Push down, and twist.  Push down–and twist.  Why won’t this fuel cap come off?

WhisperLite_International_2012On the second night of my Central Asia bike tour, at a campground just outside of Ağva, Turkey, I simply couldn’t get the fuel cap off of my fuel bottle, which connects to my MSR Whisperlite International Stove.  It was one of those child-lock caps: push down, and twist.

I pushed, I twisted, and the thing wouldn’t budge.  I brought the bottle over to the campground manager, with whom I shared about 3 common words (I can say “hello,” “thank-you,” and “bicycle” in Turkish”), who pushed, twisted, and quickly forfeited himself.  This was a serious issue: it was a matter of life, and pasta dinner.

In the above picture, you’ll note that instead of a cap on the bottle, there is a fuel pump; once you take the cap off, you screw in the pump.  Our immediate mission, given that my pasta dinner was of utmost priority, was to remove the cap in any way possible, insert the pump, connect it to the stove, and cook me some food.  The cap wouldn’t push, and it certainly wouldn’t twist; braun rapidly overcame brains, and we smashed it off with a hammer.

Soon after, I was enjoying my pasta: mission accomplished.  However, the fuel cap did need to be replaced, as I plan to carry more than a day’s worth of cooking gasoline as I’m cycling, and I can’t just put a half-full fuel bottle in my pannier without a sturdy, functional cap.  I cleaned my dishes, snuggled into my warm sleeping bag, and resolved to fix the issue the following day.

The next morning, in the heart of Ağva–a cute, Margate-like beach town–I found a hardware store.  Hardware stores should have what I need, right?  The opening and threading on the bottle aren’t exactly exotic, and there really should have been a solution that didn’t require me to bus back to Istanbul to buy a new, made-for-the-bottle, MSR-brand cap.

Agva Street Shot

Ağva around sunset

The following two hours were spent playing charades, and exploring the wonders of Google Translate.  I speak the 3 of the most popular languages in the world, but in Turkey, I can’t communicate with anyone.  Some one of the workers laughed at me, some workers (the owner included) told me not to buy anything in their store and to go back to Istanbul, and some went to go play with my bicycle parked on the sidewalk.  One man fortunately did take interest, and together, we tried every possible permutation of screw and cap and rubber ring that the hardware store could muster.

Many things worked, in fact.  Well, they almost worked.  The thing would screw in snugly, giving every indication of a fit, but when we filled it up with water and shook it, we’d always be met with that heart-breaking drip..drip..drip down the side of the bottle.  Unfortunately, this translates into my clothes smelling..like..gasoline.  Not a viable solution.

Next, I called Bülent, my mentor from Pedal Sportif Bike Shop, who candidly reminded me that I was still pretty close to Istanbul, and that the best solution was just to lock my bike up the next day, hop a ~2 hour bus, pick up a new cap, and bus right back.  It was a disheartening prospect–who wants to go back to the starting point on a trip like this, especially for something so trivial?–but he had reason.  This is what I resolved to do.  Kocaali, Turkey was the best place to find this bus–a destination I would reach the following evening.

The following morning, after camping in a muddy farm plot next to a playground, I packed up my bicycle, and hit the road.  First, however, I stopped at the gas station, and picked up a sleeve of cookies.

Once on the road, and not 5 minutes later, I met 3 German cyclists, who were biking from Germany to Ankara (the capital of Turkey) for a wedding.  “Hey guys!  What’s up!  Want some cookies?” I lead with.

After a few minutes of chatter, I tell the cyclists about my cap issue.  They had nothing.  However, they quickly show me that I can just leave the fuel pump in the bottle, as it impedes leakage just the same, contrary to what I’d previously thought.  Problem solved.  We chat for another 20 minutes, share another 20 cookies, swap maps and stories from the road, and begin to go our separate ways.

As the cyclists pedal off, one of them pulls up short.  “You know what?”  he says.  “I actually do have an extra MSR fuel cap that I’m not using.  Here–it’s yours!”

Maybe the offer wasn’t exclusively due to the cookies.  But they certainly didn’t hurt.  Share your treats, kids.  Cookies will brighten up anyone’s day.


From the road,