Saturday, March 29, 2014

Keeping Busy

Here is an example of how the road maintenance folks push the snow and ice as far to the side as they can. In most cases, over the edge so that the runoff doesn't collect on the road. This has been our typical weather for the last week or so. Cool in the morning (~2°F) and warming up into the high 30s (°F) by late afternoon.

For some areas, like our parking lot, the water just collects as they haven't melted the storm drains yet. Here, I am parked on the sidewalk next to the 6" high curb. So the ice is over 6" thick at this point. I was lazy and didn't actually park in a regular parking space as I wasn't planning on staying very long.

One of the projects I have been working on this week has been learning some Arduino programming. I needed to make a bunch of low power environmental monitoring systems for use in the Barrow huts. I want to monitor temperature, humidity, water level in the fresh water tank, moisture on the floor (i.e. flooding). And have all of this reporting on a "dashboard" accessible over the network. Shouldn't be too difficult and I'm having a great time learning how to do it. This is an Arduino Uno R3 board that I'm playing with but will be deploying another model that has an ethernet connection and is powered by running DC voltage over the Ethernet cable. I may also use wireless in some of the huts depending on what's available.

Here is some colorful food for the Wisconsonland challenge but I'm pretty late to the game. This is a Pad Hed, a Thai mushroom/pepper stir fry. It tasted wonderful!

One last thing, I ended up working on the bike all afternoon and one of the things I did was install a panel mount jack for the Gerbings heated gear. I initially just had a wire hanging near the battery but when I installed the new fusebox, I moved the hanging cable to the fairing. When I was a Radio Shack looking for Arduino parts, I decided to look for a replacement power plug for my heated liner. Yes, I probably could've just sent it back to Gerbings to repair since it is still under warranty but since I found the plug, I just fixed it. And since they had the right size plug ("N"), I looked for a panel mount jack and they had that as well. I think that this looks and works a lot better than a power cable hanging from the bike.

Other tasks completed today, changed to oil and filter from the 5w30 "winter oil" to 20w50 which is what is recommended for anything above 5°F. The oil filter was much more difficult to replace than any other time. The sidecar subframe makes it extremely difficult to get the filter out. In the future, I may simply remove the sidecar and front subframe. Today, I removed the exhaust headers instead and they didn't come out easily.

I also removed the car battery in the sidecar and reconnected the Odyssey motorcycle battery which lived under the seat all Winter. When I plugged it back in, it still had 12.7v and easily started the engine. Put the seat cushion back into the sidecar so I could once again carry a passenger. Still on the list, replace the front brake lines.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Water Over Ice

This is what Spring in Alaska generally means. Water everywhere and at times, water on top of ice. This snapshot was taken in the afternoon and even though the water is only about an ½" deep, it makes things very slippery and a real mess. The pea gravel you see is frozen into the ice from being scattered sometime during the winter. The gravel layer in some intersections will be almost an inch deep. The  underlying layer of ice will probably be gone in a couple of days. At least one can hope. Low temperatures are still single digit (°F) but in a couple of weeks we should be into double digits. Highs have been in the 40s (°F). Time for heavier engine oil.

This is just a shot of the parking lot in front of our building. The puddles at the other end are about 4" deep. Yesterday evening was spent messing around with a car hauling trailer to pick up my son's car which had broken down in town. Picking up the car and hauling it back to the house was easy but the truck got stuck on the ice on our driveway and it took longer to get it unstuck than anything else. We had to resort to putting on tire chains on the front wheels to get up the driveway. And we ended up digging some deep grooves into the ice on the driveway in the process.
Most of the last couple of days have been spent in a workshop with a consulting company out of Colorado. Our Chancellor wanted a sustainability master plan and I am part of the steering committee to guide the consultants to draft the bulk of the plan as they would be familiar with the standards and goals within the field. They have a long list of satisfied clients including a number of other public universities. It has been a very educational and enjoyable time getting to know the other committee members.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Ice Alaska 2014

On Saturday afternoon after returning from Barrow, we went to Ice Alaska to look at the ice carvings. The credit union paid the hefty admission for members over age 55 so that seemed like a good reason for me to go. This event has moved several times during its lifetime and they were finally able to move to a permanent location. Not as nice as some of their prior locations but at least they don't have to relocate each year.

Above is a functional pay phone. Not too many of these around anywhere let alone in an ice phone booth. To the right is a chapel and according to a note, there was a wedding ceremony held here shortly after it was completed.

Above and to the left are some of the more intricate and detailed carvings there. I thought that the log cabin was pretty well done and it even included furniture. Most of the carvings are lit up in the evening but with daylight savings time, that would mean waiting until after 9:00pm.

There was a large play area with numerous slides, mazes and spinning things as well as sculptures that you could climb in and around. This is Bridget and my grandson coming down one of the many slides.

The large, multi-block carvings needed to be shielded from the sun and most were showing signs of melting. There was another area where the carvings were among the trees and these were some of the most delicate and intricate. Including below, one stunt rider on a V-twin motorcycle.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Barrow on the First Day of Spring

I don't see too many animals whenever I'm here in Barrow. Maybe it's because I don't spend enough time outside. Today, there were some caribou about a mile or so from the BARC and this was the best that I could do with my 200mm lens and cropping out all except the center of the image. Looking in the direction of the sun really seemed to wash things out.

Just for comparison, this is looking in the opposite direction away from the sun. The yellow building is the old power plant from when this site was used as a navy lab (Naval Arctic Research Lab - NARL). It isn't a power plant anymore but I'm not sure who's using the building. Behind that is a building supply store.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Don't Look Here For Spring

Not really suitable for the Waterlogue app but I thought that the sunset here in Barrow was kind of nice. This was taken about 7:30pm  and you can see that the sun is still quite a ways above the horizon. I believe sunset is supposed to be 8:47pm. It won't be too much longer until there is no more sunsets. That occurs on may 11th. For those looking for Spring, this may be the wrong place to be. Though several of the locals have said how nice to have daylight again and don't really comment at all on the snow. I believe that many prefer the snow to the dust and mud.

I've been pretty busy trying to get things cleaned up and ready for the upcoming field season. There were quite a few problems all, I believe, related to power outages. One server hung on the boot page wanting someone to press "F1". It has been sitting there since Feb 5th. Several more failed UPS units due to power spikes. I replaced them with much older units which probably don't have much battery capacity but do have better power isolation. A couple of outdoor wireless antennae need to be re-aimed due to the strong winds they've been experiencing around here.

But overall, things are looking good! (Though not very "Spring-like") This is one of the residential "huts" (as in 1940s vintage quonset huts). With some windblown snow that seems to be the norm here in Barrow. 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Waterlogue App

Sitting in the Fairbanks airport again on my way north and was playing with a new "artsy" app on the iPhone. It is called Waterlogue and it turns any photo into a watercolor-like image. I've tried it on a bunch of photos and I must admit that I kind of like the results. To the left is the original iPhoto snapshot, non-HDR, not modified at all (well cropped a little) and below is the default conversion to a watercolor. It isn't just a filter but it analyzes the photo and finds sharp edges and individual physical objects. Then fills in the space between them with appropriate colors.

I think that it works pretty well and jut to bring a little moto-content back to the post, here is an older photo that I took on a beautiful Winter morning back in January. If nothing else, this kept me occupied while waiting for my flight to Barrow where it is a bit below 0°F but very sunny. Sunset up here isn't until 8:40pm so the days are even longer than in Fairbanks. I don't think it'll do too much with pictures of Barrow but maybe it'll be worth a try...

Monday, March 17, 2014

Fuse Block Installed

I was amazed how few places there are on the bike to install the new fusebox and relay. This is the inside of the left "glove box" and I normally just carry bike related paperwork. It is nowhere near water tight and can't really be used to carry anything substantial (like a camera or even spare gloves) so it seemed like a reasonable place to run electrical wiring. The right "glove box" is where I have the wiring and relays for the Datel digital voltmeter and the fog and driving lights. Power for the fuse block and relay is provided through a 30 amp fuse and 12AWG wire protected by plastic split loom from the stock battery location.

The relay is on the left of the fuse block and is rated for 30 amps continuous duty and it is controlled by the ignition circuit. Right now, it is only switching power for the the tank bag SAE power, auxiliary lights and the GPS (1st fuse) and the heated gear outlet (2nd fuse). Nowhere near it's rating. The only non-switched circuit for now is the top-box outlet (3rd fuse) to be primarily used for charging electronics. I do use the top-box outlet for the "smart battery charger" since it's convenient. The bottom two fuse positions will be used to eventually replace the stock fuses inside of the headlight shell. I need to pick up a couple more rubber grommets to protect the wires.

I had also forgotten to pick up DOT4 brake fluid while in town so I didn't replace the front brake lines. Maybe next weekend as I will be in Barrow for the latter part of this week. At least I got one bike project knocked off. We are still enjoying the clear and mostly sunny weather that typifies this time of year but no longer have the warm temperatures that we enjoyed last week. This morning (Monday), it was right around 0°F and the first day of Spring Break. The road seemed pretty deserted compared to normal on the ride in.

Monday Noon Update - It has already warmed up to +22°F. So nice to be getting some heat from the sun again. I ran a bunch of errands with the rig this morning and I'm starting to get used to the face mask on the Ski-Doo helmet. It sure is nice not to have any visor or glasses fogging or even having to mess with the visor. The built-in sunshade is easier to deploy as the lever is larger than on the Nolan but it lacks the spring-loaded instant retract feature. 

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Weekend Projects

Some just don't like being annoyed when the sun is shining. I think the expression says "leave me alone". This is our "inherited" cat. My son and daughter in-law had her when they moved in with us and when they moved out, no cats allowed. So she is here for a while and spends most of the day in the cat tree looking annoyed.

The first project of the day was replacing the drain on the kitchen sink. I haven't been able to find a functional replacement strainer so the easiest thing to do was replace the whole assembly. Fortunately, it took all of 10 minutes. I like those kind of projects.
Todays second project was re-fastening the heat-activated velcro patch into the new Roadcrafter. It had come loose after a month or so and Aerostitch sent instructions on how to refasten it using a iron set to 400°F. I was a bit leery to hold the iron in the same place as instructed for 20 sec as I thought that the Gore-Tex would melt or something. As a result, the first couple of attempts didn't work and the Velcro patch wouldn't stay in place. I had assumed dry, i.e. no steam, but after looking on the Velcro web site, the instructions were a little more explicit. Set the iron to "Cotton" and use steam. When I did this, the patch stayed in place. Hopefully, it'll stay. I don't think it's worth the trouble to send it back.

Here are two more projects waiting in the wings. One is a set of Spiegler braided stainless steel front brake lines. I figure that the bike is now 31 years old and it's would probably be a good idea to replace at least the front brake lines. I rely on the front brake a lot as the rear simply locks up and slides. It doesn't really contribute much to stopping the bike.

The item in the upper right is a six position fuse block. I will be using this to eliminate all of the fused leads attached to the battery terminals and will use one of the relays to provide switched power instead of always on. I'm also debating on whether to run wires from inside the headlight shell to the fuse block to eliminate the need to remove the headlight when the tail lights aren't working. The circuits to be used are:

  • Heated gear outlet
  • GPS/Tank bag SAE outlet
  • Top box power socket
  • Stock Powerlet socket
  • Stock Ignition circuit (ignition, turn signals, horn, brake light, gauges)
  • Stock tail light circuit (tail, parking, dash lighting)
The last two will not be run through the relay. I use the top box power socket to recharge my devices and regularly use the Powerlet socket for the battery tender.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

How's This For Spring!

It feels pretty "Springy" to me. It hasn't been very sunny in the mornings but it has been clearing up by afternoon or evening. And even though it has been dipping down below 0°F some mornings it has been warming up during the day. So to any nay-sayers, this is starting to look like Spring. To further reinforce the thought, the state has been out pushing snow far off the sides of the main roads to minimize melt water on the road surface. They usually don't do this until they are reasonably confident that we're not going to get dumped on again. The warm weather also means that any road surface that sees the sun is getting to be pretty clear of ice.

I've only had a chance to try out the new-to-me Ski-Doo helmet a couple of times. It is a bit noisier than the Nolan so unless it is near 10°F or lower, I'll probably opt for the Nolan. Without any fresh snow, things are starting to look a little drab. All of the drips from everyones cars all winter are showing up. One good thing about the warmer weather is that I've not had any water in the carb and riding has been almost completely trouble free. I did need to dig into the headlight bucket a few days ago to touch (yes, literally just touch) the fuse again. This bike uses these old ceramic fuses with an aluminum wrapped around it. Pretty old design. I may just solder some wires onto the terminal and replace them with modern blade style fuses outside of the headlight bucket though mods like this tend to get the BMW purists bent out of shape. But, maybe that's a good thing...

Thursday Afternoon Update - And even more "Springy" with lots of folks out walking (including me!) enjoying the warm afternoon. The clouds are starting to lift and there's water running down the middle of the parking lot.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Ski-Doo Modular Helmet

Yesterday afternoon while riding home, the bike was running really smooth after balancing the carb by ear Thursday evening. Then when turning into our subdivision road, it started running rough and hesitating coming up the hill. How frustrating. After arriving home, I dropped the carb bowls as had been the drill but no water. Hmmm, put them back on and tried to start the bike again to see if it was still running rough. The engine wouldn't start when normally it starts up almost immediately. Checked for spark, good. Decided to check valve clearances as hard starting is one of the symptoms of tight valves. They were all on the tight side (maybe by a few thousandths) but that wasn't it. Then I noticed that there was no gas in the inline filters. I turned both petcocks on and no gas. Turned them to reserve and gas started flowing again. Started the engine and it ran nice and smooth. Looked at the trip odometer and verified that I had run out of gas.

This morning, I went into town to get gas and it was -22°F at the temperature sign at the entrance to the university. It would have been a good photo but I was running late for a breakfast meeting. I ended up riding part of the way with the visor open due to ice formation on the inside. This is with a Pinlock shield in place. Another friend and rider had mentioned that he had an extra winter helmet. It is a Ski-Doo modular with a face mask that funnels your breath out the sides of the helmet. Both Dom and ChrisL have posted reviews of the more recent version of this helmet. As well as the great recommendation from DavidR here in Fairbanks who has ridden snow machines using these helmets for full days without fogging or icing.

I've heard that it is not generally a good idea to purchase a used helmet since you don't know how it's history but I trust DavidR when he tells me that it has never been dropped or abused. It is a tight fit when compared to the Nolan especially with the face mask installed but it would only be used for the really cold days. I think I will have a hard time getting used to having something covering my nose and mouth for a long time. This one has a dual layer shield but there is an electric, heated version available. It is the older version of the helmet but I he sold it for a fraction what they cost new…

Monday Afternoon Update - The helmet works great! Not even a hint of moisture on the visor even with it being completely closed right off the bat. Usually, I need to keep the visor cracked open until I'm at almost highway speeds. The chin guard is a bit difficult to get down with the face mask in place and feels a bit cluster phobic but it is oh so much warmer. The ride in this morning was at -22°F and normally just the short commute would be sufficient to have the lower part of the visor iced up. Today, none at all even with the longer route. 

Friday, March 7, 2014

Snow Deliveries

I guess you can never have enough snow. It seemed really unusual to see a delivery of snow. Not just one load but the dump trucks have been driving through the parking lot all morning. Usually, they are hauling the stuff out of the parking lot. So, my curious nature got me out into the -18°F day to do a little exploring. BTW, the weird shaped building in the background is the University of Alaska Museum of the North. One of the best museums in the state. I would put it just behind the new Anchorage Museum at the Rasmuson Center for the number of displays.

Back to the snow deliveries. The Fairbanks campus has been building a snow park on the hill between the museum and the roundabout. This is the area just to the east of the building I'm in. Maybe they are grooming the hills and ramps for some planned event this weekend or just to let students take advantage of the beautiful sunny days.

And, yes, I did ride in again this morning. Yesterday, George heard me coming into the parking lot by College Coffeehouse after my visit to the clinic and mentioned that the throttle cable on the right carb had too much slack. When I got home, I pulled out the 10mm wrench to loosen the lock screw on the throttle cable and it was loose. I guess I must've forgotten to tighten the lock nut after I had balanced the carbs last year. I turned it out a couple of turns effectively shortening the cable until the engine felt and sounded smooth at partial throttle. The engine felt much smoother at low throttle settings this morning. George has been working on BMW air cooled twins for a long time and this is just an example of his experience. 

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Spring Snow

In spite of the light dusting of fresh snow today, it still feels like Spring. The nice thing about snow around here is that it covers up all of the junk (junque?) that Alaskans tend to accumulate in their yards. And junk collection seems to be universal. Others have posted recently about the stuff (a euphamism for junk) that we all seem to collect and Alaskans seem to excel at it. It may be due to the ridiculous shipping costs that we pay to get anything up here. And even in these days of Amazon Prime, some things cost a small fortune in shipping.

The temperatures have been floating below and above 0°F but overall, pretty nice. Especially on the long, sunny days. This fresh dusting isn't too slippery to ride in but does add some entertainment. As Chris L from EverydayRiding had mentioned in one of his videos, it is really easy to move the rear wheel from side to side just by shifting your weight from one peg to another. Especially on days like today. Even with the studded tires. Obviously, this doesn't work on dry pavement but on fresh snow, look out!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Carburator Icing

Yesterday, being the first Monday of the month, was the regular get together of the local BMW airheads group. I guess it's still too early in the year for any other riders but as you can see, even at 6:30pm there is still daylight! On the ride home, I am still loving the extra light from the Denali D1 led light especially with all of the ice on the roads. The warm temperatures over the weekend has made the ice still left on the roads pretty slick.

We generally meet at the Silver Gulch which is one of two microbreweries here in town. There food offerings are typical bar food and it was a little challenging to find anything that sort of fits my diet. I settled for a portobella mushroom burger. Still too many calories and carbs but very tasty. What did we talk about?
I like the ride out to Fox as it is one of the few times when I ride out of town during the winter. Without others to ride with, I generally stick around town during the winter. I'm thinking that the carburetor ice theory is gaining traction. On the way back, there is several miles of modest speed, gentle curving downhill and you can easily tell that the engine was cooling down quite a bit on this run. Prime conditions for carb icing. At least from what I remember when learning how to fly. When I reached the main road, the engine stumbled a bit as it does when ingesting water instead of gasoline. Then it cleared after a short run. I guess I'm just going to get used to this issue when riding at cooler temperatures (+4°F yesterday evening). From the graph, you can see that at low power levels such as down hill runs, there is a pretty wide range of temperatures where icing can occur.

Back when learning how to fly, I was taught to always turn on carburetor heat to control icing when gliding down to the runway for landing just in case you need to reapply full power before touching down or you are doing touch 'n go's.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Saturday Outing

Today was spent at an event called "Be Prepared". It was mostly on avalanche safety and search and rescue. It was an un-official overview put on by several guys from church who have a lot of backcountry experience. They went over different types of avalanches, how they are triggered and the impact that weather has. As a final "test", we went out to the pipeline corridor where they had buried six avalanche beacons earlier. They divided everyone into small groups with a couple more beacons. We had to locate our two beacons, dig them out of the snow, use the material inside the buried plastic bag to make a small campfire and boil a cup of water. Our group took 12 minutes total. Most of the avalanche beacons were different brands and models but they all interoperated. Too bad everything didn't work that way.

You couldn't have asked for a better day than this for being outdoors. Crystal clear skies and warm sun. It was ~0°F in the morning but ~20°F by midday. We ended up tromping through waist deep snow to get to our beacon but I managed to stay completely dry and warm. I just wore the work boots that I use when riding though I did re-treat them with Nikwax leather treatment last night. The first time in almost two years. Combined that with snow bibs that I haven't used in years. Still haven't had to dig out the "winter boots" yet.

I did not ride out to the training location on the Elliot Highway as I was asked to drive the church van. But I did get at least some riding on a snow machine. Great training opportunity with some fun thrown in…

This, by the way, is the famous "Trans-Alaska Pipeline" in case you hadn't figure that out. That runs from Deadhorse on the North Slope to the port in Valdez.