Friday, November 29, 2013

North to Duluth

Today's excursion was some 140 miles north to Duluth to visit Aerostitch. Based on recommendations from Chris of EverydayRiding and Troubadour I stopped by to get fitted for a Roadcrafter Light. I had communicated with Aerostitch via their web site and email and they made a size recommendation but since I was going to be in the area, trying the suit on with the gear I planned on using seemed to be a much better plan. As it turns out, the recommended size would have been too short. I apparently have a long torso and short legs so I ended up getting a long and they need to shorten the legs by 4" (the maximum) above the knee. Now I just need to wait for delivery. They said maybe up to two months since they just had the pop-up store in California last weekend and got tons of orders. I was happy to hear that a lot of mods are now available for the "light" as well as the regular Roadcrafter. 

The drive north was pretty uneventful though Duluth was quite a bit colder (14°F) than St. Paul. The roads were completely dry with only a little snow on the shoulders until about fifteen miles south of Duluth. Then you could see quite a bit of salt on the roads as well as traces of moisture and the fenders and doors of all of the cars were white. The rental company probably won't like that. Within the town, the snow was not cleared from the streets.

I managed to leave the store without purchasing anything else though I was kind of like a kid in a candy store. Lots of interesting stuff including lots of sale items. And no "Black Friday" crowds. In fact, I was the only customer in the store. Since they gave me a discount for coming in to the retail store, I went ahead and got the back pad and they threw in free shipping.

This post was posted using the BlogGo iPhone app.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving and Hanukkah

Today, Thanksgiving Day and the first day of Hanukkah, we spent part of the morning driving and walking around St. Paul and Minneapolis. First stop was taking a look at the deserted capital building before searching for the first geocache of the day. Call us wimps but we just aren't used to the wind and retreated back to the rental car with frozen hands. We then headed west towards the Mississippi River to look at some of the mansions along the way and along the bluffs overlooking the river.

I was surprised to see that the river was not quite frozen over. There was quite a bit of open water and the river is a lot wider than I remember from previous visits. We did look for and find a couple of caches along this stretch. There still isn't any snow, which is also surprising considering the temperature. Again, the wind makes it feel much colder than in Fairbanks. Personally, I'll take the cold over the wind.

Here is something I don't see back home. I believe that these are oak leaves of some sort. Lots of fallen leaves on the trails made for treacherous climbing up and down the trails. The old mansions along the river eventually started to look more like ranch houses though I suspect that they are still pretty pricey just from their location. Chris had suggested going along the bluffs to see some of these older homes and I wish we could've walked along the path longer but it was cold and breezy.

We stopped at the Ford Dam and lock, again to look for another geocache but I had also wanted to see the falls. I do remember seeing these falls from the other side of the river back in the late 60s during a family vacation and being impressed by them. There wasn't any ship traffic so no interesting photos of the lock in use.

Below the dam, you can see the ice starting to reform after getting broken up by the dam. I the background is the lock. Bridget's son, Reuben, is coming by at 2:00pm and we were going to have Thanksgiving dinner here at the hotel. That is all that they are serving this afternoon.

The next time Hanukkahah and Thanksgiving land on the same day is 80,000 years from now which has earned today the nickname "Thanksgivukkah". For those celebrating either, I wish you the best. And for those not celebrating either, I still wish you a great day.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Through SeaTac to MSP

On Tuesday evening, we left Fairbanks to Seattle. On Wednesday morning, we went to breakfast at Dave's Diner located less than a mile from SeaTac. Nice decorations and typical diner fare. Good food and too much in one serving. The decor was typical 60's diner on the outside but nicely finished on the inside.

We flew out of Seattle at 1:00pm on one of the oldest and smallest 737s that Alaska Airlines had. Cramped and small luggage bins but it was a relatively short flight. The weather in Seattle was beautiful and it really felt warm though it was only in the upper 40s (°F). I still like the windows in the SeaTac food court.

We arrived in MSP just after 6:00pm and after getting lost using Apple maps, I fired up the MotionX GPS app and we quickly found our way to the hotel in downtown St. Paul. We are here to spend Thanksgiving with Bridget's youngest attending school here. This is the view from his 29th floor apartment. The Mississippi River is on the right. Pretty nice.

This was originally written using the Blogger app on the iPhone. Nowhere near as nice as the Blogsy iPad app. It came out looking horrible. Poor formatting, tons of "extra" html, no control of even picture thumbnail size. I fixed it in Blogsy later on deleting tons of the extra, useless code. Horrible app which has since been deleted from the iPhone.
Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Sunrise Ride

On Saturday morning, I rode to College Coffeehouse to meet some other riders and afterwards took a short detour before heading home. I had been meaning to take a picture from the overlook around sunrise but rarely have an opportunity during the week. The sun was shining below the cloud layer which is one of my favorite lighting. It was around 0°F with no wind. A beautiful time to be out. No more issues with the bike. I replaced the screw studs and haven't had any more problems with our driveway. I guess that have to replace them periodically. Maybe with every fuel fillup.

Today, I made a couple of short trips with the rig. On these short trips, I tend to skip the riding pants if I'm wearing the insulated Carhartt jeans. Probably a bad habit to be getting into. I'm thinking that a one-piece riding suit would address my laziness with the riding pants. I guess that I don't have a lot of confidence in them anyway. They are FirstGear HT Overpants and the nylon Gore-Tex like material seems pretty lightweight and I've worn a lot of small holes in them such as in this photo. Not sure how I got the holes but they make the pants seem pretty flimsy. I've had the pants and jacket for six years. Maybe they just wear out…

Monday Morning Update - Stopped on the way back from coffee this morning. Even with only a few inches of snow, it was somewhat difficult to pull back onto the road. It was a lot of fun getting the rig to slide sideways on the curves. It doesn't take much to drift through the corners still completely in control. I had slid the rear wheel a couple of times on the Cassiar Hwy and the Dalton Hwy when on two wheels but this is different. Lots of throttle and don't stay sitting on the seat. The third wheel gives one a whole lot more confidence but you really need to hang off the bike and manage your center of mass. Fortunately (or not), I have plenty of mass to maneuver the rig….

Friday, November 22, 2013

Fickle Weather

Another post about the weird winter weather. Today, it's 55°F warmer than yesterday. Supposedly, we are at the edge of another winter storm but it all it is predicted to bring are clouds and warmer temperatures. But that means that it's warm enough to ride again. All it took was a couple of days at -38°F to convince your body that +17°F is really nice. Almost tropical. The warm temperatures did make it difficult to get up the driveway. Maybe I need to change out the screws. The studs don't help much on loose snow but you can feel (and hear) them on ice and there is still quite a bit of that.

Putting on the Finishing
I'm sitting in my office now trying to stay focused and awake. That is proving difficult due to the building potluck lunch. Lots of turkey and other Thanksgiving treats. Of course, I brought a traditional Thanksgiving favorite, Mediterranean quinua salad (thank you Trobairitz!). It picked up a lot of compliments especially from those that were looking for something other than turkey, ham or any of the more traditional items. Even a short walk outside didn't help much.

Sunset today is at 3:20. Maybe I should call it a day if I can't get myself to wake up...

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Clear and Cold

It was a clear, cloudless morning with a moderate temperature inversion. I kind of liked the way the sky looked as I got a ride into the university (again!) but by the time I got my camera, the moment and viewpoint passed. This was taken about an hour and a half before sunrise. I looked at the Exif data on the photo to get the time and discovered that the time zone was still set to the time zone for Tokyo. I guess I am the type that needs automation to take care of things like that when I don't remember.

I think the sky color in the first picture is closer to what it actually was. I suspect that maybe all of the sodium street lights are messing things up.  I'm not sure if I mentioned it before but the winter storm that we had last week had left ~14,000 people without power. For some, they just got power restored and I think that I read that there may be still ~1,000 without power. At these temperatures, not being able to run the boiler or furnace could be a problem. Lots of downed trees with wind gusts of 70 mph last week on Wednesday night! Weird weather.

You can clearly see the thick layer of pollution formed by the temperature inversion. Alaska is blessed by some of the cleanest air unless you visit Fairbanks during a temperature inversion. Normally, the air gets colder as your altitude increases. With a temperature inversion, the air is colder at ground level and gets warmer as you move up. An example of this is that while it is -30 something in town (down low) it was only -20°F at our house (a little bit in the hills). Normally, exhaust smoke rises towards colder. denser air but now it heads for ground level. So instead of dispersing, it gets concentrated. The air in town is extremely unhealthy during these weather conditions.

This morning, it was -27°F and has been getting colder as the day has progressed. This is not weird weather or even exceptionally cold for this time of year. Last month, I was kind of hoping to be able to ride until Thanksgiving but after the winter storm and now this, I'll pass. I remember quite a few Thanksgivings when it was well below -40°F/C and the power company having problems keeping up with the demands. Too many ovens on at the same time.

Next Tuesday evening, we will be heading for St. Paul, MN, for about a week. Hopefully, it'll be warmer than here.

BTW, I originally uploaded the first two pictures in jpeg format and the online versions looked horrible compared to the originals. Not the original RAW images but the jpegs on the local drive after exporting them from Aperture. I then exported them in png format, uploaded them and they look much better. This is the first time I've experienced this difference.

It looks like the pictures are now automatically uploaded to Google+ which then it wants to apply some sort of "auto-enhance" function which ruined the picture (in my humble opinion).

Update - Auto-enhance and auto-awesome are turned on by default. They can be disabled within your Google+ settings. The auto-awesome function is the creation of little movies when you upload a series of similar photos. Google assumes that you would've made a movie if you were smarter. (Not a Google fan in case you couldn't tell)

Monday, November 18, 2013

DNR* (Did Not Ride) Excuses

Now that it's starting to get cold, the ice on the road is really there for a while. This is what it looks like after 5 graders went by doing what they could. Not much of a dent in the ice layer. I think that I may not be riding for a while until the ice starts to break up. Yesterday, I rode and it was pretty slippery and if I didn't keep the bike wheels on the packed snow between the lanes, I would tend to slide slowly to the right. Braking still seems to work okay but directional control could be better. BTW, driving on the ice isn't a whole lot better with four wheels. The directional "vagueness" is the same and you are always correcting for one end of the vehicle or another wanting to drift sideways.

Partly due to the ice on the road and the light snowfall on top of the ice, I opted to not ride in this morning. The temperature was still a relatively balmy 0°F. I hope this isn't getting to be a trend as it is much more convenient to just get a ride in and get dropped off right in front of my office. Tomorrow it is forecast to hit -27°F plus I feel tired and achy (it's beginning to sound like a lot of excuses, eh?). In other words, it's starting to feel like winter has settled in…

On another note, another asian restaurant recently opened up in Fairbanks called Aha!. Interesting name and based on the one dish I tried, very good, though the egg was a little overcooked. This is dolsot bibimbap (though they spelled it bibimbop) where, I believe, dolsot refers to the very hot clay bowl. This one was suitably hot in both temperature and flavor and there was a nice crust on the rice on the bottom of the bowl. The menu was a mix of Korean, Vietnamese and Chinese dishes. I had heard rumors that they were going to have tabletop grills but didn't see any evidence of that.

* DNR - Not Department of Natural Resources or Do Not Resuscitate,

Friday, November 15, 2013

No More Winter Storm!

The winter storm has passed on for now headed for other locations in Canada and the lower 48 and we again have more typical weather. This is the front entrance to the University of Alaska museum. In case you visit Alaska, this is by far the best museum in the state with a huge collection of Alaska artifacts with only a small percentage on display at any point in time. And, no curb so it's easy to drive right up to the entrance, if one was so inclined.

It was only -5°F this morning, quite a difference to the +45°F that we saw on Wednesday night. There is still a layer of ice built up on many of the roads but as long as speeds are reasonable, no problem riding on them. This morning, traffic was a very sane 35 mph and quite suitable for the conditions. The road service crews have been doing a good job of spreading pea gravel on the roads so that there is pretty good traction when you need it.

The ice encrusted snow is a different story. It's very easy for the tire to break through the crust and lose traction. This happened in the parking lot and I ended up pushing while slipping the clutch and feathering the throttle. Maybe it's time for a "deadman switch" to kill the engine if I slip and lose hold of the rig. 2WD and reverse would simplify these maneuvers.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Rough Running Solved (Really)

Thanks to suggestions from the Internet (Dom and the BMWMOA forums), I dropped the bowls from both carburetors and look what I found. A significant amount of water in each bowl (that's the yellow colored liquid in the photo). When the bike is left out in the cold, the water would freeze and the only way to get enough fuel into the engine is by turning on the enricheners which have a different path for the fuel than the main jet. In the morning after sitting in the garage all night, the water was melted and didn't clog the main jet. The vibration was caused by one main jet being more clogged than the other.

I drained fuel from both petcocks on the tank and got a little bit of water when the right petcock was turned to reserve. Normally, when the bike runs out of fuel, I only switch the left petcock to reserve as I could leave my hand on the throttle. In October, I remember pulling in the clutch lever and reaching down and switching the right petcock to reserve. This is probably when the water was pulled into the carbs. Who knows when I picked up the water in the fuel.

Now, I just need to wait for better weather to test things out. Right now it is somewhere between snow and rain and the president of the university just told everyone to go home early. As the roads weren't going to get any better.

Update Thursday morning - It's 45°F right now at 1:09 AM and raining with a 23mph wind. The roads are going to be almost impassable by morning.

Update Thursday 9:00am - Wimped out and didn't ride in today. It's still drizzling and 38°F so the roads are covered with a layer of ice. There is actually water running down the middle of the parking lot...

Another Winter Storm

Took this snapshot on my way home yesterday afternoon. I tried to get out before sunset and I think that I may have barely made it. Sunset was at 3:50pm. This is on a small road running through the back of the university connecting the West Ridge portion of the campus and the back entrance. It used to be a construction road and I think they plan on keeping it open as it significantly reduces the traffic through the middle of campus. As you can see, pretty boring picture.

Today, I didn't ride in due to another winter storm warning serious enough that they preemptively cancelled K-12 school and the university made classes at the discretion of the instructor. Yesterday, it was -1°F and now it is up to 16°F and it is supposed to get up to 35°F by the afternoon. All the while dumping a foot of snow followed by rain. Right now, we have frozen drizzle that freezes to your windshield on contact. All the way in, cars were pulled over to scrape their windshields of the layer of opaque ice building up. Weather like this is why everyone should live near a bus route.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

8" of Snow

The weather guessers were partially right. The "winter storm" came on Saturday evening and I discovered a limit of my three wheel riding. By Sunday morning, there was about 8" of fluffy snow on the roads. I managed to make it out of the driveway and down the subdivision road fish tailing all the way down the hill. At this point it didn't make any sense to turn around as I probably would be unable to make it back up the hill. I went on to church and hoped that the snow plows would make it to our road by the afternoon.

By 3:00 no snow plows but the snow was somewhat packed down from traffic. I made it back up the road (barely!) with the rear wheel spinning the whole way. With this much snow 2WD may not have been enough especially with the warm snow. Maybe if I was able to fit chains on the pusher…

I should have taken a photo of the wheels when I arrived at the church as snow completely filled the webbing all the way to the hub. And after sitting most of the day outside, the brake pads were frozen to the discs.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Weird Weather and Strange Vibration

Stopped by College Coffeehouse this morning to see if George Rahn was around. I ran into some weirdness yesterday on my ride home. After going through campus, I pull out onto the main road and as soon as I reach ~40 mph, I lose power and get a strange vibration. Almost as if it is running on one cylinder. Since there wasn't much traffic, I proceeded to ride home at about 40 mph in third gear. I figured that if I kept the RPMs up, it'll stay running. It was around 0°F or so, and the bike had started up easily. No problem. I made it home and pulled into the garage. Both cylinders were warm to the touch. I thought that maybe there was some water in the tank or carbs so I added ½ a bottle of Heet. This morning, on the way to coffee, it started to do the same thing. I put the enrichener (this is in place of a choke) on full and all was back to normal. Turn it off and no power and vibration. After about ¼ mile, I turned it off again and it ran fine for the rest of the trip into town. This is the same vibration that I has been occurring over the years but I've never been able to pinpoint the cause. BTW, George didn't show up but I enjoyed a delicious chai latte.

Yesterday, while parked at the university, I saw someone taking a picture of the bike. What had caught his attention was the extension cord running to the outlets provided at each parking space for a block heater. He said "only in Alaska would you see a bike plugged in". I should probably find a better way to secure the cord rather than just let it hang next to the tank.

This morning, after my trip into town, I changed the oil to 5W30 (from 20W50) for the winter. I will also be checking the valve clearances and changing the oil filter later today once the engine cools off. The oil filter is behind the right exhaust pipe and is a real pain to reach.

This message came through from our local PD. More weird weather:


Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Second Try

The title refers to another attempt at posting since the Blogger generated content had a ton of feed errors in it and refused to show up anywhere. This looks like it's working.

Lessons from a Video

In a comment on an earlier post, I mentioned that the steering would feel light when you hit an icy patch on the road and I thought that this was because there weren't any studs in contact with the road surface. Yesterday evening, I put in an additional row of studs right down the center of the front tire. In hindsight, maybe I should have put them just off center and alternated them from side to side. We'll see how that goes. In addition, I added some of the screw studs that I used last year to the pusher. I think that the larger heads may be needed for the deeper snow we now have. This was after watching a couple of episodes of a Canadian motorcycle ride from Victoria to Tuktoyaktuk. They used the same carbide studs and commented that they worked great but needed to be longer for use on the packed snow.

I borrowed the DVD, The North from a friend at the last Airhead meeting on Monday evening. It is about a couple of guys riding BMW F800GS motorcycles, with a support vehicle, riding from Victoria, BC, to Tuktoyaktuk, YK, in the winter/spring of 2011. There is some discussion of their preparations but since they had a support vehicle (BMW X5 with a trailer for the motorcycles), they didn't have to carry all of their gear and can throw the bike on the trailer if there is a problem. Plus no camping. I'm only part way through the video but definitely got sucked into the story. Riding on two wheels all day at -40°C is crazy.

This morning was a little colder than the weather guessers said it would be. On the ride in, it really didn't feel much different from yesterday. I did use the heated gear for a while but turned off the jacket liner after a couple of miles since it was feeling pretty toasty. The heated gloves stayed on for a little bit longer. I did remember to throw an extension cord into the top box to plug in the oil pan heater. This would be about the normal temperature for this time of year.

On the ride in this morning as well as some errands that I needed to run, the bike handled the deeper snow just fine. I think that I may need to continue to use some of the screw studs that I used last year whenever we have fresh snow on the road.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Finally Some Snow

Monday Morning - It has finally started to cool off and it'll be a few days until the ice on the roads have a chance to clear off but it was a beautiful morning. This was Sunday at about 8:45am taken while walking down the road. The sun was just coming up over the horizon. Sunrise an hour earlier was wonderful. I wish they would just stop this whole "daylight savings time" foolishness. Especially since we now seem to be out of sync with other countries. I don't see the benefit.

This morning (Monday), it was in the low teens during my commute in. With the heated liner on low and the gloves a bit higher, I was toasty warm. It is probably cold enough to change to lighter weight engine oil and that may be a task for next weekend. This is the oil change interval so it is a bit more of a hassle especially with the sidecar mounted. The oil filter would be right next to the front subframe mount. I also still need to replace the positive battery cable. I didn't do it earlier since the hardware store only had two copper terminals of the proper gauge.

Tuesday Morning - On Monday evening, I rode out to the local microbrewery for the monthly get together and we had a very light turnout. It was a nice ride out and back though I don't think that I will ever be comfortable riding in the dark. The stock headlight is rather anemic and anything over about 35 mph feels like I'm overdriving the low beam. The LED fog lights do a great job illuminating the side of the road but until moose start having retroreflective markings, I'll just keep the speed down at night. This morning brought snow along with the cooler temperatures. I started carrying around a small tarp to cover the seat and handlebars and when it starts to get cold, I'll use it to sort of cover the heads to keep a little bit of heat trapped.

A few weeks ago, Bobskoot blogged about his new impact wrench and I suggested looking for some torque limiting extensions to simplify tire mounting. These are what I was referring to. From left to right, 80 ft-lbs to 110 ft-lbs in 10 ft-lb increments. And the most common sockets for wheel lug nuts. Consistent enough for installing wheels so you don't need to use a torque wrench. For my truck, the spec is 135 ft-lbs so the last bit still needs to be done by hand.

Update Tuesday Afternoon - We are now getting dumped on and the powers that be suggested that folks head home earlier rather than later. The road was pretty slick with some vehicles (those same arrogant AWD drivers I mentioned before) were sliding through intersections and spinning out on the highway as they gunned their unstoppable machines. On the heavier snow, the sidecar rig tended to steer wide as the front wheel floated on top of the heavy snow. By mid afternoon, it was already about 4" deep so I opted to head for home. Maybe time to see if the snowblower still starts and runs…


Saturday, November 2, 2013

Icy Road Riding

Not very optimal riding weather this week. The last couple of days have brought lots of freezing rain, black ice and fresh snow (on top of the black ice). This photo is just after I got back into the garage after a slippery ride home at about 9pm. That is ice on the tank not liquid water. It should start cooling off and we should be getting or regular winter weather soon. I don't have much of a commute, only about 5 miles to the entrance to the university followed by another mile or so to my building. When we had the black ice, the rear wheel would lock up easily and didn't really contribute much to braking. We haven't gotten enough snow to tell if there is going to be enough grip from the carbide studs on the pusher.

Normally when on a bike, you tend to avoid the loose gravel but under icy conditions, I find that I look for the gravel. It has usually been brushed to the center of the lane or at the side of the road by the passing traffic. On turns and hills, I tend to either steer towards the gravel or the driest part of the lane for the bike wheels. The sidecar wheel doesn't seem to do much except support the sidecar except on left turns. Then, finding gravel with the sidecar wheel has more impact than the rear wheel of the bike as the weight transfers to the sidecar wheel. The studs on the front tire don't seem to touch the road except when turning which is generally good. If I notice the back sliding a bit (almost always to the left) when accelerating, steering to the left while backing off the throttle a little works well. Down shifting to slow down has to be done carefully as the rear wheel is very lightly loaded when slowing down.

I am finding that shifting your weight (off the seat on the left side for left turns and off the seat on the right side for right turns) is much more important for riding on slick roads. Especially to avoid drifting.