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Flat Tire in Silver Canyon

I was supposed to be home an hour ago, but a sharp rock cut a 1-inch gash into the side of my Pirelli Scorpion A/T tire in upper Silver Canyon (while descending from the White Mountains, see also Trek to the Summit of White Mountain Peak). Three cans of tire sealant and a defective spare (those damned inflatable kind) meant a 1-2 mph crawl in 1st gear in low range down an 18% grade to a more accessible point in the canyon.

Since the Pirelli Scorpion A/T was discontinued a few years ago, I’m now seriously considering a tire that might be slightly less robust but run flat as a replacement, such as the Goodyear Eagle LS-2 RunOnFlat. Hard to figure that one out without actual experience on rough rocky roads: will they hold up as well and have similar grip? The new Pirelli Scorpion ATR is not available in the 255/55 R18 size I need.

Sharp rocks cut even A/T tires easily if they hit the sidewall just right

The wheel rim was nicely decorated with scratches and gashes, but was not bent and so took on a new tire, once I finally got it to a repair place in Bishop: it was a very long day involving two mountain bike rides (handy to have along), with both AAA and Porsche Roadside assistance being long on boilerplate wasting of time to accomplish nothing, but local folks solved the tire transport problem for me. Glad to pay the premium and get going.

And so the new tire is fitted on the uglified wheel (gashes) and I’m staying the night as usual in my car, somewhere here soon now in the middle of nowhere near Mono Lake.

While I had no time to spend photographing during this time, there was a herd of 19 bighorn sheep about 2/3 up the lower part of Silver Canyon.

As shown below, I flatted right near where this picture was taken. I limped down at 3 mph the average 18% grade for a couple of miles—nothing else to be done.

About 2/3 of the way up Silver Canyon — Bishop, CA is behind the hill at center
Flat tire in sad shape with bead well off damaged rim

Background

It is rare (8 years of offroading) to suffer this severe of an axe-cut gash right through the tire: really bad luck because I was descending at a much more sedate speed than usual down the steep section of Silver Canyon. But if the knife-edge shale hits just the right part of the tire sidewall just-so, then it's game over. But while the tires had plenty of tread, they were aged, over four years old, and all tires lose resiliency at that age. I should have replaced them prior to the trip with fresh and resilient rubber, but the more than adequate tread depth lulled me into complacency. Bad idea. After my return, I swapped on my 2nd wheel set with new rubber.

I should note that I carry three or four cans of tire sealant as well as a spare mini air compressor to complement the Cayenne’s built-in air compressor (which tends to overheat at high altitude if used to fully inflate an empty tire, causing a long delay before it becomes operable). On top of that, the spare tire is supposed to work, and had it worked I would have just driven out of the situation and had a new tire installed. But the cut was so bad the sealant could not work and the spare was defective (which I will remedy). A perfect storm.

I did make one possible mistake installing the tire sealant: I should have jacked up the car first to take pressure off the tire, then installed the sealant with the cut at the very bottom so that it would have a better chance to seal the gash. But in this case it was such a huge cut that the odds of it holding were about nil. Still, next time, the car gets jacked up before the sealant goes in, to raise the odds. Also, for getting out, less than full tire pressure is wise, since sealant cannot generally hold full pressure any more than a high pressure tire on a road bike can with Stan’s No Tubes. Half pressure is plenty to make it out of the situation.

Getting out

I had to ride my mountain bike down in elevation by about 1000 feet to get a cell phone signal, then back up to my SUV. I did this twice because of poor quality service from two roadside assistance organizations.

With Porsche roadside assistance, we went through tons of boilerplate stuff resulting in “tow me to Fresno”. Which is beyond stupid, because all I needed was a tire and Fresno is over the Sierra Nevada and blocked by Hwy 120 closure (which I explained, but it fell on deaf ears). Then after some checks with someone in charge, it turned out that was that since I was over 100 miles range from a Porsche dealer, I could use a local place. Except that after all this and already having repeatedly told the representative that I was on a dirt road, he finally came back and said “we cannot do dirt roads”. Service starts with listening to someone. All of this while I am sweltering in a hot desert canyon.

So next up was AAA, which was even worse: they promised what they could not deliver (mind you, I was in a hot desert canyon here, and I told them so). I informed AAA repeatedly that I was on a dirt road about 3-4 miles up Silver Canyon Road (there are no turns or intersections and I told them that, too). I even asked if I should stay in cell phone range, but AAA insisted someone would be there in 30 minutes, so I rode 1000 feet vertical elevation back up to my SUV in that hot canyon, expecting them. Two hours later, nothing. So what did they do? AAA totally ignored my explicit statement of my location, choosing the nearest paved intersection (about five miles away and far downhill in elevation). So two hours later on my second mountain bike descent , I then learned that they don't go up dirt roads. Which is something I told them 4 or 5 times during the course of the call. So the AAA incompetents cost me 2-3 hours. Had I simply been told “no dirt roads”, I could have gone from there. This really was an inexcusable failure to listen that ought to result in reprimand.

So who solved the problem?

The reason I am taking the trouble here is threefold: first, the folks who got me rolling deserve some credit. Second, I might need their help again someday (I visit that area a lot), and putting it here records the information. Third, other readers could possibly be in a similar bind and might find this information useful: rental cars might be and SUV with 4WD but most tires are even more at risk than the A/T tires I run on my SUV.

Mr. K Automotive [760.873.7149] came and got my wheel/tire and took me and it to Bishop Automotive Center [760.873.4430] for the repair. Then Mr. K drove me and the wheel (with new tire mounted) back up to my SUV. I bolted it on and drove out of the canyon. I want to thank both firms for getting me out of my bind.

Mr. K came and got my wheel/tire and took me and it to Bishop Automotive for the repair

I also want to thank Perez Quality Tires [760.872.3322], who actually came half way up before learning that Mr. K Automotive was on the way, as well as a local Bishop resident who passed a few messages along for me, and even came back up the canyon to inform me of status.

Mr. K came and got my wheel/tire and took me and it to Bishop Automotive for the repair
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