Sunday, March 31, 2013

Happy Easter and Balancing Carbs

It seems like I was just here. I returned from Barrow on Friday evening and after spending the weekend in Fairbanks, I again find myself in the deserted terminal at the Fairbanks International Airport (FAI). I am on my way to the Polar Technology Conference being held in Annapolis, MD, at the Naval Academy. Should be interesting. It turned out to be another warm day (well above freezing) but not as nice as it was yesterday.

Yesterday morning, I got a call from the local Airheads Air Marshal letting me know that it may be a good day to balance my carbs. That afternoon, the same fellow Airhead who helped me overhaul the Bing carburators had me bring the rig by his home and he balanced the carburators. He had a nice quad Hg manometer set up of which we only needed two. They weren't too far off at idle but pretty far off at higher RPM. By adjusting the idle stop screw and the throttle cables he got them balanced pretty quickly. He also had a ColorTune set up which allowed you a peek into the combustion chamber to see the color of the flame while the engine is running. He adjusted the idle mixture (it was only off 1/8th of a turn on one of the carbs) to get the orange color that he was looking for and ran the engine at higher RPM. He said the it was as perfect as you can get with a nice blue.

On the test ride back home, I was pleasantly surprised by the huge difference in performance. There was none of the roughness that was there before and a whole lot more power. With the sidecar, I had resigned myself to never use fifth but now it not only pulled fifth just fine but I was easily able to accelerate in fifth. I had always been concerned about having to restart the bike as it seemed like the battery had just enough charge to turn over the engine but during the balancing process, we probably started the bike a dozen times with never an opportunity for the battery to get charged. No problems at all.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Out For a Walk

It really turned out to be a beautiful day and after dinner, I took a couple of loops around the NARL campus to enjoy the lack of wind. It was still only 1°F but without the wind, it was very pleasant. These pictures were taken at about 8:00PM which is still a couple of hours before sunset and many hours before it's actually dark. This is the location of a geocache which sees pretty good traffic. I dropped something off and picked something up.

The wind blown snow really sticks to things and I kind of like the way it looks. This is how utilities are run if you can't bury things into the ground and I believe that it is still used for natural gas lines. These overhead "tracks" run all over the NARL campus and seem to start at what I think was the former power plant when this place was first built back in the mid-40's. I really enjoy walking around this place with all of the rusted steel and frost covered paint.

I had to put in at least one ocean view though it isn't quite the same as where the water isn't solid. It's still nice in its own special way. I did manage to get in a nice five mile walk all the while looking out for polar bear. This morning, there was a polar bear alert as a one was spotted just a short distance from NARL on the ice. By 8:30am, the guards said that it looked like they were headed back out onto the ice away from town.

I now have about 95% of what I had intended to do on this visit done and looking forward to doing a training session for a couple of staff members on the use of the AV system tomorrow morning. Then I will be receiving training on the keyless entry system that has been in place since the building was constructed but has never worked. 

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Spring Isn't Here Yet

Mid-day sunshine in Barrow, AK. The blowing snow is making it a little difficult to see where you are going. If you aren't familiar with where the roads are, it would be easy to drive off of the edge. Even though it is only a couple of days after the Spring Equinox, the sun is above the horizon for almost 14 hours. This, by the way, is the sun as it appears this morning at around 11AM with the wind stirring up the snow. At least it's warmed up a little back to almost positive temperatures (°F)

I spent much of Sunday afternoon getting a radio link back up between the roof of the BARC (Barrow Arctic Research Center) and the BEO (Barrow Environmental Observatory). To the left is a older photo I took a couple of years ago of the BEO shed at the other end of the wireless connection. Fortunately, I didn't need to venture out there as it is about a mile in from the road. The wind and blowing snow on top of the roof was enough of a challenge. But the link is back up and even with the blowing snow, I was able to get 41 Mbps between the two sites.

The BEO is 7,466 acres of land formally set aside by the native corporation for long term environmental studies in 1992. Research has been going on in this area since 1947. In case you are interested, here is a link to the current master plan. This is the live view from the one of the webcams located on the tower next to the building. As you can see, not much of a view today. This is the cameral looking to the west as you can barely make out the series of power poles installed several years to bring power to the shed.

I will be up here until the end of the week doing a lot of maintenance and setting up a network authentication system before the Summer field season kicks in.

Wednesday Morning Update - The wind died down overnight and  the town is now left with a lot of snow to rearrange. This parking lot was just plowed yesterday down to the dirt and now there is about 2 to 3 feet of snow drifts. This is the front entry of the BARC, a federally funded science  facility to study climate change. I have been working on this building since the design phase and was originally designed as part of a multi-phase project which is why it looks like it's sitting all by itself. Room for expansion. 

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Small Victory

The sunny, Spring weather continued on for the remainder of last week but this morning, Winter seems to have returned with below 0°F temperatures returning. Not that it really matters to me as I'm sitting in the airport again heading north  for the week with quite a list of things to take care of. Since some of the tasks involve being outside for a while, I even dragged out my cold weather gear. Carhartt coveralls and bunny boots. I tried on the coveralls to see if they fit and this may be a small victory, as the coveralls are probably about 20 years old and I sort of outgrew them a while back. Now, maybe due to all the walking, they fit again! I was wondering if they would be suitable for when driving the sidecar. Since they aren't motorcycle gear, it obviously wouldn't have any armor but the probability of hitting the ground may be lower now with the third wheel. Just a thought...

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Bright, Sunny Day

Another boring parking lot photo
This morning, at -2°F, it was much warmer than it was yesterday due to the clouds and light snow. I went ahead and rode in and brought along the handy battery jump box, just in case the bike proved to be difficult starting. By mid-day, the light snow had stopped and the bright, March sunshine returned. It was a very nice ride in though the screw in studs on the rear tire may need replacement already. It took several attempts to get out of the driveway.

Since I was ordering another Sena SMH10 for Bridget's new helmet, I opted to order the SMH10-11 which has a separate microphone boom. This would work better on the Nolan N104 helmet I had picked up last week as the microphone could then be placed on the opposite side of the helmet and the boom could use the supplied cutout. Since I had to pull everything out, I took a picture of the Sena mount in the slot I had made in the plastic trim. You can see that the thin, plastic trim is not structural and the bracket is clamped to the shell of the helmet.

The wiring for the microphone and the right speaker is run through the plastic trim to which forms a nice channel that Nolan uses for their own Bluetooth communications system. The microphone is now in a much more optimal location for picking up voice. The original bracket should fit Bridget's new Scorpion helmet as I had not read of any issues between the Sena and the Scorpion EXO-1100.
Friday Morning Update - I did need to replace the studs on the rear tire as they were pretty worn from riding on pavement. They only lasted about 250 miles. The ones on the front tire are still in pretty good shape with lots of sharp edges. The difference may be the front ones only touch the pavement when the bars are turned one way or another due to the rounder profile of the tire. On the rear, the studs are always touching due to the flatter profile.

It was even warmer this morning at +15°F. Didn't even need to turn on the heated gear.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Signs of Spring?

Wimped out again this morning. I saw the -18°F on my iPhone and decided to carpool with my wife. I'm sure that others such as ChrisL and Charlie6 would have seen this as a normal commute, geared up and took off. There are suggestions of Spring such as seeing dirt on south facing road cuts or the brilliant sunny days that are typical of March in Interior Alaska. The arrival of DST was a real pain as it once again made it dark in the morning. Sunrise is once again before 8am so I had wanted to start commuting on a regular basis. (Sign the petition to eliminate DST)

Snow Pile from the clearing the
parking lots
On Monday, I did manage to ride in after my early morning dental appointment but decided to head home mid-afternoon since it wasn't warming up much. The weather forecast claimed a high in the mid teens but it wasn't happening. I figured that if there was going to be any problem with the bike, I preferred to avoid "rush hour" traffic. The bike started up fine even though it had been sitting out in pretty cold temperatures (-16°F when I arrived and -7°F at 3:00pm). I still had not installed the silicone pads to keep the crankcase and battery warm. After reaching the main road leaving the university, the rough running started again. Cruised on home in third gear at 50mph but there was insufficient torque to pull fourth gear (3K rpm). It felt as if the engine was running way too rich though the enrichener was shut off. BMW uses an enrichener instead of a choke for cold weather starting. Once I arrived home, the roughness went away as quickly as it came and it idled just fine as I pulled into the garage. The bike must not care for the cold.

Over the weekend, I had gone on several rides but they alway started from (and ended at) the relatively warm garage. The rough running seems to be a problem only if the bike is left out to "cold soak".

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Sena SMH10 installation in the N104

Before I picked up the Nolan N104 last week, I didn't do any research on the compatibility with the Sena SMH10 Bluetooth unit. Apparantly, the N104 is one of the few helmets where you can't simply clamp the unit to the side of the helmet due to a plastic trim piece which is a wire channel for their own N-Com communications unit. Fortunately, Google to the rescue.

On an FJR forum, there was a post showing how they used a Dremel to cut a slot in the plastic trim piece for the bracket to slide into. It seemed like a simple fix so I did the same. After a little bit of measuring, I cut a small slot in the trim piece until the backet was snug. After a bit of cleanup with a sharp knife I now had a non-returnable helmet but a nice slot for the Sena bracket. Total time for the mod, 2 minutes. After I get everything fitted, I'll add some black silicone caulk to seal the slot to keep the wind noise down.

The Sena speakers fit the stock cutouts perfectly and are a nice snug fit that doesn't need any additional double stick tape to stay in place. The wire for the right speaker is routed within the channel provided by the plastic trim piece. The liner pieces and neck roll are then put back in place.

The base for the electronics module is then simply clamped in place using the supplied allen head screws and the excess wiring for the speakers routed into the plastic channel. The position of the unit is further back than is optimum but it's necessary to clear the internal sunshade control which is directly in front of the Sena bracket. I think the microphone boom clears the bracket enough to reach the controls.

The positioning of the unit has the microphone on one side instead of directly in front. I'll see how this works later. I also ordered another Sena unit for my wife's new helmet and Amazon claims that it'll be here on Monday.

Yesterday, turned out to be a university staff holiday. I guess we get a day off for spring break. I took the rig out for a ride partly to get familiar with the handling again as it has been a while since I've been able to drive it. It was -9°F when I left in the morning and I just sort of drove around the area for 1½ hours stopping once to refill the tank. I had added some gas from a gas can when I added the Heet to the tank a few weeks back. The Heet seems to have solved the rough running for now. Maybe there was moisture in the tank. No issues at all on the ride yesterday though I did bring the portable battery jump unit with me just in case.

It was a beautiful, sunny day and I tried to stop and take some pictures during the ride but my iPhone had shut itself down possibly due to the temperatures. I guess next time I should carry the phone on my person instead of just throwing it in the tank bag. The engine ran just fine and I put on about 60 miles. By the time I returned home, it had warmed up to a much more "Spring-like" 6°F. The only handling issue I need to look into is the rig pulls to the right at 50 mph and I think this means I need to increase the lean out a little.

The new Nolan is much quieter than my old HJC Symax-II and with the Pinlock visor, no more fogging up! For me, this is a big deal as I would have to ride with my visor partly open from about mid-September on due to fogging. I still needed to open the visor if I was stopped at a long red light as my glasses would start to fog. Not a problem if I'm moving. The availability of the Pinlock visor alone was a good reason to upgrade but the reduced noise level is pronounced. I may not even have to bother with earplugs anymore.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Visiting Revzilla

Today, we made it back to Phildalphia for our flight back to Alaska. We had some time and planned a visit to Revzilla's storefront. They are one of the few moto-gear vendors that have extended free shipping to Alaska. This alone is a great reason to give them business. We came looking for a helmet for my spouse and I ended up picking up a new lid as well. The customer service was second to none and they had a huge selection to choose from. I guess they recently moved to this location from somewhere else in Philly and it was an interesting location to say the least.

I did think that it was interesting to see this at the front door as opposed to the expected motorcycle parking. We did find out later that the area is a recycled shipyard and the entire complex is places recycling high on their list of priorities for the former navy shipyard.
Bridget ended up selecting a Scorpion EXO-1100 full face with lots of graphics. She tried on quite a few including 3/4 face, modular and full face. This one has inflatable cheek pads to adjust the fit. They really had a nice selection of gear to choose from and much better than anything in Alaska.

I ended up selecting a much more subdued Nolan N104 modular helmet. I think the color is wine cherry. I was originally looking for white or silver but this looked pretty nice and would sort of match the bike (as if that really mattered). My old HJC is now five years old and I would be lying to say that it never touched the ground. After reading a Keith's post, I felt that maybe it was time to replace it. Plus, it never really fit very well and it hits my chin when I latch it down. This new one has a lot more room.

We asked the sales clerk for a lunch recommendation and she recommended a really unique location. The company cafeteria for Urban Outfitters. It was only a short drive through the shipyard and we pulled up to these old warehouses. The food was fabulous and they had a huge selection. Plus the prices were pretty modest. This is looking from one end of the refurbished warehouse they use for their office building looking towards the cafeteria. If you look out the window at the end of the building, you can see an aircraft carrier. I'm not sure if it was being refurbished or just being stored. On each side through glass walls are the offices for Urban Outfitters.

Now, I'm sitting in the terminal in the Philadelphia airport waiting for the long flight home and seeing -20°F on the weather report...

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Fayetteville, NC

Today we travelled from Tybee Island, Georgia, to Fayetteville, North Carolina. A completely uneventful trip. Before leaving town, we nabbed a couple of geocaches along the beach. It hit over 70°F today and felt even more "Spring-like" than yesterday.

This is my only photo for the day at a park in downtown Fayetteville. They really seem to roll up the sidewalks in the evening as most businesses were closed at only 5:30. We did find a couple more geocaches here as well. I had never been here before but we had no real expectations.

I will finish off with a photo of last nights dinner. Steamed oysters, shrimp and crab. I really enjoy seafood and this was a great dinner. It's not as much food as it looks since there are a dozen oysters (my favorite) in the bottom of the pile.

BTW, BlogPress on the iPhone really sucks for blogging. The resultant post was horribly formatted and took a lot of monkeying around to get something even a little tolerable...

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Quest for Spring - Savannah, GA

We had headed south looking for Spring and I believe that we may have found something close enough in Savannah, Georgia. By mid-morning, it has been above 60°F and sunny. That is shirt sleeve for us (unlike some others bundled up with gloves, scarfs and hats. I apologize for the number of pictures but we have been pretty busy. There were quite a few bikes running around Savannah, mostly groups of large, loud cruisers trailered in for the sunny weather.

First stop was the railroad museum in downtown Savannah behind the visitors center. There is quite a selection of engines but they are slowly being restored and not all of the run. We did take a short ride through the grounds pulled by the third one from the left. The power plant is the ornate building below.

The second stop was the museum next to the visitors center. This is a single cylinder, front-engine, rear chain drive buggy. It is a 1902 Crestmobile according to the sign. We walked around town during the afternoon then took a "Paula Deen" streetcar tour which ended with dinner at her restaurant The Lady and Sons.

The food was pretty tasty but probably pretty high calorie as well. To me. the best items were the collard greens, cabbage and the mac & cheese. The fried chicken had good flavor but was over cooked. The streets were really crowded since there was a 5K race taking place and many of the streets were blocked off. The picture below shows the green water in all of the fountains in preparation for St. Patricks day.

Today, while walking around Savannah, we passed a Vespa dealer which has a very familiar looking sidecar mounted to a Vespa. The one improvement is the trunk opening from the rear. Bridget spotted it in the garage before I did. After lunch, we headed towards the coast to Tybee Island. The first stop was the lighthouse.

It was 178 steps to the top of the lighthouse and the view was worth the climb. I took some pano shots but don't have the software with me to make them. the next photo is looking into the bulb and lens housing.

The next couple of shots are from Tybee pier located near our hotel. There was a St. Patricks Day parade going on so we really couldn't drive anywhere after making it to the hotel. The main street running through town and all of the side streets were blocked off for a few hours. it was a wonderful walk and, as you may notice, no snow and ice.

Just a shot of the sand between the dunes and the ocean. The next photo was taken from the top of the lighthouse. I'm too lazy to re-arrange all of the pictures in this post to get it in the right order. This is the view looking south towards town.

This is looking north from Tybee Pier. Not many people on the beach though there were a few hardy surfers out in the water.

Tomorrow, we start heading north again for Philadelphia for our flight on Wednesday.


Thursday, March 7, 2013

Quest for Spring - Charleston, SC

This morning brought clear skies and less wind. We had stopped in Wilmington, North Carolina, last night after a long day of torrential rains and strong winds. At least the temperatures were slowly climbing. This photo was taken at a visitors center in Charleston, South Carolina, and by then, it was a very pleasant 60°F. There was a long fishing pier here that extended about ¼ way across the river.

The visitors center made for a pleasant stop in a long day of driving. I hadn't realized just how far it was from Urbanna, Virginia, to Savannah, Georgia. Especially if you opt to not taking the interstate highways. The heavy traffic in the cities were the worst part of it and I think there must be a law prohibiting the use of turn signals as no one seemed to use them. If you see an opening in the next lane you just jerk the wheel snd move into it. By 5:15PM, we finally arrived in Savannah, Georgia, where we will be staying for several days.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Quest for Spring - Urbanna, VA

On Sunday, we just went from a small town near Philadelphia to Hershey, PA. On Monday, we picked up my father in-law and drove down to Urbanna, VA, which was about 240 miles. We have been staying in a beautiful B&B with beautifully appointed rooms and incredible food. At my brother in-law's home, there was a compass attached to the ceiling in the living room and I thought that it was a pretty unique fixture. This afternoon, we roasted fresh oysters over charcoal until they just cracked open.

On Tuesday morning, I walked around the town of Urbanna, VA, and there were some nice views of the Chesapeake Bay but most were behind private property signs. And you may notice the lack of warm, sunny weather and as I'm typing this, the rain is pouring down. Tomorrow we head south to try and find Spring.


There are some beautiful homes in the area. This one caught my eye but the colors may be brighter due to the sunshine at the time.

My father in-law at his birthday dinner. All of his children were in attendance as well as one other relative. It was a wonderful time and a fantastic dinner. The restaurant was normally closed but they opened just for our group.