Sunday, August 30, 2009

New Walking Goal?

In one of the Nike+ challenges I've entered, one of the other competitors just mentioned that he had finished the Oxfam Trailwalker Challenge in Australia. It is a fundraising event to raise money for poverty. Anyway, the amazing thing is that it is 100km in under 48 hours and since the event is on trails, everyone must be in a team of 4 for safety reasons (everyone walks 100km). His iPod only lasted 22 hours so the entire walk didn't get recorded (only 55 miles!). Apparently, the winning time was in under 12 hours. I don't know about you but I am really impressed! After I read this, I started thinking if I even stand a chance of finishing such a thing. After all, it is roughly equivalent to 2 ultra-marathons back to back. I think I now have a new challenge to work towards. I wonder if there are any events like this here in Alaska?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Leaves Are Changing

Another sure sign of the end of the summer are the leaves beginning to change. To me, it all seems a bit early or, maybe, I have a bad memory. It was 38°F this morning on the ride in. You could see water vapor rising off of the wet areas on the road. Now that school has started, there is a lot of traffic in the morning. Many unpredictable drivers wildly weaving through traffic and for what reason, get to school early? I don't get it...

Last night, I finally got around to working on the BMW R100RT. I pulled the gas tank and carefully inspected the coils (one for each cylinder) looking for cracks but didn't find any. The plug wires were pretty grimy and touching the frame in several locations. This weekend, I will attempt to clean them up and maybe try and get some of the other greasy dirt in that area. Maybe I'll try and re-route the plug wires. Unfortunately, the only time the engine really runs rough is during a really heavy rain so I'm kind of at a loss on how to test. This winter, there is a lot of maintenance that I need to do on the bike. I may even go as far as pulling to heads to check for valve recession. After all, I'll have about 7 months to get it all back together.

I needed to walk down to UPark school this afternoon to pick up the car to run an errand and it was a great afternoon to get out and about. I'm not sure what the temperature is but I felt plenty warm. After running the errand, I dropped the car back off at the school and walked down Birch Lane to Fairbanks St, then along Geist and University back to the campus. I then took the bike path to Ballaine Lake then the Skarland Trail back up to West Ridge before heading back to my office. It was a wonderful walk and well within my allotted time and only around 10 km. Now I feel like finishing off the afternoon. I'm going to miss the mid-day walks once I start riding the bus again. I spend roughly 10½ hours at the university everyday so I can take 2½ hours off in the middle of the day to get in a nice walk. Since I had the errand in the middle today, I was only able to get in 6¼ miles instead of the usual 7½ miles. I still haven't even gotten tired of going on the same routes. There is enough options with the ski trails to keep me from going on exactly the same path every day.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

It's Looking Like the End of Summer

It must be the end of the summer since the WIN for Alaska afternoon walks are over as of last Wednesday. Today, they handed out the "prize" for attending at least 10 of the sessions this summer, a rather nice water bottle. Not that I really need any more water bottles. From where I'm sitting right now, I can spot no less than 5 and that's just in my office. More at home and rolling around in the truck. In spite of the light rain, I rode my bike in this morning in to the University and then on to a board meeting in town. When I came back to the University, all of the "Motorcycle Parking Only" spaces were filed with cars. Fortunately, it was getting towards lunch time and people were starting to head out so I was able to snag a spot. I guess people figured that no one was crazy enough to ride in the rain. I guess there is at least one crazy person riding an old BMW.

I never did get around to checking out the coil and now the gas tank is now completely full. There is a lot more rain in the forecast so I guess I may have the motorcycle parking to myself for the rest of the week. Riding in the rain doesn't really bother me very much but I tend to go around corners fairly slowly i.e. vertically, than when the road is dry. I also keep a sharper eye out for gravel and sand in the corners and puddles on the road. It's also a bit more difficult to spot the potholes when the road is wet. This morning before the board meeting, I was looking at a blog post with a lot of pictures taken during a ride in central Oregon. Sometimes I wish that there were more riding opportunities and a longer riding season around here.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Riding to Mongolia

I have been reading a blog/travellog called Tiffiny Coates Travels the World logging a motorcycle trip to Mongolia on a 1992 BMW R80GS. Fascinating reading. I don't think that I will ever be able to make a trip like that. The closest I'll ever get is reading about one. There is some similarity to the Long Way 'Round trip but this trip is being done without all of the help at the border crossings nor having any support vehicles along with spare parts. The needed spares seem to be provided by locals along the way or brought by others volunteering to ride pillion for sections of the trip. I found this blog from another blog mentioning that she has arrived in Mongolia roughly on schedule. This is on a 17 year old airhead with carburetors and no fancy electronic gizmos or gadgets.

This morning, I passed on riding the bike in partly because I am almost out of gas and partly because of the temperature and the rain. I want to pull the tank and take a good look at the coil to see if there are any cracks. Until then, I would rather not ride in the rain since the bike is real difficult to start in the rain. I guess the tank is still pretty easy to pull when full just a bit heavier so maybe it is just a lame excuse. So far, there have been only a couple of things on the bike that had to be replaced or repaired so I shouldn't really complain. After all, it is 26 years old and I'm not trying to ride to Mongolia....

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Renewable Energy Fair

Today was spent at the Renewable Energy Fair held at Chena Hot Springs Resort located about 60 miles northeast of Fairbanks. There was quite a turnout with cars parked all along the last mile or so of the road. They were showing off the low temperature geothermal power generator as well as a portable version for demonstrating up in Prudhoe. I guess the water coming up when drilling for oil has enough heat to generate a significant amount of power. The entire resort is running off of the power generated on site using low temperature hot water. The payoff for the system is expected to be 5 years.

It was a beautiful day out at the resort though it began pretty chilly. Due to all of the road construction, I'm glad that I didn't ride out there. The bus made for a fairly relaxing trip (except for a couple of really whiny women who seemed to be complaining about everything on the ride out. The speakers were pretty good with a mix of researchers from the University and engineers from commercial companies. There was a really interesting presentation about an experimental home built this summer in Anatuvik Pass. One of the goals is that the entire structure including all finish material needed to fit into a DC-6. I;m looking forward to the report next year as to how it survived the winter. I think that I will plan on attending the event next year.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Too Nice to be Inside!

Today was way too beautiful of a day to spend it cooped up inside a building. After lunch today, I took a quick walk down to the gardens partly to take a picture but also to try and avoid the nausea I occasionally get from my lunch medicine (Byetta). It seemed to really help. This panorama is the Georgeson Botanical Gardens just down the hill and to the west of the Butrovich Building on the Fairbanks campus. As you can seen they do a wonderful job with the grounds.

It was a bit chilly on the ride in this morning, I'm told that it was a below freezing. There was frost on the car windows but I didn't check the temperature. The fairing and windshield on my bike do a pretty good job. But then again, I only have a short ride in from home. I still haven't looked into the rough running from last Sunday's ride. I'm kind of waiting for the tank to empty out a bit more so I can pull it an take a look at the coil.

There is an energy fair out at Chena Hot Springs this Saturday and I was thinking about riding out for the event. They have some pretty interesting alternative energy installations on the grounds and I think this is the 4th year for this event. I haven't heard much about it but they are also running free buses out there from the University. Maybe that would be a better option especially for an renewable energy event.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Nike+ Update

Almost 2600 miles on the Nike+ site and I think I'm entered in over 20 challenges. The challenges are mostly with other walkers with a mix of short and long term challenges. For example, I'm still entered in the run around the moon (4219 miles, just over half way) and I have until January 2012 to do it. Plenty of time. Other challenges are for most miles in a week. Some are for distance goals others are for the most miles for a specific period. In addition to the challenges, I have several goals. One is an easy one, 80 miles per month, and another is a bit more challenging, 25,000 Cal per month. I've managed to meet both of those goals for the last couple of months that they have been set up. Here are the sole results from the NiKe+ activity, a picture of virtual trophies. What motivates you?

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Rough Running Bike

A small group from church went on a short ride towards Nenana. Actually, to the Monderosa, a small restaurant/bar about 5 miles outside of Nenana. It was raining when we left town and I preferred not to be part of a group in the rain. The newer bikes have much better brakes and features such as ABS than my 26 year old Beemer. After going through a couple of downpours, I noticed that the engine was running a bit rough. The "R" engines are pretty well balanced and the sound (and smoothness) have been compared to a sewing machine. It definitely didn't feel that way at the time. No apparent loss of power and the vibration went away when the clutch was pulled in so it was definitely the engine. Revving the engine didn't seem to have any effect. A couple of miles after the rain stopped, the vibration went away. About a year ago, Charlie6 had a post describing similar symptoms with his R80 airhead. He discovered hairline cracks in the coil as the source of the problem. Initially, my first thought was unbalanced tires, low tire pressure or a bad u-joint. I'm glad it wasn't anything like that.

Anyway, I arrived at the Monderosa about minute before the rest of the small group (4 other bikes, 2 of them were 2 up) without further incident. We had a great lunch. I had their jalapeño burger with a salad and it was great. Everything I've ever had there has been very tasty. They must have a very well seasoned grill. I rode back with the group and was kind of reminded why I don't like riding in a group. The bike in front of me would occasionally slow for curves much more than I normally would and I'm not a very aggressive rider. Also, I would rather not have to keep track of the bike behind me and adjust my position on the road to match. I have grown used to taking up the whole lane. I really enjoy the fellowship at the stops but prefer to ride on my own. Very little rain on the return trip. No rough running. I guess I should pull that tank and take a close look at the coil.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

It was a beautiful, clear morning and remained so into the afternoon. There was a WIN for Alaska walk this afternoon. I took the "scenic route" down to lower campus, did the walk and took the scenic route back. This was good for 7.06 miles and I still have the WIN walk after work. I am still playing around with Doubletake to stitch photos together and I am still very pleased with the results. This panorama is taken from the east side of the Butrovich building just for a change of pace. The second photo shows the Alaska Range over 100 miles to the south. I've started playing around with a demo version of Aperature so I played around with this image quite a bit to bring out the mountains. So we have decent visibility today even though the fires are still burning around the interior. I think the report is that the fires are only about 10% contained.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Cool Morning

I guess the weather guessers guessed right. It was below freezing this morning and I suspect many of those with gardens are a bit upset. On the other hand, it was a beautiful ride in. Since my bike has a full fairing, I wasn't bothered at all by the cool temperature plus I could actually feel a lot of warm air coming off of the cylinders onto my lower legs. Annoying when it's warm but just fine on days like today. I was a little concerned about ice on the road but didn't encounter any. A number of households in the Fairbanks area haul water in tanks and, frequently, some water spills out onto the road. Usually, it isn't a real problem but in the winter, some vehicles dump a lot of water and it freezes on the road instantly. You don't see it and you don't expect it.

Here is a stitched photo from the same area right next to the Butrovich building on the UAF campus. Still a little hazy to the east but you can almost see the Alaska Range again. Bright, clear and not smokey. This was stitched together using a program called Doubletake and it seemed to really do an excellent job.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Frost Advisory

This weather advisory was on the website this evening.

It was nice and cool this morning during my ride in. I was tempted to take the scenic route in but I sort of got a late start so no detours this morning. At noon, I got a nice walk in since the weather was still nice. I even thought I saw a little bit of blue sky. This evening, it felt like a storm front was coming in. During my ride home, I got blown around a bit by the gusty winds. The gusts mostly caused by openings in the trees along the road. Only a couple of weeks ago, I was complaining about the unbearable heat and now we have frost. That's "fair weather".

This morning, I talked a bit with a local farmer outside of the Arctic Health building, and he was pretty worried about the weather forecast. We usually don't get frost quite this early. He thought that he may lose some of his produce. Now that the smoke is clearing out, I think that we may see temperatures go up again. At least during the daytime.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Time for the Fair

The Tanana Valley State Fair is running through next Saturday. One of my sons wanted to go hang out at the fair so I decided to go as well. I don't think I've been to the fair for a couple of years so it seemed like a good idea. We got there just after it opened for the day so most of the food and vendor booths weren't open yet. The Red Hackle Pipe Band was playing at the bandstand so I stopped and listened to them for a while. I was trying to use the Nike+ during my walk around the fairgrounds but everytime I stopped at a booth, it paused and needed to be manually restarted. So after a whole day of wandering around, it only registered 5 miles. Roughly half of what I actually put in wandering around. I tried to resist most of the really unhealthy "fair food" such as all of the deep fried stuff and the sweets but I did cave in and get the grilled corn and a smoked turkey leg (most of it is now sitting in the refrigerator). I enjoyed talking to a lot of the vendors and picked up a lot of brochures. The blood mobile was there so I took a half hour off to donate a pint. Picked up a free t-shirt from them. Seems like a fair trade. DOT had a lot of equipment on display and I picked up a hat (baseball cap) that actually fits. I have a large head and most caps are too small. So I now have a nice walking cap. I also picked up a nice metal water bottle from the bird observatory who were selling them as a fundraiser. I've been meaning to pick one of them up for quite a while. The rain stayed away for most of the day as did the smoke. All in all, it was a good day.

I passed the 2500 mile mark on the Nike+ site so I think I'm still managing to get enough exercise. I think I still rather use the iPod Nano with the Nike+ receiver since it doesn't need restarted as often. The iPhone will pause if you just stop for 30 seconds or so. The Nano allows stops of several minutes without having to be restarted. It just affects your speed which is fine with me. I would rather not have to check it continuously. The good side of the iPhone is that I almost always have it with me.

One of my goals at the fair was to check with all of the satellite TV vendors as I really want to switch away from the GCI ultimate package that I signed up for last year. I thought the bundle would be cheaper but they are charging more than they said they would and they keep harassing me to switch out my analog phone line for their VoIP product. The problem with their VoIP is that the power in Fairbanks isn't as reliable as it could be and the battery on the VoIP route only lasts about 8 hours. After that, your phone is dead. With an analog line, power from the phoned comes from the CO (Central Office) and it is much easier to provide an adequate backup power solution there than at all of the individual end station locations. VoIP scales better in the enterprise than at the home. I think that I did find a combination of DirectTV, AC Wireless plus ACS for telephone service. My project for the month....

Thursday, August 6, 2009

And I Thought It Wasn't Going to Get Worse

These are taken from the same location next to the Butro building on the UAF campus. The smoke has really moved in and visibility is very low. Even I would admit that today isn't a good day to walk. I didn't even ride in today. We are getting a little rain so that may help get rid of the smoke.

11:00 AM - The rain doesn't seem to be very helpful in getting rid of the smoke. According the this News Miner column, the visibility on the Parks Highway between Fairbanks and Nenana was around 20 ft. In addition, Alaska Airlines announced that they were suspended flights into Fairbanks due to to the possibility of engine damage from the ash. The air quality is listed as hazardous. No walking today I guess....

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Another WIN Walk

I just got back from WIN Walk number 9. Participation in ten are required to get the big prize. A water bottle. Isn't it amazing what some of is do these days. For me that was just enough of an incentive to show up for the noon and 5 pm walks for five weeks. I sort of had a conflict today bit it was important enough to me to leave the call-in early so I could make it down to Wood Center for the start of the walk. It is still really smokey but it isn't hovering at ground level. It is thick enough so you can't see the sun and temperatures today are pretty cool especially compared to yesterday.

Wednesday Evening - I went on the evening WIN walk (number 10 - enough for the water bottle!) that started from the Patty Gym. The smoke was getting worse so we only went a couple of miles. Just down the road past the farm and back. This picture is taken from our back deck and those trees in the distance are only a couple of hundred feet away. On the drive home, I would guess that the visibility was under ¼ mile. Hopefully, things improve overnight.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Smokey Walk

This afternoon, I took another long walk. This was partly because I forgot my pre-lunch medication and walking seems to do wonders with moderating my blood sugar. It is still very smokey with visibility under a mile so I went out of my way to not exert myself. It sounds strange to hear myself say that but I really tend to push myself these days when exercising. I started out heading to lower campus and ended up on the West Ridge ski trails. I hadn't walked through the Potato Field out to Smith Lake this year so it seemed like a good idea. I also walked around the perimeter of the T-Field and noticed that there was a lot of activity that I am assuming is associated with some sort of research project. Last month, I noticed a lot of tubes with some sort of tree outside of the greenhouse located near the Butrovich Building. These look pretty similar to whatever they were working on there. Anyway, I got in a good seven miles overall which is less than I would like but given the miserable air quality, it is probably a reasonable number of miles. Usually, while walking on the trails, I see al of other people out walking or running but today, not so many. It is supposed to be raining soon especially since the fair starts this weekend. After all, it always seems to rain during the fair.

Tuesday evening - The smoke seems to have gotten even worse if that was possible. I heard that in addition to the fires to the south and west, there is now one in the Murphy Dome area to the northwest. We are getting surrounded. Maybe I need to ride out towards Chena Hot Springs to find some relief from the smoke. I heard today that some runners were heading out towards Eielson Air Force Base to escape the smoke.