Day 11: Flying mountain rivers

Day miles: 33
Trip miles: 4172

I continued my mountain flying training with Lance today, going up into the Talkeetna mountains following the rivers. I had been driving in the mountains for over a week and most of the roads followed rivers. However, there were few roads here as we followed the rivers up into the mountain passes. With Talkeetna being at the confluence of three rivers and like the rest of Alaska, surrounded by mountain ranges, there was no shortage of terrain to fly.

It was also about time for an oil change for the bike. I had brought a filter and oil with me. This wasn’t the best plan, as I did not need to carry four quarts of oil for five thousand miles and should have planned better to pick this up locally. I had also brought tools and a oil filter wrench that I had confirmed to fit, although there was some debate due to it not fitting on a friends bike. As it turned out, it wouldn’t fit the new filter I brought along as it had a different grip pattern. This was fine, as you can usually get a filter on tight enough with your hand. More amusingly, the Cruz Tools BMW Tool kit I had purchased did not have the 10mm allen wrench that I needed to remove the oil plug. So I headed off to the hardware store for this.

I didn’t bring any funnels for adding or draining the oil, but had picked up an empty one gallon plastic bottle from an auto parts store somewhere to drain the oil into. This was a slightly precarious setup: using the oil plug to control the flow of oil leaving the engine so it would go in the one inch diameter opening in the bottle. I was managing well enough, until a bumble bee became interested in what I was doing. I couldn’t help but appreciate the humor of the situation as I was blowing at the bumble bee trying to get it to go away since both of my hands were occupied in this oil draining stunt.

Eventually the bee landed on one of my hands, which reflexively twitched and I lost the drain plug. I looked all over for it while adjusting the bottle so oil would continue going into it. Eventually, with a shake of my head in disbelief, I discovered that the drain plug had managed to go into the bottle. A balancing act with the bottle and its cap got the plug out without making much of a mess.

With some patience I swapped the oil filter, finishing up the change and cleaned up. I stand by doing oil changes for myself, but I should have planned the logistics a little better. With some footwork, I found that the local transfer station would take the used oil for recycling free of charge.

I had been scheming for some time about what to use for a spacer to tighten up a loose RAM mount on my handlebars. Returning from the hardware store I noticed a sign for WeCycle along the Talkeetna Spur Road and decided to stop in to see if I could salvage a used bicycle tube from them. It was there I met Ralph and when I saw his shop I was amazed; it was filled with cargo bikes and Surley Pugsleys. From the sign at the road I expected someone scratching together bikes from what other people threw out. As it turns out, Ralph has some partnerships with shops in Portland, OR for getting cargo bikes. He uses one himself to cart around a baby, and sells a fair number of Pugsleys as snow bikes to locals. Being a ways out of Talkeetna, it didn’t seem that he did much work with the tourists, but enough work came from repairs and a little sales to the locals to get buy. He was incredibly friendly and I stuck around for a while talking bikes with him; another meeting that made me feel quite at home in Talkeetna.

I noticed later back at the West Rib bar that Bar Harbor, Maine was written on the wall here. I enjoyed this, having already compared Talkeetna to Bar Harbor, as well as finding a little bit of a connection to home here.

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