Re-Tire-ment in the Okanagan

So, ok, this will be a special edition post!

I wanted to get this written before I forgot the details, and no sense not posting it now that I wrote it! Don't worry, I'll be posting the Top of the World Highway, and Alaska posts soon. Stay Tuned, as they say!

I'll start back a couple of days, I was riding along on Highway 97C in BC, basically a track from Prince George to Kelowna, via the back way. Locals would know that road by some name or other, maybe later I'll update this, but if you go from Prince George, through Williams Lake, Clinton, Merritt, and then come out at the Okanagan Lake near Peachland, that's how I went. At some point just after Spences Bridge, I started eyeing the smaller sized river / stream / creek along the twisty road I was on, and since it was a pretty nice warm day, I decided it was time for a bath. I saw the perfect pull off the road, through some trees and brush, and made my way down to a little turn around. The kind of place you'd expect underage drinking to be happening!

About the time I got myself parked, I noticed my rear tire was going flat. Again. By now, the rear tire has over 10,000 KMs / 6000 miles on it, so this isn't really shocking anymore. Although I was a bit disappointed, because I would be in the US in another day or two, and could have ordered a new tire at a more reasonable price, and changed it myself at my Dad's place when I was doing some more catch up maintenance.

But that was not to be, right?

So, I dug out my new air compressor, hooked it up, and blew some air into the tire. Instant happy, the tire starts to go up! Of course, I wasn't fixing anything at this point, I just wanted to be sure the compressor worked. Got it up to about 30 PSI, and turned off the compressor, but left it connected to the tire. I've noticed that the bike tends to be more likely to tip over if the tire is flat. Kind of an "Adding insult to injury" situation that.

Next, I decided to try adding the Tire Slime and see if I'd get lucky. Tire Slime, if you're not familiar with this wonderous substance, is this green radioactive looking slimy stuff, that has lots of tiny fibers in it. You pull the valve stem out of the tire (if your tire is still full of air, be ready to go finding your valve stem, they can fly a long way with 30 PSI behind them!). Once you've found your valve stem, put it somewhere you might be able to find it again, you'll need it again. The slime comes with a small clear plastic tube, you slide that over the valve stem, and then just squeeze the slime bottle until it goes into the tire. Since this is only a motorcycle tire, and the slime I bought was for car tires, I only used half the tube. Then I put the valve stem back in, and inflated the tire. Not knowing where the actual leak is, you should drive the bike or car or lunar rover, what ever, some distance, so the slime can coat the inside of the tire. The whole idea is it will try to get out the leaky part, but the fibers will clot up the hole, and essentially it works like how blood clots to help hear a cut on your thumb. I have one of those, so I'm familiar with that process!

(gorey picture of split thumb goes here!)

So, tire is slimed, I unpack the bike until I find some clean clothes, my towel, and a bar of soap. Next, I carefully waddle down to the stream, wearing my shower shoes. No sense getting my Fox racing boots full of water right? Now that would be another gorey picture, dusty, stinky biker guy wearing nothing but Fox racing boots, standing in stream, covered with soap suds. Pondering what that might do for calender sales...

Anyway, got down to the stream, and the water actually felt nice, didn't cause instant death or any numbness, so that was helpful! Decided that just in case I should get visitors, I'd clean in sections, and eventually all was feeling much nicer, less stinky, sticky, and over all, life was good.

Dry off, put some clean clothes on, and back to the bike. Ok, tire still flat, but I try not to expect miracle cures to happen instantly. I got all my gear back on, and decided to air the tire up, and then keep the air compressor out where I could get to it easier. From my mountain biking days, I know that it usually takes slime a while to seal up a tire. And at this point, even a slow leak was an improvement, so I wasn't too worried.

And besides, the tire itself is so worn down by this time, that I didn't want to go through the trouble of taking it all apart, repatching the tube (which has 4 or 5 patches on it by this point) and then putting it all back together, only to change the whole tire in a couple more days. All in all, I found that I could blow up the tire, and ride 15 to 20 KM / maybe 10 to 15 miles, and then stop and blow it up again. Not a great way to spend the evening, but it was getting me closer to civilization.

Finally, in the dark, somewhere south of Merritt, I saw a sign for a campsite. Knowing there was no use in getting into Kelowna after midnight with a flat tire anyway, and considering the risk of a tire actually blowing out, with the bike fully loaded, in the dark, I thought camping till morning to be a genius idea!

So, I turn off the highway, only to then realize the actual campground is another 12 to 15 KM away! On a washboard rough gravel road, complete with cattle guards. And cow pies. Hmmmm maybe this isn't my best plan lately! Pressing on, I do eventually find the campground, settle into a campsite, and start to unload. Only to discover as I take my ear plugs out that I've found some noisy neighbors. Well, I figure eventually they'll run out of beer and go to sleep. Once I ate my can of chili, and drank some water, I did feel a lot better, at least until I noticed fresh cow pie splatter on some of my bags. Sigh...

Anyway, quick set up of camp, it looked clear so I decided not to pitch the tent, and I went to sleep watching the stars, and listening to the cows mooooo...

I will say, though, that this campsite did have one great idea, that I've not yet seen anywhere else. Someone had punched a hole in the roof of the camp toilet, and put a solar light through the hole, so there was a nice glowing light, which was visible from across the grounds. Nicely done!

Next morning, I was coming back from the toilet, and my not noisy neighbors invited me over for coffee. (The noisy neighbors were more quiet in the morning, but they didn't offer breakfast, so we won't mention them anymore!) That lead to several hours of stories and solving the worlds problems, and also some very much appreciated breakfast. Finally close to noon, it was time to load up the bike, and start my trip into town, 10 to 15 km at a time.

As anyone who has ever had a motorcycle or snowmobile or other personal motorcraft can tell you, if you find a dealer open on Sunday afternoon, that's a good day. And they are all closed Mondays. So I was coming into Westbank / West Kelowna area on Sunday afternoon, I figured I needed a new tube (or 2, spares are nice!), a new tire, and bonus would be to have someone else install it for me. I hadn't ever asked a Canadian Tire if they had tires or tubes yet, so that was my first stop. They do carry some motorcycle accessories, but their tube selection was about 4 sizes, some for ATVs, and no motorcycle tires. This was nearing 3:30pm.

So I was back outside, in the nearly blinding warm sun, which takes some time to get used to, after my surviving the frosty north lands. So I'm sitting on a curb, in the sun, with my smart phone, which now has plenty of 3G signal (another thing I've not had for a while!) and I'm Googling motorcycle shops, to see whats available, and who might be open on a Sunday. I am estatic. REALLY! There, right there on the Google Maps screen on my cell phone, is a Kawasaki dealer, only about 2.4 KM from me. WOW!

Then, ever so slowly, I watch my motorcycle tip over.

I make a lunge for it, but I'm half a step and half a second too slow.

Now I am not estatic. I'm kind of sad actually.


Deep breath. Another sigh.

Start unpacking the motorcycle. No way I'm even going to bother trying to pick it up fully loaded. Some of the strings I've used to tie the smaller stuff I can't really get to, so out comes the knife, slice and dice, and pretty soon its mostly empty. Still can't pick it up. What I'm realizing is that what I've learned doesn't apply to picking up the bike when the rear cases are on. I've seen demonstrations of picking the bike up by the lower handlebar grip. You put your hands together, like a step to pick someone up, under the grip, put your back straight, and lift with your legs. But with so much weight at the rear, this doesn't really work right, the bike kind of tries to twist and roll instead of going up. What I may need to explore, in more controlled environment, is a grip or handle to the middle of the bike. I've seen demonstrations of lifting a Harley done this way. But my bike doesn't have a proper lifting area there, the seat is plastic, and the frame can't be grabbed there. Or there are after market handles that might help. Anyway, as I was sitting on the curb, drinking my water, a guy walks by and offers to help. With 2 people, its really not difficult at all!

So we chatted a bit, I mentioned I'd been up to the Dempster Highway, he smiles, he used to live in Inuvik, he worked on the highway project. And life is good again!

Looking across the parking lot, I see a Subway. I think eating a sandwich might be a good idea, as I'm no longer in a hurry. This new life of mine has taught me not to be in a hurry or worry too much about schedules. I resist telling someone I might be somewhere at a certain time. It just doesn't work that way anymore.

I had planned on getting a foot long, eating half, and saving the rest for later that evening. Then I noticed I had eaten the whole thing, in one shot. Feeling much more satisfied now, I returned to reloading the motorcycle!

Since I'm now in the civilized world, I decided I don't need an extra 2.5 gallons of gas hanging from the bike, so I put that in the tank. Then I decide I don't need the extra gallon of water I had in canteens on the opposite side of the bike, to balance the weight of the gas can, so I move the empty canteens. Wow, things are going to be nice and light now, well, relatively! Gas weighs about 6 pounds per gallon, so the 2.5 gallons is about 15 pounds. Water is over 8 pounds per gallon. So getting rid of the gas can and the extra canteens saves me over 20 pounds. It helps!

Ok, quick Google search, I see several campsites within a couple miles of my current location. Air up the tire again, and head off toward the first site, which turns out to be a trailer park, not a camp grounds. Ok, great, tire is flat again, its getting worse! Air it up again, and head toward the second site, which is actually back the way I came. Maybe I should have gone there first!

As I'm getting close to the location the GPS says the campsite is, I see off to my left a bunch of tents and trees. Hmmm quick turn, go check that place out. Talking to the managers, she laughs, yeah, some how, all the GPS maps are wrong. This is the site, the other location is an empty lot, and they've been here for years. Go figure! Sure glad I saw the tents, I might not have stopped otherwise.

So, here I am, at the West Eagle Campground, I believe formerly called the Waterslide Campground, because across the road used to be an old water slide. But now there are condos.

By now I'm just happy to have a place to stop, I honestly don't care what it costs.

So I'm back to estatically giddy when I find out its only $20 a night. I mean, view of the Okanagan Lake, just a few minutes drive from the Okanagan Lake bridge, this is resort town. And the lot is 3/4 empty. I'm the only one on my whole half of the place. She doesn't charge me extra for plugging into the electrics, there are hot showers ($1 for 6 minutes, plenty of time!) laundry, running water in the bathroom, I'm short walk from Wal-Mart, a bank / ATM, some eating places... life is good! Oh and I have awesome WiFi, and my cell phone works.

I don't want to leave :)

So here I am, on a Sunday evening. The motorcycle shop doesn't open till 9am, Tuesday morning.

Do you know how hard it is to sit still and relax, after the last 3 weeks of really trying to make good time, so I don't get snowed in? Its currently 28C, or about 80F, sunny, not a cloud in sight. Mmmmm nice :)

So off to Wal-Mart for supplies. Got there, found pretty much everything I might need, including
- Liquid Skin
- Hand Sanitizer
- Shampoo
- Mixed Nuts
- Chili
- Apples
Get up to the cash register, and after waiting for a few minutes for the people in front to get a price check, finally its my turn. Oh CRAP! My debit card is still in my riding jacket, and I don't have enough cash for everything. Grrr... ok, get most of the stuff I need, but not the plastic bags, and the hand sanitizer, and something else...

Got to sleep at a decent time Sunday night, woke up around 7am Monday morning. Was going to do some blogging, but never really got around to it. Maybe its easier to relax than I thought?

I did get laundry done, but then I didn't have enough of my zip lock bags. So back to Wal-Mart, got some freezer bags, sandwich bags, the hand sanitizer, the liquid skin (for my kind of annoying, kind of painful split open thumb), and while there I also saw some cute, kid sized back packs for $10 each. I'll use those to replace the lunch bag I was using to store all the food and odds and ends that never went anywhere else. And since I have a matching pair, and they're black, it will look kind of like they're supposed to be there. The lunch bag was ok, but the zippers are just completely shot after all the dirt of the Dempster Highway.

Little side note there, when I get around to redesigning my luggage, there will be less zippers. I may eliminate zippers entirely, or at the very least have a good over flap that velcros to protect the zippers. Zippers are evil. Just saying! Velcro is good. Especially mil-spec velcro.

Ok, so Monday was spent doing laundry, putting laundry away, and then in the afternoon my cousins Shane and Sheldon, and aunt Sylvia came over to visit me. That was great, in that since they came to me, I could show them all my stuff all set up. If I had gone to see them, my bike would have been packed, and I'd have to unload it all just to show them stuff.

It was dark by the time they left, so I never got around to blogging at all on Monday. This is why its so easy to get far far behind on blogging! Not only are there other things to do, but well... there are other things to do :)

Tuesday morning, I was awake again by 7am. I think its a lot easier to get out of a sleeping bag when you realize its not actually freezing outside! So I was up and going pretty good time. By 9am I was on the phone to the motorcycle place looking for tire and tubes.

This is kind of weird how this played out. I had seen the website for Valley Moto Sport on my smart phone the day the bike tipped over, so while I had that page up, I wrote down their phone number and street address on my note pad. And since they were located out on the west side, near me, and bonus that they were a Kawasaki dealer, that was my first call.

Get through to the parts guys, tell him what I need, and turns out he does not have my preferred tire in stock, in fact, he has nothing in stock in my size at all. Well, bummer, but it is the end of the season, so they've been letting stock go down for winter. Fair enough, ok, if he orders, it can be in by Friday. Today is Tuesday. I've been here since Sunday. Well, ok, go ahead and order. Then I ask to confirm his location, and find out I'm talking to the down town location, not the west end location. Hmmm ok, well, order the tire anyway, and I'll check the other location. Even though they share the website, they don't share stock between the locations, so he doesn't know what the other guys have. But at least he can give me their phone number. All good there...

Call the correct location, and wow, he has my exact tire in stock, and I'm reasonably satisfied with his quoted price. It was a few bucks more than the US website price, but by the time I think of shipping, customs, duty, and time, I'm happy to buy his in stock tire. And he has my tubes in stock, and they can install it today for me. Sold! :)

Just before I do my happy dance, I ask to confirm his location, reading the address I had wrote down. Oh, no, we aren't there anymore. So he says they're down by the Kal-Tire, next to World Gym, and gives me the street address. I say I've seen a Kal-Tire near me, and tell him I'm at the old Waterslide camp ground. Oh, yeah, that's just a stones throw away.

Ok, cool, I tell him I'll just take the wheel off, and walk it over there, which saves some time and labor costs, so he's happy with that. And they will get to it around lunch time, so I have plenty of time. Great!

Grab the tire, and decide with my lack of coordination, I best not roll the tire along the highway, so I look around and grab one of my tie down straps, wrap it around the rim, and make kind of a handle to carry the tire with. Bike tires are a bit less heavy than car tires, so I think for a short distance, this will work great.

Get across the highway, walk over by the Kal-Tire, look around, and don't see a motorcycle store. Ask a guy walking, he doesn't think he's seen one either. Ok, go talk to the Kal-Tire guy outside, who laughs at me carrying my tire, instead of rolling it along. Oh, no, there is another Kal-Tire, about 3 miles down the road, and yes, there is a new Kawasaki dealer across from that.

Oh. Great, thank you very much!

So, its time for my unscheduled nature walk along highway 97, a busy 4 lane highway. Joy :)

Off I go, walking up the hill, down the other side, and amusing myself identifying all the various car parts I see. As I start to get more tired of that game, I'm on the look out for anything that might make the tire easier to carry. First I find a piece of cardboard box, which wraps around the strap. This is an improvement. Then a while later I find an old leather work glove. That, wrapped around the cardboard, is a huge improvement! A while later, I see a nicer leather glove, so I drop the first glove, and the cardboard, and pick up the nearly new glove. What I really want to find is that broken cargo tiedown strap you always see along the road. Later, I'm needing a break from carrying and walking, so I pull out my phone, turn on the GPS, and map my route. I've gone about 1/3 the way to the bike dealership.

Heart break... ok, pick up tire and head on down the road!

At around 2/3 the way, I see an old fan belt, not broken, just right there. Hmmm ok, if I wrap the fan belt around the rim, then thread the strap through the belt, I can put the strap over my shoulder.. oh joy, this seems much better for some reason. Now I can carry it without the tire swinging and hitting my leg constantly. Life is almost good again.

Acround the next corner, and the next one, finally I see the Kal-Tire, and eventually, the Kawasaki dealer. About this time, I make the brilliant decision that I will call a taxi for the ride back to the campsite! In my head, and I'm sure this is a defect I've always had, the idea of calling a taxi is very far down the decision process. I'll take a bus, hitch hike, or try to float my air mattress down the river before I think about getting a taxi. I probably will bring that up if I ever go for therapy!

The taxi, not the air mattress. That would still be a viable method of transportation.

So, I get to the dealer, drop off the tire, and decide that 11:30 is a very reasonable time to sit down and get something to eat. Just next to the motorcycle place is a Donair restarant, which, OMG, they are awesome. I'd try to describe it as where they shave slivers of beef or other tasty meat off a roast, then its kind of like a burrito, but they make it kind of like how Subway does it, you choose all the ingrediants, there is sauce that goes everywhere, very good stuff in deed. Think its from Turkey (the country, not the bird). Like the Subway from earlier, I got the big one, and it was gone almost instantly. Burp. Good!

The problem with eating so fast, is now I have 2 or 3 hours to kill. So its back to oogle the motorcycles. I saw some newer versions of my bike in the used section, and then the new version of my KLR-650. But what really caught my eye was the big tall KTM bikes. Droooool... I think if I still have this motorcycle bug in a few years, my next bike will likely be a KTM 950 Super Enduro in bright nuclear Orange. Where my KLR-650 is tall, the KTM (all of them really) is very tall, like you will probably need to jump off the curb to get on it. The one I looked at, used, was about $11,000 dollars. And totally worth it! But not this year. And really, I do like my motorcycle! It would be like when I had my Porsche, and then to see a Lamborgini. Or if you're out with your girlfriend or wife, and accidently walk into a strip club. Something like that.

This could be my next motorcycle... the KTM 950 Super Enduro..... drooool!

But cheaper :)

Also while at the dealer, I got to talk to some other riders, which is something I'm taking advantage of a lot more now. Previously, I read a lot of online forums and blogs, but no one that I knew personally was riding motorcycles anymore, none had gone on a big trip, and when I was at the Kawasaki dealer in Edmonton, there didn't seem to be a big KLR-650 world tour vibe there.

One guy I did talk to here had actually been on the Dempster Highway, he even had the stickers to prove it. So that was fun, we traded notes on tires and weather and gravel and scenery. He had some knobby tires made by... dang, pretty sure it started with "H" but not having any luck finding that online. Hope I can figure it out later, he raved about how long they lasted. Like across Canada. I could use that kind of range if I do the Trans America Trail! But for now, I like running my Metzeler Tourance tires, on the road. And they worked amazingly on the gravel of the Dempster Highway!

At around 2:30 or so the tire was done, and I had the guy find me some extra cotter pins, and then he called me a cab. That was funny, I said, "hey, can you call me a cab", and the other guy looks me in the eye, and says "You are a cab".

You just can't make that up!

Few minutes later, and I'm "home" at the camp site. Drank some water, ate some trail mix, and had the tire back installed in no time. First impression... wow, I forgot how much tread was supposed to be on that tire :)

Sadly, I didn't think to take a picture side by side, or even of the tire toward the end of its life, but when I took it off, there were steel belts visible through the tread where it had been sliced by sharp rocks in at least 2 places, and the tread was down to the wear indicators several places. If it hadn't gone flat, I probably would have drove it to my Dad's place, but since the tube leaked, there was no way I'd go through the trouble to patch the tube, and put it back together on a worn out tire. Just not worth it!

So, today its Tuesday, September 18, 2012, and I've logged 9473 km / ~ 5882 miles, and I've been on the road for about 27 days. Not too bad!

By Carlin Comm posted on 2012-09-17