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July 17, 2020: Almost to Valdez

Almost a month to the day, and today my trip came to a screeching halt, and I do mean screeching. I’d planned on riding the 25 or so remaining miles to Valdez – this was to include the steep 7.5 mile ride down Thompson Pass. I got a flat tire yesterday afternoon, just outside the campground. I decided to wait until this morning to fix it, keeping in mind (again) what Robert Persig said about having peace of mind when you fix things.

Still no cell phone juice, so again, I wasn’t sure what time it was when I got up. As I did yesterday, I ate breakfast, organized my stuff, removed my repair front panniers and B.O.B. bag first, then B.O.B, then again attempted to change flat tire

The duct tape didn't work

.This time getting the tire off the rim took longer than the last time because the rubber had worn off the top of one of my makeshift tire irons, and the other had a bend in the metal.

As luck would have it, the lake was next to the shelter, so I was, after removing the tube, able to see where the leak was when I submersed it in the water. I groaned when I saw the bubbles – it was right next to valve stem, meaning, near impossible to patch. I did the same with the other tube. The leak was in the same place. I immediately knew that the problem was a result of my being negligent – I had not filled the tire with enough air when either tube was in place. So what I had was a pinch flat.

My butt was black and blue from kicking myself so often and so hard, but I did it again. There is circumstantial hardship and perceived hardship. This was a case of the latter. Yes, I had brought this problem on myself, by not bringing a tire gauge and by only bringing one tube with me. If I’d brought two tubes, I’d now be putting the second one in place. Kick, kick, kick.

I set out to repair one of the tubes. I pulled forth the tire patch kit Pete had placed in my repair bag and noticed that it had a sticker on it that read Beaver Sports. Hmmm, Pete worked there in 1989, the summer of the Exxon Oil Spill. This, I soon determined, was why the adhesive was dried up and the patches were crumbly. I stopped kicking me and began kicking Pete.

Hope springs eternal. I put the patch in place and then set to put duct tape over it. Alas, the duct tape was as old as the adhesive and patches. Made me want to go back in time. Most likely the campground was much the same as it is now.

Done, I pumped up the tire. It held air, sort of. So now I had a slow leak. Maybe, I thought, just maybe, the tube would hold air if it was pressed against the tire. Nope, if anything, the tube leaked even more when I inserted it in the tire and pumped it up.

It was then that Brian, a camper who I’d met the night before, came over and said good morning. I explained what the situation was – he had told me that he’d had experience doing bicycle repair. And I could tell by the way he examined the tube sitting on the table that this was so. His verdict was that the tubes were going to be impossible to repair and that I’d need a new one.

He said wait and disappeared for a minute. I resumed packing up my stuff. My plan was to now walk my bicycle and gear the remaining 25 miles to town.

Brian returned and said that he and his wife Judy would give me a ride to town, for perhaps they’d have extra tubes at Mr. Prospector, the sporting goods store. I agreed that this would be the best option. As it turned out it was the safest option. I noted, from the vantage point of their 1977 Chinook camper, that the road construction was well underway. The workers were widening a ten mile stretch of the road. So my other, less desirable option, would have been to take the pilot car through this area.

I got lucky. There was just one 26 x 1 inch tire at Mr. Prospector. I snatched it up and paid for it. Brian and Judy then dropped me off at the City of Valdez Camping area. Once again, I decided to wait until morning before doing any more repair work.

Next: 198. 7/18/20: Ideas Day

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