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flat tires
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valiant effort
perfect plan
return trip
miles per hour
The Joy Of Flat Tires On The Katy Trail
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The Joy Of Flat Tires on the Katy Trail

Last fall, in my valiant effort to ride my Trek Hybrid bike across the entire span of the Katy Trail in Missouri, I had an educational epiphany. Because of family and livestock demands at home, I can never be away from home overnight. To ride the entire trail, most experts agree it should take 2 or 3 days of good solid riding to complete the journey. I didn't have that luxury so I would ride short lengths in a day, then turn around and ride back to the car and head for home. I also seem to have trouble finding people who will undertake this effort so I generally ride alone. When I have finished my quest, I will have ridden the distance of the trail twice because of the return leg to the car.

The Perfect Plan: Portland to McKittrick

On this particular day, I had planned to ride from Portland, Missouri east to McKittrick. This would be about 16 miles, so with the return trip – my total ride would be about 32 miles. I drove to Portland and arrived about 1:30 p.m. At my slow pace, the ride should take about 3 hours. My plan was to get back to the car just before sunset. The Katy isn't lighted and officially closes at dark, so my plan would have been perfect.

As I pedaled my way through Rhineland, my rear tire went flat. At that stage of my evolution as a cyclist, I didn't see the need to carry a tire pump or patch kit for the tires. I stopped at a gas station and aired the tire up. I continued my ride but only got about ½ of a mile before the tire went flat again. It was a beautiful fall afternoon and I really wanted to go to McKittrick for a meal, so I pushed the bike the last four miles into town.

Flat Tires on the Katy Trail

After dinner, I aired the tire back up and began my return trek westward to the car. I only made it 1/8 mile before it yet again went flat. Rather than take a chance on damaging the tire or the wheel on the bike, I walked the entire 16 miles back to the car. People walk at an average pace of 2-3 miles per hour, rather than 10-15 mph pedaling. The return leg of the trip was going to be far more time consuming than the first half.

The sun set about 5:30 p.m. and the temperature dropped pretty quickly. This was October so I expected it to be cool, but I only had biking shorts and a T-shirt and no jacket or hoodie to help fend off the cold. I wasn't really worried about the temperature because I was walking and pushing a disabled bike.

The real issue came as real darkness fell. The Katy has no lights so it gets very dark, especially in parts of the trail where trees hang over the trail and make a very effective canopy. In places, the coverage is so thick you don’t even get wet when it is raining. The only light I had was from my cell phone and the battery was close to being fully discharged.

Lions, and Tigers and Bears

Occasionally, I drifted off the trail and fell into ditches which periodically lined the trail. That was a bit disconcerting, but not nearly as much as when I heard animals tracking me in the woods. This is Missouri, not Africa so I wasn't really worried about lions, but we do have coyotes, wolves, and bears.

I was certain the beast that was stalking me must surely be a wolf that hadn't eaten in days and was ravenous. I would be a tasty evening meal for such a carnivore. My imagination went into overdrive and caused cause me to pick up the pace, knowing full well I couldn't outrun a wolf.

I managed to arrive intact at Portland shortly after midnight. I packed the bike safely away and started the car hoping the heater would function quickly. I was pretty cold at this time, but I wasn't sure if I was shivering from the temperature or the fear of being eaten. I made it home alive, but it was after 2 a.m. and I had an 8 o’clock class the next morning. I’m sure I wasn't my usual entertaining self at school that day.

Two Flat Tires

Two days later, I packed up the bike and headed back toward McKittrick. On the way I stopped at a bike shop where the proprietor repaired my rear tire and sent me along my way. He reprimanded me for not buying a tire pump from him that day. I didn't need to spend the extra $18, I had been riding for years without a pump and I could ride for many more years before I had another flat.

I arrived at McKittrick at my usual time and proceeded to travel east. My goal for today was Peers, which was a 20 mile distance, 40 miles by the time I got back to the car. I made it five miles into my journey when both the front and rear tires went flat. I was now very unhappy and felt the bike mechanic had sabotaged by cycle so he could generate another sale. As I pushed my way back to the car (just 5 miles this time, not 21), I called him on the cell. He seemed as surprised as I that the tire went flat, and he agreed to stay open late for me so I could drop the bike off.

The next day he called me, the tires had been repaired with Extra Heavy Duty tubes. I had a total of 26 thorns in the front tire and 32 in the rear. Apparently, as I walked off the side the trail, I had pushed through a patch of tiny little thorns that crept their way through the rubber on the tires and punctured the tubes. In the first repair he hadn't noticed all the tiny offending thorns in the tires.

He made me a special deal on the second repair, sold me a pump and a tire repair kit and I was on my way. I had no more flats. If you’re in the area, stop by World of Wheels in Barnett, Missouri and give Mark a shout. He’s my bike guy when I’m in the area.

Lesson learned: Always carry a pump and patch kit. Prepare for the unexpected.


Street Talk

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