Monday, December 30, 2013

Last Rides of the Year?

Today through Thursday are closure days for the university. Only two of them are actual paid holidays and the others are annual leave so I have a little bit of free time. There was water in the right carb again this morning. After emptying it out, I took another ride. I was thinking of making some sushi rolls but lacked a couple of ingredients. I had heard of another asian grocery store and thought I'd see what they carried. Sounds like a good excuse for a ride. It turned out that 90% of their goods were snack food, noodles and sauces. I was looking for kanpyō (dried gourd) and frozen unagi (roasted eel) and they had neither.

This may have been the coldest temperatures I've ridden in so far this year. The heated gear was turned on high and I could feel cold spots on my neck and between the gloves and my jacket sleeves. After about an hour and a half of running around (not including stops), my feet were starting to get cold and the battery voltage was steadily dropping. I don't think that the stock 280 watt alternator is able to keep the battery charged when the heated gear is on high, multiple restarts and not much cruising down the highway. Normally, after arriving at my destination, the voltage is around 12.7v but at my last stop it was only 12.2v and the engine cranked slowly. The stock battery would have given out at the first stop. After coming home, I put on the smart charger and not simply the tender.

I kept looking for places to park the rig and get some pictures but not many places. Most of the roads don't have plowed shoulders and too much traffic to just stop on the road. In addition to no reverse, I also don't have a parking brake. During the summer, I would use a short bungee cord wrapped around the front brake lever but in these temperatures, rubber loses its flexibility so bungee cords don't really work. This is just a short way from home and the sun looks like it's about to set but in reality, it's just after solar noon, i.e. the sun at the highest point in its path. At this time of year, it only gets about 3° above the horizon so it's not like there is a "high noon".

Yesterday morning, I had gone for another ride as I hadn't been out for several days and was starting to feel a little antsy. It was only 9 am so still well before sunrise. Since I was initially only planning on riding as short distance, I didn't bother to put on the overpants on top of the Carhartt jeans. My legs were starting to get a little chilled after about half an hour of riding. By the time I got home, I could tell that there was water in one of the carbs again. I think it's time to completely drain the tank and run it through a water trap.

Just for comparison, this was the temperature at 4:45am last Friday morning and I think that was the coldest temperature that we've seen so far this year. It would have to be a really good reason to leave the house. Most of last week was really cold but I believe that the cold has moved on to somewhere else (e.g. ND, MN, WI) as it has been generally warming up.

We are still loving the temperature inversion as it has rarely been below 0°F at the house for several days. I'm thinking that I may still be able to get at least one more ride in this year;

I wish you all a healthy and happy 2014!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Day After Christmas

It has been too cold to go outdoors these last couple of days with temperatures hovering in the -40 (°F and °C) area with the weather guessers saying that -45°F is well within the realm of possibility. So this is as close as I have come to playing with a sidecar rig. My maintenance plans falling by the wayside as it's easier to just sit in the warm house dinking around in the kitchen.

This is our view to the south just past solar noon. We live in the hills north of town so we are usually above the temperature inversion and well out of the hazards of the ice fog enveloping the lower lying areas. Plus, it is generally a little warmer. My son ventured into town this afternoon and reported that in town, it was sometimes challenging to even see to the other side of the intersections.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Monday, December 23, 2013

Merry Christmas

First of all, I would like to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas. The picture on the right came through my Twitter feed though I'm not sure who posted it or who to attribute it to. But I thought it was too cool not to share and it fit with my geeky nature.

I'm still attempting to make a slideshow ala Bobskoot but it's still uploading. And no music.


We got quite a bunch of fresh snow over the weekend and since I didn't get out and clear the driveway (again), I opted not to ride in this morning. Most of the roads weren't very clear so I'm it was probably a good decision. I think it took longer to dig the truck out of the snow than it would've taken me to ride in. The snow on the sides were well above the top of the tires so some shoveling was needed just to open the door. Most of the university is shut down for a couple of weeks and I just came in to get a proposal finished up and submitted.

Yesterday morning, I rode around the area looking for photo opportunities but nothing really stood out. With the heavy snowfall, I really didn't want to venture off of the main roads and visibility was poor plus it was dark. It sounds like I'm full of excuses for not stopping to take pictures. It was a challenge getting back up our subdivision road with a lot of fishtailing while heading up the hill due to the fresh snow. The bike ran really well and I hope this whole "water in the gas" thing is behind me.

This morning, Shawn from Adventure Cycleworks, dropped off a new rear tire at my office (how can you beat service like that!). It is a Heidenau K28 and will be the new summer tire for the rear of the bike. It is a sidecar specific tire in the correct "inch" size for the bike. Note the square profile to put a little more rubber on the road and the two ribs down the middle should contribute to longer life. I had heard about this tire at the BMWMOA rally last summer in Salem, OR, and needed to show the brochure to Shawn to try and order it. Heidenau US had just began importing these tires but they've been available in Europe for a while.

Once the Christmas break starts, I plan on removing the sidecar and performing some maintenance on the bike including:

  • Transmission input spline lube
  • Change front and rear brake fluid
  • Renew anti-sieze on the exhaust nuts
  • Rear wheel spline lube
  • Adjust valves
  • Replace oil filter
  • Check pads, plugs, hoses, wheel bearings
  • Grease swingarm pivots
  • Grease clutch cable pivots

Other items include:

  • Check out horn and headlight wiring problem
  • Check sidecar alignment
  • Check clutch for wear
  • Install new horn
  • Clean starter and replace bushing in the nose
  • Re-route positive battery cable
  • Sidecar battery blanket


Friday, December 20, 2013

Winter Solstice

This is one of my favorite graphics ( which shows the path of the sun in Fairbanks, AK.  The red line is today near the winter solstice which I believe is tomorrow, 12-21-13. As you can see, it is pretty much rising and setting in the southern sky with sunrise at 10:58am and sunset at 2:40pm and climbs only a few degrees above the horizon. The black line is the path of the sun during the equinox and the inner gray circle is the summer solstice showing sunrise and sunset in the northern sky. After tomorrow, the days will start to get longer again!

Yesterday was the first time in weeks when I pulled off the carb bowls and didn't find any trace of water. I'm not sure what changed. Maybe I just picked up a bad batch of gas at some point in time. The Heet didn't seem to be doing the job of absorbing the water so I added some Stabil which may have done the trick. The temperatures have been pretty moderate at around 0°F so no problem at all getting back and forth to work on the sidecar rig. 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Still Dark and Dreary

I think this was a not too subtle reminder that I still live in Alaska. Needless to say, I didn't ride to work that day (Monday) though I did consider riding in to take a picture by the temperature sign. But the weather has been rapidly improving and I rode in to town last night for a meeting. Actually, the meeting was only ½ a mile away but that meant I had to go at least 10 to sort of warm up the engine. I don't think an air cooled engine cares for these really cold temperatures. I can smell a lot of partially burned fuel in the exhaust. And after 10 miles at -18°F, the heads were warm but still cool enough to put your bare hands on. This morning, it has warmed up considerably so it was a relatively pleasant ride in.

Monday Morning Fog
With the cold weather on Monday, we had a temperature inversion and the resulting ice fog. Ice fog is a particularly unhealthy version where water freezes around particles of ash or soot mostly from burning solid fuel (wood or coal). Once you breath in the fog, the particles are trapped. There is a lot of push to limit burning wood and coal but there is a lot of resistance to new government regs around here. Plus, almost all of our electricity is from coal power plants. On strong inversion days, you can see the exhaust from the power plants, wood stoves and boilers heading down to the ground instead of rising up as you would expect.

Wednesday Dawn
There was a little bit of color on the horizon this morning on my way back from the cafe across the street. It's still almost two hours before sunrise but you may get an idea how long our dawn and dusks are due to the shallow angle the sun takes. These days sunrise and sunset both occur in the southern sky.

Another shot of the southern horizon showing the actual sunrise Officially, it's at 10:55am but here it is ten minutes later. But at least we still have sunrise. Barrow's next sunrise isn't until around January 20th.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Motorcycle Ornaments

Yesterday afternoon was spent setting up some of the Christmas decorations which included the tree. Yes, it is artificial and doesn't have the wonderful smell associated with a live tree but the reality is, live trees need to be trucked up in heated containers and cost a small fortune. I used to volunteer with the Boy Scouts at the Kiwanis tree sale and unless the trees were handled and transported very carefully, they died quickly. Live trees outdoors in interior Alaska are dormant during the winter and shortly after you bring them inside, they lose all their needles. Plus they are kind of scrawny. I picked up this sidecar ornament last summer at the Santa Claus House in North Pole. I think Dom had posted a picture of the same ornament in Colorado so there must not be a whole lot of choice. My son thought that they should've just used bottle caps for the wheels instead of steel stamped to look like bottle caps.

Of course there was a lot of help putting on ornaments though he seemed like he wanted to play with the hooks more than hang ornaments. Plus, many of the ornaments looked more like toys than decoration. He will be two years old in less than a week.

One of the other motorcycle ornaments is this touring bike with lots and lots of chrome. Doesn't look like anything in our garage though the color is close.  I believe that Bridget had picked this one up on the same trip to the Santa Claus House. Supposedly, there is a motorcycle riding Santa but I couldn't find it on the tree.

The last thing set up was Bridget's Lionel train set. She was always envious of the train set her brother received as a kid so her parents sent her one as a Christmas gift when she was ~40. Anyway, it gets set up around the tree every year and here she's showing the grandson how it works. I don't think that he understands centrifugal force and its relation to angular velocity. Maybe there's an iTunesU video on that topic. (BTW, this is an important topic to sidecar drivers as well) But he has figured out how to operate the whistle.

Too cold today (Monday) for riding in to work as I don't want to have the bike cold soak that long. Even with the 5W30 oil and pan heater, it's still an air cooled engine. In these temperatures some way to limit airflow to the cylinders may be needed. Even at -10°F, the transmission was getting pretty difficult to shift when first starting out in the afternoon.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Not Much Color

Since black, white and grey were ruled out as valid colors for the Color the Season Challenge, there was little else to do but look outside of nature. It seems that around here at this time of year, there is very little natural occurring color except sunrise and sunset. Maybe that is why some, including us, opt to hang lights from the eaves of our houses. This particular Christmas tree has been lighting up the hallway in my building for about a week and it does brighten things up.

This is one other color that many are happy to see out in the parking lot. This is the neon glow from the triple outlet tap on my bike plugged into the extension cord to the outlet for the parking space. This means that the outlet you're plugged into is actually working and there is a chance that your vehicle may start after spending all day in the parking lot. Right now, all I have running on it is the 25W silicone heat pad on the oil pan and a 50W pad next to the battery. Which reminds me, I need to move the heat pad from the motorcycle battery to the car battery in the sidecar.

Right now, my office smells like gasoline. On Wednesday evening, I drained more gas from the tank to check for water (yes, there was more water) and forgot to reconnect one of the hoses to the right carburetor. This morning, some gas spilled on my riding pants and jeans. Now I get to smell like a gas station for the rest of the day.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Back To Normal

Or at least as far as the weather is concerned. This afternoon, I was running a few errands and grabbed another shot of the local roads. Most of the main roads are in pretty good shape but it takes a while for the road crews to get to the smaller ones. Some, like this one, are in pretty nice shape as it probably doesn't get much more than local traffic and it looks like it's been plowed recently though not graded. I think that our normal winter weather may be slowly returning as it was 16°F this morning and is forecast to drop to about -9°F by this evening.

Last night, I added a two rows of carbide studs near the center of the tread on the pusher. This has made a huge difference when cruising down the icy roads. Completely stable without even a hint of fish tailing. Still easy enough to break loose when you want it using the throttle. I was reluctant to put studs in the center of the tread as I thought it may significantly reduce traction on dry roads. By late afternoon yesterday, the fog and light snow appeared to be over and we ended up with the sun just peeking below the clouds. The sky was crystal clear on my ride in this morning.

This evening when heading home, I had the now familiar rough running indicating water in the carbs. A quick stop to empty out the bowls (again!) and smooth running returned. I don't know where all of the moisture is coming from, just condensation? I pulled the tank, drained another liter from each petcock (on reserve) and got maybe ½ teaspoon of water. Frustrating...

Monday, December 9, 2013

Backwards Weather

After reading all of the tales of frigid temperatures and frozen pipes, I was glad to be here. 0°F in Corvallis while it's +27°F in Barrow! What's that all about? I would expect it to be cold in Minneapolis but not in Oregon. The ride in today really felt warm and I ended up leaving the visor partially open to try and cool off.

We had freezing rain for the last couple of days and this morning, I needed to clear off the couple inches of snow off of the driveway before I could get the bike up to the road. Traffic was moving well under the speed limit but I opted to not turn into the back road into the university as the right turn lane was still deep with snow. I was thinking that if the sidecar wheel went into deeper snow the rig may pull sharply to the right. I didn't want to try that with traffic right on my tail during our morning "rush hour". Since more snow is forecast for later today, I covered the handlebars and engine to minimize ice on the cables and carbs.

We once again have fog due to the unseasonably warm weather. This photo was taken at about 9:45am while walking back to my office. It's really nice out today. Sunrise today isn't for another hour as we steadily march towards the shortest day. Less than two weeks before sunrise starts to get earlier in the day.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Freezing Rain

This was the view through my windshield this afternoon. No nice fluffly snow like they had in Corvallis but rather 24°F and raining. It had started to rain last night but by this morning, it looked like we just had a little rain. I went ahead and rode in and maybe went a little slower than usual but not by much. This afternoon, it started to rain and it was still below freezing (how does that work?) I thought that it may be a good idea to simply head home before the evening rush hour traffic. I think I was in 3rd gear all the way and pulled off the road a couple of times to let other traffic go by. It was pretty slick. The whole bike (except for the engine and exhaust) and sidecar had a nice layer of ice built up on it.

Fortunately, most of the other traffic recognized the driving hazard and speeds were reasonable. The only speed demons were the usual suspects, lifted trucks and Subarus. There was one car sitting on top of a snow bank along side of the road and I couldn't figure out how it got there. No signs of sliding, no wheel tracks and all four wheels weren't touching the ground. Almost as if it was put there by a crane. But at least it was right side up and no one was in it. I didn't stop to take a picture since there was traffic behind me.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Back in Fairbanks

At least I can generally find close-in parking though not nicely covered. My office is just through the door and maybe 20' to the right. Sunrise is getting later and later (10:28 today) but that trend will end in less than three weeks. I find that I prefer to head home before it's completely dark as there is more traffic but that's getting impossible. I usually leave the house at about 7:15am and traffic is pretty light. Yesterday, I had to dig out the snowblower to clear off some of the snow from the driveway. In comparison to last year, I think the trials tire I used last year worked better than the K60. It had a flatter profile so the studs had better contact. Maybe I'll try some studs near the middle of the tread.
I thought it felt a little bit colder than usual (is there a usual?) this morning on my short commute in. The forecast was for warmer temperatures. This morning, the sidecar wheel came up a couple if times while tooling around campus. There have been "bumps" near the curb where the snow gets really packed down from pedestrian traffic on right turns. The first time was a surprise but the others were expected. In all cases not a problem as speed was low and recovery as simple as reducing throttle.
Maybe this is a gimmick but I'm hearing about more and more of these treadmill desks. I think if you are really tied to a desk then it may be good but I still prefer to get out and about.
Posted using the BlogGo app. It posts only the small version of the photo and they aren't "clickable". That's probably to save bandwidth so you can post from the cellular network. Very convenient but I'm not sure I like the limitation.  

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Minnehaha and St. Anthony Falls

On Sunday morning after a wonderful breakfast of homemade blueberry pancakes and apple butter, Chris took us on a tour of some of the sights around Minneapolis. The first stop was Minnehaha Falls and the surrounding park. Since we have few waterfalls readily accessible around home, it was really cool to see these falls in the winter. I actually vaguely remember stopping here the first time I was in Minneapolis sometime in the late '60s but only remember the location, no details.

We walked down on the trail to the creek at the base of the falls to do a little more exploring. (No geocaches were found) I guess the falls at this time of year are barely a trickle compared to their summertime flow. There was only a slight breeze so it didn't feel as cold as it did a couple of days ago in St. Paul.

This is the creek at the base and we followed it for a short ways before heading back up the stairs towards the parking lot. I'm still amazed at the lack of snow but I'm not complaining. The weather guessers are saying that it'll be -17°F by next weekend and it was -24°F back home in Fairbanks. Here, it was above freezing with scattered clouds.


After Minnehaha Falls, we drove up along the west shore of the Mississippi River. This is on the opposite side from where we were on Thanksgiving Day. We stopped at the Stone Arch Bridge to walk across. This is the bridge I had a picture of yesterday. These buildings are just downstream from St. Anthony Falls. According to the posters, the falls were rapidly deteriorating and instead of allowing them to turn into rapids (falls are more geographically contained) they added concrete to keep it in place.


I guess I really like to look of all of the old commercial buildings and warehouses along the river and enjoyed hearing of the history of the area.

These are locks on the west side of the falls. Chris pointed out that this lock is much narrower than the lock at Ford Falls, which are shown in the previous post, to handle smaller boats and barges.

Here are the St. Anthony Falls. Even though these are much larger, I still like the appearance of the Minnehaha Falls and from the drawings of what these fall originally looked like, it was looked more scenic before when it had a nice "U" shape.

After the Stone Arch Bridge, we visited my cousin and his wife for lunch then went to one of Reuben's rehearsals in downtown Minneapolis. It was like getting a private concert as the small group was practicing for an upcoming gig. They sounded pretty good.

On Monday morning we headed to the airport but not before getting at least one photo of Chris in his natural environment. In this case the Ural since "snow pellets" were forecast later in the day. Thank you to Chris and his wife for hosting us for the last couple of days. We thoroughly enjoyed spending the last couple of days with them.


This post is was made using Blogsy on the iPad, email from the iPhone, BlogGo on the phone and I finally had to use the browser editor to clean up the mess that all of the apps made. They really don't work together very well.


Monday, December 2, 2013

Moto-blogger Meetup

On Saturday morning, we checked out of the hotel in St. Paul and went in search of Diamonds Coffee Shop in Minneapolis. We were meeting Coopdway of Coop's Corner and Lucky of The Great Motorcycle Pizza Tour. We were a few minutes late but Coop was waiting for us in the entry and generously treated us to breakfast and coffee. We met a group of his riding friends in the back of the shop which was located in a fascinating building. We walked through the old safe on the way to the back room.

Lucky arrived a short time later and, in case you haven't been following it, just completed another NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) novel. We talked about all sorts of things and it continues to amaze me how much we have in common with other moto-bloggers. Maybe it shouldn't amaze me anymore as every meetup has been a wonderful experience. 

After a couple hours, that seemed to fly by in an instant, we went our separate ways. Ours was destined to be the shopping mall. After a several hours of battle shopping (actually it wasn't that crowded) I found a new pepper grinder. 

We then went to stay in the newly remodeled guest room of Chris of EverydayRiding and his wonderful wife. After an incredible dinner at a Himalayan/Nepal/Indian restaurant called Gorkha Palace, we went on a tour of Minneapolis. On Sunday, we were able to walk across this bridge but it was stunning at night as was the new highway bridge across the Mississippi. 

A huge thank you to Chris and his wife for being fantastic hosts and sharing their home (and Wi-Fi).