Sunday, August 23, 2009

Nailed in Asheville

Thursday, Aug. 20, dawned bright and sunny. Unfortunately, it didn't end that way.

Heading to Bristol on our way back to the Blue Ridge Parkway to ride south into North Carolina, Chris stopped at a Walgreens to buy sun block and emerged with a folding camp chair to tie to the back of his Harley along with the rest of his gear. "You ought to get one, too," he said.

Chris was in a good mood, despite a noisy night in camp

We said goodbye to Bristol and its gathering mob of NASCAR fans and started climbing back up into the pristine heights of the Blue Ridge, only coming down for lunch and gasoline before we reached Asheville, N. Car.

Flanman waves NASCAR fans goodbye

The folding chair somehow stayed aboard Chris' bike ...

... and proved to be handy curing "monkey butt"

A few miles from Asheville, we stopped at an overlook to stretch and rest our backsides and I noticed something strange about my rear tire, which turned out to be the head of a nail. I started to wiggle it, and Chris said, "Stop! It's still holding air, but it won't if you pull that thing out."

I let it be and decided to take care of it as soon as we could find a tire repair shop. Meanwhile, the afternoon thunder clouds rolled in, visibility shrank to about 50 yards and we worked our way slowly southwest along the ridgetop in our rain gear.

Suddenly, Chris pointed at the cliff above the road. I looked and didn't see what attracted his attention. "Bear," he said. "It was just a little one, but it was a bear for sure."

As we descended into Asheville's late afternoon rush hour traffic, the weather cleared. The GPS had been put away out of the weather, so we headed in a general westerly direction, looking to get off the divided highways into a business district that might have a tire repair shop. That worked, and we found ourselves at Jerry Rawls' place. Jerry said he'd been in business for 26 years and it appeared he'd never thrown out a tire in all that time. They were stacked everywhere, indoors and out, with tools and equipment scattered among the black rubber piles.

"I don't do motorcycle tires and anyways I'm about to close," Jerry said. We pleaded with him to take a look anyways.

"What time do you close?" we asked. He said 5 p.m. It was 4:45.

The tire had "Tubeless" printed on the sidewall in big letters and Chris said maybe Jerry could just pull the nail and put in a plug. "I don't do motorcycles," Jerry repeated.

We looked sad. Jerry asked, "Where you boys from?" We told him. He relented and pulled out the nail with a pair of wire cutters. It was a roofing nail -- about an inch and a half long. The tire immediately went flat.

Rawls got a tubeless tire plug, poked it into the hole left by the nail and pumped the tire up to 35 pounds. Things were looking good.

I got some money out of my wallet to pay Jerry and Chris asked him to put some air in the Harley's tires, too, while he was at it. A thought crossed my mind.

"I wouldn't think you could put tubeless tires on wire wheels," I said. "Wouldn't the air come out the holes for the spokes?" There was a crash. The KLR had fallen off its sidestand all by itself. The back tire was flat.

You can put tubeless tires on a spoked wheel, but only if you use an inner tube. It was suddenly clear that we had to pull the wheel, dismount the tire from the wheel, remove the tube, patch it, remount the tire on the wheel and the wheel on the bike.

Our saviour, Jerry, in his office

A ten minute job turned into a 90 minute one in 90 percent humidity. Jerry had tools designed for cars and trucks, not motorcycles, but he hung in there and we got the wheel off without a hitch. Getting the tire off the rim was a tougher task and I pitched in to hold the wheel down while he used screw drivers and giant tire irons to pry the bead off. Chris sat in his camp chair and observed.

I pitched in to help patch the rear tire

The KLR looked pretty sad ... and then it started raining, hard

Just as we got the tube, tire and wheel back together, the skies opened. The KLR was parked outside in the deluge waiting for us to reassemble it. We waited for the storm to blow over. It rained harder. We waited some more. It came down even harder.

"I've got a big ol' umbrella," Jerry said.

It was a yellow and white beach umbrella, six feet in diameter and leaky. Chris held it while Jerry and I wrestled with the chain and axle. After some gentle persuasion with a rubber mallet, all the pieces came back together. Jerry even disappeared into the gloom of his shop -- where rain was coming through more than a dozen holes in the roof into a variety of buckets, cans and bins. He emerged with a torque wrench to apply the correct 52 foot-pounds to the hub nut.

I collected my sodden possessions, repacked the bike, gave Jerry more money, thanked him repeatedly and got directions to a nearby Days Inn, where we spent the night.

The forecast for Friday was more rain.

1 comment:

  1. Boy, seems you are working awful hard for a retired vacationer. Guess you will have good stories to tell for years to come. Are you passing out High Speed Wobble cards to all these characters you are meeting along the way? You should. j