After bending my front wheel rim 3 days ago, it looked like the tire was holding air … until I woke up this morning, and it was completely flat. With much apprehension, I decided to press on 335 miles to Anchorage motorcycle dealership to replace the wheel. It was only a slow leak for the first half of the ride; but, for the second half, I stopped every 10 miles to check the increasingly rapid leak and had to fill it 8 times. A continuous leak is no fun when you only have two tires.
The Motorcycle Shop in Anchorage has incredible service. They are taking a front wheel off a new 2013 GSA on the showroom floor and putting it on my bike. In talking to others who needed new parts, I was stealing myself to wait 4-5 days for a wheel to be delivered. The shop even offered to drive my bag to the motel so I would not have to carry it.
On the plus side, I get to see glaciers up close a second time on the return ride to Tok.
The 135 mile gravel Denali Highway is the old enterance to the National Park. The scenary is absolutely breathtaking and by far the most beautiful drive so far in Alaska. You drive right through a range of snow capped peaks and wind through valleys with every shade of green, contrasted by bright red fireweed.
Perhaps I was enjoying the scenery too much as, at mile 53 of the road, my front tire was swallowed by a mammoth size hole. While the whole road was potholed, most holes can be floated over at 45-55mph. Most, apparently not all. I hit this one so hard that the wheel rim bent, making it impossible for me to get my tubeless tire to seal and inflate using a low power air compressor that I carry. I took the wheel off and attempted for 90min to straighten the rim caveman style, slamming it as hard as I could over and over with various shaped rocks. It would not budge.
I flagged down two hunters in a pickup, Dave and Neil, who were seasoned Vietnam vets and they drove me to a hunting lodge with make shift tire repair 12 miles away. While they could not bend back into shape my rim with a large bench press, they had a proper air compressor and were able to pop the tire bead back in place with a burst of air. Dave and Neil then drove me back to the bike, waited while I remounted the wheel, and escorted me 35 miles to another lodge where the rough gravel road ended and my tire would be safe from the savage potholes. The lodge had rooms and a perfect dimly lit bar.
I had dinner with them and a great conversation before they headed back to their hunting trailer. I am absolutely indebted to them and hope that karma delivers them two big caribou.