The vehicle we've had for the last six years is a 1998 Nissan Patrol, 4x4, with a 4.2 liter six-cylinder diesel engine. We bought it from an SIL family that was leaving Uganda after putting in ten years of work here in Bible translation. They had bought it new and had taken excellent care of it. So we were blessed to get it in good condition with only 95,000 km (59,000 miles) on it.
Here's the Big Green Machine, now with 155,000 km (96,000 miles) on it:
Although we've tried to take good care of it, I have to say we've been considerably harder on the Patrol than its previous owners. Amber will testify that I drive it like it's an antique. I do so for two reasons: 1) we have to pay for any repairs, and 2) I want it to last for as long as we live in Uganda. But the poor thing has seen some rough use: We have now chewed through our second set of expensive all-terrain tires. One of the rear windows had to be replaced when a metal jerrycan full of diesel came flying off the roof and crashing into it. The front passenger side window had to be replaced when Amber and I shattered it trying to get it to go back into the door (when it was stuck). The front passenger door was 'redesigned' when a henceforth unnamed driver backed through a gate with it open. A front blinker light was broken when a taxi passed us on the left side (!), cut in too sharply, and clipped us. The oil pan was dented when I hit a rock sticking up out of the road. All the windows have been scratched from the sand and dust accumulating inside the door. The paint on the sides of the truck is scratched by innumerable sticks and thorns and Ik children practicing writing with rocks. The rear bumper has an ugly dent from when a tow-strap broke, sending the metal hook back toward the truck like a missile.
Let me say it again, this truck has seen a lot of action.
We were finally able to upgrade our suspension last month (see photo). After three years on a set of factory shock absorbers, we were riding like a small fishing boat on rough waters. Those shocks were G-O-N-E. Since we got these Rob's Magic springs and TJM shocks, our ride has gotten a lot better!
The new suspension wasn't enough to keep me from getting us stuck last month for the first time in six years. I guess I had gotten a little proud about that, so God decided to arrange circumstances that would 'allow' me to bury the Patrol up over the wheels. Even the exhaust pipe was under the mud for a while. Fortunately, after thoroughly humbling me, God sent angels in the form of Karimojong warriors and the crew of a recently unstuck dump-truck to dig us out:
We love this old truck. It has been so reliable and good to us. It has borne us out of Karamoja on so many occasions where we were nearly desperate to escape the stress and loneliness. And it has borne us back, time and time again. It has served as an ambulance for strangers and a hearse for friends (including Janet & Lemu's father, Gabriel). It has carried literally tons of goods and supplies from Kampala to Kaabong to Timu. It shelters us from Karamoja begging and Kampala noise and smog. And now, after six years, it bears around two little girls eager to explore the big world ("There's OUR car!!!). I can honestly say, there is no other vehicle I'd rather have right now.
When I think about how much this truck means to us, I am reminded that we could lose it in the blink of an eye. But unless and until that happens, we'll do our best to maintain it and keep it running on these rough Uganda roads for years to come.