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.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Waiting for my Flight out of PDX

Heading to the Portland airport now after visiting parents and family on the HUT shuttle (with wireless Internet). I had considered renting a bike for the week but bike rental rates are astronomical and the selection is slim. Bobskoot mentioned in a comment that I should just consider picking up a second bike and just leaving it in Oregon but I don't come down here that often. Maybe it just seems like that over the past year since I think that this is the third time I've been in Oregon. Much more often than normal.

This is a shot of Sundial Bridge in Redding, CA. We stopped here for dinner on the drive north. The bridge decking is tempered glass panels but they are no longer transparent as some of the pictures of the bridge show. The visit was generally enjoyable though the challenges my mom, my sister, her husband and their family have to deal with on a daily basis caring for my dad are very real and difficult. I was thinking on the rods trip north that my dad is only thirty five years older than I. The thought that this could be myself later in life was very disturbing. Seeing all the my cousins again was great. Meeting them at the farm was interesting since it stirred up many memories as Most of the time I've spent with them has been when I was pretty young and we were all just getting started in life. Kind of odd to see them all talking about retirement. I kind of feel that I've missed out on a lot of things while living in Alaska for the last twenty eight years. Starting to feel a little selfish...

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Goodbye to the Farm

No motorbike content in the post...

Today was the "Good-bye to the Farm" party put on by my aunt and her family. The Farmhouse was built in 1926 and the property has been sold to the gravel pit surrounding the small farm on three sides. I have a lot of pleasant memories associated with visits here while growing up. In fact, the very first memory I have is arriving here early in the morning after travelling all night in the car. While growing up, we visited here many times and visited many of the tourist sites in the area ranging from the capitol building to the placer gold mining areas to the east. I remember playing basketball in on the gravel driveway (I wasn't very good) and a lot of exploring in the buildings and the grape fields behind the house.

This is a small barn on the property and there were several tractors stored here. Many hours were spent playing on the equipment trying to figure out what the equipment was supposed to do.

There was also a Japanese style bath (o-furo) in a small building behind the house. The bathhouse no longer exists but the steel tub and the fire pit are still there. I remember having to use it when I was a little kid and getting the feeling that we were being cooked in a steel pot just like the cartoons. I'm told that the bath house was one of the first buildings put up by my grandparents. One of my cousins mentioned that going to bed still covered by dirt and sweat was never done.

This eucalyptus tree used to have a tire swing, and I remember just sitting there watching traffic out on the main road passing the farm. The road seems a lot closer now than it did back then. I guess my memory remembers things looking through a wide angle lens. The farmhouse rooms feel smaller but very familiar. Kind of sad to realize that this is the last time I will be visiting this farmhouse with all of the pleasant memories. It was also great to see all of my relatives again even those I just saw at the reunion in July.

I have been leaving the Google Latitude public badge set to detailed just to see what is displayed on the website. The phone app is set to update every 30 minutes and I must admit, the app seems to work pretty well. Obviously as long as there is some sort of cellular data connectivity. As far as tracking, this seems to work as well as a SPOT type of device as long as you stick to areas with cellular coverage. We have been trying out the SPOT devices on the north coast of Alaska and coverage is at best spotty. Of course, there is no cellular coverage either and Sat phones barely work that far north.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Red Eye to Oregon

Sitting in the Seattle airport at 5:00 am is not my idea of a fun time. At least I got a free upgrade for the flight between Anchorage and Seattle. Unfortunately, the flight wasn't long enough to get much sleep. The flight from Fairbanks to Anchorage was on AS 52, and was a combi (half freight half passengers). I sat next to a couple on vacation returning from a couple of days in Barrow. They were telling me all about the tours they took and had a lot of questions about the aurora. Fortunately, I still remember some of the physics of the aurora from my grad student days at the university. I'm on my way to Oregon to spend some family time. The farm where my dad grew up has been sold in California and I'm meeting up with other family members for a time of sharing memorable experiences on the farm. I modified the Google Latitude settings to show more accuracy and downloaded an app called Longitude on my phone that will do updates automatically based on a schedule. When we actually head down the road, I was going to increase the update frequency and see how well it works. Right now it shows me sitting in the middle of SeaTac. When I tried it at the University, it had me sitting at a cell tower. I guess the gps couldn't get a good location. On the drive down to California, the problem will be AT&T data availability.

I've managed to got in some riding since I've been back from Barrow and have been trying to focus more on my cornering. I noticed that this summer, I've been reluctant to lean very far. I guess I don't trust the link between the tires and the road. This has been especially true with the wet roads we've had lately. I picked up Proficient Motorcycling by David Hough at the rally and started going through it while in Barrow. Lots of material there and not enough of a riding season to practice.

Interesting, I'm at PDX and Google Latitude has me across the river in Vancouver, WA. Maybe that's the nearest cell tower. Probably no gps signal inside the airport.

Amazing! There is wireless network access on the HUT Shuttle to Corvallis. I didn't expect that at all. Unfortunately, that means that I'll not get much sleep on the 100 mile trip.