Friday, September 30, 2011

Last Commute of the Year?

The leaves have pretty much all fallen off of the trees and the mornings are getting colder. Today may be my last commuting day as it is now dark & cold when I normally leave and I'll be out of town next week. Last Sunday, we had our first "hard frost" and the puddles in the driveway were solid ice. I didn't commute for a couple of days this week due the threat of rain and sub-freezing temperatures and every day, the morning cold and clouds had vanished into a wonderful afternoon. This picture was taken on one of my walks home after riding the bus in.

The ride in this morning felt wonderful as the temperature was a balmy 30°F so I took the scenic route through Goldstream Valley. What I didn't think about was that you can't really see any scenery as it's dark (weird riding in the dark) and in some of the low areas, there was a bit of fog. I must admit that it is really nice having that huge windshield and faring on the RT. No need for heated anything which is fortunate given the anemic charging system. This is one of the few times I've ever ridden the bike without it's cases on and I think it actually looks a bit odd. The cases sort of balance out the large faring. I took the only "motorcycle parking only" spot left as they are only reserved during the summer. A Harley rider pulled into the spot next to me with her truck and commented that it was great to see someone still out riding. (She normally rides her Sportster in to work during the summer rain or shine)

For the last couple of weeks, I have been focusing again on getting in some more exercise. A handfull of BMW riders have been meeting for coffee in the morning at a local coffee house and twice this week, I had reason to be on lower campus. It was a good opportunity to go for a walk down from my office on West Ridge and meet them. One of the riders is retiring from the university today and is leaving the state tomorrow morning. He had started the email list of local BMW riders so I offered to take it over and convert it to a Google Group. That took all of 5 minutes including sending out all of the invitations. This coffee house walk is usually good for 4 to 5 miles depending on the route.

My exercise goal is to try and get back to roughly ten miles per day again. The university has a wonderful set of walking and ski trails practically across the street from my office and it's almost foolish for me not to take advantage of them. This shot is taken from the north end of the T-Field located on the ski trails. It is almost a mile around and the ski team has conveniently marked the loop with distance markers every 200m for some sort of training exercise. I frequently see moose and fox back here which is kind of cool since I'm only a short way from my office. The fenced in area is part of some research project, the triangular cone is a radar reflector (used for spatial calibration of radar images) and in the distance, you can see the Geophysical Institute with the large satellite dish on top. We have a Technology Day coming up and I volunteered to help with the geocaching. It is another good excuse to go out and walk around campus. Yesterday, I checked the caches and it was another nice 5 mile walk. Up until February, 2010, I was doing pretty good until I tried some different medication that just killed my knees. It's taken a long time to recover from those two weeks. I don't know why a medication to control blood sugar would affect the fluid in your knees but it did. I can once again easily walk 10-15 miles without much effort and I'm planning on doing the Equinox Marathon again next year.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Atigun Pass

Early Saturday morning, we left Toolik Field Station headed back to Fairbanks. As mentioned in my last post, I took a couple of pictures of some of the views from Atigun Pass. Since the road is fairly steep (12% grade), you are up and over pretty quickly.

Approaching the Brooks Range from the North

Half Way Up Looking North

Just South of the Summit

Looking South

South of Atigun
We arrived back in Fairbanks around 3:00pm.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Termination Dust

A sight that makes some around here want to cry. This photo was not taken in Fairbanks but around four hundred miles north along the Dalton Highway. And, for those of you who have forgotten what this is, it's snow aka termination dust. We left at 7:00am in a university truck for Toolik Lake Field Station. We stopped for coffee at the Yukon River bridge and at the Arctic Circle turnout since the other two had never been up this road before. We got to Coldfoot at 1:00 for lunch and fuel before heading up and over Atigun Pass, elevation 4739, arriving at Toolik Lake Field Camp around 4:00 or so. There was a lot of snow at the pass but since I was driving, no pictures and absolutely no safe places to pull over. We were really into the clouds so visibility was only a few hundred feet anyway. As we descended, the temperature warmed up but small ponds were already frozen. The road also deteriorated as we went up and over the pass to lots of frozen ruts.

 I am up here to install some instrumentation in support of a UAF research project and needed to get it done before the end of the summer field season. Plus I would never pass up an opportunity to come up here. It is a beautiful trip with vast open spaces. I was last up here around seven years ago to install a VoIP system and get the network up and running. Since then, the camp has grown considerably and it is a wonderful facility to work in. We are having some difficulty already as the fiber optic cable we are working with is heavily armored and very difficult to get into.

We looked hard but didn't spot any wildlife except for a couple of squirrels. This is one of the sections of road north of the Arctic Circle where you can really see the remoteness of this location. From here, the truckstop at Coldfoot is the only place to get fuel and food before you get to Deadhorse. Gas was $5.19/gallon but the food was very reasonably priced with generous portions. I'll try to get some photos of the pass on the way back as some of the views are incredible.

Toolik Lake

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Chena Hot Springs Ride

Today, the very loosely organized group of BMW riders met for the now traditional "first last ride of the season". It is called the first last ride to reserve the option of having a second, third, and so on. Two years ago, I believe they went up to a fourth last ride which occurred on October 23rd. There was a pretty good turnout with at least 25 bikes starting out. Several more joined in sometime during the trip. There is no structure or organization beyond everyone agreeing on the destination, which in this case was Chena Hot Springs. The ride was not limited to BMW's as there were a couple of Hondas and several Royal Enfields along for the ride. About half of the bikes were older BMW airheads.

This 1984 R100RT is not typical of the bikes as this one is absolutely flawless. Even the snowflake cast wheels have been powder coated white to match the fairing and the tops of the Bing carbs are chrome. A beautiful airhead. Most of the rest of the bikes were GS types of various vintages with the requisite aluminum luggage. There was one K bike in the group. Two sidecar rigs, an R60 and a one of the new new Royal Enfields. At around 1:00, folks started to head out and took off in just about every possible direction. Most were in groups of three or four and I ended up following a couple two up on an R60/5. Their speed was comfortable for me and when we arrived, they asked how fast they were going as the speedometer has been broken for years. (Though the tach did work). Other wise, their R60 had been meticulously gone through and looked and sounded great. No effort was made to "restore" the bike but just make it clean and reliable for them. It had a 2 into 1 exhaust that I've never seen before and powder coated valve covers. The bike was not spotless and does get ridden just about everyday during the summer. It was an absolutely beautiful ride out with the yellow leaves in stark contrast with the dark blue sky, the rivers and ponds along the road.

Looking towards the airstrip
The group right in front of us encountered a moose cow right in the middle of the road causing them to come to a complete stop as the moose refused to move off of the road. She was not intimidated at all by a bunch of BMW riders wearing hi-viz. A car came up behind them, pulled around and pulled up right to the the moose and laid on it's horn. She slowly moved off giving the car the evil eye. We sort of took over the dining room at the resort and had lunch. Some were opting to stay and go swimming in the hot springs but I had promised to be home by 5pm so I took off right after lunch. Only 134 miles and the weather out and back was beautiful. It warmed up to about 55°F by the middle of the day but was a chilly 34°F in the morning.

View Larger Map

BTW, I just noticed in the Google Maps image you can see the smoke from a brush fire north of the resort. This suggests that the image is probably at least a couple of years old.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Fall Colors

Yesterday, being 9/11, was a good day to reflect and for me walking is still the best way to let my mind wander. The day started out cold and wet but by noon, the clouds were starting to thin out and you could see a bit of sunshine. When leaving church, I turned right instead of left which ensured a minimum of 5½ mile walk to get back home. I have really slacked off with exercise over the last year or so. Back in the Spring of 2010, I was walking between 5 and 10 miles per day pretty consistently. In the last year, it had gone down to maybe 10 miles per week. I did the Equinox Marathon back in 2008 and one of my goals was to do it again in less time. Last year, I was originally thinking that maybe this would be the year but not a chance. Earlier in the Summer, a couple of us thought about doing it as a team but none of us really pushed for it so it never happened. As a team, you each do a third of the marathon or about 9 miles.

Here in the interior, we are right in the middle of Fall with most of the leaves having changed but are still clinging to the branches. You may notice that we don't get many colors mostly different shades of yellow. Nowhere near as colorful as other parts of the country. This is along Eton Drive and is one of my favorite places to walk as the traffic is light and the views are pretty good. And plenty of hills for those of us crazy enough to have a need for them. Walking without hills would get pretty boring.

This is the view looking towards the south. The clouds are still obscuring the Alaska Range and most of the city of Fairbanks is off to the left out of frame. I ended up doing this walk twice yesterday, once in each direction, to at least get in a single ten mile day this week. I must admit that the evening walk was done instead of a motorcycle ride. Too many activities and too little time. I couldn't be gone too long as during this same time, I had a couple of pots on the stove but they were in their "simmer for a long time" phase. Some of my favorites, collard greens (from the farmers market) and jambalaya...

I'm afraid that winter is just around the corner. No way to escape it. Another sure sign of approaching winter, this morning, I met my brother at Wright's Air Service as he and his friends were on their annual moose hunt. They usually go south of the Tanana River and are generally pretty successful. I used to go hunting 20 years ago or so but it became a real challenge due to time and dollars needed. For now, I'll satisfy my moose meat "fix" with an ice chest full of moose. Thank you Steve!

For me, walking is still a great way to think and reflect. Maybe I should do more of it. At least my knees aren't hurting anymore. Maybe there is some good that came out of all that slack time...

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Two Tanks of Gas

How did I manage to go through two tanks of gas without going anywhere? The weather guessers were predicting rain for the entire weekend so no trips were planned. It turned out to be a beautiful weekend with dark blue skies and temperatures into the sixties. I had to pick up some stuff from the strore and one little wrong turn leaving our subdivision somehow added a hundred miles to the trip. The only downside was that the vendor at the local farmers market was out of my favorite bread by the time I finally got there. Nice round loaves of whole grain raisin apricot. Similar trips were "required" throughout the weekend and before I knew it, I had to fill up a couple of times. There were a lot of other bikes out enjoying what's left of our summer and I ended up traveling over most of the major roads in our area. Out to Moose Creek to the east, Nenana to the west and Chatanika road house to the north. No food stops and no pictures. After all, I was just running to the grocery store....

On Monday evening, the Airhead group met at the on-campus home of Kevin and Annie for a barbecue. Kevin has been involved trying to very loosely organize the local BMW riders to at least have a first and last ride of the season. They will be leaving the state at the end of the month (retiring) for questionably warmer weather in Montana trailering their last three bikes (all BMWs) after shuttling the first two at the beginning of the summer. Another couple (retired) headed out this morning on their bikes for a 15K, two month road trip. They will be leaving their bikes down south and flying back to enjoy the holidays and Alaska winter. (Can you tell that I'm feeling a little jealous?) There was a pretty good turnout to see them off. Mostly fellow Airheads but there was a new Guzzi Norge, an K1200GT and a Yamaha cruiser in the mix.

Photo by Kevin Huddy

Pretty mangy looking group, eh? And ended the weekend with 382 miles of going nowhere.