Jeeps in Eastern Region Peace Corps

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1964

Last Saturday (5 Oct) the Jeep came. It showed up at 5:30, and the boys who brought it wanted to get to Uyo that night. That meant I had to drive them to Itu, where they could get a taxi. I could not take them all the way, as the ferry at Itu stops at 6pm, but they could cross in a canoe. So Sunday Mick and I went to Ovim to deliver the softball bat. We stayed a while and had a small game of baseball— with five participating (4 PCVs and 1 VSO). We had to go through mud up to the floor boards to get there and the four-wheel drive was very handy. 

The Jeep was very muddy on return, so I decided to wash it to see what it looked like. It is pink. The canvas top is very ragged—fortunately the dry season is coming. It needs pains on one fender, a new windshield, several nuts and bolts where they have fallen out, a back-up light (very dark at night, and no telling what might be back there!), the fuel gauge, thermometer, and speedometer have to be fixed, and I need a Jerry can. The fuel tank holds only 8 or 9 Imperial gallons, and I ran out once already with no gauge. Mostly minor repairs. A week earlier the boys had started down with the Jeep, but when they got to Umuahia the clutch went out so they returned to Enugu. The Jeep has no back seat, so when more than two persons want to ride, the third is very uncomfortable. It looks very small next to the Land Rover, but it certainly gets through the rough spots. Oh yes, sometimes the starter does not engage, and I have to crank it! I am afraid the boys will not see me on weekends around Aro. 

This weekend (tomorrow) I go to Umuahia at last to visit the bank and repay my debts. Next is Calabar, which is very convenient from here, only 75 miles. After that is mid-term break, with a four-day weekend, so we travel to Enugu and maybe out from there. My vice will be that Jeep, and my money will not stack up very fast.

The starter has not been functioning on the Jeep ever since we arrived in Calabar, and the Jeep is getting harder to start with the crank. I shall have to get that fixed. I managed to get a few miscellaneous nuts and bolts in Calabar, so I fixed the choke and top. It has a few less rattles in it now. The fuel gauge has never worked and never will. It is broken beyond repair. I am toying with the idea of buying a motorcycle from one of the boys in Calabar whose tour is over soon. The cost for petrol just for tooling around Aro for a week can be a much as $3 for the Jeep. We shall see if I have enough money by the time he leaves.

Petrol is 4s 6d a gallon, about $.63 an Imperial gallon, or 50 cents an American gallon. I get 12 miles to the Imperial gallon. Very expensive. A small motorcycle (125 cc) gts about 100 miles to the gallon. About $7 to got to the nearest big market at Aba. That is more than I spend on food for two weeks.

The Jeep worked OK on the way to the Post Office this afternoon, so I think it was just some dirt caught in the idle jet of the carburetor. I put a new battery in last month, so that is no problem. I get enough money to buy gas. It is just that I would rather buy other, less expendable things.

Yesterday I didn‘t have anything to do, so I drove to Calabar, 30 miles, to pick up some things from a retiring PCV there. I thought I would put the stuff in the Jeep and come been the same day. All went well, I picked up several riders for short and long distances, until about 5 miles the other side of the ferry across the Cross River. There I had a flat tire. So I changed the tire and continued on my way, hoping that I didn't have another. Tom was in, and it is fortunate that I went on Friday, for Saturday he was leaving for Enugu and I would have missed him. I left for home in a hurry, at 3 pm, because the ferry, 55 miles away, closes at 5 pm. Well, just about the same place I had the first flat, I had another, and no spare tire this time! Now I had to decide whether to try to fix the tire, in which case I would probable miss the ferry and have to return to Calabar, to forget the Jeep and hitch into Calabar (50 miles), or to try to make the ferry before they quit for the day. I decided to run home.

I made the ferry by 4:50 pm but the operator wanted to quit and it took a small dash to see us to the other side of the river. I was still twenty miles from home, but managed to get a ride—except that we ran out of gas five miles from the crossroad at Ututu, where there is a ‘gas station‘ and a RC mission school. I thot it we were only 2 1/2 miles, so I was going to walk. Fortunately, just then along came a taxi; why he was in that lonely place at that time of night I'll never know. He gave me a lift to the crossroads, where we got gas. This Ututu is 5 miles from Arochuku. I got a tin of gas and then decided to have Fr Henley or Fr Greenen give me a lift back to the disabled vehicle, from which I got a ride home. I arrived at 7:30, an hour after sunset.

This morning I arose at my usual horrible early hour and went up to Ututu to discuss the situation with the local mechanic. He suggested we go on his motorcycle with tire repair equipment to fix the tires, then I could drive the motorcycle back.

So we left at 9:15 for the Jeep with irons, patches, end pump. When we arrived et the ferry site, the boat was on the other side, with no prospect for coming to fetch us, so we put the cycle into a canoe and paddled across the river. That was fun, too. About 10:30 we arrived at the fallen Jeep, only to discover that another tire had gone flat during the night! That made s total of three flat tires in one day. It took an hour and a half to repair them, with no time out for loafing. Of course we returned to the ferry five minutes after they started their noon break, so we weathered in Idot Okporo, eating two papayas and drinking a bottle of soda. 

After crossing the river, I rode ahead so as not to get so much dust, I came to a straight stretch and went a bit faster, and thought I had lost the Jeep; that he would be coming soon. When I reached Ututu I waited l0 minutes, then went back to find out what the problem might be. Another flat! The mechanic changed the tire in 15 minutes and was soon home. We decided to leave the tire at his house for him to repair at his leisure, and bring the jeep home to roost. It is only five miles from Ututu to the school, but about a mile from school, the Jeep had another flat! Can you believe that, five flat tires in two days. Two of us spent nine hours today bringing that Jeep twenty-five miles. It would have been easier to walk.

I spent most of the holiday in and out of Enugu repairing Peace Corps vehicles—jeeps and VWs and Chevy trucks. What a mess. I now have the pink jeep back. I don't remember it as being so noisy and rattley, but it is just as uncomfortable as ever. 

The Jeep has finished. All of the wires fused and burned off the insulation. I have to carry the generator and voltage regulator to Enugu to test and steal these and the wires off another Jeep there which we have cannibalized. And we cannot get a new canvas top for at least three or four months. I will get another Honda [motorcycle].

I haven’t yet fixed the Jeep, as I have no way to charge the battery I can't drive it with no battery or generator, and I can‘t get the Jeep out without a battery, and we want to leave the thing in Enugu for much replacement.

3 May 1965

I now have a new job The Ministry of Education refused to let me transfer for only one term, so Mr Ziegler (PC Chief in Eastern Region) created a job for me. I will be repairing Jeeps and Hondas, etc. like I did last May. Only I may go to Cameroon to pick up five Jeeps there and may go to the other regions, too. I won’t spend much time in Enugu but I’ll probably share an apartment an leave my stuff there.

After teaching, but before I completed my two-year commitment with Peace Corps (1965), I worked for the Eastern Nigeria regional Peace Corps office on motor vehicles. Here are some notes I took about volunteers and their relation to four-wheel vehicles (Jeeps). Funk in Ohafia - needs four wheels for work and doesn't like Honda (50cc) any more Ciccone in Abia - for work - trying to arrange one privately Spaulding - no Crippens - doesn't like Honda Wohlson - doesn't like Honda and is afraid of motorcycle Ed Huckaby in Annang Province - for work

Supposedly this next week I will go to Cameroon to check out those Jeeps. While there I get $12 per diem! I won't know the details until tomorrow when I go into the office. Then l have to get a visa and my International driving license renewed. No telling how long that will take.

The Cameroon Peace Corps office was not pleased with their Jeeps. The director wanted to phase them out and give them to us in the Eastern Region of Nigeria. Here are my notes: All left-hand drive - should be used only in the bush. [Nigeria, as a former British colony, drove on the left.] They have had no trouble with crankshafts. Oil and Filters changed regularly. Two full-time mechanics, a shop, tools, and large store of spare parts. [We relied on local mechanics in Nigeria.] Jeep frames and bodies have been welded and reinforced. Spares ordered from factory $1,600. Ten percent of vehicle value in spare parts. 6-cylinder, 4.2 liter engines. Are they more reliable? No. Less economical? Yes. Is extra power useful or necessary? No. How long required for delivery? 6 months. Doe the new Jeeps ride hard? Yes. Are heavy springs necessary because of bottoming? or breakage? They break. Kaiser Jeep Model F4-134 Utility Wagon. Locallly: weld the horn bracket. Weld the [spare] tire mount on the tin-tops and back this with a plate.

Al Tubbs' Jeep had a cracked frame and needs 5,000 CFA for welding Hank's needs generator-regulator set Scarborough - chain, 4 tyres - small size with tubes

I just returned from a week in Cameroon, supposedly looking at some old Jeeps that the Peace Corps there wants to give us. I didn't see much in the way of old Jeeps, but I had fun. West Cameroon has some really beautiful scenery, which I didn't so much notice at Xmas because I was tired and also it was much more hazy then. It is heavily forested mountains, much like you can see in the USA. The north is grasslands. I spent more money in the excellent handicraft coop shop in Bamenda, which said purchases I had to carry home on a motorcycle and airplane. Fortunately the customs people let me through without any duty. Luck and the Peace Corps. I had almost diplomatic visas.

The Peace Corps in Buea was kind and found me a Honda for transport so I could go into the bush to see the Jeeps, as they were in use. To start I had to get a new tire for the cycle. I made 89 miles of a 120- mile one-way dirt road when the chain broke. So I stashed the cycle in  a hut and hitched a ride on in to Mamfe. That night I stayed with the volunteers there, who took me into town to the Club [it was Friday and their night on the town]. The generator in their Jeep gave out. Fortunately, the PC doctor was thru giving inoculations, so the next day he took me back to Buea, where I got a new generator and regulator for the Mamfe Jeep, four tires for that Jeep, and a new chain for the Honda. The next day a Jeep went back to Mamfe to meet the Rep, who flew in from Yaounde, so I got a ride, with my parts, back to the disabled Honda, and after fixing it, continued on to a small place called Batibo, almost to Bamenda. It rained that afternoon, and I, of course, forgot a raincoat. It is cold in the rain there on a motorcycle! Not to mention wet. The next day, Monday, I went to Bamenda, spent my money, and continued on dirt road to Baffousam, to stay with a volunteer, who, in addition to teaching English in a French school (former French Cameroon) is studying pidgin. On Tuesday I rode 200 miles back to Buea, but all on good tarred road. There is a customs inspection between East and west Cameroon (former French and British, respectively) but I had no trouble, because I didn't even slow down.

For three days I have been removing the engine from a spoiled Jeep. We brought it to Enugu for parts, and found we could buy a rebuilt engine here. Now I hear that another Jeep has a folded front fender, so I may take parts to that one today, while the shop is changing engines in this third Jeep. Then I have to put rings into another and collect two Jeeps from Cameroon.

Jim Ludden

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