Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year!

I've been pretty unproductive during this holiday break. Absolutely no moto activity except a short visit to the local shop to sit on a couple of bikes. Porters Beemershop in CA still have my R100RT heads and haven't received any updates besides they have been received and are being assessed. Their initial three week estimate now seems extremely optimistic. I guess I could get started on some of the other maintenance/repair items on the bike but I kind of want to get one task done before I start taking something else apart. Maybe I'll pull off the forks tomorrow.

The last couple of weeks have been pretty cold with the low around forty below. Today felt really warm by comparison at 10°F so I went for a nice walk around the neighborhood. Yesterday I went x-country skiing for the first time this year on the west ridge ski trails at the university. I'm way out of practice...

Not much else going on. Thank you to all that visit, especially those who take the time to comment. It's now just past midnight on the east coast so Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Winter Solstice

I tried catching the total lunar eclipse last night but it was cloudy so I couldn't get a good photo. This is supposed to be the beginning of winter but for many folks up here in Alaska, today is viewed as the beginning of the end of winter. Up until now, we were losing daylight but after today, we will start slowly picking up daylight. Today, sunrise was at 10:59 and sunset will be around 2:40. By March, we'll be back to over 12 hours of actual sun above the horizon which means about 16 hours of daylight. This time of year the only warmth you feel from the sun is strictly psychological as the sun is so low on the horizon.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

AGU 5K Fun Run

Bright and early this morning, I headed for the Muni station a block and a half from the hotel (without a camera) for the short ride to start of the AGU 5K Fun Run near Pier 40. I was told that there were roughly 300 entrants and many really ran but some were like me. I ran a bit but mostly walked and finished in a very predictable 40 minutes. A bit faster than I've done the Beat Beethoven 5K in Fairbanks probably because it was completely flat and no ice on the route but still slower than I was hoping for. The course simply headed north along the Embarcadero, turn around at the half way point and return. Now, I'm hobbling around as I'm not at all used to running since injuring my knee last winter. Need to get into shape...

No whining about the weather here though I hear that it is -37°F this morning in Fairbanks. That is probably worth whining about. Not really looking forward to going back to that.

There is a shopping mall between the hotel and Moscone Center. Pretty impressive dome and what I'm assuming is Christmas lights in their fifth floor dome. Not too many interesting stores as most were fancy clothes and jewelry. I did stop at Eddie Bauer and Brookstone but none of rest had much to offer. The food court had a Vietnamese place with some excellent selections. I didn't even think of taking a photo of the dish. At least it was something different from diner fare.

There is a product expo associated with the AGU meeting but the displays are very different from the ones at the IT conferences I usually attend. Not a router or switch in sight. This is a remotely operated vehicle or ROV. It is tethered to a ship and controlled remotely. Power is fed down the tether and hd video is sent back to the operators. Interesting stuff. Lots of field instrumentation and book vendors. Plus organizations such as NASA, NOAA and NSF have booths. There was even a mockup of the new and improved Alvin deep sea submersible crew compartment so you can experience the claustrophobia firsthand.

Note the use of Apple iPads in this model. I think that there were 6 inside the mockup all running slideshows and movies. The new personnel sphere is 6 feet in diameter with 3 inches thick walls and made of titanium. It can withstand 650 atmospheres of pressure and there are five viewports. There were having a drawing for one of the old viewports from the old steel personnel sphere and even though it would have been a really cool treasure, I didn't enter. They do point out that even though the new sphere is much larger, you still can't stand up, you can't stretch out and there isn't a bathroom on board. Dedicated scientists only...

Monday, December 13, 2010

AGU Fall Meeting

Absolutely no moto content in this post. This week, I'm in San Francisco for the AGU (American Geophysical Union) Fall meeting at Moscone Center. This enclosed merry-go-round is at the Yerba Buena Gardens and to me it seems somewhat out of place. These first two pictures are taken from the same place. In other words, while riding on the horse of your choice, you can keep an eye on Moscone Center.

I think that there are something like 16,000 people at this conference. This is very unlike all of the other meetings and conferences I usually attend as there is almost no IT component. The focus is on reporting on science. Today, I must have walked about ten miles today just going up and down all of the rows just in the poster sessions and around the downtown area.

The Christmas decorations were out. This is Union Square taken from Powell Street towards the Macy superstore. Last night, there was some sort of concert going on as the place was packed. Not that it's ever really empty. Downtown San Francisco always seems really crowded and there seems to always be something going on. One thing about San Francisco is there is no shortage of are good places to eat. It is always a challenge to pick a place. Yesterday, I met the logistics manager from Barrow for dinner and we found a very good steak place. Today, I went to a 60's style diner with fairly typical diner fare.

Modest food but balanced by fairly modest prices, always a real issue anywhere in downtown San Francisco. I made a quick stop at the Apple's flagship store on Stockton Street to ask them about an issue with my laptop. A couple of weeks ago, I tried to get it to boot from the install DVD and it just sat there for hours. Of course, at the Genius Bar in the Apple Store, it booted up just fine. Oh well...

For the exercise (and the t-shirt), I signed up for the AGU 5K fun run on Wednesday morning. The real challenge is going to be getting to the start line by 7:15 AM. And I'm sure that it will be miserably cold.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Upgrades, Repairs and Maintenance

I finally got the heads sent out to Porters Beemershop in Castro Valley, CA. There wasn't much difference between UPS 2nd day and UPS ground much to my surprise, so they should be there sometime today. I have yet to get an estimate of the time for the repair but last Spring, I did get a good idea of the cost. Quite a bit of thought this last Summer went into trying to figure out if the repairs were worth it. After all, the bike is 27 years old and has over 60K miles on it. I think that I'll probably have this old bike for quite a while and one of these days, I would like to put a side car on it.

Upgrades or repairs
  • Replace the valves seats and valves for use with unleaded fuel
  • Replace the stock 280 watt charging system with a 450 watt aftermarket (this also gets rid of the diode board)
  • Find more appropriate tires for use on all of the dirt/gravel roads in the area
  • Adapt the stock luggage mounts to use with the Reynolds rear rack
  • Upgrade rear lighting as the single tail/brake light is pretty anemic
  • Supplemental front lighting
  • Rebuild and balance the carburetors or at least take a look inside the bowls
Winter maintenance
  • Replace brake fluid, engine oil/filter, transmission oil, driveshaft oil, final drive oil
  • Replace oil in the front forks
  • Replace front fork boots
  • Grease final drive splines
  • Check out all of the brake pads
An update from the Beemershop. About 3 weeks before shipping them back.

    Tuesday, November 30, 2010

    Working on Airheads

    On Saturday evening, I went to visit out local Air Marshall, the organizer of our BMW Airheads chapter. He had some maintenance to do on his bike and I was more than willing to help especially since it is the same year and model as my bike. It's even the same color though less than half the mileage. Pulled both wheels to check the wheel bearings and to take a look at the rear splines. The splines are another common wear point on these old machines as they usually don't get greased often enough and if they do, it is usually with the wrong type of grease. His looked like they were in great shape. The tires had quite a few miles on them and included a round trip to the BMWMOA rally in Redmond last summer. The pavement material used on the Alaska Highway is very rough and I hear it is pretty hard on tires. New tires on order. On Sunday afternoon, another small group of Airheads met to adjust the headset bearings on an R100GS-PD. I think the main reason for getting together is to just talk and have a beverage. George Rahn, the local Airhead guru, also showed up later to take a look at the adjustment. He talked about some of the differences between the newer GS and the older models that most of us owned and brought a special BMW tool for doing the same task in a more "production" manner using a torque wrench instead of just by feel. Unfortunately, the took was for another model. I also learned that there was an old factory bulletin out regarding transmission oil changes for the R100 models. They changed not only the type of oil but also the amount. They recommend overfilling the transmission by 50cc by tipping the bike to the side. My Clymer manual makes no mention of anything like that.

    All of this activity motivated me to finally remove the heads from my R100RT. The first step is separating the carbs from the head. Since I don't intend to work on them, I'm choosing to simply leave them attached to the bike. The carbs are simply supported by their plumbing and it is a simple task to loosen the rubber sleeves. The carb is now hanging from the fuel line and the choke and throttle cables.

    The more challenging task was removing the exhaust system from the exhaust port. This involved removing the mufflers, crossover, Brown side stand and these large aluminum finned nuts threaded into the exhaust port. A special tool is needed for the large nut but fortunately, they are readily available on the aftermarket. It's recommended to remove the exhaust nuts yearly to keep them from seizing up. (aluminum on aluminum). Plenty of high temperature anti-seize simplifies this task.

    The valve covers and spark plugs are removed followed by the six head bolts. Four of these are holding on the rocker arms. The pushrods are pulled out then the head is simply pulled off of the studs. The cylinders look to be in good condition so there is no reason to continue removing parts. The cylinder will be covered by a large plastic bag to keep dust and dirt from entering the engine.

    This is the left head and the exhaust valve is on the left. If you compare the intake and exhaust valves, you can see that the edge of the intake is sitting above the valve seat. The upper edge of the exhaust valve is actually below the top of the valve seat, enough so that you can actually see a thin sliver of the valve seat. This is the side that I noticed the very thin edges of the exhaust valve last spring which indicated that I have a problem.

    For comparison, this is the right cylinder head and the exhaust valve is on the right. You can see the edges of both of the valves. This side looks fine but I will have both heads done at the same time. Now I just need to contact the shop. From the color of the deposits on the valves, it looks like the left side may be running a little leaner than the right...

    All of the parts have been bagged and labeled to simplify reassembly.

    This morning, it was -33°F. The weather is trying to make up for the unseasonably warm temperatures of last week.

    Monday, November 22, 2010

    Full Moon

    This weekend, we drove down to Anchorage for the All-State music concerts. On the way back, the full moon put on a nice display against the mountains. I was planning on taking a picture of Denali just north of Talkeetna but there were no turnouts at the same time as a good view. This picture was taken about ten miles south of Cantwell in a wide open, usually very windy area south of Denali National Park. Again, the only camera I had was my phone. I am playing with a new photo sharing app/service called Instagram and this was one of the canned effects.

    Today, we woke up to warm temperatures and rain. The weather guessers are projecting up to an inch of rain before Thanksgiving. Rain on top of very cold surfaces means very icy conditions with both school and city busses shutting down by 10:00 am. Only about ten percent of the staff made it in and the university decided to shut down at noon. Schools are shut down tomorrow as well. Someone mentioned that we are so wimpy here in the interior that schools are shut down because a little bit of rain.

    Maybe I'll be able to work on the bike this weekend. I still need to pull the heads to get a good look at the exhaust valves. And the fork boots need replacing.

    Monday, November 15, 2010


    I'm in Anchorage for a couple of days for some meetings and on the flight down from Fairbanks, there was a great view of Mt. McKinley from the plane. Even though the light is fairly low angle, it is just a bit after noon. I like the shadows and the clouds. Not a great shot as all I had was my phone.

    Saturday, November 6, 2010

    ZeroG Flight

    This morning, I headed to the Space Coast Regional Airport near Titusville, FL, for a flight on the ZeroG plane. This is a modified Boeing 727 with 7 rows of seats in the back and the rest of the compartment has padded floors, walls and ceiling.

    After a short briefing, they broke us up into groups, took some group photos and led us onto the plane. The video emphasized things like no "facilities" on board, what to do if you start to feel nauseous but mostly what to expect and some things to try. The plane achieves zero G by flying up and down between 24,000 ft and 32,000 ft in a block of airspace reserved for the flight roughly 10 miles wide and 100 miles long over the Atlantic. During the top, they fly a parabolic path and you have 20-30 seconds of weightlessness. On the downhill portion, gravity returns and they have everyone lay down on the floor for the lower parabola where you experience a couple of G's. They don't have to tell you when you are weightless since you just start floating up off of the floor. For the first parabola, they do it so you experience martian gravity or about 1/3 G. During this time we tried pushups (easy one handed pushups!) then walking around. On the second parabola, they simulated lunar gravity or 1/6 G (easy one finger pushups!). The next twelve parabolas were zero G maneuvers. I don't think I've ever felt so out of control as the slightest push will send you barreling across the plane spinning wildly. By extending your arms and legs, you can slow down the spinning. I only tried to video for the first couple of parabolas. After that, I agreed with their recommendation that it is a waste of effort and to just let them handle the photography. They had a bunch of HD cameras mounted on board as well as a professional photographer. The "official" pictures and videos will be out in a week or so. We got to do the traditional things such as trying to grab candies and globs of water mid-air (I wasn't too successful). There was a BBC camera crew on board filming a different group as part of some show and our group had a Discovery Channel reporter (no camera crew). I ended up sitting out the last three parabolas due to queasiness but I would definitely recommend this trip to anyone.

    At the completion of the trip, there were some more pictures, presentation of certificates and they flipped your name tag around to indicate that you have completed at least one trip and we got to keep the flight suit. After the trip, I think I ended up sleeping for hours as it was very draining and never made it back to KSC....

    Some of the pictures got posted...

    Friday, November 5, 2010

    On My Way to Florida

    No pictures yet and I'm finally getting around to posting a bit more on the I2 Fall Member Meeting. It was a very good conference not only from all of the presentations but also the one on one discussions. After 10 years of participating, you get to know quite a few people. The working group meeting was very lightly attended but I believe we have some new direction. I need to formulate a statement and get it posted to the list to see what others think. Many presentations on topics ranging from IPv6 and security to the Intermedia festival of telematic art at Indiana University. Very interesting presentation covering many of their technical and logistical challenges.

    Right now, I'm in Alma, GA, on my way to Titusville, FL. I'll post more on why I'm headed down there in a couple of days but there is also a good chance that I might be able to see a shuttle launch as it is currently scheduled for tomorrow afternoon. I'm told that you could see and hear the launch from over 100 miles away. Earlier in the week, I got to meet fellow moto-blogger and BMW rider Lori. Her regular riding group is heading down for the launch early tomorrow morning so I may get to meet some of them as well. Getting out of Atlanta was almost as bad a going through Seattle and even after you get out, everyone wants to drive really fast and they seem to like to tailgate even when given the opportunity to pass. What's that all about. The smaller roads are much more pleasant except for the animals that like to run out into the road (both domestic and wild).

    Next post on Saturday evening....

    Friday afternoon - STS-133 (the last flight of Discovery) was scrubbed this morning and the next launch window is November 30th. I did spend the afternoon at the Kennedy Space Center visitors center. It was pretty crowded as there were crowds here for the launch. Since the launch was scrubbed, they still stuck around the visitors center. There is a pretty decent IMAX 3d movie of the ISS and lots of old rockets. But this isn't why I came down here...

    This isn't the reason either but it was parked in the hotel parking lot, it looked immaculate!

    Sunday, October 31, 2010


    Just arrived here and getting ready for a great meeting.

    I'll post more after recuperating from the long flight. I left last night after midnight and arrived in Atlanta in the late afternoon....

    Friday, October 22, 2010

    iPhone HDR Image

    As you can see, I think the riding season is really over until April or May. Actually, the roads aren't bad at all though they are impossible for me to get to without a trailer. Ice is covering the driveway and the subdivision roads. The main roads get enough traffic to eliminate the snow and ice shortly after it stops falling.

    Non-HDR Image
    HDR Image
    These picture are sort of an experiment as my phone claims to take HDR or high dynamic range pictures automatically. The camera phone will take three pictures, one at what it believes to be the correct exposure, one under exposed and one over exposed. The under exposed one is used to get more detail in the blown out areas and the over exposed one is used to add more detail to the really dark areas. Software somehow munges all this data together resulting an HDR image. The non-HDR image is the first one and the second one is the HDR image. I can see the additional detail in the shadows but I'm still trying to decide if it is any improvement. This may be a poor subject for testing but it is something for me to play around with now that the bike is parked in the back of the garage.

    Last week was spent in Barrow resolving some issues after a power outage messed up part of the network. The firmware on one of the switches got corrupted. Plus I was trying to cleanly integrate video conferencing into my conference room setup. The weather there wasn't really great and my flight out was cancelled due to freezing rain. I don't really care for transitional weather. Just let it get cold...

    Monday, October 11, 2010

    Termination Dust

    Part of this weekend was spent at Twin Bears camp along Chena Hot Springs Road at a men's retreat. Friday was cold and wet and you could see a slight sheen on the roads from the ice. These pictures were taken on Saturday afternoon and it was beautiful and it would've been a great day for a ride with temperatures venturing a above freezing. Quite a few guys brought their four wheelers to ride on the trails but I settled for walking around the lake taking pictures and just relaxing.
    Twin Bears camp
    I'm headed back to Barrow this week and it just seemed to be a good time to just relax. As you can see from the frozen lake, the temperatures have been well below freezing for a while and if we get a good snow fall, it may actually stay for a while.

    Sunday brought a bunch of "termination dust" (as they call the first snow that will probably stick around) or at least enough to make the roads really slippery Monday morning. Several vehicles in the ditch just on my short commute. I guess it may be time to park the bike and get started on some of the repairs. Looking at the valves through the exhaust ports last spring showed the edges starting to thin. This usually points to the exhaust valve receding into the head. Valves and valve seats need to be replaced, not a job I have the tools to do. I did find a shop to do the work in California so I just need to pull the heads, package them up and send them down. I've heard a lot of positive comments about the shop on the mailing list. There were also a lot of warnings about having the job done at a dealer since most of them don't have any staff familiar with these old engines. The valve recession issue is fairly common with early 80s BMW airheads due to the elimination of leaded gasoline. Newer years had different metallurgy in the valve seats and smaller diameter valves which apparently eliminated the problem. Or at least that's what I've read on the Internet...

    Wednesday, October 6, 2010

    Not a Good Day for Riding

    Maybe it wasn't the best idea to ride in this morning. After all, the weather service was wrong before. It started snowing about 10:30 just a bit after I got back from checking all of the geocaches. By 3:30, most of the snow had melted so I took off for home. There was still some snow between the lanes but the roads weren't too slippery. I ended up taking it pretty easy as did most of the other drivers.

    Monday, October 4, 2010

    Unseasonably Warm

    I had some errands to run and along the way, I stopped at the large animal research station (LARS) to see if any animals were near the road. There were a number of muskox eating and one more laying around by itself. I was tricked into not riding the for a couple of days this week by the weather service. Snow was forecast and around here, the roads are usually a real mess with the first snowfall.
    I also stopped by the Alyeska Pipeline visitors center again and, as you can see, Fall is over. There are no more bright colors on the trees and everything has turned a drab grey color. I guess that's getting us mentally prepared for the nice, bright snow as it'll be a vast improvement to the drab grey. It was a good day for a ride with temperatures in the 50s (°F) though it was a little overcast. It is now two weeks after the "last ride of the season" though they didn't have any other rides advertised. There was an Airheads "Tech Day" scheduled for Sunday afternoon but it was cancelled at the last minute due to a parts problem. It has been rescheduled for next Sunday.

    I'm a little surprised at the number of other riders who have mentioned that they have put away their bikes for the season. Many had even cancelled their insurance for the year. But I did see a number of other riders out yesterday enjoying the unseasonably warm weather including a Royal Enfield hack. There was a comment asking about visibility up here. It isn't 200 mile visibility but definitely over 100 miles even with the high clouds. I believe this is Mt. Hess (11,940 feet) and Mt. Deborah (12,339 feet). The next really clear day, I'll take a better picture.

    Tuesday Morning - Okay, everything isn't drab grey. Right outside my office, there is this bright yellow evergreen. I don't know what species it is but it does look nice and it is bright. This mornings ride in was wonderful as it was a balmy 25°F and no snow or ice. I did notice a lot of frosted windshields in the parking lots. It's supposed to warm up to about 46°F this afternoon but they are predicting snow for the next week or so. This may be the last ride for a while. One of those things that I'm not used to is riding in the dark. Today was the first time this year when it was still dark at 8:00 in the morning. Today is turning ut to be one of those clear, sunny days that make you wonder why you have to spend so much time in an office. Fortunately, there are a lot of opportunities to get out into the woods as there is a nice trail system about a hundred yards or so from my building. We are sponsoring a series of "Tech Days" and one of the activities that I volunteered to help with is geocaching. We hid three geocaches around campus and I need to check on them periodically over the rest of the week. Not bad, wandering through the woods is part of my job description at least for a couple of days.

    Monday, September 27, 2010

    No Snow Yet

    Having missed riding all last week, I figured that I need to get in a little more before winter really sets in. It was a bit chilly this morning but only my neck felt cold. Otherwise, it is a clear, sunny morning with 200+ miles of visibility. From the forecast, it looks good for the next couple of days. I had to run a couple of errands before noon today and it had warmed up into the mid-20s so I took a scenic route back to the university. I don't think the tires ever really warmed up so I took it pretty easy in the corners. Maybe, I'll try out the grip warmers on the way home. Until I get the charging system upgraded, I've been reluctant to use them as the battery voltage drops unless the rpms are kept above 3k. These old bikes only have a 280 watt charging system and I think it only puts that out around 4k. There are a couple of aftermarket systems that put out around 450 watts.

    Monday evening - Tried out the grip heaters and they get really warm. Gotta admit, feels nice. The volt meter drops down to under 12 volts while they are on and rpms under about 3500. I suspect they won't get much use for now. The temperature warmed up to around freezing by 5:00 so I took the scenic route through the Goldstream Valley on the way home. A wonderful ride.

    Saturday, September 25, 2010

    Storm Surge

    Last night the wind was really howling from a storm a couple of hundred miles to the north. The waves may not look like much but normally, there are none. They were talking about 5' to 15' waves and a storm surge of a couple of feet. The coast road (the only road connecting NARL to the village of Barrow) is being pounded pretty hard. This evening, while driving into town, there were many areas where the road was wet from the wind and waves and there is a lot of earth moving equipment building up mounds of gravel and rock to try and protect the road. Hopefully, I'll be able to get out tomorrow morning.

    I didn't make it out to the BEO control shed like I was planning as it was just too windy and cold this morning. The snow is no longer just falling and melting but it is sticking and starting to drift. According to the weather service, the winds are gusting up to 40 knots. Last night, it sounded like the classic storm with the wind howling and snow and ice being blown against the windows.

    Thursday, September 23, 2010


    This morning, I headed out to the BEO (Barrow Environmental Observatory) located south of the BARC (Barrow Arctic Science Center) to check out a wireless network problem. In all the years I've been coming to Barrow, I have never made it out to the BEO control shed, located 1.12 miles from the nearest road. In the past, this link was the responsibility of the BASC (Barrow Arctic Science Consortium) to maintain but since the re-organization of IT responsibilities, it sort of landed on me since the link directly supports research. I've been to the BEO turnout before and seen the boardwalk and just kind of assumed that the walkway went all the way out to the control shed.

    Someone at BASC mentioned that I might want to borrow a pair of rubber boots since it was a little wet. That was an understatement. Most of the walkway was on these plastic pallets that were very difficult to walk on and in many places the pallets disappeared under the ice. I ended up breaking through the top layer of ice at each of these puddles and some were almost a foot deep. Even though it looks drier to the side, you aren't allowed off of the path since that would disturb the vegetation and maybe screw up someones experiment.
    The control shed is a heated structure about 8x16 feet containing a pile of equipment. Stuff gets hauled out here and once it is no longer needed, some of it ends up staying out there. There are older generations of radios providing network access to the equipment. The network is used to provide real-time access to the data being collected. It turns out that the radio out here was working just fine, in fact I could see the radio on the roof of the BARC through the network. Loopback tests gave me zero packet loss at 18 Mbps. Can't complain about that being literally in the middle of nowhere.

    I couldn't resist stopping on the way back to get a shot of the ice and fresh snow. Since the radio was working, I traced out the cables in the BARC and found a disconnected network cable. I don't know who/when/why it was disconnected but the cables and the switch ports are now well labeled. Hopefully, people will read the labels. This was kind of a fun problem since I have never known anything about this particular connection except people complaining about it. That's the reason there are so many different connection methods. There was a WipLL client in the shed so I had good, solid connectivity to the Internet. But most of the experiments were connected to the other radio system.

    I went to Osakas for some sushi and tried something that I've never had before. A tempura California roll. Basically a deep fried California roll. Kind of interesting. California rolls are not even close to one of my favorite kinds of sushi but the price was more modest due to the simple, inexpensive ingredients. Not very good but it looked great. I think I will stick with the more traditional kinds of sushi or sashimi. On the way out, the sushi chef asked me if I like salmon skin rolls since he was planning to have some available tomorrow. I think I know where I'll be having dinner tomorrow....

    It's Here

    It was going to happen sooner or later
    At least in Barrow. This is what I woke up to this morning. Today, I need to walk out to the control shed on the BEO (Barrow Environmental Observatory) as the wireless connection seems to be dead. Earlier in the week it was really windy, now there is snow.

    Spotted something new on the beach

    Sunday, September 19, 2010

    "Last Ride of the Season"

    Today was the first "Last Ride of the Season" by a loosely organized group of BMW riders. By loosely organized, I mean all that exists is a mailing list and the rides are completely unstructured. Someone is nominated to leave first and once folks get tired of standing around talking, they head out. The destination for the day was Chena Hot Springs. I had ridden out there and camped about a month ago (link) and it is a nice destination located only about 65 miles from town. This is the first time I've actually showed up to one of the rides as the last one was back in May when I was bedridden. I just got added to the mailing list after the 3rd "Last Ride of the Season" about a year ago. There are some riders in the group who ride just about year around. One person has a newer oilhead with a side car rig. Apparently, the fuel injected engine makes for much easier starting in sub-zero temperatures.

    There was quite a mixture of bikes including a number of non-BMWs. The former BMW dealer now a Royal Enfield dealer so there were a number of newer Bullets. There were quite a few other airheads like my old R100RT and Bob, our new Airmarshall, was going around trying to drum up more members for our new Airheads chapter. Unfortunately, I'm going to miss the meeting again this month as it is next Thursday. There was a bike of similar vintage to mine (dual shock R100) that had a 120/80-18 Metzeler Sahara 3 rear tire. Looking at the web site, I noticed that they actually list a 4.00-18, which is the factory recommended size. Now that I know it'll fit, I'll probably ask Shawn at Adventure Cycleworks to order a rear sometime before next Spring. Still need to figure out what to use on the front as they don't make a matching front tire in the correct size.

    I rode out to the 37 mile marker for Chena Hot Springs Road before turning around. This was about 3/4 of the way out. I am now sitting in the Fairbanks airport waiting for my flight to Barrow. The flight is delayed an hour so I probably could have ridden all the way out and still gotten back in plenty of time to make my flight. It was another great ride, the weather was beautiful, and it was so warm that I didn't even need my jacket liner.

    Thursday, September 16, 2010

    Gravel & Ice

    Headed up Skyline Drive this evening during my scenic ride home and ended up riding straight into the setting sun. The road twisted it's way up the hill up to the ridge marking the south side of Goldstream Valley. About half way up, I was surprised by a bunch of loose gravel in the middle of a curve and the front wheel slid sideways a couple of inches and the rear significantly more than that while spitting out a pile of gravel behind me. With the sun in my eyes, I just didn't see the gravel. It was no problem keeping the bike upright but I was pretty tense the rest of the way up the hill. Yesterday morning, there was ice in the middle of the lane for most of my commute in. A significant number of households in Fairbanks haul their water as opposed to being connected to city utilities or having a well. People have tanks in the back of their trucks and they seem to dump water on the road when heading up hills. It was below freezing the last couple of mornings. Fortunately, the ice is easy to see. The weather the last couple of days has been wonderful. Visibility on the morning is in excess of 200 miles and it has remained sunny and cool for the rest of the day. Most of the leaves have fallen off the trees so the bright fall colors are turning to drab grey. Winter is threatening but not here yet. This Sunday, someone on the BMW riders list proposed a "Last Ride of the Season" out to Chena Hot Springs for lunch. Last year, there were at least four rides with the same name. Hopefully, this won't be the only one this year. I think I will join in for at least part of the ride but I head back up north late Sunday afternoon...

    Saturday afternoon -This is the turnout at the Alyeska Pipeline (aka Alaska Pipeline) Visitors Center outside of Fairbanks. It was a really nice day and since I needed to fill up for tomorrows ride, I went for a long ride around the area on my way to the gas station.

    Sunday, September 12, 2010

    Up the Elliot and Steese Highways

    After getting my chores for the day out of the way, I went for a nice bike ride. I went about 30 miles up the Elliot Highway to the White Mountains before turning around heading back to Fox. From Fox, I headed north about 20 miles up the Steese Highway to the Chatanika Roadhouse, before turning around towards town. I essentially just rode around enjoying the scenery and the ride. I didn't bring my camera so this is just a phone snapshot at the Pedro Monument on the Steese Highway, my only stop for the day. There were some rough roads and the bike handled it great. Amazing what proper air pressure in the front tire will do. A couple of days ago, the bike felt "squirrelly" when the road was really uneven (frost heaves). There were some twisty downhill sections and I was trying to figure out which direction I had more problems with. At least for today, both directions were about the same assuming there was no gravel. I'm still not very comfortable when the rear tire starts to slide sideways which happened twice today but at least I managed to "keep the shinier side up" as they say and attempted to get a bit more comfortable with gravel/dirt. All in all, it was a great day for riding.

    Originally, I was thinking of going up to the Arctic Circle but due to time constraints, there wasn't enough time. About this time last year, I went up the Elliot and the Dalton Highways (aka "haul road") to the Yukon River bridge before filling up and turning around. It was a long, slow trip and I don't think it would've been any faster this year. Fully faired touring bike with skinny street tires plus gravel roads isn't the best mix. At that time, it never occurred to me that the Arctic Circle was only about 60 miles further up the road. It would have made a good picture. Maybe next year.

    There were a lot of bikes out today. We all probably felt like getting in another good ride before the end of the riding season. It was about 50°F and sunny. I think the full fairing and large windshield on my old R100RT has me really spoiled. Three hours on the bike and never even felt chilled. After getting home, I noticed that I still had the arm and back vents on my jacket open. Haven't even had to use the liner yet even on mornings in the low 30s (F).

    Saturday, September 11, 2010

    Evening Walk Around Creamers Field

    Went for a walk this evening at Creamers Field and there were quite a few migratory birds there. I believe that this is a a flock of Canadian Geese on their way south. Another sign that Fall is just around the corner. Tomorrow seems like a good day for a bike ride.

    Another shot from Creamers Field using Autostitch app with the phone camera.

    On the way home, we noticed that one of the few commercial hot air balloon vendors was just taking off. His favorite time for flying is in the evening. He takes about three people at a time for rides lasting about 1½ hours. I've gone up a couple of times and if you've never been up in a hot air balloon, you have to try it.

    Friday, September 10, 2010

    Fall Colors

    I've managed to fit in a little riding since getting back home from the trip to California and Oregon. Yesterday was pretty damp with rain in the morning but by the evening it was scattered showers. I took the scenic route home through the Goldstream Vally and Fox and managed to miss most of the showers and get in a nice fifty mile ride. It sure felt nice to be out riding again after a thousand miles in a van. Today was a wonderfully sunny day and if I hadn't just gotten back from a short vacation, I would've wanted to take the day off and just wander around. This morning was clear blue skies from horizon to horizon. Fall is here and the leaves are changing. Hopefully, it will be a while until snow arrives. Yesterday, I did a lot of running around campus on the bike. I prefer to walk but there were meetings at both ends of campus and the bike was a lot more convenient than the shuttle bus. I hadn't looked for other motorcycle parking spaces around campus but there are darn few. The ones near my building were only valid until September 1st. I guess the parking group feels that you shouldn't be riding anymore.

    Today, I took a circuitous route in (1 signal light, 1 stop sign in 21 miles for those counting) and there was a light fog in the next valley north. I thought about taking a picture about 5 minutes too late, as usual, and the fog was gone. Once I get going, I don't usually like to stop to take pictures. Especially during my commute. I took a longish walk at noon through the ski trails and tried out a new Nike+ app. Instead of using an accelerometer and transmitter on your shoe, it uses the gps built into the phone. Besides being more accurate, you get a nice map of where you went. Since it burns through the battery like you wouldn't believe, I just had it turned on for the walk from College Road back to my building on West Ridge. It seems to work pretty well showing the lowest and highest elevations as well as your slowest and fastest points. Kind of cool if the battery lasted longer. At 3:00 pm, my battery was already down to under 20% and I hadn't made a single phone call...

    I turned the Google Latitude public badge back to "City Level" and changed the phone app to only update every 12 hours. It only turns on the gps for short periods to get your location. I'm tempted to take the scenic route home again since my riding days this year seem numbered. They are predicting a long, cold winter (whatever happened to global warming?) this year so the riding season may be ending soon.

    This is a turnout in the Goldstream Valley taken this evening on my way home (scenic route again). The bike felt squirrelly on the rough parts of the road especially when there were frost heaves. Maybe the tire pressure is low.