2.2.04: 23 June 2012: Shelton to Elma With a Bang

From Shelton to Elma with the Help of Two New Best Friend

Read About Our Rainy Ride from Bremerton to Shelton

We intended to ride from Sheldon, on an arm of Puget Sound, over a range of hills, and down into the Chehalis River Valley.  We started the morning, 31 air miles from Bremerton, and 37 air miles from Aberdeen, at the mouth of the Chehalis River.  Our minimum goal was Elma.  We harbored hopes of reaching Centralia.  Our day went far differently than we had planned.  Marian would suffer a catastrophic rear tire failure.  We would hitching a ride, about nine miles to Elma.  I would ride onto Montesano to get replacement tires for Marian.


2204 map

We started the second day of cycling, 31 air miles from Bremerton, and 37 air miles for Aberdeen.  We would end the day at Elma, 51 air miles from Bremerton, and 20 air miles from Aberdeen, at the mouth of the Chehalis.  By a strange quirk, Pat would actually cycle to within 10 miles of Aberdeen.  In between, we would benefit from the kindness of two different strangers, as we dealt with the complete failure of Marian’s rear tire.  Our route, both by bike and by car was different from we had planned:  0.0 miles – START;  0.2 miles – RIGHT ont0 3rd;  0.6 miles – STRAIGHT onto Pioneer;  1.1 miles – LEFT onto Lake;  1.5 miles – STRAIGHT onto Cloquallum;  14.5 miles – RIGHT onto Cloquallum (TIRE FAILURE);  23.5 miles – LEFT onto Cloquallum;  25.1 miles – STOP / START at Elma;  26.2 miles – LEFT onto 3rd;  26.4 miles – RIGHT onto Highway 12 Ramp;  35.9 miles – RIGHT onto Main St Exit;  36.2 miles ;- RIGHT onto Main St;  36.6 miles – STOP / START at Spruce;  37.1 miles – LEFT onto Highway 12 Ramp;  48.6 miles – RIGHT onto 3rd St Exit;  46.9 miles – LEFT onto 3rd;  47.2 miles – RIGHT onto Main;  48.2 miles – END at Elma

2204 elevationsThrough the course of the day, we would climb about 2000 feet.  We climbed two hills of about the same magnitude.  The first hill, about 250 feet, came immediately outside Shelton.  The second climb, over 300 feet, came after the road cross Rock Creek and climbed up into the hills separating the Chehalis Watershed from Puget Sound.  From there, it was a gentle descent into Elma.  On the ride to Montesano, the road followed the Chehalis River, and was very flat.


Getting up early, we wanted to beat the rumored heavy rains later in the day.  Our ambitions knew no end, as Elma was our stated goal, and Centralia was the unstated goal.  When I used to work at an aerospace company, a favorite saying was, “As it turned out….”

Even before we got to the end of Railroad Avenue, Marian had to stop because her rear brake was rubbing.  I fiddled with it, noticing there was a pronounced wobble.  The wheel seemed to be, somehow, out of alignment, but I could not find the problem.  Looking back in time, I know that I was looking at a bubble on the side wall of the rear tire, a Michelin City PROTECK PLUS.  This tire, with less than 500 miles on it, was about to fail, catastrophically.  I know, now, this is true.  I had an an identical tire, except for being a 700 instead of a 26 inch, which failed in an identical fashion, with 3,000 miles on it.  My rear tire also failed.

We were new to touring.  We had never experienced a tire failure.  We had to learn, the hard way, what was important to worry about, and what was unimportant.  Had I realized what I was looking at, we would have immediately regrouped.  We would have gone back to the Shelton Inn, or some similar place, and then found a place to buy another tire.  We were unfamiliar with the full implications of the ACA maps, and were unaware Shelton had no bike shop.  , and probably canceled the day.  We did not realize it, then, but Shelton did not have a bike shop, but they might have had some place to buy a bike tire.  Still, Olympia was 20 miles away.  I could have ridden both ways in a day, and put new tires on Marian’s bike

Not knowing all this, I decided to loosen the brake cable tension a little, opening the brakes up a bit.  After that, Marian had no troubles.  She could not remember having a rub the day before.  After making sure everything was working properly, we set out again.

Leaving Shelton, we missed our turn off to Pioneer Way, and climbed a ways before we realized our error.  We quickly descended and got back to the right road.  Soon, we had conquered our first hill, and settled into our ride.  After about an hour, the rains set in.  The temperatures dropped, and as the wind kicked up.  We biked on, trying not to press.  We tried to think tactically, about little things – the next water break, the next snack break.  In the unrelenting drizzle, we did our last big climb of the day.  We endured occasional heavy downpours.  Even as we began the long descent into Elma, I began to think of ending the day, there, and waiting for the better weather promised on Sunday.

Those thoughts ended in a pop – two actually.  Marian had a blowout.  Standing in the rain, teeth chattering, I inspected the tire and could see nothing wrong.  My inspection had been of the tire still on the rim, with the tube out.  In retrospect, I should have pulled it completely off, and inspected every inch of it.  It was hopeless to even consider patching a tire in the rain, assuming it could even be found.  I put on the first of her two spare tubes.  We set out again, thinking we might have another hour of biking to Elma, less than ten miles away.  Within less than a minute, Marian had a second blowout.

120623 elma 03I realized that this was not a typical situation.  In our time biking, the closest we had come to this was when we were mountain biking, and both suffered flats on a mountain trail, within minutes of each other.  Standing once again in the rain, shivering, I pulled the tire off, and looked it over very carefully.  A tear on the bead line was obvious.  For this day, we had no spare tires, something we would rectify, but not this morning.

Still hoping for a way to get Marian back on the road, I tried a dollar bill over the tear.  But, in the drizzle, with everything getting soggy, that was a lost cause.  And the area of the tear, at the bead line, made any thought of limping through with a dollar bill over the tear a lost cause.

After the fact, I researched possible recovery steps.  One person carries an awl, and fishing line.  He has made temporary tire repairs by sewing the tire back together, and then using a dollar bill on the inside, to re-enforce the weak spot.  Another person offered up my favorite, duct tape.  His tear also came near the bead line.  He wrapped the torn area, going between the spoke, several times, to hold the tire together.  He was able to ride 10 miles to a repair center.  I’m not sure what he did about brakes.

I had no awl and fishing line.  And I did not think to use the duct tape we had, although I’m not sure how well that would held together in the rain.  I put the wet dollar bill in, and pumped in a little air.  The tire, immediately, began to bulge, signally another blowout.  So, in a day of firsts, I did another first.  We walked along the road.  I stuck out my thumb.

We met my newest best friend, Dave, on the second try.  Dave, a worker at the Bremerton Naval Yard, was on his way to see his mother, who lived just a short distance from Elma.  He was taking his daughter with him.  He had also brought his two dogs.  And, of all things, he was pulling a utility trailer.  That empty utility trail that was just the right side for two Surly’s, laying down.  He kindly took us on into Elma, several miles out of his way, and deposited us at a motel.  On the way, he explained that Elma was a very small town, and had no bike shop or hardware store.  He wasn’t even sure Elma had a fast food place.  And, with Saturday evening approaching, it would probably shut down almost completely on Sunday.  He dropped us off at the MicroTel and would not leave until we booked a room.

The desk clerk, Jim, was very sympathetic.  He was more than professionally concerned, genuinely anxious to help us.  He had a ground floor room for us, along with as many rags as we needed to dry off the bikes, and our panniers.  He would later offer to look in Sheldon to see if anyone had any bike tires.  And, while it was a kind gesture, it was unnecessary.  We wiped our bikes down, checked to make sure the Ortlieb panniers were as good as advertised (they are), we took long hot showers and went to get a big meal at The Rusty Tractor.  I will always remember the date the Olympic Diving Trials took place.

Back in the hotel room, we took stock of our situation.  Elma, indeed, had nothing that could help us.  We could get Amazon to ship, but wouldn’t see anything before Tuesday, some three nights away, and ruinous at the price we were paying.  With the rain continuing to fall, camping was not an option.

Casting our net wider, we looked, on-line for bike shops within 25 miles of Elma, a distance I could reasonably expect to ride both ways, to get tires.  Sheldon was out.  The only immediate prospects were Centralia and Aberdeen.  Even though the ACA maps showed bike shops in Centralia, we continued to encounter no-longer-in-service signals at the shops we tried.  Aberdeen had two we could get hold of.  Both were closed on Sunday.

As we were setting, looking at each other, Terry, from Lavogue Bicycle and Apparel, in Aberdeen, called back.  He wanted to know the specifics of the wheel Marian had, something the other bike shop had not gone into.  After a few more minutes, Terry said he was willing to go to his shop on Sunday, to meet me, because he had a pair of tires that would work.  I accepted, and was looking at the route and the climbing involved, when he called back again.  He asked me if I could bike over to Montesano.  He said that, if he owned a car, he would have driven to Elma, but he didn’t.  But, a friend was willing to drive him to Montesano, a town halfway between Aberdeen and Elma.  If I could be there by 7 PM, he would be waiting for me.

I immediately agreed.  He asked me if I wanted to know the price, and I assured him I would trust him.  He was fair.  Donning dry clothes, and stripping everything off my Surly except a pannier and lights, I stepped outside.  The sun was out.  There was a gentle breeze from the ocean, and the temperature was ten degrees warmer than a few hours before.

Pedaling through Elma, I discovered that it was a little larger than the small piece we could see.  Still, it was not large.  And then, for the first time I could remember, I went up an on-ramp, onto a freeway.  Washington Highway 12 is relatively limited access.  It is a divided highway, with wide, clean shoulders.  For the most part, the drivers moved all the way over into the passing lane, to keep well clear of me.  Of course, there are always one or two drivers who find it necessary to honk their horns and yell things, seeming to take personal offense to a lonely biker on a mission.  The Washington State Police also gave me a wide berth.

I got to our meeting place ten minutes late, praying that Terry would still be there.  He was.  He told me that, if anything else came up, to give him a call, and he would see what he could do.  And he would not take a penny more than the asking price.  Terry was my second very best friend of the day.

The ride back was quick, beating sun down by a good margin.  One fortunate effect of being so far north, is that the sun goes down later than San Jose.  Once back, I was a too tired to put on the new tires.  Marian and I feasted on microwaved pot pies, and hit the sack.


I hope I never forget 23 June, and our incredible experiences.  At times, we suffered.  Our calamity dismayed me.  Still, both Dave and Terry went more than the extra mile to help us.  Good people in Washington came to our aid when we were helpless.  Had my wits had been about me, back in Shelton, I would have recognized the peril confronting us.  We could have returned to our hotel, stayed the day, and figured out how to get new tires.  But, I would not have met my friends, Dave and Terry.

Read about our ride from Elma to Centralia

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Filed under Cycle Touring, Travel

Let us know what you thought, we'd love to know. Thanks - Pat and Marian

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