by Victor Wanchena
I like being prepared, but I never learned that skill in the Boy Scouts. As a young boy, I was a member of the Cub Scouts, the little brother minor league version of the Boy Scouts. It was fun, but there is only so much you can learn in a church basement. We learned skills, but they were more civic-minded things like the proper way to fold a flag, or how to help an old lady across the street. I wanted to learn the cowboy stuff; like making a stove out of a tin can, or making a rope bridge out of shoelaces. They lost me when we spent a weekend making a cheesy rawhide display for all the unexciting awards we’d earned. I then embarked on a forgery campaign that I thought would move me right up into the Boy Scout ranks. I forged my mother’s signature on dozens of tasks I was to do before moving up the ranks. My ruse, although good for a 10-year-old, was discovered and I was relegated back to the little boys club. I never made it into the Boy Scouts and have doubted my preparedness ever since.
Fast-forward to this August, Wheatland, WY. It’s late and I am exhausted. I’ve been riding all day on not much sleep from the night prior. I need a place to sleep, but nothing is available. Being that I’m only a couple hundred miles from Sturgis and the rally is in full swing, motel rooms are hard to come by. I was rolling through a parking lot looking for a sign that doesn’t say “No Vacancy” when crash! I am suddenly sent skyward and return to earth as quickly as I’d left. I stop to figure out what I’d just done. There, now quite obvious in the parking lot, was curb, about 6 inches high, that I’d hit doing 15 mph. As I get off the bike I can already hear the front tire going flat. Crap, crap, crap!
I stand back from the bike and can clearly see the large dent I’d put in the front rim. My riding partner Howard rolls up at this point and says my little curb jump looked pretty cool. I point to the rim and state the obvious, my ride is over. Howard ambles over and takes a closer look at my rim. It was bent for sure, but he figured it could be bent back. I, on the other hand, had already mentally given up and rented a truck to cart my bike back home.
Things look up when I remember that I was carrying a small hatchet. I’m not quite sure why I carry a hatchet, but I typically do. It has always seemed reasonable and prudent to have it along. Howard thought it would do just fine for persuading the rim back to round. I dug the hatchet/makeshift hammer out of my saddlebag and set about beating on the rim. K-wang! I was making progress. K-wang! I didn’t really have a plan; just pound it back the opposite direction of the bend. After a couple minutes of furious pounding, the rim was looking better. Howard took over and added some final touches. Then, the moment of truth. We re-inflated the tire. What do you know? It held air! A few more adjustments and some duct tape to hold the wheel weights on, and we were on the road again. It didn’t just work, it worked for the next 6,000 miles of the trip. It felt good to be prepared; even if I was never a Boy Scout.