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July 15, 2020: Hardship Sells

If, as Pete says, hardship sells, then today I made millions. I don’t want another day of bicycling like this one ever again. No, no, no. And particularly not near the end of a trip. Today, 10-15 miles out, I felt my rear tire go flat. It felt squishy as I pedaled. I was right then filled with a sense of denial. No, this can’t be happening to me I thought. I pinched my now flat rear tire. I got back on my bicycle and pedaled a short ways, thinking well, I can’t fix this by the side of the Richardson Highway; it’s far too dangerous. I need to get to someplace a pullout or, better yet, a lodge.

I winced as the rear tire went thugga, thugga, thugga. I stopped at the shoulder’s edge and pumped the tire full of air. It went sssssttttzzz, meaning this was a fast leak. I looked at my Milepost

Alys's repair kit

sheets. The Grizzly Lodge was 2.5 miles distant. I began walking, and finally came to it. A driveway sign said closed. I went around it and up the driveway. There were two cars parked in front of the lodge, and everywhere, guy junk. There was a near life-size plastic Clydesdale horse on a shed roof, and a handful of wagon wheels next to the shed.

I gravitated over to a nearby picnic table and leaned my bicycle against it. There was yard detritus everywhere. There was a fire pit near the picnic table. But it was surrounded by white resin chairs and a small glass topped table. Perfect, I thought, I have surfaces with which to put stuff.

My stomach was in a knot because I’d lost my tire irons a few days before. I was using them to lock and unlock my bear proof cannister. And just this morning, I got to thinking, what if I do get a flat tire? And additionally, I hadn’t changed a bicycle tire in over 20 years. What to do? The Gods had obviously smiled on me because there were two pieces of scrap metal on the picnic table. I picked them up and examined them. They were ideal for the task at hand, which was to pry the tire from the rim.

I took my rear carrier (called a B.O.B off the bicycle, turned the bicycle upside down, unscrewed the quick release, then pulled the rear wheel out of the dropouts. And though it took some doing, I got the tire off the rim with the scrap metal irons. I pulled forth the damaged tube and inserted a new one.

I slipped the wheel back into its rightful place on the frame, then did the same with the rear carrier frame. I next pushed the cotter pins into the holes in the frame, then flipped them into place. I was able to secure the first, but not the second because the rubber plastic holding the pin in place was torn. I removed the wire and slipped it into my fanny pack.

I held my breath as I next pumped up the tire. Then I did a little jig as the tire, under hand, stayed firm. A man appeared in the lodge doorway as I was putting the items in my repair kit away. I told him about my tire problem and thanked him for letting me use his picnic table. He grunted, and shuffled in the direction of the highway. He had dark, triangular tattoos on his beefy arms. I put my mind on record. He was round, like a potato, and his hair was short and bristly. His eyes were set wide apart. He pulled his mail out of the box, did an about face, and disappeared into the maw of the lodge. His manner made the hair on the back of my neck stand on edge. I hummed the tune from the movie Deliverance.

I moved fast, back out onto the road. My bicycle had been a bit wobbly. Now it was extremely wobbly, most likely because the B.O.B. frame (now lacking a cotter pin) was not secured to the bike. I lurched to an abrupt stop a mile down the road. I got off my bicycle and looked closely at the back portion of the frame. I had not tightened the rear lever, the one that held the axel in place, tight enough. The now bent axel had subsequently popped out of the frame and the tire had lodged itself against the front portion of the frame.

I assessed this situation. I was going to have to again remove my front and rear bags, remove the B.O.B from its moorings, and put the wheel back in place. Furthermore, I’d have to make this roadside repair by the roadside. The problem was now safety related. The shoulder here was narrow, and it being early afternoon, there was a lot of fast moving traffic. The speed limit was 65 MPH, too fast for any one to stop and give me a lift to the next nearest lodge.

I yanked the bicycle and frame over to the farthest corner of the shoulder, and cursing, put all my bags in a neat pile. I then removed the B.O.B, tipped the bicycle over, slipped the wheel back into the frame, and fastened the quick release securely. I then tipped the bicycle upright and attempted to put the B.O.B back into its holder.

Robert Persig, in Zen and Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, remarked that in order to do repairs successfully, one needed to have “peace of mind.” Quite obviously, I thought, Persig never found himself in a situation where he was inches from being nailed by a two-part Crowley semi or an RV named Intruder, one pulling a trailer with two ATVs.

The B.O.B. would not go back into its holder. I looked more closely and noticed that the rear axel on the biked was bent. My throat ran dry as I realized that, now, I was in a real jam. I had to get the B.O.B. back in place or else. Or else somehow catch a ride to Valdez.

I put the B.O.B frame onto the rear stay of the bicycle, picked up a rock, and hit the offending side hard. It then slipped into place. For the second time in less than two hours’ time, I breathed a sigh of relief. Now I was faced with my original problem, which was that the B.O.B. was held in place with just one cotter pin. It was this, and the axel that was causing the wobble.

I had no choice but to ride, which is what I did. For the rest of the afternoon I rode slowly and avoided the rumble strips. It was now back to business as usual. I considered staying at the Squirrel Creek Recreation area, but the lake water (which I’d planned on filtering) was inaccessible. On to the Tonsina Road House. There, next to the entrance, was a water spigot and hose. I asked permission to use it, which was granted. I then dosed my head and neck, and filled my bottles before heading off in search of a suitable place to camp.

Next: 196. 7/16/20: Thompson Pass and the Great Walkabout

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