02/10 With my front pannier full of fresh bread and a big box of chocolate I set off from Tolhuin on my last stretch of South American roadway. The weather was cloudy but the sun broke through in the afternoon and warmed things back up again. A couple nights ago there was fresh snow on the mountains–even though this is the middle of summer it can get pretty cold at night. Lot’s of trees and mountains to look at all day (when they weren’t covered in clouds).
Some last minute bikecapades kept me busy the night before leaving. The front tire has had a slow leak for over a month now but it only leaks out 5 psi every few days. It takes 2 minutes to get it back up to 65 psi so the incentive to fix the leak is small. Well I went to check it last night and saw that the back tire was completely flat. I pulled the wheel off, patched the leak, put the tire back on and noticed that one of the spokes was broken. So I took the tire back off, installed a Kevlar emergency spoke and put the tire back on (I was too lazy to put a real spoke on since I’d have to remove the cassette). While I was inflating the tire the valve stem broke and I had to take the tire back off again to replace the tube. That’s just how things go sometimes.
The broken spoke sucks but it helped make up my mind about bringing the wheels with me or not. The rear rim has about 8400 miles on it and the front one has 11,000 miles on it. I’m just going to leave both rims here. Since there’s obviously something wrong with the rear wheel now one I’ll just get 2 high quality rims in the Netherlands along with some DT SWISS double-butted spokes, brass nipples and some washers. I’m keeping the front hub because the Phil Wood Touring hub on there now has 25,568 miles on it and I think it’ll last forever. The rear hub, a Shimano Deore, only has 8,400 miles on it.
The front tire I’m dumping for sure. It’s one of the Schwalbe Marathon Plus 348 tires I’ve been using almost exclusively. The blue guard underneath is showing through so it’s done anyway. It did OK with 8,400 miles on it (many of those miles were on brutal roads). The rear wheel is a Maxxis Ranchero that I just got. I’m not going to need a 2″ knobby tire in Europe so I’ll bring it but find a home for it in Florida. I’ll also be leaving the cassette, chain and chain rings (small/middle–the large one is OK after 3 years) since they are at their EOL anyway. So besides the hubs the only other things coming with me will be the Brooks B17 saddle, seatpost, handlebar, front/rear derailleurs, front/rear racks and brakes. I’ll leave all the brake/gear cables since they are pretty old.
Day one out of Tolhuin got me over Paso Garibaldi (1400 feet) and 44.5 miles down the road. 2501 feet climbing. There’s a campground where I handed over 15 pesos (US $3.50) and called it a day. The conversation I had on arrival was classic:
Me [in Spanish]: How much is it to camp here?
Guy [in English]: Can you speak in Spanish?
Me [slower this time in Spanish]: How much is it to camp here?
Guy [in English]: 10 pesos
The weather broke for the short ride into Ushuaia and it was sunny with hardly any wind. The scenery was the best since the Carretera Austral in Chile. The campground I’m staying at until the 18th is La Pista del Andino. It functions as a ski resort during the winter so there’s a lift a stone’s throw from my tent. There are 5 other cyclists that I know staying here so I’ll have some company until I leave and I know more that are coming.
Pulling into the city was quite a moment but it didn’t really hit until I got to the campground and started taking apart my bike. Chatting with the other cyclists and drinking a huge beer helped with the funky mood I was in.