Thursday, July 28, 2011

Colonial Williamsburg

I had been to Williamsburg, VA, once before but it was for a work related meeting (the topic was Barrow if you can believe that!) so I didn't really have much opportunity to wander around playing tourist. We left the Bloomsburg, PA, area on Saturday morning and except for the beltway around Washington D.C., it was a pleasant trip. It was still miserably warm and the thermometer in the car hit 115°F at one point. We stayed with my brother in-law and his wife in a beautiful condo in Williamsburg and had a wonderful visit.

The last time I was here, the only buildings I saw around the colonial village were the Williamsburg Inn and, apparently, just about all of the taverns. On this trip, we went through quite a few of the restored buildings and their concept of having the staff act in character was pretty entertaining. One of the favorite questions was where you are from. If we said "Alaska", then we were accused of making up gibberish. If we said "Russia" then we were pitied. Every time we stepped into a tavern to cool off, I would look around and invariably, it would be familiar. This building is referred to as the Palace.

The Palace

The last time I was here, the armory wasn't open. It is the weird looking round building with the pointed roof. Inside was gun powder and weapon storage for the militia. People locked themselves into the building and lowered arms and supplies through openings in the floor to supply the troops.

Inside the Armory
I always thought the choice of muskets over rifles during the revolutionary war was always interesting. Muskets are smooth bore and thus, less accurate. In the barrel of a rifle, the groves or rifling and the tighter fit would not only increase the velocity but also spin the projectile making it more stable in flight but the rifling would clog from the black powder residue and need more frequent cleaning. The person in the armory said that a musket could be fired about four times per minute versus once for a rifle.

This is the apothecary or drugstore for the period. There was also a display of medical instruments in the rear of the shop. This building, like all of the others in the area, have been meticulously restored preserving much of the original materials. Even many of the floor boards are original. All of the public buildings are staffed with wonderful characters who talk to you as if it is still the 18th century.

After spending too few days in Williamsburg, we headed north towards Washington D.C. for our flight home Tuesday morning. On the way, we stopped for a short visit in Urbanna, VA, to visit another brother in-law and his wife. While there, we did a little geocaching before dinner and this is a view from the small boat harbor near one of the caches. I had difficulty getting a good picture out of Autostitch before I realized that the boat was moving between pictures. Even here on the water, the temperature was still pretty unbearable.

Since Urbanna is the home of the Virginia Oyster Fair, I thought it would be a good idea to try some. We went to an oyster bar and I ordered a dozen on the half shell. Unfortunately, the chef insisted on broiling them and completely ruined them. He did this twice. How does that saying go, only eat oysters in months with an "r" in them. I thought that is only because of the warm weather. Maybe they weren't very good....

Tuesday was spent either in the air or waiting in airports. Total time door to door was 17 hours.

Friday, July 22, 2011

BMWMOA Rally Day #2

As was forecast, it was miserably hot here again. I heard that people were being hauled away to the hospital with heat exhaustion. We arrived this morning a bit before 9:00 and wandered among the outdoor vendor booths while it was still only hot. We then headed inside for a bit to cool off before trudging across most of the fairgrounds for the room under the grandstand. We heard that it may be standing room only for Jack Riepe's talk entitled "How To Breath Life Into Any Ride Report Or Motorcycle Story". Parked outside the venue was his K75, Fireballs, and parked a discrete distance away, a silver Vespa. (BTW, there were quite a few scooters at the rally)

It was an excellent talk covering what not to put in your blog post and how you need to try and capture and hold the readers interest. The audience was very engaged and a writing contest was announced. After his talk, he signed copies of his book. In this snapshot, he posed with one of the Mac-Pac elite. We missed the first ten minutes of his talk and the room was packed with no AC. I spotted Steve Williams the author of Scooter in the Sticks, talking with another rider from State College, PA. Steve was busy snapping what I'm sure will be prize winning photos of the event. My iPhone pictures didn't come out very well due to the dark venue with very bright light shining through any opening. I also met GeorgeF, the author of He had passed Jack on the highway yesterday on the way to the rally (Jack was reportedly riding in a truck with Fireballs in tow). GeorgeF is still riding his Kawasaki Concours. I was thinking that maybe his Ténéré had come in but, sadly, not yet. The four of us had lunch at a food joint where Jack got the wife of the owner to admit that the ingredients used were just so-so. Watching Jack engage her in conversation was almost magical. A true artist at work. It was a real joy to meet these other bloggers and get to know them a little better.

After lunch, I went to a couple of Airhead specific sessions. The first was led by Matt Parkhouse and Joe "Cuda". Both very knowledgeable on Airhead electrical systems. Lots of great information from both and I did get one specific question answered. I do need to put in the adjustable voltage regulator and crank up the voltage. The battery life would be shortened if it isn't raised. The other seminar was a Q&A session with Tom Cutter from the Rubber Chicken Racing Garage. Another favorite among Airhead owners.

Tomorrow we head south to Williamsburg, VA, so I won't get to meet Nikos. Maybe it'll be cooler down there but I'm not holding my breath.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

BMWMOA Rally Day #1

We arrived at the rally site around 3 pm and it really felt hot. I take that back, it is really hot. The thermometer on the car regularly registered well into triple digits (°F). Lots of bikes, lots of people and very little air conditioning. I stopped at the Airhead tent and true to form, there were couches and recliners but only one familiar face. Joe Cuda, the airmarshall from Kansas, rode his /6 to the rally and will be sharing with Matt Parkhouse some of their accumulated knowledge on airhead electrics. The vintage bikes were in one of the air conditioned buildings so we spent a little time looking at them. This is a 1943 2WD BMW sidecar rig towing a gun of some sort and had a machine gun mounted to the sidecar. This was only one of three rigs of similar vintage and all were restored.

We went to a talk by MotoQuest out of Anchorage hoping to feel a little cooler from the videos from their trips. They also talked about trips to Patagonia and Peru. I'd love to go on both of them. The hall where this talk was unair-conditioned and even the plastic chairs felt hot. Looked around a bit for a Vespa but didn't see any. Our hotel is around 50 minutes south of Bloomsburg so not very convenient. Jack's talk is at 9:30 tomorrow morning. Hopefully it won't be too hot by then.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Hot in Hershey

It is hot and humid here, but then again, I hear it's hot everywhere (except Alaska). This morning, we went to Hershey Gardens to try and see them before it got too warm. The gardens were pretty nice but after walking around for just a short time, I was drenched. Did I mention that it's really hot & humid. This shot is from the garden with some sort of theme park and original factory in the distance. At least I don't think that it is still the factory where they make the chocolate bars.

There were a number of these statues scattered around the gardens. The light was very flat due to the haze and the pictures don't do justice to the actual colors. I didn't bring my laptop on this trip so no post processing. I guess I could do some on the phone.

After leaving the gardens, we went to Chocolate World. It's best feature is the air conditioning. Lots of shops and a food court with a couple of attractions. Mostly, it's a way to sell stuff to you. We head for the BMWMOA rally in Bloomsburg in a couple of days tomorrow. (Lost track of the time)

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Back in Oregon

It seems that just a short time ago I was in Oregon and on Thursday night, we were again on the red-eye to Portland, OR. 
After landing, we headed south to Corvallis to visit family and some in our small party really wanted to head to OSU. This statue is a character from books I remember reading a long time ago but I don't remember the title or the characters named. It is in a park between downtown Corvallis and the campus. Oregon State was having da Vinci Days and there were a couple of jazz concerts that some wanted to attend. I wandered around all of the tents and took a look at the food offerings but nothing really struck me as really unique. I did get some stuff from the "fareless" bus system (thank you Corvallis property owners). Today, we are dropping off my wife's youngest at a jazz camp at the University of Oregon in Eugene.

While they were enjoying the da Vinci Day festivities (which included rain), I headed up the short ten miles to Albany to meet with Irondad. We enjoyed lunch (thank you Dan!) and had a great visit. We discussed many topics not limited to riding. He had to leave for a reception and he graciously allowed me to take a picture (iPhone HDR) while he was getting ready to leave.

I spent most of the rest of the day being entertained by my niece telling me stories between walks around the area. So far it has been a wonderful vacation. Today we head back to Portland to fly east (actually south first due to weird airline routing.)

Monday, July 11, 2011

ESCC/Internet² Joint Techs

(Some moto content near the end of the post.) I've been pretty busy getting ready for this meeting as it is being held here in Fairbanks this week. The crew from I² and ESCC have been here since Friday and we have been working with them getting the Davis Concert Hall, the Great Hall, Wood Center, the Pub and other locations ready for the meeting. Networking was challenged to get our wireless network set up dual stack (IPv4 and IPv6) and needing to support the geeky audience who probably have two or three Internet devices apiece (laptop, smart phone & tablet). Folks started to arrive last week doing the tourist thing. Some ventured up the Dalton Highway to the Arctic Circle and others went down to to Denali National Park. Four of the participants rode their motorcycles up from Michigan and Indiana taking nine days. No issues and beautiful weather.

There were tutorials on topics such as setting up co-lo sites and MPLS over the weekend and the main part of the meeting started today. There were some issues but I think we were able to address them. The one thing that still has people worried is the weather tomorrow evening. We have an outdoor reception scheduled in a large tent near the museum and they are predicting showers. As the host, I have been working on this event for several years plus the four years trying to talk them into the idea. But I will be glad when it is over. It is great to see colleagues again but I am starting to feel exhausted.

Wednesday Morning - The reception on the lawn of the museum went off without much more than a light sprinkle. Many wonderful comments from the participants and the only really negative comments were about the use of student housing. No air conditioning or fans and many of the rooms didn't have any blinds on the windows. (Too much sunlight) And the staff seemed a bit flaky.

The four riders are leaving today for Haines to catch the Alaska State Ferry to Prince Rupert before continuing on to the east coast. They showed some slides of their trip near the end of the meeting but they haven't posted them yet. 250 to 500 miles per day and right around 4100 miles so far. Bikes on their trip, Kawasaki KLR 650, Suzuki V-Strom 1000, Harley (don't know which model) and BMW R1200GS. They sort of alternated between motels and campgrounds on the way up.

Next summer, the meeting is at Stanford. Sounds like a good reason to ride down...

Friday, July 8, 2011

Tires and Snowflakes

Yesterday evening, after getting an email from Shawn at Adventure Cycleworks notifying me that my tires were in, I pulled off the wheels from the bike to take them over. While I was at it, I took a good look at the drive splines, brake pads and the bearings and all looked pretty good. You may notice that the brake calipers are all hanging by wires from the forks and frame as they need to be removed to get the wheels off. And, yes, there is a ratchet strap between the front axle and the center stand to keep it from folding.

While I was waiting at the shop, I was talking to an R12GS owner who was getting his TKCs removed and street tires put back on. He was describing some of his favorite features of the bike and, while sounding very convenient, all of the electronics and motors to accomplish these things seemed to add a lot of complexity. It was obvious that he loved the bike and I must admit that I think that they look great and are probably very capable. Dan Armstrong, one of the co-owners of the shop, kept telling me that I needed to get a new bike as the 18" rear tires and tubes were getting increasingly rare in this country. He was also was having a heck of a time getting the tires to seat on the rim and kept mumbling something about no more airheads. After messing with the front for easily an hour and a half, he decided to wait until his son came in this morning to take care of it. After all, he was the one who sold me the tires. The Heidenau K60 tires are tubeless and have a very stiff sidewall. The BMW snowflake cast rims are designed for tube type tires and need to be very clean with no trace of rubber and need a lot of tire lube for the tires to seat. I suspect that more air pressure would have helped the tire to seat but Dan was very careful not to exceed the maximum pressure (only 35 psi) for the tire. So, I had to drive the truck in today (and it was a nice day too!)

Friday Evening - Shawn from managed to get the tires mounted. I picked them up, got the bike back together and took it for a short ride. Handling is definitely different. These tires feel soft and turns feel slower, i.e. push the right hand grip, you feel the bike lean to the right followed a moment later with the bike starting to turn. The original tires were inch sizes with an aspect ratio of 100 where the new ones are 80 in the rear and 90 in the front. I suspect that also has an effect on handling. The rear tire is also about ½" smaller in diameter. I'll post a more in depth review once I get some miles on them.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Spur of the Moment Trip

I was thinking about going down to Valdez on the bike and camping out but the weather guessers were predicting rain over most of the state for the long weekend. I know that I shouldn't be bothered by a bit of rain but for some reason it didn't sound like too much fun.

The rest of my family was heading down to Oregon for a family reunion (my mom's side). I went online to see if I could get a mileage ticket down and was pleasantly surprised that I could. So for only 32,500 miles and $10 I had an aisle exit row seat down to Seattle and after a long layover, was on my way to Portland. The weather has been great and the flight took us right next to Mt. St. Helens. I was surprised that there wasn't more snow.

Today was spent hanging around a semi-deserted mall about ten miles south of the airport. My sister and brother in-law are picking us up from the mall and taking us to the reunion site about ten miles down the Columbia River gorge. The family has been having their reunions here for years since it is a wonderful, tranquil location.

This is the view from the swimming pool at the reunion site. Vista House at Crown Point is on the far right of this AutoStitch pano shot. I'm not sure of the numbers yet but it looks like a pretty good turnout for the reunion. All pictures are from the Camera+ iPhone app.

Sunday evening - This is the view to the west towards Portland. Tomorrow evening, we should be able to see some fireworks being fired off over the river. Today was very busy with lots of activities. Even though we have these reunions every couple of years, it is a real pleasure to see all the relatives again.