
As he says, Doug is coming to visit at the end of this month. Last time I saw Doug he was seeing me off at the airport in Entebbe. Doug was teaching in Kampala, Uganda. That was May 1970, before Idi Amin came to power in Uganda.

I met Doug first at the Heineken's Brewery in Amsterdam in 1965 where we'd retreated in the rain instead of biking to see the tulips. The next day, with a sunny blue sky, Doug joined us on bikes to the tulips. At the end of the school year (I was studying in Göttingen, Germany that year) I crashed at Doug's flat when I was in London and we traveled a bit together through England.

When he went to teach in Uganda, I was just about to return from my Peace Corps teaching in Thailand. So, I added Uganda to my route home.

Now to the petrol tank he mentions. We were driving across the red dirt roads of Uganda in his little Ford when we ran out of gas. The road had wheel ruts and a little ridge in the middle and we bottomed out more than a few times. At one point something harder than dirt made a loud noise under the car as we were barreling along.

The petrol tank was leaking. So there we were on the road, miles from anywhere, with no gas. Then a big tanker truck pulled up. Two Ugandans jumped out to see what the problem was.

A hole in the gas tank? No problem. The got out a little gas stove and boiled some water. They put a bar of soap into the water until it was soft. Then they molded the soap so it fit very tightly into the hole in the petrol tank. They let it harden. "The truck's gas tank is locked, but we can give you the gas that's in the hose." I think we got a few liters. Then we made it to the next town by shutting off the engine and coasting down the hills.

In Alaska, Doug, we fix everything with Duct tape.

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