Bad tires – and good samaritans!

Yesterday was one of those days! Alternately I felt cursed, but also very blessed. Here is what happened: It all started the day before. I was cruising along with a nice tailwind on a slight downhill stretch next to a river with a beautiful view, having a great time. All of a sudden, I hear a loud “tffff” noise of my rear tire deflating, followed by some sideways drifting of the recumbent which handles differently with no air in the rear tire. Luckily I got the whole rig stopped without problems. And it was not a pretty sight: The rear tire – which I had hoped to ride to Seattle – definitely wouldn’t make it much longer.

The beginning of the end of the old rear tire

I patched up the tube, duct taped the tire and hoped I would make it to the next town with a bike shop. (Turns out that would be Fort Nelson 500km down the Alcan, as the next town, Watson Lake, doesn’t have a bike shop.) To make things worse, the rubber seal of my bike pump doesn’t work correctly for Shrader valves, so I can’t get good pressure in the tire. Luckily I ran into Laura, a teacher from Oregon, who had a hard time riding into the wind going the opposite way. She was happy for a little break, and while we chatted about our journeys I also borrowed her pump to properly inflate my rear tire. So I made it to Junction 37, where I camped for the night.

Next day I decide to ride the first 20km to Watson Lake for a big second breakfast. And there the “flat tire daemon” strikes again at Upper Liard: tffff… This time the front tire! So I decide to replace the tube with one of the two spares I bought in Fairbanks. But hey, the shrader valve doesn’t fit all the way through the holes in my RhinoLite rims! Go figure, aren’t these things normed? So I use it anyway, with the valve stem still sticking halfway into the tube – I hope that will work.

In Watson Lake I shop for groceries and meet the cyclist Scott, who rode his bike up here from Florida since 5 months! He is on a restday here and points out some useful locations, such as a good restaurant for my brunch (Bee Jays). Scott also has a great website: http://www.powercycle.net – I love the elevation profiles and photos there, as it gives me a great preview of what to expect the next day :-) I also inflate both my tires at a local motor garage and tour the famous “sign-post forest”, so life is good again. I leave town around 1:30pm heading East, having almost forgotten the tire issues…

Then just 8km out of Watson Lake, a loud “tffff..” and my rear tire is blown out again! This tire won’t make it any longer and needs to be replaced now! What to do? This is the first time I actually use the HELP message on my SPOT to signal that I’m stuck without help from others. I decide to leave my bike and trailer here locked to a lightpole next to the highway and try to hitchhike back to town with just my rear wheel and my panniers. I wait there for probably 30min, not a good sign…

Hitching my way back to town with the unpatchable rear tire

Then the first good samaritans of the day: Cheryl and Linda from Victoria (and their black lab Cooper in the backseat) actually were driving the other way (East) when they saw me standing beside the road. They decided to turn around and give me a ride back to town! Incredible, would you do that for a stranded biker? Hence I was back in Watson Lake after another 10 mins – Thanks so much to Cheryl and Linda.

Thanks to Cheryl and Linda, who turned around to give me a ride

Where do I get a new tire in a little place without bike shop? I could easily be sitting here for a few days trying to get one shipped up here… My first thought was to seek out Scott, as he mentioned he had Internet access (only for hotel guests). So I call him from the lobby of the Big Horn Motel. Luckily he is in his room and comes down right away to inspect the damage. And as luck would have it, he even offers me his own spare tire – also of the right 26″ size! How incredibly lucky is that? He even offers the tire for free and throws in an extra spare tube for good measure; at least I insist that he take some cash in return for the life-saving tire. (He actually ordered two brandnew tires to the bike shop in Whitehorse, so he only has a few more days on his old tires.) A lesson in preparedness. Thanks so much Scott!

Thanks to Scott who gave me his spare tire, saving me from getting stuck in Watson Lake!

Within minutes of inflating the new tire again at the motor garage I hitch a ride back to my bike with a native Indian who lives right next to where I had left my bike, again a lucky break for me. After re-assembling bike and trailer I finally resume my ride by 4:30pm. I lost 3 hours, but could easliy have lost 3 days.

As if this wasn’t enough for one day, my troubles weren’t over yet: When I stopped at the Hyland river bridge to look at the map, I suddenly hear that dreaded sound again “tffff…” Oh how I hate this sound by now! My front tire got a small cut and the tube pinched. I can’t believe it! And here the mosquitoes are really bad. After eating and drinking a bit, applying generous amounts of Deet and putting on my headnet I again start fixing the flat. This time I use the spare tube Scott gave me, as it has a Presto valve and for this my small hand pump works well. So 1/2 hour later I’m on my way again… and eventually reach Contact Creek, the last settlement in Yukon on the way South, where I camp for the night.

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