Friday, May 25, 2012

Where Am I Now?

Unfortunately, nowhere that I haven't been to before. The approach into the airport in Barrow is from the north so we get a nice look at the sea ice. Some areas are starting to thin (the darker areas) and even a bit of open water. Locals told me that they thought that the ice is thinner than usual and expect there to be open water by the middle of June. Most of the snow is gone from the land except wind blown drifts had built up. It's amazing the dIfference a few weeks make.

I went out for a walk this evening around the NARL campus but it was windy and started to snow. Not enough to actually accumulate on the ground but enough to get you pretty wet. There was an arctic fox still in its white fur stalking a bunch of birds but I didn't have a camera with me. I think that Spring is finally here.

This afternoon, I tried out the tracking feature of the SPOT again and it looks like it it works as advertised. I'll try sending a couple of messages from here tomorrow to see if it's better than the v1 devices we tried a few years ago.

It was pouring rain and still kind of cold (48°F) while riding but I arrived home warm and dry. This Gerbing stuff is pretty nice.

Saturday morning - When I arrived at the science building, I found a line crew getting ready to head out for some pole maintenance. I thought that the vehicle looked interesting as it was only a little bit longer than a pickup but the tires were enormous. This also shows how much of the snow has melted.  

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Summer Riding

I think that I can actually say that Summer has really arrived. After last weeks ride to Anchorage, I wasn't too sure.  But the last couple of days have been well into the high 60s (°F) with mostly clear skies. Wonderful riding weather. Since last week, the leaves have come out on the trees along with the pollen. The number of motorcycles parked near the building has been increasing though many don't ride in when it's a wet morning. I was thinking of mailing down my mesh riding gear to pick up in Oregon this summer but I was reminded that it really gets warm in B.C. once you are out of the Rocky Mountains. So maybe I have to rethink my packing list.

I really like the tracking feature that EverydayRiding has been using on his current trip, Everyday for 7 Weeks. Being able to watch Chris' progress through Canada convinced to pick up a SPOT GPS Messenger for my upcoming trip. Unfortunately, I can no longer put the cool widget with the map as Google has deprecated version 2 of their Google Map API Key that was used by the widget and the directions for version 3 haven't shown up on the SPOT web page. After more digging, I found the version 2 key section even though it claims to have been deprecated on a different part of the Google website. I had tried the older version of the SPOT Tracker up in Barrow a few years ago and they didn't perform very well probably because of the high latitude. But the new version has been getting some pretty good reviews. I put the widget on the right side of the page and when I'm actually on the trip, I may move it to the top. I will take it with me to Barrow at the end of the week to try it out up there.

I tried the SPOT device out a couple of days ago just outside my building and the posted location shown on Google Maps was within 5 feet of where I was sitting. I ordered the additional "tracking" option as I like the breadcrumb trail and automatic, periodic updates. It would have been handy on my Anchorage trip as cell phone coverage is a little spotty in Alaska and my family could just look up my location on the shared webpage instead of sending text messages asking where I was.

The trip last week through the sleet also convinced me of the value of heated gear. Chris had showed me his liner and described it as "putting on a sweatshirt that you just pulled out of the dryer." It's one thing for commuting but when you are out all day long at near freezing temperatures, the cold eventually works it way in. While I was in Anchorage, I picked up a Gerbings heated liner and temperature controller. I still need to get the wiring installed on the bike to power the jacket liner.

Friday morning - Update, I installed the wiring last night for the liner and since it was 46°F and raining this morning, it seemed like a good opportunity to try things out. Even on the first click of the controller, you could feel the warmth within seconds. I could get used to this. The voltmeter would flick up and down with the controller cycling on/off every few seconds. I need to remember to turn it off before reaching my destination due to the power draw. Due to the temperature and the rain, I was the only bike in the motorcycle parking. It looks lonely out there...

Sunday, May 20, 2012

A Short Ride

It was another beautiful day with just a few clouds. This is from my favorite view point overlooking the Tanana Valley. I wasn't on any trip but just sort of running around enjoying the afternoon. Yesterday afternoon, I stopped at a friends home to work a bit on our presentation of the Ethiopia trip. Their driveway was steep and rocky and while trying to back the bike up, it decided to take a short nap. No pictures but that hasn't happened for quite a while.

On Friday after my trip back from Anchorage, my son wanted to try out a new Japanese restaurant in town. The food was pretty good though the service was very slow. Of course, I don't remember the name.

Monday Afternoon - I had posted this from my iPhone using BlogPress and the way it formats pictures is poor unless you just accept the defaults as far as thumbnail size and text wrap. If you try and do anything else, a lot of extra html is added to the post that needs to be cleaned up afterwards using a computer. The mobile browsers just don't seem to handle all of the javascript on the Blogger site.

This morning was another beautiful day and I needed to talk to a vendor about printers in Barrow. That sounded like a good enough reason for a ride. It does tend to get warm if you need to wait for a light to change. The auxiliary power outlet on my bike doesn't seem to be working. Maybe I blew a fuse last week as the heated handgrips don't seem to be working either. I'm glad these things are showing up now.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Trip From Anchorage

It has been a beautiful day for the ride back to Fairbanks. It was still around freezing north of around Talkeetna but once I was north of the entrance to Denali National Park, the snow disappeared from the sides of the road and it warmed up considerably.
Mt. Mckinley was out with no clouds.

This is about 15 miles south of Cantwell looking west.

Looking south.

Looking north. This is a beautiful part of the road but it was windy.

While getting ready to leave the UAA campus, a young visitor happened to pass by. Better here than on the road.

YouTube Video

Location:George Parks Hwy,Healy,United States

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Ride to Anchorage

Early this morning I headed towards Anchorage on the Parks Highway and it was wet and cold for much of the trip. About 20 miles from Fairbanks it started to drizzle and then it started to snow. None of it was sticking to the road so I figured that the road surface was still above freezing. In Nenana, a thermometer on the side of the gas station claimed 38°F so I figured that the road was still in good shape. I pulled into Denali National Park to check out the weather report at the visitors center as the snow was getting heavier at this point. Cantwell was still 34°F so I continued on and stopped at a gas station to fill up. The attendant said that it was snowing for another 25 miles south then it was clear and sunny on the other side of the Alaska Range. At mile post 200, the sun came out, the snow stopped and it was beautiful all the way into Anchorage. I stopped at the Denali viewpoint just south of the Denali State Park and got a great view of the mountain. I lined up the mountain with the informational sign showing the names of all of the peaks.

The temperature stayed cold until I started descending into the Susitna Valley. I tried using the heated grips and I'm not completely convinced that they actually work consistently. At first, they would get really warm and the battery voltage would drop to about 12½ volts while they were on. Later on in the day, the battery voltage wouldn't drop all the time and you felt some heat some of the time. It sounds like there is a bad connection somewhere. I got to Anchorage around 3:30 PM almost early enough to beat rush hour. Too many cars...

I think that I've been in Alaska too long as I only took one picture along the way. Compare this with EverydayRiding Day 7 on the same trip.

Thursday Morning - The weather here in Anchorage has been beautiful with clear, sunny skies and moderate temperatures. I have been attending the Northern Tier meeting and it has been good to see all the familiar faces again. This is the first time the meeting has been held in Alaska and it sounds like most of the attendees have extended their stay and catching some of the local sights such as glacier and whale watching cruises in Whittier and Seward. Some have been here since last weekend and have been travelling around the state. This is the view from my room looking towards downtown Anchorage. As you can see, even are largest city with over half the population of the state is still a pretty modest city. One attendee thought it felt like Seattle 50 years ago. Tomorrow, I head back north to Fairbanks. Hopefully, I'll take more pictures.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Visitor from Outside!

We get so few visitors from outside. BTW, I had never even thought about the phrase "outside" until Chris mentioned it on one of his blog posts. But it refers to anywhere in the lower 48 states. (n.b. not Hawaii!) This weekend, we were pleased to host moto-blogger,  EverydayRiding, having survived the ride from Minnesota via Idaho. He is two weeks and 3,800 miles into his ride, "Everyday for 7 Weeks". You can read all about his adventure on his blog with almost daily posts and tons of beautiful pictures and videos.

There aren't too many attractions or sites in Fairbanks but I think he ended up seeing most of them. He did run into the horrendous prices we have to pay for living at the end of the highway as he purchased a rear tire from a local shop. Not too many options around here. We did get to visit a bit with local motorcycle legend George Rahn at a local coffee house. George used to own the BMW dealership, Trails End BMW, and is still the local expert when it comes to repairing airheads and the older K bikes. He was very impressed that Chris rode up here without a windshield. These days, George owns the Royal Enfield dealership and still rides almost year around on his bike and side car rig.

We did make it out to the Alaska pipeline turnout along the Steese Highway as I took him along one of my favorite routes home. It turned out to be a great day though my bike seemed to be handling kind of odd. I had sort of blamed it on my lack of riding for the last week but it turned out to be low tire pressure. Really low, like in the teens! I refilled both tires this morning and the familiar handling returned.

My whole family enjoyed having Chris visit and we discovered another amazing connection. Family that he is visiting in Palmer is friends with my brother in Anchorage as they had recognized the last name in one of his social media posts. I'm going to have to pick up a couple more things before my trip south in July such as a Spot tracker and a heated liner.

Ride Safe!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Bike Maintenance and Off to Barrow Again

I managed to get in a couple of short motorcycle rides between getting back from Washington D.C. and Oregon and heading north. Yesterday afternoon, I knocked off a couple of items from my bike maintenance list. In order to warm up the oil, it's necessary to ride for at least an hour, right? I don't really look forward to changing the oil filter on my airhead. The lower fairing and the exhaust headers make it difficult to reach the bolts holding the oil cooler thermostat to the block. The thermostat housing doubles as the cover for the oil filter canister. It is so difficult to get the filter in/out of the block that BMW makes the filter fold in half so it could be snaked through the fairing, frame and exhaust header. I probably should just pull everything off to simplify the process whenever I change the oil. The oil looked great and after cutting open the filter, there was just barely a trace of anything. I probably could have let it go a while longer. I also checked the valve clearances since the engine was nicely warmed up and they are still spot on. (As Chris pointed out in the comments, the valve clearances should be checked when the engine is cold. I just prefer to warm it up first and check it when it has cooled to room temperature.) The top end repair work from last year was a great investment.

Alaska Airlines terminal at Deadhorse
This morning (Monday). I am on my way to Barrow for much of the week. If anyone is thinking of riding to Prudhoe Bay/Deadhorse, this snapshot from the door of the plane may convince you to wait a bit longer. I'm told that things had warmed up here a few weeks back but it's frozen again with low temperatures still hovering around 0°F along with a pretty stiff wind. It is calmer in Barrow but the temperatures are about the same. I don't think I've been to Barrow since January and it feels like it's been a long time. Tasks have been piling up on me and it has been challenging to find time to get up here. It looks like I may be spending a good percentage of my summer up here unless I can convince others from the university to spend some of their summer up north.

Tuesday Afternoon - Another beautiful, cold day up here. There is still a fair amount of snow as seen here in a shot of the old power plant on the NARL campus. After sitting staring at a computer screen all day, I went for a short walk outside. The sun is so bright that my eyes ached. The days are really long now with sunset occurring around 1:59AM with sunrise at 3:10AM. Needless to say, most of the windows in my quonset hut are covered with foil to block out the nighttime sun.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Winter Temperatures

As I mentioned in my last post, I had let my drivers license expire while I was out of town. So that seemed like a good excuse for a long walk to the DMV yesterday morning. It was only about a 45 minute wait at the DMV, paid my $20 and headed back with my shiny new license. I stopped at the Fred Meyer store to warm up with some hot coffee since winter doesn't seem like it wants to leave town. The temperature was only in the mid-20's (°F) and there was a light wind. I wimped out and took the bus back to campus. By five, I again opted to walk instead of taking the bus home. This is another shot of Ballaine Lake. I have taken many pictures of this lake over the years with varying amounts of ice and snow since it is right next to the bike path.

This morning, I rode my airhead in to work and, in spite of the temperatures in the mid-teens, it felt good to be on two wheels again. I took the scenic route in and was starting to feel the cold sneaking in through the zippers in my riding gear. Maybe there is something to this heated gear that other riders seem to love. I have been thinking about picking up a Gerbing's heated liner for my road trip this summer and it may have felt good on days like today.