Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Too Warm

Today at noon, I walked down to the Farmers Market just a little ways down College Road and it felt really hot. The forecast for tomorrow is even warmer. It must be time to head for cooler temperatures. I'll be headed north again in a couple of days so I'll be getting a reprieve from the heat.

The motorcycle parking spaces are starting to fill up again with 8 bikes here this morning so I started parking in a regular parking space. There are notices posted all over the building that the whole parking lot is going to be torn up for most of the summer with very limited parking adjacent to the building. As you can imagine, this has caused some folks all sorts of anguish. The moto spaces will be reduced from three to two and this is what brought up the question on whether I will continue to use the motorcycle spaces given that the sidecar rig takes up a lot of space.

I was looking through my photos from the weekend and I was struck by how different the four sidecars at the Alaska meet up in Talkeetna were. Their similarity being limited to having three wheels touching the ground. My airhead/Cozy combination is smallest and lightest with few, if any, frills. My goal wasn't to carry passengers but simply to be able to ride into the winter.

Here is Bob and Sharon's setup with a BMW R1200GS as the tug and a sidecar and mounts from DMC. The sidecar has a hydraulic disc brake, automotive tire and electric lean adjustment for making small changes on the fly. It is a beautiful, clean setup and should serve them well on their upcoming trip to Prince of Wales Island in southeast Alaska. Follow them on their new blog.

Here is Dan's rig which he refers to the sidecar as "Sophi's car" as his daughter is the usual passenger. The bike, I believe, is a 1300cc V4 Yamaha Venture and they have travelled all around the state and down to the lower 48 towing a small tent trailer. The Champion sidecar has a soft top and could be fully enclosed in case of inclement weather. With the DVD player, Nintendo games and books for the Sophi, they travelled over 8,000 miles on it's inaugural ride.

The last of the four is Dom's 2011 Ural Patrol named Valencia. The only rig with reverse, 2WD, spare tire and the steering mods to reduce the trail normally designed into a motorcycle for stability on two wheels but makes for hard steering on three. Not to mention that the Ural is the only rig designed from the ground up and sold as a sidecar rig. His adventures on his blog are what convinced me to look for a sidecar.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

First Trip with the Sidecar

On Friday afternoon, I headed south for Talkeetna, AK, a small touristy town north of Anchorage. The intent was to meet some other sidecarists in Alaska. Two answered the email counting myself sent out last winter plus Dom. This is at a turnout south of Cantwell where I stopped to remove my fleece liner. It was starting to get warm in spite of the snow.

I stopped at the South McKinley Viewpoint at the southern end of the Denali State Park to see if there was a clear view of the mountain. It was a little cloudy but the top was peaking out. By this time it was feeling pretty warm out. And there were a lot of people milling around whining about the horrible view, the weather, the bathrooms. You name it, they were complaining about it. I didn't think it was that bad.

After arriving in Talkeetna, I wandered around town checking out the three campgrounds and the rest of the group ended up being at the first one. I saw a sign saying "No Overnight Parking" so I assumed I was in the wrong place. But Dom had spotted me turning around and called while I was at the third campground. This photo was taken on Saturday morning since the light was coming from a better angle than it was the previous evening. This was taken from the beach near the campground.

Here is our campground with the four rigs, all very different. The pile of leaves were being collected by a local character who had an opinion on just about everything. For more information on the participants, please see Dom's post and Bob and Sharon's post on the meetup.

We had breakfast at the Roadhouse Cafe where I had to try the poutine since it was listed on the menu. If you like poutine, then you wouldn't care for this version. Their version was simply pan fried potatoes covered with white gravy and cheese. I wouldn't recommend it. After breakfast, Dom packed up and headed for the ferry to take him away from Alaska and all of the Ural's "issues" back to the relative security of the lower 48. Plus, as he discovered, part of the fun is being in Alaska when the tourists aren't here.

Bob, Sharon and I then wandered through beautiful downtown Talkeetna and explored every single shop in town looking at all of the Alaska trinkets with about 10% actually made in Alaska. Much of it was overpriced but some was very beautiful and original. I ended up getting some local non-bee honey (never heard of this before) and a hand carved birch rice paddle. We had a light lunch at the Wildflower Cafe (excellent food!) before heading back to camp so Bob and Sharon could finish packing up before heading home to Wasilla.

The Alaska Railroad came through town several times per day many times to pick up or drop off tourists continuing their "cruise ship factory tours" of Alaska. BTW, to anyone wanting to visit Alaska, I would not recommend a "tour" unless you want to be herded around like cattle. Saturday evening was spent with Dan and his 12 year old daughter Sophi and one of his friends from the Yamaha Star riding group.

I left Talkeetna around noon trying to time it to avoid a huge biker ride from Mary Cary's McKinley View Lodge to the Veterans Memorial about twelve miles north. When I passed the lodge, there were several hundred bikes in the parking lot. They were getting ready to leave but were a few hours after their planned 11:30 departure. Everyone out riding today seemed happy to be on two wheels again and I got waves from just about all of the bikes including bicycles, cruisers and most of the sport bikes. Even quite a few trucks and cages as well.

This is the same turnout as the in the first photo but the other direction. It was warm and I was starting to get pretty sore. Driving the sidecar takes a fair amount of physical effort and Dom was right, 300 miles with the sidecar feels like 500 without.

This is the turnout just a little ways from Fairbanks where I've taken other pictures. It was pretty warm at this point and I had just about every vent on my jacket open but was still pretty warm. I think it was over 80°F and if you look closely, you can see that the trees are starting to bud. The drab grey is finally turning green.

This turned out to be a pretty slow trip as I had to keep my speed under 60mph due to the fairing vibration. I think it's the sidecar wheel as I can see the sidecar fender moving up and down at the same frequency as the fairing vibration. Something else to figure out before the next trip.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Lazy Afternoon

Mid-afternoon today, my eyes started to water even more than usual from staring at a computer screen all day. They were doing a controlled burn along the ditch below the building and, inevitably, some smoke found its way into the building air handling system. Sounds like a good reason to take a break and go outside for a while.

One of the volunteer fire fighters (yes, Fairbanks still relies heavily on volunteer fire departments) explained what was going on. The fire department you see in this picture is from the university which is primarily staffed with students.

You may notice the clear, blue skies. It's hit the mid 60s (°F) today and the forecast for this weekend is supposed to be up around 80°F!

I noticed that all of the other motorcycles are keeping their distance just in case sidecars are contagious. Maybe it's like some sort of cancerous growth. This is the motorcycle parking for our building. I was asked earlier if I planned to continue using it since I was taking up so much space.

This weekend, I am planning on going to a sidecar campout in Talkeetna, which is a small town north of Anchorage. Should be interesting... 

Sunday, May 19, 2013

A Long Day

Feeling tired and sore but we're almost done. Here you can see the ratty, old carpet that used to be in the entryway and the dining room. We could never decide what kind of flooring to put in until it just drove everyone up the wall. I picked up laminate flooring from Sam's Club a couple of weeks ago and my youngest son and I are installing it. It's only 350 ft2 but there are four closets to fit. Most of the flooring is down except for two small hallway type sections and surprisingly, its lining up pretty well. The house is "squarer" than I thought it would be.


The small black things along the wall are plastic spacers that you use during installation to keep the flooring spaced out ¼" from the wall to allow for expansion. Once we are done, the spacers are removed and base board is installed. The floor is floating and is not fixed to the floor anywhere. Once we get away from things like closets, we can move along pretty quick. Even with all of the other things going on tomorrow, we should get pretty much done and can move the furniture back in. Of course, now that we replaced the flooring, the wall paper looks pretty ratty. I don't think the project will ever end. My only concern with this flooring is water resistance. With it by the entry doors, moisture is almost guaranteed.

This morning, I rode to College Coffehouse where some of the AIrheads meet and Ken, the other guy who bought a used Cozy sidecar, decided against trying to put it on his R75/6 and just pick up a new Ural. He was a initially a little concerned with Dom's trials but decided that it would probably be worth it. He likes the 2WD and reverse. He may be Frozen Motorworks first sale.


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Staff Appreciation Day

Today was Staff Appreciation Day at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Maybe a more accurate description would be Staff Development Day with all of the classes and workshops that were going on throughout the day. Part of the event was a free lunch for all staff and the Chancellor and his wife made home made lemonade for one and all. They have done this for several years and it's always a big hit. I haven't tried it since there is too much sugar but given that it is made fresh, it should be pretty good.

My participation in the event is as a member of UAF Staff Council and I volunteered where needed. I think I found my calling as a lunchtime greeter. I think I'm qualified for a job at Walmart. It was a great opportunity to meet staff as they came into the building and saw some faces that I haven't seen for years. It was a great time.

Tomorrow is a Staff Council meeting and with officer elections. Today I met with the former chair of the elections committee to find out what the process is for elections. This is a quiet time between sessions but overall, turnout and participation seems to be pretty good.

Longevity awards are part of the event with awards for 5,10,15, 20, 25 and 30 years.


Monday, May 13, 2013

More Snapshots of Barrow

Just a few more pictures from Barrow. As I may have mentioned before, fuel is delivered by barge in the Fall and that sets the price for the year. It has slowly been creeping up over the years but honestly, for where it is, this price isn't that bad. I've paid as much in Canada on the road system.

This is the main, modern grocery store AC Company (originally Alaska Commercial). Once inside you'd feel right at home though they do sell televisions, clothes and four wheelers mixed in with the groceries. Prices are are on the high side as everything is flown in so heavy stuff that can't freeze like milk or canned goods are the most expensive. In the entryway, there are usually a number of individuals selling local artwork and I'm always tempted to pick some up. Pretty expensive but beautiful.

Right across the street is the Heritage Center which is the museum as well as the consortium library. A pretty nice facility with the focus on native arts and whaling artifacts.

This lake is the freshwater lake where the drinking water is sourced from. I'm sure there is a treatment facility but this is one of the sources. The road is closed since it has turned to mud even more than other roads in town. Of course, this has re-routed traffic to make the other roads a real mess.

One of several playground set up around town. I actually see this one used not only in the summer but it isn't unusual to see activity in the winter as well.

The only gas station as far as I know. All of the gas is in above ground tanks to the right and one of several auto part stores (Napa) is behind on the right. To get gas, we use these weird "chip keys" since it is generally unstaffed.

Another distance shot of local housing. I didn't feel comfortable taking closer shot of individual homes. But hopefully this will give you an idea of what things are like up north.

One last shot of students out on the ice. They are here as part of a sea ice course being taught out of UAF where they learn some of the techniques needed to perform their research such as getting core samples and how to handle and process them. This is only part of the group out on the ice right now. Normally, when groups are collecting samples, they are much further out on the ice.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Snapshots of Barrow

I usually have the camera facing the ocean as the town seems pretty muddy or covered in snow. But since there were some comments on previous post wondering what the town looked like, I went ahead and wandered around a bit. This is the road you could see from the webcam on top of the bank. The playground is behind me and the ocean is on the right beyond the pile of dirt and snow. Pretty muddy today.

Above is the Top of the World hotel and Pepe's Mexican restaurant where most tourists end up staying. Not very fancy but then again, I never stayed there. It is built on pilings driven into the ground as are most stable buildings around here. A little further down the coast road and you can see that much of the shore is being washed away as the storm surges are getting higher every year.

Above is looking back towards town at the end of the runway. I just missed the Alaska Airlines jet flying overhead by a few minutes. On Wednesday, I took a picture of a lead opening up and that is behind me. Next is looking across Salt Water Lake towards the downtown area. From left to right, the old hospital, the Presbyterian church, the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation and the Wells Fargo Bank building with the web cam and sea ice radar on it's roof.

I have taken photos of the whale bone arch numerous times but it is looking pretty sad at the moment. Breakup is a really messy time of year. To the right is the coast road heading northeast towards the NARL campus. It runs along the ocean which would be on the other side of the pile of ice rocks and snow. At least it is in pretty good shape today. Just ahead is the incinerator building which is supposed to be used for burning trash though I rarely see any smoke coming out of the smoke stack.

Above is the residential portion of the NARL campus. These are all 1940 vintage quonset huts made of corrugated metal. The large field in the foreground was once used as the high school football field for the farthest north game (covered by ESPN no less!). Last is a shot of the Ukpik Nest, the hotel I'm staying in right now. Basically a bunch of modular housing units put together. Individual rooms with the bathrooms and showers down the hall. Inside, it's clean and warm so no complaints from me.

I'll finish off this little tour with a food photo. After Martha mentioned udon, I made want some. Here is some tempura, udon, and a couple pieces of sushi (tobiko and smoked salmon). A wonderful, tasty dinner.

Wow, two posts in one day.

What Have I Been Up To

At times, I have been accused of going to Barrow for a vacation. But I've been pretty busy and have been working in the building for about 10 hours per day. And they moved me to another office within the building again. Since we now have some locking storage in the new office and a door that opened directly into the hallway, I didn't mind moving. Not exactly my version of a vacation.

This was dinner at the local Japanese restaurant I think on Wednesday. Miso soup, ikura, and loco moco. What a combination. Ikura is salmon egg sushi and loco moco is a Hawaiian dish made of rice with a hamburger patty and a fried egg on top all covered with some sort of generic brown gravy. Before this meal, I hadn't eaten anything for a day or so. I didn't finish what I had ordered. Overall, the meal was pretty good.

One of the fun tasks was setting up and testing the Raspberry Pi microcomputers running XBMC software. Here is the entire computer with the HDMI video cable coming out the left side of the case, the micro-usb power supply on top and the tiny wireless usb interface (with the blue light) on the front. They will be velcro'd to the back of the television monitors. To control them, you can use an iOS app or the built in web server. I'm pretty impressed with the capability. You can even use AirPlay from your Mac or iOS device to show movies. I had wanted to set one up on the conference room projector but it doesn't have an HDMI input. This means that I need to pick up a HDMI->DVI-D cable and run an analog stereo audio cable back to the audio mixer if I want sound.

One of the apps I installed on XBMC was Aljezera English so there would be some news feed into the building. Here is one of the four screens that I have set up in the building. I also have the ability to show content from other sources within the facility. It has bee running for a day now without any real issues. It doesn't support Airplay Mirroring which would allow you to send your Mac screen to the monitor nor does it play back mpeg2 encoded video. It also doesn't seem to support MP4 videos like you would download from iTunes. But is is easy to just play them off of your computer and send them to the system.

This evening I was planning on taking some pictures around town to try and give you the flavor of Barrow.


Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Up North Again

One guess where I am today. If you guessed Barrow you'd be correct. This is an image from the sea ice web cam on top of the Wells Fargo bank building in downtown Barrow. As you can see, the ocean is still frozen, there is still snow, and the sun is still fairly high in the sky even though it is now after 10:00pm. I'm up here through the weekend and hope to install some additional network equipment, turn on network registration on a couple more subnets, install another router for a "guest" network, add some AirPlay capability in the conference room and debug some VoIP problems. Plus a few more tasks that I don't remember at the moment or don't want to think about. There are so many researchers up here right now that I'm not in a hut but at the Ukpik Nest (really modular housing made into a hotel). No kitchen so no cooking.

This is the sea ice on the western side of town just off the end of the runway. There is a long stretch of open water and this is causing problems as it's difficult to get to the sea ice edge without crossing them. Pretty dangerous. The light is very flat and there isn't a lot of contrast. And the sky and snow seem bright or at least bright enough to make my eyes ache after being outside for a few hours. It's snowing very lightly but all of the roads are getting to be giant mud puddles with a few roads in town closed until they can dry up a bit.

Monday, May 6, 2013

New Projects

Projects. There always seems to be something that needs doing around the house. The next home project is 350 ft2 of laminate flooring. It'll be a major improvement over the old ratty carpeting that we've been putting up with for years since we couldn't make a decision on flooring. We already told everyone to block off the dates on their calendars. We'll see how it goes. Maybe I better start reading the directions. I think they're on YouTube...

This is a bit more on the fun side and not really a project. Bridget and I are heading out for a trip next month and spending a week in Japan and a week in Singapore with my sister and her family. New locations for both of us and definitely more fun than installing flooring.

Last week, I picked up a "smart charger" as my Odyssey battery didn't seem to have as much charge as it did when it was new. I have been using the BMW trickle charger for the last year and a half. This is the Pro-Logix PL2208 and is the cheapest battery charger recommended by Odyssey that will "condition" and de-sulphate their batteries. Before I used it, the voltmeter would read about 12.5v after riding around and crank kind of slow. Now after using this charger a couple of times, the voltmeter reads 12.9v and the bike cranks much faster. So it may have some impact on the battery and may extend it's useful life. According to Odyssey, 12.84v after sitting for at least 6 hours without a charger plugged in is considered a full charge

No additional work to do on the rig besides changing out the winter weight oil for the standard 20w50 stuff. Tonight is an Airhead "meeting" at the local micro-brewery. They want to see Dom's intake valve photos.