Thursday, April 30, 2015

I was due for a problem

So what I said about speaking too soon about surviving the Dempster? I spoke too soon. Just 44 miles after leaving Eagle Plains, I had a flat. I had over 180 miles of rough dirt road to make it back to pavement, much less a tire store another 300 miles from there. I don't have a spare tire and wheel, just a doughnut. I had kind of hoped that if I had a flat, it would be early on. The snow likely concealed some short of sharp rock.

My comeuppance has arrived

A photo posted by Byron Young (@byron.a.young) on

Looking immediately at my tools, I did have a jack, the spare, and a wrench, so it would first appear like I had all the tools I needed to keep moving. If there's another flat though, I'd need a tow, which would likely be more expensive than the car. I jacked up the car, and immediately ran into a problem. The wrench that came with the car was the wrong size!

Luckily, I bought a small tool set at Home Depot before leaving Tehachapi. I opened it praying there was the right socket size. I know it's a metric 21 mm, and my set goes to... 19 mm. But! There's a 7/8 socket, and it fits over the nut but with a lot of wiggle room. I've played this game before, and if you torque it too much the nut gets stuck in the socket.

I really carefully undo each nut, and luckily I was able to get the wheel off. Did I mention it's snowing? I mount the doughnut, lower the car, and the tire deflects almost completely. The thick rubber on the spare made me think it was inflated, but it was almost completely flat.

Luckily I also brought along my trusty tire pump that served us so well in Mongolia, and it worked great... up to 40 psi of the recommended 60 psi. It would have to do! I strapped the flat tire to my hood, which I chose partly because I thought it looked cool but it turns out it tends to block a little bit of my visibility, well a lot actually.

Wish me luck

A photo posted by Byron Young (@byron.a.young) on

Just to get a feel for how isolated this place is, the process for changing the tire took over an hour, and not a single vehicle passed me, either way. Yogi was happily wandering around the woods until I was done.

The rear tire likely went first because I worked the rear tires a lot harder on track days than the fronts. This also means that the rear-right tire is just as likely to fail as the rear-left. I decided to at least make a small change so that I can say I tried if/when the other tire fails. I lowered all the tire pressures to 25 psi to try to lower the contact pressure with rocks, maybe that would help.

I kept moving, and on snow with almost bald all-seasons and a spare tire, the rear end really wanted to oversteer in every corner. The spare also was so narrow it really wanted to stick itself into ruts and stay there. I ended up "edging" the right side of the car to save the rear-right.

It probably took me an hour or two longer than the way up, but I finally escaped Dempster without any additional problems. Luckily I didn't try to go much farther than the Arctic Circle, a Jeep driver told me a bit past it there's a river crossing, and due to the rain and snow it was about 3 feet deep.

A little dirtier than before

A photo posted by Byron Young (@byron.a.young) on

I had a nice lunch at one of the Tombstone Park overlooks before heading back towards Whitehorse for a new tire. I stopped at a nice lake for the night. I decided this might be my most northward opportunity for the Northern Lights, so I decided to set an alarm at 2 AM, and set up a big pile of firewood to keep me warm. I woke up to a bright tent, but unfortunately it was lit by the moon more than anything, no northern lights! Maybe the next night.

A photo posted by Byron Young (@byron.a.young) on

I'm here in Whitehorse now getting 4 new tires, they were all due for replacement anyway. From here I'm going to head to Haines, Alaska to visit a friend, and then finally back South. 

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