Sunday, June 26, 2011

Sunday Afternoon Ride

This afternoon, two of us rode down to the village of Nenana for lunch. It was lightly raining and no other riders from church opted to go on the ride. Gene had an early '80s Goldwing that looked to be in immaculate shape. He recently picked it up from his brother and is getting the bugs worked out before riding down to Utah in a couple of weeks. No pictures as we were riding in the rain and low clouds for most of the trip. I even stopped at my favorite viewpoint but since we were well into the clouds, visibility was minimal. You couldn't see more than a few hundred yards. Instead of going to the now normal Monderosa Grill for lunch, we headed all the way into Nenana and stopped at a small cafe. No food pics as it wasn't anything special. Food wasn't bad but there were a lot of elderly tourists there as well. No matter what the staff did, it seemed that they couldn't be satisfied. Didn't like the table, didn't like the silverware, didn't like the jelly choices, didn't like the prices, didn't like much of anything. And it wasn't just one person. Through all of this, the owner and staff kept smiling. I'm afraid that if I owned the restaurant, I would've thrown them out...

The ride was pretty much uneventful and I was warm and dry in spite of the steady rain. I have a First Gear jacket and over pants and, so far, have never needed any additional rain gear. I think the full fairing and large windshield help significantly. There were a handful of other riders out on the road both locals as well as long distance travelers. Gene had a small scare about midway to Nenana. There are passing lanes on most of the uphill sections and at the end there are large painted arrows telling you to merge left. Gene hit one of the arrows in a wet corner and his front tire started to slide sideways. It was only a fraction of a second but served as a good reminder to avoid large sections of paint in the rain. I took the scenic route home for a total ride of 175 miles.

The new Odyssey battery worked well with half a dozen restarts with little travelling on the way out of town. I am thinking that the charge voltage may be too low at 13.2 volts at 4000 rpm (measured at the battery with my dmm). This is way below the 14.7 volts recommended by Odyssey. Maybe I'll pick up an adjustable regulator. Since it is a non-BMW part, the cost is pretty reasonable but shipping is almost as much as the part.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Trip to Anchorage

The top of Denali is mostly hidden in the clouds in the center of this picture. You can make out the north peak but the south peak is completely obscured by the clouds. This is taken from the turnout just south of Denali State Park. When it is out, this is about the best view of the mountain from the Parks Highway. We were on our way back from Anchorage after my son's visit to an oral surgeon (he was not happy). It was overcast on the trip south so the clear skies were definitely appreciated. This is an iPhone snapshot taken with the ProHDR app and I must admit that I like the way the sky looks when using this camera app. It takes two photos one overexposed and one under exposed and merges them together somehow.

It seems that tourism in Alaska may be down significantly. I only passed a handful of RVs on this trip. Most of the smaller class C motor homes were local (probably rentals) and most of the out of state ones were huge diesel pushers or busses. Many campgrounds seemed empty and a lot of the smaller lodging options had vacancy signs. Unfortunately, a lot of tourists were on the mega tours where you are herded like cattle from one corporate venue (businesses owned by the tour company) to another. On the plus side, there were a lot of bikes both motorized and human powered on the highway. Most were BMW GS models, Harleys and Goldwings. Very little of anything else.

While in Anchorage, we stopped at Alaska Leather to look at helmets and textile riding pants. They actually had a pretty decent selection for what looked like a pretty small building. Supposedly, they are the largest motorcycle accessory shop in Alaska and I've heard wonderful things about their customer service. Staffing was a bit slim since most of the shop had left for D2D (Dust to Dawson) the motorcycle non-rally in Dawson City, Yukon Territory, the previous day.

I also picked up an Odyssey PC925L battery at Battery Specialist of Alaska as the old battery seemed like it was getting to end of life. My airhead only has a 280 watt charging system so it takes a while to fully recharge the battery and the old one seemed like it only had enough oomph to start the bike once maybe twice. The local price for the battery was actually less than the online price not even counting whatever shipping would be for a 25 lb battery. Since the Odyssey is a sealed battery, it can sit on it's side and this is the largest one that will fit in the stock battery tray. I may have to pick up an adjustable voltage regulator as Odyssey suggests a higher charge voltage than is for a lead-acid wet battery. I think that this is true for any AGM battery but it's difficult to separate fact from myth on the Internet. According to their website, my Battery Tenders cannot be used on their batteries in spite of the fact that Deltran states it to be useable on AGM batteries. They want you to purchase theirs...

Monday, June 20, 2011

Ride to Work Day

Temperature this morning was 53°F along with a light but steady rainfall. It wasn't looking good for Ride to Work Day at least in Fairbanks, AK. On the ride in, I didn't see another bike until I arrived on campus where several heavily loaded GS's were heading out from campus housing. By the way, this is an excellent place to stay in Fairbanks if you are looking for affordable housing during the summer. It is especially popular with the inmates on their way to/from Prudhoe Bay on the north slope of Alaska. Seeing so few bikes today is in stark contrast to this past weekend when there were bikes everywhere. Today, I almost have the entire bike parking area to myself. Shawn, a network engineer and co-owner of Adventure Cycleworks, rides the BMW R12GS in the adjacent space. His bike is also there just about every day rain or shine. Last Friday, there were twelve bikes and scooters jammed into this space with another four scattered around the lot. I think I've only driven the truck into work a handful of times since May 8th. The bike is running great though it may be time for a new battery. There have been a couple of times when I was running errands in town that it barely cranked over.

So, did you ride to work today?

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Midnight Sun Run

This evening was the annual Midnight Sun Run which is held on the Saturday nearest the Summer Solstice. The festivities begin about 9:00 pm with thing like costume judging and Jazzercize warmups. The cannon, courtesy of the local Army base, fired off at 10:00 pm to start the race which wound through a bunch of neighborhood streets.

I am in no shape to run it but I walked pretty steadily and was satisfied with my pace. Over 3000 people officially participate and probably another 50% participate but don't bother to register. All along the course it was one party after another. Tomorrow, several downtown streets will be closed off for the Midnight Sun Festival with plenty of food and entertainment. There are other local activities which sort of have the same theme such as a baseball game that starts near midnight but the only one I've participated in has been this run.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Farmers Market

It turned out to be a pretty nice morning in spite of what the weather guessers thought. Every Wednesday and Saturday, we have a farmers market. This early in the growing season, there isn't much as far as produce but there is some good food available as well as an abundance of local crafts. Not as much selection as you would find in a larger town but enough to satisfy. I was able to find some nice cucumbers for a decent price. I am still trying to get into shape (apparently round is not a suitable shape) and would like to finish the Midnight Sun 10K Run with about the same time as my last, I decided to hoof it to the market. There were some errands to run later so it only ended up being about 5¼ miles. It felt really warm but was actually about 70°F. The bright sun just made it feel hot. No food shots since all I ended up getting was an roasted ear of corn and some water. By the end of the afternoon, the promised rain showers showed up.

I have been able to ride everyday for the last week or so including trips to the courthouse. I found out that I need to take my son to Anchorage for an appointment with an oral surgeon so no D2D this year. His appointment is on the first day of the event and he is definitely not looking forward to it.

I just ordered Heidenau K60 tires the Beemer. Probably a bit more aggressive than I was originally looking for but the size is close to stock. 110/80-18 for the rear and 100/90-19 for the front. The stock sizes are 4.00-18 and 3.25-19. I ordered them from a colleague who started an shop with his dad focusing on the adventure touring rider. He just added it to his normal tire order so no special shipping charges. They should be here in a couple of weeks.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

No Smoke...

Friday morning - Much of the smoke hanging around from the fires seems to finally be gone from town. This is the view from the fifth floor of the courthouse looking west towards the University (far right in the distance) using the Pro HDR iPhone app. I'm not sure I like the colors. The courthouse is on the Chena River which sort of meanders through town. There is a nice bike/walking path along the river for a couple of miles so lunch breaks were spent walking along the river.

Tuesday morning - The fires around town are still growing but so far, we have been spared the smoke. No significant bike trips beyond a lot of running around town and commuting. The trips to the courthouse have been taking me into the "core" with too many one  way streets, tour busses and pedestrians. I was thinking about heading north but the Hastings fire is one of the ones rapidly growing and is around the Chatanika River. I was told that visibility was measurable in a few tens of feet for miles along the highway due to smoke. Doesn't sound like too much fun. In the past, I usually avoided riding in town preferring to ride on the roads leaving Fairbanks. This is from the west ridge of the university looking south towards the Alaska Range which is obscured by haze or smoke. Many of the fields are finally starting to look green again after our extremely dry Spring.

This is the motorcycle parking area in front of my building. In addition to the eight bikes shown here, there were three other bikes in non-moto parking. There aren't as many scooters as there were last year. I was talking to one of the university attorneys who had been commuting for the last couple of summers on his Yamaha scooter. The model he has is fuel injected and it wouldn't start this Spring. It has now been at the shop for over a month. Not good as they are one of the few dealers selling scooters in town. I have no experience with that particular shop but others have mentioned that repairs seem to take a long time.

Today, the new master cylinder finally arrived from A&S and if you've never seen Unobtainium (this is the special material that BMW seems to make all their parts from) before, here is the front master cylinder. It feels like regular aluminum and plastic but based on the price, it has to be something more exotic. The repaired master cylinder still hasn't started leaking again so I may wait until winter before replacing it. All kidding aside, this is one of the wonderful things about old BMWs, you can still get new parts from the manufacturer.

I'm still debating whether to go on the D2D non-rally (Dust to Dawson). There is about 120 miles of gravel road in addition to about 280 miles of pavement. I was planning on replacing the tires before tackling this trip and I have not done that yet. Another option is to go through Whitehorse, YT, and bypassing the gravel on the Top of the World Highway though this would probably add a few days to the trip.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011


Today, there was smoke coming into town from all over. There are fires to the SE near Delta, SW near Healy, N near the Chatanika River and NE along Chena Hot Springs Road. I think that we're doomed as far as smoke goes. No matter which way the wind blows, we'll get smoke. According to the Alaska Interagency Coordination Center, 53 fires were burning in Alaska. This is looking south towards the Alaska Range and as you can see, visibility is horrible. You can't even see town. I took this shot while on a 10K walk before dinner.

I didn't ride in today since I needed to be at the courthouse by 7:45 and I wasn't sure where to park. The juror parking area is sort of sitting away from the building along the Chena River. You need to have a permit sitting on the dash so you don't get a ticket. Tomorrow, I'll give it a shot...