Saturday, October 24, 2015

Compromises Pt. 2

In the last post I talked about two of the compromises I made when preparing for the trip that ended up causing me problems, and how I resolved them as I was leaving Guadalajara. You might think, having fixed two things that I'd previously screwed up, the rest of the day would go smoothly.
Yeah, of course not.


My goal for the day was to make it to Colima - not a far trip, as I knew I'd be running errands in the morning. But I'd heard there was a cool volcano there, and I'd met someone in La Paz who was from there who raved about it, so I decided it would be a good place to stop for a night. I set out in my new boots with a new set of tools, and plotted a route for Colima.

I end up missing a turn, and pulling off on the side of the road for a bit to check my directions. Then I pull a U-turn in a gravelly section of the road, and head on back to the way I was supposed to go.

Maybe 5 miles more down the road, I notice that the back end seems to be shaking, so I pull over. While many sections of the roads I've been on don't have any shoulder at all, I was lucky that this stretch had one, though it wasn't more than 3/4 of a car width.

My first suspicion was the tire, so I pulled out my tire pressure gauge... and measured half of what it should be (and half of what I'd measured that morning before leaving). Took a quick glance around the tire, and sure enough - a nail, stuck straight in the tire with the head barely sticking out at all. I'm pretty sure I picked it up on the shoulder right before I swung that U-turn.

A few months earlier

I needed a few more parts and a few more tools for the bike to take on the trip with me. I was running some other errands as well, so I ended up stopping at the motorcycle store up north that I'm not a huge fan of, but it was closer to REI and the other places I was going.

After picking up a few things I knew I needed, I asked if they had a Bead Buddy (for changing tires) and patch kits.

"We don't have a bead buddy, but instead of the patch kit, let me show you this thing we got in recently."

What he ended up directing me to, was something called DynaPlug, which, according to the guy who sold it to me, means you don't have to pull the tire off or anything, you just pop the plug in and it's (almost) as good as new. Hey, sounds a hell of a lot easier than patching a tire to me! I was in a hurry to get to the next place and finish my shopping, so I grabbed it and went.

(For those who know tires: I know. I'm in the future also. I'm cringing just thinking about it.)

Back to present

Alright, nail in the tire. I got something for that.

About this time, a car pulled over behind me, and a guy got out and came over to help. "What's the problem?" he says in un-accented English. Turns out his name's Charlie, he's from California, and he's run the Baja 1000 once and the Baja 500 a few times on his motorcycle back in the day. He says he parked behind me to give me some coverage from the trucks racing by - a huge load off my mind, to be honest.

So he helps me get the bike up on the center stand, I pull the nail out with some pliers, and go to put this plug in. Charlie seems skeptical, but we follow the directions, and it seems to be holding up okay.

The other purchase I made for my tires which turned out to be one of the better choices I've made was to get a mini air compressor. So I whip that out, plug it into the accessory port I've got up on my handlebars, and fill the tire up. This thing Charlie's a little more impressed with. The tire seems to be holding air just fine, so we get the bike off the center stand, and Charlie and I go our separate ways. Patch successful!

It's nice to just have someone else there while you fix something. Helps if he knows what he's doing.
I started thinking about writing a blog post about compromises, and how some of them don't pay off but occasionally one will...

...until about 5 minutes later, when the bike starts feeling weird and I pull into a gas station - the tire is clearly low on air again. I check it with the tire gauge, and sure enough it's back down to 10 lbs instead of the 28 I'd pumped it up to. I pump it back up with the compressor, and this time leave it attached and just watch the pressure gauge. Within a few minutes it's down a few pounds.


While I'm pumping it back up, I pull out the DynaPlug tool and take a look at the info on the packaging. "For all kinds of motorcycle, boat trailer, scooters, tractors, and other tubeless tires!" Yeah.. my tire ain't tubeless.

Well, a little research on the phone, and I see there's a tiny town just down the road a little ways and head off. I just barely make it - the tire is clearly feeling squirrely by the time I get there. I ask at a little corner store if there's a motorcycle repair shop nearby, and they say no - but direct me to a bigger town down the road about 30 miles.

I discover very quickly that I can make it around 7-8 miles before I have to stop on the side of the road, pull out the compressor, and pump the tire back up, which takes about 10 minutes. It will hold air for a bit, but really not for long. Eight miles (if I'm lucky and don't get behind someone slow) followed by 10 minutes of waiting makes for slow, frustrating travel, as I'm sure you can imagine.

I finally arrive in Sayula, where the guy at the motorcycle shop directs me to a llantera - "you're sure they can fix motorcycle tires too?" I ask. He nods. I yell at myself internally because I've probably passed 3 or 4 little llanteras on the side of the road on the way to this town.

But sure enough, I pull in there, and the one of the guys says "of course," and gets to work. He whistles at a 12-year old boy, who comes over with a couple wrenches and starts taking off my back wheel. The kid clearly has done this before and knows what he's doing - probably significantly better than I do.

"When did you start working here?" I ask the boy once they've got the wheel off and the man is working on the tire.

"Umm... I don't remember."

"You don't remember how long you've worked here?"

He grins sheepishly and shakes his head, then runs off to go kick around a deflated basketball with an even younger kid who's hanging around.

About 20 seconds after they get the wheel off, they've got it in this machine that pulls the bead out almost instantaneously (for those of you who've done a motorcycle, or even bicycle tire, with tire irons - you know the pain), and he slips out the tube.

Or what's left of it. Parts of it are shredded. He asks me a question, and after a few followup questions, I learn that "cámara" is also the word used to refer to the innertube of a tire, not just a photographic device. Sure enough, I've got a spare in the bag - one of the few things I was smart enough to have on me.

He checks the inside of the tire for debris, and I let him know I already pulled the nail out, and the thing that probably did most of the damage was the plug I put in, and show it to him.

"Oh that only works for tubeless tires."

I try to explain, with my extremely limited knowledge of past tense in Spanish, that I currently know that, but didn't know it when I used the plug. I'm not 100% sure that got through.

In any case, he gets the new tube in and pumps it up, gets the wheel back on the bike, and says I'm all ready to go. "How much?" I ask. "40 pesos."

I give him an incredulous look. That's roughly $2.50 in American - it was only about 20 minutes of work, but really? Then he holds up a finger, and after scrounging around the shop a little bit, picks up some tire patches for me, and takes an empty tire patch cement can lying around, refills it with a little more cement, and sets me up with all that for a few pesos more.

Now, while it had been sunny when I left Guadalajara, not long after I got the flat some clouds had rolled in (ominous metaphorical weather), and it had been cloudy ever since. I couldn't see the sun to estimate when it might get dark, so I asked if I could make it to Colima before then or not.

"Oh definitely," he says, "just take the toll road and you'll be there in an hour and a half."

Not long after I pulled out of the tire shop and got on the road, the clouds started to clear, and the sun started peeking through just above the mountains to the west - not quite sunset, but occasionally dipping behind a tall mountain and leaving me in shade.

And then... as if the views couldn't get better... I come around a corner and there's the volcano, a column of smoke rising out of it. I rode the curves through the mountains, catching glimpses of the volcano, of rock faces bathed in sunset-quality sunlight, and lush canyons filled with the richest green trees. Really wish I could have stopped for pictures, but (a) there was no shoulder so it wasn't safe, and (b) I really wanted to get into Colima before dark.

And sure enough, I did - pulled into town and found the hotel I was looking for, and settled in for the night, a little later than expected, a little worse for wear, but a little more knowledgeable about the bike too.

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