Day 24: Pop! Goes the Tire

September 26, 2002
Buffalo to Gillette
70 Miles Google Map

Went to bed early last night, had a good sleep, then a passable breakfast at the House of Ronald McD, which along with Pizza Hut is emerging as one of the frequent places I chow down. Probably because these are both ubiquitous national chains, along with Super 8. On a long bike trip there can be a lot to deal with, so it’s nice to have some consistency in the eating and sleeping departments.

The morning was chilly with some fog. Fine biking weather, which was good as I had a demanding day in store: a seventy mile jaunt to Gillette with absolutely nothing in between. The bike shop guy back in Billings had even warned me about this stretch of road. Traffic would be light and should anything go seriously wrong, there’d be no quick rescue. Wanting to give myself plenty of time to deal with any contingencies, I started off shortly after seven. I was especially keen on piling on as much mileage as possible before the afternoon sun began bearing down on me. 

An hour or so into the ride, I was working my way through the vestiges of the fog when suddenly there was a bump and a pop — the noise I had been dreading the entire trip. My back wheel had run over a razor-sharp rock, causing the tire to puncture. In one of the last places I wanted this to happen.

I’ve already mentioned what a hassle it is to remove the rear wheel of a bicycle. Besides having to unload everything, there’s the slippery, greasy chain to deal with. It has to be lifted off the sprocket to free the wheel, then carefully coaxed back on when the job is finished. But I wasted no time lamenting my misfortune. The clock was ticking and every minute spent not cycling was a minute that would have to be made up in the afternoon heat. I went at the task in a workmanlike manner.

The flat was fixed in the same fashion that I handled the one in Billings: put in a completely new inner tube. Don’t screw around trying to patch the leak; you don’t want to risk another rupture in the same place. Not on a day like this.

It took a little over an hour to change the tube, reattach the wheel, re-pack everything onto the bike and return to the road. At this point I was still a good fifty miles from Gillette. The occasion now called for some extended, heads-down cycling and I obliged, putting in over two hours of hard work (while keeping a diligent eye out for any more sharp rocks). Following a quick roadside lunch that I’d packed, I added another tough hour and a half. Then one brief rest stop, a final burst of determined pedal pushing, and I ended up roaring into town in the early afternoon, having covered the fifty miles in a little over four and a half hours. 

It was very gratifying to be able to finish strong. One of my problems has been getting a bit wobbly once I am in sight of my destination. I begin packing it in for some reason, making the final miles go on forever. So today’s finishing kick was especially gratifying. Assuming of course that I have not overextended my middle-aged body. I’ll find out tomorrow — which will also be a sixty-plus mile endeavor.

    Today:          70 Miles 
    To Date:  1,161 Miles / 1,868 Kilometers


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