Saturday, December 31, 2011

Back on Two Wheels (Almost)

This has been a slow week. The university administration declared a "hard closure" implying that they didn't want anyone around so that they could minimize power and heat for the week. If you didn't have any vacation time saved up then too bad. I am taking advantage of this slack time to do some things I've been putting off for a while. I finally put on the studded snow tires I picked up from REI in Anchorage last month and tried them out on a short trip up and down our road. They seem to work pretty well on the packed snow and ice but it was too cold (-36°F) to really try them out. Braking works better than expected and managed to stay upright though I was somewhat reluctant to try any quick turns. My plan is to take the bike to my office next week and try them out on the university roads once it warms up a bit.

I wish you all a healthy, happy and wonderful New Year.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Miscellaneous Update

Around the beginning of February, a small group of us from Fairbanks are heading to Africa for a couple of weeks on a short term mission trip. The group is being led by a couple who lived there with their family for four years and have maintained many excellent contacts as well as a wealth of knowledge and insight into things like appropriate behavior and language. They have led numerous small groups there over the years and I feel blessed to be able to participate. Projects and tasks are still in the process of being identified and prioritized by the local church. I have more details later in the STM tab.

One of the my first steps was a visit to the local clinic with an travel itinerary so the doctor could figure out the appropriate immunizations. Here is phase 1 along with a handful of oral medications. My arms are still sore. This trip may end up changing my long bike trip plans for the summer due to the expense and possible shortage of vacation time.

On another note, I am now a grandfather. My son and daughter in-law had a beautiful baby boy this morning here in Fairbanks. No problems, no issues that I know of and they should be able to head home soon. I don't know many details except 8 lbs. 7 oz. and named Talon.

Merry Christmas!
University Fire Department

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Princess' Challenge

High noon shadow
The days are getting shorter and the sun doesn't get very high above the horizon so there's lots of time to think about future rides. Moto-blogger Dar posted the following challenge on her blog Princess Scooterpie last week:

"1) to list at least 5 places in YOUR own country that you want to visit 2) if you could go anywhere in the world on your motorcycle or scooter where would it be?"

For the first part, I'll modify the challenge a bit to include Canada. It is difficult to reach most of the country without going through Canada.

Local Trips:
  1. Dawson City, Yukon Territory. Last year, I had included the D2D or Dust to Dawson non-rally on my "list" but I am more interested in just riding to Dawson City along the Top of the World Highway. I've driven this road several times and it is a beautiful trip above timberline.
  2. Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. Last summer, a small group of us ventured up the Dalton Highway to the Arctic Circle. Since then, I've driven up to the Toolik Field Station north of Atigun Pass and feel that as long as the weather is decent, it should be a great trip.
  3. McCarthy, Alaska. Over the years, I've driven to McCarthy several times and it is a beautiful trip. The road is an old railroad bed with the tracks removed and the scenery is spectacular. Once the road dries up, it's pretty decent.
Non-quite Local Trips:
  1. New England/Newfoundland. I haven't spent much time at all in New England except for some work related trips many years ago and I hear that eastern Canada is a wonderful place to visit.
  2. Canadian/U.S. Rocky Mountains. I've taken many road trips across the Rockies in both Canada and the U.S. as well as many hiking trips. The idea of a road trip back and forth across the mountains sounds wonderful.
I would still like to tour throughout North America. I've been to just about all of the US states at some time or another as well as through many of the Canadian provinces. My only venture into Mexico was many years ago. A bicycle trip down to Cabo San Lucas. I originally wanted to make the North American tour on my bicycle but now I would be just as happy to do it on a motocycle.

Anywhere in the World:

This is a bit more difficult. Southeast Asia, Australia, New Zealand and Europe all look interesting. If I had to pick just one, I would try and combine Australia and New Zealand together. After all, they're sort of in the same quadrant of the planet...

Friday, December 9, 2011

San Francisco - Part 3

The AGU meeting pretty much ended by noon or so and I was feeling pretty burned out on listening to presentations and watching PowerPoints. I hung around at the Toolik Field Station booth for a bit while finishing my coffee. While there, I heard about the Cable Car Museum being somewhere around Nob Hill so I headed out. I've never been there that I know of. After what seemed like endless climbing up hills including some sidewalks that were steep enough to require steps, I finally reached to top. I wasn't sure that I wanted to head downhill for the two blocks to the museum.

Free admission! (There isn't much around here that's free.) And it as more than just a museum as the cables for the lines run through the building. This is at least one location where that drives the cables for four of the lines. I don't know if this is the only location or not. This is a shot of the motors that are driving the cable. They had a lot of old cable cars, tools, uniforms and such as well as a nice gift shop. It was pretty loud in there and I suspect that it probably affects the hearing of long time employees.

This is down in the sheave room under the street. One of the locations where where the cable is guided around corners. The museum is near the intersection of California and Hyde Streets where the cable cars release one cable and coast before they grab onto the next cable. I always assumed that there were some significant tunnels under the streets for the cable but I didn't realize how large the tunnels were. This was about a ten second exposure and it wasn't anywhere near that bright down there. The only view is through armored windows which are the angled blurry lines in the photo.

After the museum, I headed to Japantown which is mostly a shopping and restaurant area. I had a bowl of cold buckwheat noodles with some vegetables. Very refreshing. Total walking so far today is just under ten miles for a total of 65 miles for the week.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

San Francisco - Part 2

Starting out the post with a food pic. On Wednesday evening, I thought that I should get some carbs as I was feeling really run out. I used the Urbanspoon app on my phone and it came up with Coco Bang. It was a tiny Korean restaurant but the food was really good. Maybe a good sign was that I was the only patrons speaking english.  Dinner was pot stickers and bibimbap as well as an assortment of spicy treats. No smoking hot stone bowl but still pretty good.

During lunch break today, I visited the local BMW dealer since I had heard about it on SideStand Up, a motorcycle podcast (and soon to be syndicated radio show). It was only about a mile or so from Moscone but was in an area where I'm not sure I would want to be walking around in at night. They had a pretty nice collection of bikes including some used bikes. There was even an airhead for sale. An early 90's R100GS. But their asking price was pretty steep.

They had a really nice customer lounge complete with flat screen, free sodas, water and gourmet coffee. The leather furniture was pretty comfortable and was a great place to spend my lunch break. I managed to escape without spending a cent. Though I must admit that I wasn't even tempted. Much...

The AGU meeting is going on through Friday. Crowds seem to be always crossing through this intersection as Moscone West and Moscone South are on diagonal blocks. Today, there was a preview of an upcoming PBS series on global warming called Earth, the Operators' Manual. The difference from  some other shows on the same topic is Richard Alley, a research faculty member from Penn State who has been described as “a cross between Woody Allen and Carl Sagan”.  No politics, just research. At least that's the goal. During the session, he was very animated and an excellent speaker. He mentioned a lot of arguments that they hope to finally put to rest. They even had footage of Bernie Karl, the owner of Chena Hot Springs in Fairbanks, showing off his low temperature geothermal power plant. They are hoping the series will be shown on PBS April, 2012. They mentioned that the first of three shows is viewable on their web site.

I started this post with food so I may as well end the same way. This evening, I was out wandering around looking for something interesting and discovered a middle eastern restaurant called Yemeni. This is Meza, the appetizer sampler, with bread. The food was phenomenal and the flat bread was freshly made. I followed this up with the grilled lamb over rice which was equally good. I haven't had much middle eastern food so I don't have much to compare it with but I liked it.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

San Francisco - Part 1

I am in San Francisco for the AGU Fall Meeting. This is a large geoscience conference that takes place every year sometime near the beginning of December. I have been attending this event for the last five years initially to attend meetings related to the IT infrastructure in Barrow. There are still Barrow meetings but I also really enjoy attending the science talks. This year, I volunteered to help judge student presentations for the Outstanding Student Presentation Award. We are not to judge the science itself but the student's presentation and their ability to communicate with the audience. It was a great experience and I think I will continue to do this in the future given the opportunity. Like every other time I've been here I've learned a lot and have run into many familiar faces.

Tomorrow morning, I get to leave the hotel around 5:30 in the morning to head down to Pier 48 for the start of the AGU 5K Fun Run Walk. I was originally going to try and actually run the 5K but it's about a 2½ mile walk to the start of the event. I think that I'm just going to walk the event and not try to run. I also walked last year and but was able to take the bus to the start but this year, they had to move the start point due to the popularity of the event. Also, the t-shirts for participation are much nicer than last year. They refer to it as "technical" material. I have some other shirts of the same material and they are very comfortable as a base layer under your riding gear.

There seems to be a lot more bikes running around than there were last year. And this obviously includes scooters. During the day, all of the motorcycle parking spots are occupied and I've seen a number of San Francisco police on dual-sport bikes running up and down the streets and alleys. Just around the corner from my hotel, there is a parking garage and maybe a quarter of the spaces are filled with bikes and scooters. Maybe the high cost of gas and parking around here is getting more people to ride.

Picture from the Internet
Yesterday evening, I splurged and went to Sankura Japanese Restaurant. I remember this restaurant when it was in the Sony Metreon which used to be located across from the Moscone West Hall. I say used to since the building is being turned into a Target. How's that for progress. I had the sashimi plate with a side order of Otoro or fatty bluefin tuna. I haven't had the opportunity to have this since last year and it is a real treat. It almost melts in your mouth. No pictures since my iPhone battery was dead due to all of the data usage during the day. This evening, I walked down to Fisherman's Wharf and simply had some street food along the way since I wasn't very hungry and I wanted to make sure that I got back before it got too dark.

Wednesday Morning - There was a pretty good turnout for the 5K this morning and with police on motorcycles blocking the streets, we started out at 6:35 AM. I'm sure the early morning commuters were not amused. This was listed as a "Fun Run" but many were taking this quite seriously, at least from my perspective. The first runners came in in 17 minutes. From my hotel to the start, a couple of miles of the 5K (I got lost) and back to my hotel was over 7 miles. That was good enough for me. Now time to head back down to the Marriot and Moscone. Today should be good for at least 15 miles...
Near the finish line

It was still a beautiful morning for a walk.

Wednesday Evening - I did find out at least one reason why the course was changed this year. Occupy SF was camped out near the Port of San Francisco Ferry Building and the course had run right through there before. Over seventeen miles walking today. I think I'm going to sleep good...

Sunday, December 4, 2011

On the Way to San Francisco

Last Wednesday, I headed down to Oregon leaving behind the Chinook winds and unseasonably warm temperatures back in Fairbanks. This is after we had an equally unusual extended cold snap. The temperature has swung 70°F from -30°F to +40°F. Hopefully, we don't get rain like we did last year right before Thanksgiving. This photo is of Mount St. Helens during the flight from Seattle to Portland. The mountain is one of the most spectacular around when flying over and I don't think that I will ever tire of seeing it. This visit wasn't for a happy event but it was great to see all of my siblings and my mom as well as a few of my cousins.

On Saturday morning, I joined Troubadour & Trobaritz at their regular Saturday morning coffee with other riders in the area. It was frosty and foggy and due to the high humidity, it really felt pretty chilly. Troubadour really wanted help and encouragement for the scooter sidecar project in his last post. (At least I'm pretty sure he did...) I have been slacking off for the last couple of weeks on my walking so this was a great opportunity to put in a few miles again. I did manage thirty miles this week. On Saturday evening, I drove back to Portland since I had a morning flight to San Francisco and didn't want to deal with the fog between Corvallis and Portland with a time deadline. And thank you Trobairitz for the Indian buffet recommendation near the airport. No pictures as I forgot my phone and camera but the food was pretty good, a large variety but none were really hot. So it was a very short visit to Corvallis. I'll be back again at the end of this week for about five days.

Today, I arrived in San Francisco and there is quite a crowd here for the AGU meeting. This was the first time I ever had to wait in a Disneyland style line for a BART ticket at the airport. I think there is something like 20k people attending this year. I went low budget on the hotel and staying at Hotel Vertigo, an older hotel on Nob Hill which has been nicely renovated. The front desk told me that a couple of scenes from the 1958 Alfred Hitchcock movie Vertigo were shot at the hotel.

For dinner, I visited (again) a San Francisco landmark Tommy's Joynt. They basically have roast, stewed or braised anything you want but I'm partial to the lamb shanks (Sundays and Thursdays only). No food pictures as nicely presented dishes are not what they are known for. Just good food in a very casual atmosphere. I was reminded of this place while watching the Food Network show Diners, Drive-ins and Dives over Thanksgiving break. TV is very bad for your health. And this is not the place to go if you are vegetarian. The good part is I walked about nine miles today and the hotel is uphill from just about anywhere.