Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Flat Tire!

Day 27, July 20, 2008-434 miles. Today's ride was from Anchorage to Beaver Creek, YT. We got up, had a leisurely morning visiting with Gary's family, with a goal to be on the road to Beaver Creek about noon. Before leaving, we decided that we needed to go by the base to personally thank the captain for his hospitality. Our host arranged to get us in with him so we could see him.

We left our base at about 12:15pm, rode across town to Elmendorf AFB, and parked the bikes in a public area. Our host thenloaded us in his truck and we entered the base and went to his building. In a few minutes, our captain appeared with his wife and smallest child, and we let him know how much we appreciate all he did to take us fishing. He admitted that the trip was maybe his best trip ever, so we felt good that he enjoyed it too.

Then we got back on our bikes after thanking our host, and hit the road to Tok, AK.

The ride to Tok was uneventful. We went by Matanuska Glacier again, huge and white on our right. Awesume!

At Tok, we got gas and headed sougheast towards Beaver Creek on the Alaskan Highway.

The Alcan Highway is always under repairs in the summertime. Frost heaves create havoc with the road, with elevation drops of several feet. The road would suddenly drop and perhaps 30-40 feet ahead would rise to the level before the drop. These “heaves” are fun on the bike. Feels like a roller-coaster ride. Not quite steep enough to get air; sometimes they felt like they would launch us towards space!

There are places where they're working on the road. A “Broken Pavement” sign warned us that the road conditions were changing severely ahead. The repair sections were in varying states of repair, with most being dirt or dirt and gravel for several hundred feet to perhaps ½ mile in length.

Gary is a very experienced, good rider, on pavement and dirt. His bike is also built for roads of varying consistency. So, he enjoys some dirt and gravel along the way. I'm NOT!

My earlier bike, the Vstrom, is made for road conditions similar to Garu's GS, so it handles dirt and gravel well. My RT is built for touring (on paved roads), and I'm not as experienced as Gary, so those sections are much more challenging for me. I can do them, but with less confidence than he has. On top of all this, it had rained just prior to our arrival to this area, so add mud to the mix of dirt and gravel.

I did very well, all things considered. There was one stretch where I almost lost the front end on deeper gravel. The bike saved me from falling; I can claim no credit. But I stayed upright. Another two patches had lots of mud in a watery consistency. I think the bike slid s little, but, again, no mishaps.

After each repair situation, I'd pour on the gas to catch up with Gary, who had ridden at close-to-normal speeds while I worked my way through them.

After one patch, I noticed that the bike felt different; squirrely in the rear. I played with it just a bit and decided that something was not right. So, I called Gary and told him to stop at the first safe place. A couple of hundred yards up the road, we stopped.

I got off the bike, kicked the rear tire, and it was flat! 9 pounds of air when tested. We put the bike up on the centerstand and rotated the rear, looking for a nail or screw. Nothing! So, I got out the pump, hooked it up and let it run. After about 5 minutes, I disconnected it and could hear air escaping the tire. There was a hole in the center of the tire; no nail or screw. I don't know what I hit, but nothing was in the tire but a clean hole.

I travel with a plug kit and the pump. Today they paid off. The plug kit, a cheapo from Wallyworld, had successfully plugged several tires over the year. So, with a clean hole and the kit, I felt pretty confident that I could plug it successfully. So, I plugged it, finished inflating the tire, and we got on the bike to continue to Beaver Creek, some 40 or so miles away.

Another GS rider from Las Vegas had been following us through the repairs sections and he stopped when we stopped. Kurt, who works for a BMW shop, helped us get it all done. Kurt, thank you for your support!

We rode successfully to the US border just north of Beaver Creek. The crossing was slow; there was one vehicle with a gun issue, and a truck with some other issue. So, we were delayed getting through the border. Our crossing was uneventful, for which I am thankful.

We rode to Beaver Creek for the motel, found it and checked in. Very small room, twin beds, small shower, no TV or phone. But it was very welcome at 11:30pm.

We did a short walk, went into the bar for a dinner of beer, potato chips, and a beef jerky. Then the welcome bed.

So, an adventurous day which ended well. But will the plug last to the ferry some 340 miles away, and if it does, what next?

Tomorrow, ride to the ferry at Haines.

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