It all started when I forgot to pack my spare tire on my way to Montana. My right front tire had been bald for a couple weeks (same tires I used in RAAM in 2010!) and I kept meaning to change it. It finally got to the point that I figured I would just change the tire when we were assembling the trike at Uncle Steve’s place. Of course I put packing off until the last minute…and then I forgot the spare tire. I finally realized I may have jeopardized the entire trip and had that terrible sinking feeling during my layover in Denver. Then I figured we would just find a recumbent shop when we got to Spokane before we left for Libby.
A few weeks prior I had made plans to have lunch with some friends in Spokane that we had not seen since 2009 at the NAF meeting in Seattle. So when we landed we met everyone at a restaurant and had a great time catching up.
While we were waiting for everyone to show up for lunch I searched online for recumbent dealers in Spokane and I found one in Post Falls about 30 miles away on the way to Libby. The exact address was not listed on the website (hmmm…) so I called and got it from a guy who let me know that his shop is open by appointment only but he would be around so just give him a call when we were on the way. And yes, he has 16 inch tires.
After lunch in Spokane we plugged the address into our GPS and made our way to a random street in a random town in the middle of nowhere Northwest USA. We met a very excited and engaging guy named Gary who took us to his huge shed in his backyard that was filled with recumbent bikes and trikes.
He proceeded to let us know that he is currently the #3 recumbent dealer (perhaps for just Terratrike?) in the world and he showed us certificates that he got in the past for being #7 and #10. I told him that I ride a Catrike 700 and I need some 16″ tires to get me through a century the next day. He went over to his wall of tires and pulled down two 16 inchers and I was relieved to know that my trip was saved! I looked at the tires and had a vague thought that they looked a little different than mine but I squashed that thought with optimism.
The next day at Uncle Steve’s (3 hours from Spokane) we began to assemble my trike and the first thing we did was work on changing the tires. However, the tires did not fit! Oh no! This could not be true! When we held the old and new tires next to each other we saw that they both had a 16″ outside diameter but a different inside diameter! My rims have a diameter of 349mm and the tires Gary sold us were for rims of 305mm. AAAAAAhhh! I suppose I should have known but I was blinded by the label of “#3 dealer in the world.”
Gary’s shop was too far away for a day trip at that point and there is not a single place to buy tires or even tubes in Libby or surrounding towns. So our decision was made for us, I would ride 100 miles on bald tires and hope for the best.
In the morning we met my cousin Ashley at the starting line…that would be the last we saw of her all day, she finished in the top 50 of 400.
It was chilly in the morning so Uncle Steve and I wore long sleves and the first 17 miles were flat as can be, perhaps even a little downhill as we followed the flow of the river. We took a short break for the bathroom and to refuel a bit. Coach Rebecca told me to try to consume at least 250 calories an hour which does not sound like a whole lot but I found it to be more difficult than I thought it would be. I used a combination of Hammer Nutrition Perpetuem and Lara Bars.
The first climb came at about mile 28 and lasted 2 miles. We just geared it down and cranked it out. We were still among the back of the pack and enjoyed the satisfaction of passing a few people on the way up.
At mile 30 we turned on YAAK river road and the pack thinned quite a bit as everyone picked up speed. We cruised at a respectable speed and conserved our energy as the temperature began to rise.
Mile ~38 featured a water stop right next to the YAAK River Falls so we stopped for a quick photo.
At mile ~54 we reached the “Pasta Stop” featuring a few different kinds of homemade pasta salads including gluten free! So we scarfed some pasta and an apple, and a banana to supplement all the Perpetuem and Lara Bars.
At mile ~63 we reached the lunch stop in the town of YAAK. This is one of the most remote towns ever; a few miles from the Canadian border. The town is mainly a starting point for fishing and hunting trips and centers around the Dirty Shame Saloon.
At this point I had all but forgotten about the fact that my tire was hanging on by a thread or two. We ate an awesome lunch of a huge sandwich and the best salmon chowder I have ever had. We were feeling good and we had a full tank with less than 40 miles to go! We pulled out of the rest stop and BANG-ssssss! My tube had pushed through the compromized tire and popped very loudly. With no spare tire and no chance that anyone else had a spare that would fit Uncle Steve and I both had the same instantaneous thought…our century attempt has come to an end. We pulled over to examine the tire and it was just as bad as it sounded.
However we removed the tire and examined the inside to find that there was only a small tear in the inside where the tube was able to push through. I did have one spare tube with me and we knew that if we could keep it from pushing through the existing rip we may have a chance. So we cut a generous piece of the spent tube, slathered the inside of the tire with glue from the very helpful SAG volunteer and placed the piece of spent tube over the tear hoping that this would help to keep the tire from further falling apart. We then employed the oldest cycling trick in the world and placed a folded up dollar bill over the spot to keep the tube from busting through again. The SAG guy put about 60lbs of pressure in the tire and we rolled on with our fingers crossed.
At that point we began the 12 mile grueling climb to the summit. We moved forward at about 5-6 mph for two hours just hoping that we would not hear that loud bang again. As we crawled along, Uncle Steve filled the silence with whistling and humming and we stopped a couple times to answer nature’s call and to enjoy some spectacular views.
At this point we were among the dispersed group of the last 5 riders on the road. A couple hours later we reached the summit and enjoyed a few homemade cookies, some trail mix, another banana, and some smiles from the volunteers at the rest stop who congratulated us for reaching the top and wished us a safe descent on the other side.
The descent was 5 miles long and very steep with lots of uneven asphalt and deep potholes. I took it slow and spent the whole time riding the brakes in case my tire decided to blow sending me into the ditch while Uncle Steve flew down stopping occasionally to make sure I was still rolling.
At the bottom of the descent we encountered the famous pie stop where they had nothing but pie and coffee at mile 85. There were 14 pies left when we got there. However we did not stay long and we did not eat a whole lot because we did not want to jeopardize a successful finish due to an upset stomach.
The last 15 miles passed quickly as it was mostly downhill or flat. Back in town, the route passed by the house that they are building with all the funds raised from the ride and we got to sign the subfloor of the new house. It was a nice experience to see that we were directly benefiting the community through our actions for Habitat for Humanity.
We crossed the “finishline” at 630pm, 10 hours and 30 minutes after we started. All the other riders had finished, showered up and were heading out for dinner. My tire was still holding air and we were at mile 97.6 on the odometer so we took the long way back to Uncle Steve’s place and hit the mark right before we pulled into the driveway.
I fell a little bit short on two century attempts last year so it was very satisfying to finish this one strong especially with a few gnarly climbs in there! The added drama just made victory taste that much more sweet.
The STOKR was a first class event with a beautiful route, unmatched support on the road, great food, and a great cause. I would highly recommend this ride. My only critique is that the entry fee should be doubled. $45 is a steal!