Thursday, August 30, 2012

Another Day in Paradise

Martha at Living Among Tourists asked folks to post what their sky looked like at 7:00am. I missed by a little but here is the sky looking east this morning at 7:14am. A little darker than when sunrise was at 2am but still light enough so you can't tell if your headlight is working. The University of Alaska Museum is the weird looking building to the left and on the right is one of the research greenhouses run by the Institute of Arctic Biology. Including a greenhouse seemed appropriate for this challenge.

The mornings have been in the mid to high 30's (°F) since I've been back home with a fair amount of rain earlier in the week. On Tuesday, there were hundreds of cranes in the lower field with huge formations circling looking for a good place to touch down. Unfortunately, I didn't have a camera with me. Not even my phone. Yesterday, there are only a few dozen left on the yellowish field in the middle of the picture. They only show up as dots on the picture. Something else that is hard to see in this iPhone picture is the Alaska Range. I thought it looked spectacular earlier in the morning. I was able to see the north and south peaks of Mt. McKinley just above the horizon. Maybe I should carry around the camera. Another beautiful day in paradise.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Only a Few More Days in Barrow

Osaka's Small Sushi Plate
As you can tell, I must still be in Barrow. This is the small sushi plate at Osaka's, the local Japanese restaurant, and it was a real treat. I limit myself to this meal just once per trip as it is pretty pricey up here as you can probably imagine. They told me that all of their fish comes up from Hawaii and it tastes very fresh. It may be some of the best sushi in the state.

Looking South Towards the BEO
The weather up here has been all over the place. Some days it has been sunny and warm and so calm that the ocean looks like a mirror. Then you go out later in the day and you have blowing rain with temperatures barely above freezing. This morning, there was dense fog and 38°F. I pass by this wet area all the time and there are usually a lot of birds out there. Today, there were dozens of geese. The posts are part of a snow fence which is put up to control snow drifts. Windblown snow piles up against the fence. When I was here in late June, there was still mounds of snow piled up here.

More ARKTOS Pictures

This evening, I went out for a walk before making dinner and I saw the ARKTOS vehicle doing some more demonstrations. As you can see, it really does float in spite of its size and weight. Here, they were just going back and forth demonstrating the maneuverability before heading back to the beach.

I had seen the their video earlier showing how easily it pulled itself up on the beach but seeing it first hand was pretty impressive. The beach here is really loose gravel and it is pretty difficult to even walk on. With a four wheeler, you need to keep your speed up to avoid getting bogged down. The hydraulic coupler between the two units is used to transfer weight where there is more traction and the water jet units are also used to help push the unit up onto the shore.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Autumn in Barrow

I'm back in Barrow and some things have changed since my last visit. The sea ice is gone with no snow or ice anywhere. I've been told that the weather has been overcast and rainy for a couple of weeks and I kind of assume that Summer has already passed. But the temperatures are still pretty moderate with highs still in the mid-50's and lows in the low 40's. This is a shot looking north out over the ocean.

What would you think if you saw this coming toward you on the road? The inventor of this vehicle was in town giving demonstrations and tours to a number of groups in town. It is the front of an articulated rescue vehicle holding up to 52 people and is designed to go just about anywhere on land or water. Pretty impressive vehicle and it was highlighted on a Discovery Channel show on massive vehicles. In their demo they went overland into the water and climbed up onto floating ice.

I think that piloting one of these beasts takes some special visualization aptitude as their are multiple engines driving each module, steerable water jets fore and aft on teach module and a hydraulic coupling between the two units. All need to be controlled by the pilot. They would need to be able to visualize in their mind what the vehicle is doing from a point external to the craft so they would know the impact of each control. One of the potential uses up here is search and rescue but oil spill response is also where these units could be used due to their versatility. I just thought it looked really cool. The manufacture is ARKTOS (capitalization is part of their branding).

Here is one of their videos showing it in operation....

Satellite Farm - 08-18-12 11:30AM 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Non-Facebook Psychopath

Another week of just commuting and no entertaining rides at all. I have been somewhat focused on getting ready for the Equinox Marathon next month by trying to walk whenever the opportunity presents itself. I should probably be walking to/from work instead of riding but anytime I go out to the garage, I just want to jump on the bike and go somewhere... anywhere. This morning brought a few showers and these wonderful rainbows showed up shortly after I went across the street for coffee.

It appears that some of the trees are anxious for Fall and Winter to arrive and are working hard to shed some leaves. There are patches of yellow showing up all over the hills. Our morning temperatures have warmed up to the high 40's (°F) and a couple of times our highs have ventured into the low 80's.

On another note. There has been a lot of discussion lately on a couple of articles written about those that refuse to turn their life over to Facebook. According to Forbes, I probably am a psychopath (i.e. non-Facebook user). They explain how potential employers now "wonder" about someone who doesn't have a digital life and how mass murderers usually aren't on Facebook. Apparantly, not having an account makes you "suspicious"...

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Weekend Activities

Mornings are starting to get colder as Summer fades to Fall. Fortunately, it has continued to be nice and sunny and I have managed to meet my fifty mile walking goal for the week. This week is also the last week for the WIN for Alaska walks. These are "sponsored" walks led by a health consultand funded by the university as a health benefit. I think that I will just barely meet their minimum participation to get the incentive prize. Like I said earlier, I need some sort of carrot to get me moving.

Yesterday, my oldest son and I tore out all of the tile in our downstairs bathroom. Individual tiles were falling off of the wall. It turns out that the previous owner used plywood behind the tile and I believe that this is the wrong material.

On Sunday afternoon, a group of riders from church rode out to the Monderosa Bar & Grill in Nenena. I led the group down a twisty route on the Old Nenana Highway as an alternative to the Parks Highway (the main road between Fairbanks and Anchorage). The diverse group was made up of five cruisers, my old Beemer, a Tiger 800 dual sport and a Goldwing. I'm not sure all of the riders enjoyed my alternate twisty route. I remember well the first couple of times I rode to the Monderosa and it seemed like a long trip. Today, the fifty miles seem to pass in a blink of an eye. The twisty route was a lot of fun and I thought that it was a nice alternative to the highway though, at ten miles, it was too short. I think I've been spoiled. The hamburgers at the Monderosa really are some of the best in the state and worth the ride. Plus the weather was perfect for riding.

My last activity for the day was replacing the bar and chain on my 28 year old Stihl chainsaw and removing an eye sore from our front yard. I have been procrastinating removing this tree for years, no over a decade would be more accurate. My excuse has been needing a new bar and chain as I think I've sharpened the chain so many times that there wasn't much material left. Now it is up to my son to break down the tree and load it into the truck to haul away.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Tanana Valley State Fair

Tuesday was "UAF Day" at the fair so I took advantage of the minimal discount to check it out. Sunday and Monday were gorgeous days so I figured that attendance would be horrible by Tuesday and I was right. This is one of the main paths and, as you can see, their numbers were really down. There were only a couple of new booths and some friends of ours set up an alligator food booth called Tundra Bayou this year so I had to try it out. I think they will do well as their offerings were pretty good. I ended up staying for almost seven hours since I had brought my middle son with me and he didn't want to leave. I probably got in over ten miles of walking since there were few dry areas to sit down as it sprinkled just about the entire time.

The local feed store had these dog beds for sale and I thought that some of the pink Croc® lovers would appreciate them. If you didn't care for pink, there are a number of other colors available.

Today was another WIN for Alaska walk. I left early and took a scenic route down to lower campus before walking down to the farmers market with the group. A little over ten miles in two and a half hours. Not too shabby. I don't know if I'm a fool or not but I just signed up again for the 50th Equinox Marathon on September 15, 2012. I have no plans to actually run any of it, just walk and finish within the ten hour limit. The last time I did it was in 2008. 

Monday, August 6, 2012

Is Riding Unhealthy?

Today, during lunch, I walked down to Ballaine Lake. For anyone reading this blog regularly will recognize this small lake as it has shown up many times but I thought that it was especially pretty today. No retouching, that is the actual color this afternoon. This is just a tiny lake north of the university along the bicycle path with a nice little picnic area on the north shore. 4.43 miles round trip from my office according to the Nike+ app.

I really need to get out and walk a lot more. Back in March and April I was getting in a couple of hundred miles per month and I was even considering entering the Equinox Marathon again. Since May (and the bike coming out of storage) only about fifteen miles per month. So should my conclusion be that motorcycle riding is bad for my health?

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Hard To Stay Focused

It has been a challenging week after being on the road for 26 days. Sitting in my office, my mind keeps drifting to sights, sounds and smells along the road from the trip. My commute seems way too short and even the longer "scenic route" has lost some of its appeal. I think I have become addicted to motorcycle trips. Or maybe just traveling in general but riding does seem to add a lot to the experience. I was surprised to see that I've put on almost 2000 miles since Williams Lake, BC, when the bike turned over to 70k miles.

I posted on one of the BMW forums asking about my weird "shimmy" on fast sweeping turns such as you find on Interstate highways and one of the first responses asked if I had any load up high and behind the rear wheel. Such as a top box. I think that I will spend some time this winter trying to get my Reynolds rear rack installed as that would put the top box about 4" further forward and all of the weight would be supported directly by the rear subframe instead of the seat pan. To use the Reynolds rear rack, I would either need to find their rear bag mounts or modify the stock ones.

Yesterday evening, I finished unpacking the bike and removed the passenger backrest and top box and re-installed the factory rack. The bike looks smaller without the top box though I don't expect much, if any, change in handling. Plus we have no high speed highways up here. I also, believe it or not, washed some of the dirt and bugs off. Still can't see much through the windshield but the painted parts almost look shiny. They really don't design motorcycles to be easy to clean. I don't know how some people keep their bikes so spotless.

I just ordered another Heidenau K60 rear tire from Adventure Cycleworks here in town since they were willing to order the tire and not charge me extra for shipping. I'm not in a hurry to get the new tire. Next Spring would be fine. The Shinko that I picked up in Corvallis is fine for the wonderful roads in the lower 48 but every time I've hit dirt or gravel, the rear end wants to misbehave and go its own way. On the way down, I didn't have to do much when I hit gravel sections on the road including an unexpected section in the middle of a curve.