Wednesday, November 30, 2011

How and Why I got into Motorbikes

Since Gary France asked...

From the Internet
When I was a kid, a privileged few in our neighborhood had minibikes and I was blessed with a few rides up and down the road. Later on when I was teenager, I was visiting relatives in Watsonville, CA, and one of my cousins friends came by with his Honda Trail 70. After I tried it around the farm roads, I really wanted one of these and started looking for a way to earn money to get one of these gems. Shortly after this, I got a car, job and a need to start saving for college. So no little Honda.

While in college in California, I was bitten by the bicycling bug and started riding everywhere. This was prompted by a lower back injury and my physician suggesting cycling as a low impact exercise that I could actually do. I got into bicycle touring and camping and travelled tens of thousands of miles on my bicycle over the next couple of years.

BMW R65 - From the Internet
In the early 1980's after I moved to Fairbanks, a friend bought a BMW R65 and he let me try it out. I rode briefly around the university and this brought renewed interest in getting a motorcycle. Another colleague had a Sportster and with my experience as a mechanic, I helped debug several weird problems he was having. Working on his bike just added gas to the fire. Unfortunately getting a motorcyle wasn't going to happen on my teaching assistant stipend. Some other friends after they finished school and got real jobs bought matching BMW R100RT's and I loved the way that they looked. At this point, I was still touring on my bicycle but there was never enough time to actually go anywhere. Then came marriage, kids, etc. and my first wife strongly discouraged me from getting a bike (motorized variety). It was portrayed as a selfish, irresponsible activity. Something that no sane person would ever seriously consider.

883 Sportster - From the Internet

Fast forward to the summer of 2007. Kids are mostly grown and my current wife told me to just make sure my life insurance was paid up. The bad influence in the next office from me at the university has about a dozen bikes. He strongly recommended the MSF BRC course as an great way to see if I am really interested in starting to ride. I thoroughly enjoyed the course and this convinced me to start looking for a bike both at the local dealers and on Craigslist. I made a couple of offers on 883 Sportsters, Honda Shadows and a 650cc V-Star
Yamaha V-Star 650
From the Internet
but they never went anywhere. People believe that their bikes are worth a lot more just because they had to be hauled up to Alaska. Plus, I was interested in touring and none of these machines fit the bill very well. The salesman at the local HD dealer suggested I consider a BMW instead of a HD. I guess I didn't fit the HD image very well. The BMW dealer shared the building with the HD dealer so it wasn't much of a trip. All of the new Beemers were really expensive and those GS things really looked weird. They had a couple of used machines there on consignment and one of these was an early 80's R100RT just like the bikes that my friends had back in the early 80's. I made an offer and I was now the proud owner of a 1983 R100RT. The only problem was that it was the middle of December. One of the other used machines was a Chang-Jiang sidecar rig with a BMW engine. Interesting but strange.

This picture was taken the day it was dropped off by the dealer. Also included were the side cases and a top box. The following Spring, I rode many miles up and down the roads in our subdivision. Lots of hills, dead ends and gravel. 20/20 hindsight. I probably should've looked for something lighter and dual-sport. Plus I was unaware of the valve seat problems affecting the early 80's models.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Not Much Going On

It's warmed up to -11°F today and there is a suggestion of warmer weather from the National Weather Service for the coming week. I won't be around to take advantage of it. Last week, my father passed away at the Veterans Home in Oregon. I will be coming down to Oregon for the service later this week and spend the weekend in Corvallis visiting with my family before heading down to San Francisco for the AGU Fall Meeting. The cold temperatures ensured that it was a very quiet Thanksgiving weekend around our house. Or as Bobskoot put it Nada, nothing, NIL. My wife took her younger son to visit a music school in St. Paul, MN, then spent the holiday weekend visiting her oldest son in Grand Rapids, MI.

This year, after seeing the show a number of times over the years, I tried the Good Eats Roast Turkey recipe from Alton Brown's show on the Food Network. We picked up the smallest turkey we could find that still met Safeway's free turkey offer, brined it overnight using boxed vegetable stock and roasted it stuffed only with an onion, a cinnamon stick and an apple. My youngest son declared it a success as the white meat was as moist and tasty as the dark meat. Around our house, I could just hack off the white meat and throw it away since no one even touches it. (Actually, I usually sneak it into other dishes) Making Thanksgiving dinner did bring back some memories as my dad had showed me how to make the dressing back when I was about 12 years old. I'm reminded of it every time I smell the onions and celery sweating in the pan with lots of butter.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Weekend Trip to Anchorage

Sheep Creek Lodge (from their web site)
This weekend was spent driving to Anchorage and back. We left Friday evening and stopped for the night at a beautiful place called Sheep Creek Lodge. The logs used to build this place are huge. The kitchen normally closes at 9:00pm but I called from Cantwell and mentioned that I thought we would arrive around 9:30. They read the menu off over the phone so we could order dinner. The food and service was fabulous though I think that we may have been the only guests.

We neglected to pick up an extension cord for plugging in the van. For those living in warmer climates, most vehicles are fitted with engine heaters, oil pan heaters, battery blankets and auto transmission pan heaters to help the engine start when it is really cold. So cars up here have this plug hanging out of the grill to power all of this. In spite of not being plugged in, the van started up just fine the next morning after sitting overnight at -35°F. At least that is what the weather underground said it was for Talkeetna. The temperature readout on the mini-van stops at -22°F. I guess Toyota engineers feel that no one should be running around if it's colder than that. This iPhone picture was taken at the McKinley view turnout.

While in Anchorage, I stopped by REI and picked up a pair of these. Nokian Mount and Ground W106 studded bicycle tires. Not designed for single track riding but more than adequate for me to play around on. Two summers ago, I picked up an old Specialized Stumpjumper HardRock for $50 from an older couple getting ready to leave the state. They had bought the bikes new back in the mid-80's with the intent of getting into shape. After one trip to town, they sat in the back of their garage unused. They still had the original tires. A quick overhaul (tires, tubes, cables, new brakes, grips, grease) and I had a brand new 30 year old bike. I can't wait to try these out on the road though I may wait for warmer weather.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

No Longer Tropical...

I guess I spoke too soon when I mentioned that Fairbanks weather was so much warmer than Barrow. And no one really believed me anyway if I say that after a period of really cold weather, any positive temperatures (°F) feel pretty nice. Right now it is +10°F in Barrow over 40 degrees warmer than it is in Fairbanks. I'm not sure I really want to head back home tomorrow!

Thursday Morning - Updated temperature. This is not a good trend!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Tropical Fairbanks

This grainy picture was taken at 10:40 this morning just northeast of Barrow, AK, located on the farthest north coast of Alaska. This is well before sunrise which is at 11:27. I was out for a walk around the NARL (Naval Arctic Research Lab) campus and tried to get a shot showing the open water. The village is still recovering from a blizzard earlier this week and it was still pretty windy. While I was out walking, it was about -10°F with a 35 knot wind. According to the National Weather Service this translates to -41°F (or °C) with wind chill and believe me you feel the wind. The official sunset today is at 2:54pm but the days are rapidly getting shorter. By this time next week sunset will only be 10 minutes after sunrise. This doesn't mean that it is dark since the path of the sun is so shallow near the horizon, dawn and dusk last for about an hour on each side.

I had asked one of the locals about the open water and was told that it used to be frozen solid by this time. At least near the shore. But he noticed that it was changing about ten years ago and now they can't count on shore fast ice until the middle of December. The open water is causing a lot more snow as they are now getting lake-effect snow, just like you hear about along the Great Lakes especially around upstate New York. After spending a couple of days up here, Fairbanks should feel almost tropical due to the lack of wind.
Doesn't this look a lot warmer?

Friday, November 11, 2011

Two Bikes Short

After seeing the seven bike challenge from Trobairitz this week:

"If you had unlimited funds and could have one bike for every day of the week, what bikes would you choose? Please do a blog post listing which bike you would choose for which day of the week and why. After posting, please leave a comment on this post linking your blog post."

I've only been riding a short time so I haven't looked around much. This is what I've been able to come up with.

I like the way the R1200GS looks with a sidecar and since I don't need to be able to reach the ground, it would be about the only way I would be able to ride the GS.

The F650GS (single or twin) is about the only other bike that I've ever thought about getting. They have more than enough power for me and you can still find them with the 21" spoked front wheels. I took one on a demo ride during the rally and it fit me just fine. This particular one was at the Twisted Throttle booth showing off a lot of their stuff. Both of these photos were from the BMW MOA rally in Bend.

Another that I thought looked interesting were the Zero electric bikes. It would work for commuting or running errands in town but so would a scooter.

I had never heard of a Vincent before Bobskoot posted some pictures of one last summer. I was really attracted to all of the exposed mechanical bits. 
Maybe the last one on my list is the Sportster Nightster. I've always enjoyed the sound of a stock Harley and this one is lighter than many of their other models. Plus it is available without forward controls. I rented an 883 a couple of years ago just for a day and thoroughly enjoyed riding it.

Still a few short of Trobairitz's challenge but that's what I've been able to come up with. I'm getting ready to head north so this was a great diversion. Thank you!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Feels Dark and Cold

It's getting to be that time of the year where it feels dark and moving off of daylight savings time doesn't help much. Today, sunrise was at 9:00am and sunset was at 4:09pm with the maximum sun elevation of just under 10°. In this image from, the orange line shows the sun's path today (blue is Dec. 21 and black is June 21). So it is starting to feel like winter. Today around lunchtime, I walked to the local Toyota dealer and it actually started to feel cold by the time I arrived even though it was around 8°F. Maybe time to dig out the warmer coat and stop wearing the mesh running shoes. The road crews still haven't gotten around to clearing the snow on the sidewalks so lots of tromping through snow. When I finally got back to the university maintained roads after dropping the car off at my wife's school, I really appreciated the efforts the university crews do maintaining their roads and sidewalks. All of the sidewalks and walkways are completely clear with pea gravel for additional traction.

This map was made using a GPS enabled iPhone app called Walkmeter which automatically uploads to the Internet when completed. The disconnect in the path around 4.7 miles is where I drove the van from the dealer to my wife's school. The app generally works pretty well though last week the phone stopped working due to low temperature. It was -21°F and when I arrived at my destination, the phone claimed that the battery was dead. After warming the phone back up, it said 80% battery. I guess it want's to be carried in an inside pocket.