Thursday, July 12, 2012

The demon sandburr

Thursday, July 12. Goodland, KS to Arriba, CO. 78 miles of riding in 5:48 hrs.

Feeling pretty low right about now. Today has just been a freaking pain in the ass with these thorns. I was just wigged out all last night about more flats, kind of like having nightmares about flatting. So I woke up at about 3 AM and went over to my bike to check the tire pressure – and they were slowly leaking because each one was mushy. Great start to the day right? So I decided to just work on the computer and NOT wake Judy up by changing tires and fixing tubes. I’d wait till she was up. Just couldn’t sleep what with all the thoughts of flatting out and “what the hell am I going to do now” going through my head.
         Once Judy was up I began changing out the tubes. Now I started out with 4 spare tubes and a patch kit. But I’m down now to one new tube and about 2 patches left. Filled the sink with water and then found my flats, then I went over the tire with tweezers pulling out more thorns. They’re so small that you really don’t know if you get them all. But I turned the tires inside-out and then used my hand to gently go over every inch of the inside of each tire. Amazingly enough each tube only had one hole each! Amazing considering that I pulled out 5-10 thorns from each tire. Got that done and then hurried to get the van loaded, eat, and then begin the ride. I ended up getting on the road at 6:45 AM – having gotten up at 3 AM.
         So I began full of trepidation of the killer thorns. Got a short piece of asphalt and then was back on gravel for the sun rising. Great sand road and a mild 70-degree temp was a super way to start the day. So I’m rambling along, keeping my vigil on the tires and be damned if after about 30 min of riding I saw the telltale brown head of a thorn on my front tire. Knocked it off with my right hand and then checked the rear tire and it was ok. So now I’m just super wigged and wondering what the hell I’m going to do. Got to our first meeting place in Kanorado at the KS/CO line and I was ok with the tires.
So we got our next support destination down and each of us took off. Now in CO I was on a nice sand road simply called Rd X – fairly flat and nice and sandy. I made sure to try to ride in the middle of the road to try to stay away from the edges and where all the thorns seem to be. Now the riding was harder because the gravel was much thicker, but hell, I’ll take that as opposed to flatting. Made some good time in the big ring and met Judy at our second support stop in good time. And as we were talking I noticed more thorns on the front tire, and pulled them out – thereby letting the air rush out of my tire. Hey, it’s that or let them embed in the tire and eventually flat anyway. I’d rather use my good pump in the van than have to use my small pump out on the road with no support.
         Changed the front tire and pumped it up for the umpteenth time, downed some Powerade and water and went for the next section. Judy wanted to just follow me but I convinced her to just take I-70 and meet me at our agreed upon spot. Got it rolling again, and about 10 miles in I noticed that the front tire was getting mushy, so I stopped and checked it out and sure enough it was going flat. So I called Judy and asked her to drive down this road, Rd W, and meet me for yet another tire change. I had it all off by the time she got there and we began again. And while we were pulled over on the road I young fellow stopped to see if we needed help, and I explained that I was changing a bike flat and asked him what the hell I was hitting. He responded with “sandburs.” Said they just everywhere, and all those guys actually run solid tires or they use fix-a-flat inside the tubes. Told me I could go to the Co-op back in Burlington and see if they have tubes or the solid tire.
         So Judy and I jumped in the van and went back to Burnlington to the Co-op. Now this was really just a automotive garage. The guy in there said that I couldn’t use the “goop” stuff due to my presta valves. And he said he didn’t have any of the solid tires, but that I could get them at the Hardware store. His caveat to that was that I may not be able to find a tire to work on my super skinny rim and that they roll off rather easy. Also said that the nearest bike shop was in ... Denver, 160 miles away! Well, went to the hardward. No presta tubes in the there and the solid tires were way too wide to fit into my rims. Besides, they’re super heavy, don’t take the bumps, and they can roll off in corners and at speed. So we were done there. Next dilemma was what to do for the day – got to Denver and do what several people had told me to do today – by tubless tires and the Stan adaptor kit for tubed rims. I felt I just had to get in more than 35 miles for the day riding, but EVERY, AND I MEAN EVERY ROAD in this part of CO along I-70  that runs east to west is gravel and sand. My only choice was to ride ON I-70. It’s legal here in CO to ride on interstates outside of high urban areas.
         So that’s what I decided to do, get some miles in for the day so it’s not a total loss. Ended up riding a bit over 40 miles on the 70. It’s ironic how I wanted to do a trip with peace and solitude and there I was riding down the bloody interstate with people passing me at 80 mph. Jude did a fantastic job today rolling with all the punches. I quite the day because the heat was getting up to the mid 90’s and it was nearly 3 PM by the time I finished. We’re sitting here in Limon, CO with me weighing my options for the trips.
         Now I’ve talked with guys from bike shops in Denver, courtesy of my buddy Andrew. So here are all the angles I’m looking at for this trip based on all the feedback I’ve gotten: #1) Drive to Denver and buy all the tubless gear and then come back here to start again. Downpoint is that, and the bike guys have told me that the tubless with the goop inside work well, but may not be totally 100% dependable on a trip such that I’m doing. I could still have flatting problems just because of the shear volume of the sandburs my tires pick up. OR, I could buy or make tube protectors and put them inside the tires between the tire and tube in conjunction with goop. This is another alternative, but I’d still have to go to Denver. #2) Finish on pavement and cross the country for the fourth time – 86 gravel and sand in CO, NM, AZ and CA because that’s all sandbur territory. #3) Ride the northern route from last year and do gravel and sand when available. I’m told the sandbur is altitude specific and I’d not encounter it too much west of Denver when above 6000 feet. This route is just not practical for gravel as I’ve been researching along the way on this trip, so most of that too would be on pavement. And still, at altitudes below 6000 I could still run into the sandburs. #4) Quite…bag it…call it a day. Go visit Pete and Jane and WA.
         So, that’s were we’re at here in Limon, CO. Will let you know tomorrow what we end up doing. Time for a few well deserved beers………..Pete

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