Sunday, August 31, 2014

Palmer-Wasilla-Hatcher Pass

The original plan was to take the Ural down to Anchorage but Saturday morning brought winter-like temperatures to Fairbanks. I really didn't want Bridget's first sidecar trip to fail due to temperatures so we fell back to plan #2. We took the Prius. A plus is that it gets way better gas mileage than the Ural, holds more stuff and will easily cruise at the spead limit.

Mt. Mckinley was out in all it's splendor and from Canwell to Willow, people were pulled off the road to take pictures. I really wish that I had brought a better camera on this trip as all I had was the iPhone. This is the view from about five miles south of Cantwell.

On Saturday evening, we went to the Alaska State Fair in Palmer and the crowds and traffic jams were unbelievable. This is the last weekend for the fair so I think that it was more crowded than usual. I had not been to the Palmer fair since about 1984 and it looked and felt huge compared to the Fairbanks fair. These were some pretty flowers outside one of the buildings.

A few other readers probably recognize this gnome and know where we are staying during our visit. Fellow sidecarists, Bob and Sharon opened up their guest home for us and took us all around the area, including putting up with the crowds at the Palmer fair. This gnome statue is solar powered and the headlight lights up when it gets dark. Very cute.

On Sunday, Bob and Sharon took us up to Hatcher Pass from the Palmer side. This is the Little Susitna River. It turned out to be a very nice day with beautiful, blue skies and Bob and Sharon are a wealth of information about the history of the local area.

Another photo of the river on the left. Below, the pano is taken from the pass, elevation about 3,500' and, as you can see, we are well above treeline. There were a number of para-gliders launching from the pass and it was fun (though pretty cold) watching them play on the thermals.

This small lake would have been behind me when I took the pano shot above. And the actual pass is up the road on the left.

An HDR photo taken from the same area.

After coming down from the pass, we went to Independance Mine now being managed and restored by the forest service. Slowly some of the buildings are being restored. This area was an active gold mine until 1951 though production was shut down during WWII as a non-essential activity. This photo was taken from the museum looking towards the housing and power plant. The pano below was taken from the trail to the water tunnel seen in the upper right pane in the picture on the left.

Most of the structures are collapsing as the environment in this area is pretty harsh with a lot of snowfall and wind.

An old mine railway leading toward the power plant from the water tunnel.

One last photo looking from the lodge towards the mine site. This was a beautiful area. Thanks to Bob and Sharon for sharing "their backyard".

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Messing With the Ural & 20,000 km Service

This was a slow, relaxing afternoon and after getting some tasks taken care of in town, I messed around with the Ural some more. The first task was removing the castellated nut on the sidecar wheel (again) and rearrange the order of the washers to match the parts book. The last person who changed the tire put them on in a slightly different order. Thank you Dom for sending the drawing of the assembly. I also replaced the cotter pin and picked up several spares for future wheel removals. Then I removed the front wheel again to recheck the balance since there is still a vibration at 55mph. I added another ¼oz weight but it wouldn't be significant enough to make a difference. Yesterday, I had removed and balanced the rear wheel and it required removing the existing weights and installing ¾oz in a different location.

I had decided to move the tachometer shortly after picking up the bike. It was mounted to a clamp on the handlebar but there was, to me, a slightly better place. I removed the fork nut using the wrench provided in the Ural tool roll and drilled and bottom tapped it for an M6x1 screw. The cap is around 1" thick so I only drilled about ¾ of the way through. After cleaning up the metal shavings and oil, I put on a little anti-seize and reinstalled it on the fork. The nut appears to be made some sort of aluminum alloy and the button head screw was stainless steel. Anti-seize is required to prevent galling.

When I tried to bend the tachometer bracket slightly to get a little more clearance, the bracket snapped. I thought that it was stainless but it turned out to be something more brittle. I made a copy of the bracket with some ⅛" aluminum stock we had lying around and installed the tach on the bracket. I think that this location looks cleaner than a clamp on the handlebar. I will probably be drilling and tapping the other fork cap for another gauge (CHT) sometime as this seemed to work out pretty well.

The dial to the right of the tachometer is the thermometer that the previous owner installed into the windshield. Instead of a simple thermometer, he used an outside air temperature unit from a light aircraft.

I started the 20,000 km maintenance as I need to get it finished before next weekend. I checked the air cleaner. There is some oil in the housing but the air cleaner itself is still fairly clean. The rubber fitting on the right carb was loose and getting all of the pieces to fit properly and tightening the four hose clamps was a real pain. I need to pick up some 20W50 oil for the engine and transmission. The U-joints are greased as well as the splines on both the driveshaft and the sidecar driveshaft. Head Checked cylinder head torque and adjusted the valves.

Monday Evening Update - I changed all the fluids. The engine and transmission oil were still amber and clear. Hardly any swarf on any of the magnets except the final drive drain. But that oil has over 10,000 km. The oil filter change is significantly easier than it is on the Beemer. The engine seems to run a little quieter after the valve adjustment. Both exhaust valves were on the tight side and both intake valves were loose. I set them all to 0.003" (the specs say 0.002" to 0.004"). I checked the timing using my old Sun timing light and it was right on at idle. I don't have the setup to balance the carbs so I will defer that for now.

I moved the RAM mount for the handheld Garmin but I still need to install an SAE plug for the power cable.

Tuesday Morning Update - Inserting the info below my own information. Only a couple more items left. I'm not sure what "Hinges of the foot brake pedal" item 12.2 below, is referring to...

(To be performed between 19,900 to 20,100 km)

Odometer reading km. 19,895
  1. Change engine oil and filter. (See Lubrication List, chapter 11)     ✔
  2. Change transmission oil. (See Lubrication List, chapter 11)     ✔ 
  3. Change final drive oil. (See Lubrication List, chapter 11)     ✔ 
  4. Inspect air filter element.     ✔
  5. Torque cylinder head stud nuts.     ✔
  6. Adjust valve tappet clearance.     ✔
  7. Change oil in front fork shock absorbers (on telescopic fork models) (NA)
  8. Replace the spark plugs and inspect ignition leads. (Replaced at 18,000km))     ✔
  9. Replace in-line fuel filters. (Replaced at 18,000km))     ✔
  10. Check:
    1. Carburetors while idling for synchronous operation
    2. Check steering column bearings and adjust if required. (Just checked for play)     ✔
    3. The condition and action of the brakes, lubricate the brake shoe fulcrum pins and cams. (Removed the axle grease and replace it with white lithium grease)     ✔
    4. The tension of wheel spokes. Adjust if necessary.     ✔
    5. The toe-in and camber angle of the motorcycle and sidecar.     ✔
    6. Electric wiring. Tighten connections if required.     ✔
    7. Fasteners for proper tightening.     ✔
  11. Repack the grease in wheel bearings, adjust the bearings. (Sealed bearings)
  12. Lubricate:
    1. Foot brake pedal
    2. Hinges of the foot brake pedal
    3. Lever pins and thimbles of clutch and front wheel brake control cables.      ✔
    4. Drive shaft splines     ✔
  13. Check battery electrolyte level (Sealed battery)
  14. Check tires, tread (tires ordered)     ✔ 
  15. Check the timing     ✔ 

Friday, August 22, 2014

Heated Gear Outlet Works!

Today seemed like a good morning to see if my heated gear outlet I installed a few weeks ago works and not blow a fuse. It was a "brisk" 36°F on my commute in with some fog hanging in the low lying areas. I guess that's the price for crystal clear skies.

I have not installed a relay (yet) with a distribution block near the battery for accessory power. Right now, in addition to the heated gear power, the sidecar has a seperate, always-on fuse block. That could come off of the same relay for accessories.

I don't know if it's me or not but the sidecar wheel seems really out of balance. The vibration I was feeling was just like the Beemer/Cozy rig when the sidecar wheel was really out of balance. Last night, I  removed and balanced the front wheel and the sidecar wheel. The front wheel took 1 oz (reasonable) but the sidecar wheel took 4 oz (unreasonable). And the vibration is still there. I think that maybe I should just remove, rotate and reinstall the sidecar tire as the bead doesn't look uniform all the way around. Maybe the tire isn't round anymore or the wheel needs to be trued up. When I removed the sidecar wheel, I checked the splines. They are in good shape and there was grease though it appeared to be simple axle grease and not the high moly grease that should be used. Both the front and sidecar wheel bearings feel smooth with no play. But the nut holding on the sidecar wheel wasn't tight and there was some play when I first jacked up the wheel. The sidecar brakes seemed a little tight i.e. the shoes drag when the wheel is turned but wear seems minimal

I ordered three new tires but they won't be in for a couple more weeks. I hope that there is enough tire life to make a trip over Labor Day. The pusher was new when I picked up the rig but the front, sidecar and spare are worn.

BTW, the heated gear works wonderfully!

Friday Evening Update - I pulled the sidecar wheel off again. Then remove the tire, flipped it and turned it 180°. The Baja No-Pinch tool really simplifies mounting tires! Rebalanced the wheel (it didn't change significantly) and reinstalled. Dom from provided some missing information such as how tight should the sidecar hub nut be tightened and verified that I am not missing any pieces. What was really confusing me was why the axle was turning. As it turns out, the bearings on the 2WD model sidecar wheel aren't used as bearings since the axle shaft turns with the driveshaft. And the axle nut simply holds the wheel onto the axle and the splines. The actual "wheel bearings" are in the swing arm. If the bearings are tapered roller bearings, the axle nut provides the preload on the bearings. If it is too loose, the bearings will fail quickly. Tight is better than loose. There is a lot more stress on the bearings with this design as the load isn't centered over the bearings.

I do need to pick up some new cotter pins as they normally shouldn't be reused. I didn't have a now cotter pin the correct size so I reused the old one. There is still vibration at about 55mph and the only wheel not balanced is the rear. I am reading up on the removal procedure and will do that tomorrow afternoon. Maybe I'll even flip the front tire as there is some cupping evident.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Motorcycle Parking

Beautiful day, no rain, and still the only one using the motorcycle parking spaces. There was a Yamaha C3 earlier this morning but it was gone by mid-day. Usage of the spaces has been pretty light all summer where there were, at most, only four bikes. I suspect that we will lose them next year as there are a number of people clamoring that they should go away.

The Ural has been running well after changing the carburetor jets. Not enough miles to see if there has been any change in gas mileage. I did readjust the idle adjustment turning the set screws CW ¾ of a turn to smooth out the idle. Cold (50°F) starts no longer need the use of the enrichener which should help when it gets really cold. I also painted the fog light mount that I made on the front of the sidecar with Plasti Dip. It is a spray-on, synthetic rubber coating that has a nice, flat black appearance. I'm thinking of moving the LED driving light from the Cozy this weekend but haven't decided where to install it on the sidecar.

Today was the first day of school and Bridget asked to be driven to the school in the sidecar. After all, the cool teachers ride sidecars. It was a cool 50°F this morning and I think Bridget will need to find some riding pants to keep warm on our upcoming road trip. (Labor Day weekend to Anchorage)

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Richening the Mixture

I had pulled the spark plugs when I first picked up the Ural and they looked brand new so I couldn't really assess whether it was running too lean. Now that I have put on about 2k km, I pulled the plugs again and the center electrode was still a bright white. This indicates that it is running lean. Mickey, the Anchorage Ural dealer, recommends changing both the idle and main jets to larger ones as he feels that they run too lean due to emission requirements which cause the engines to run hotter. i.e. Running richer may help the engine to last longer.

The Keihin carbs have this handy drain on the bowls but use phillips screws to hold the bowls on. Most of the screws came out without issue but one needed vice grips to break it free. I don't think the bowls have ever been taken off. That's probably a good thing. In the picture below, the main jet is on the left, the pilot jet is in the hole just below and to the right and I believe the on on the right is for the enrichener.

After the bowls were off, the pilot and main jets were removed. The original pilot jet was #40 and the original main jet was #122. The recommended pilot jet is #45 and the recommended main jet is #130. I went ahead and put these in. The previous owner has been running this setup for several years and suggested that I also follow Mickey's recommendation. The bowl screws were replaced with SS allen head screws to simplify removal of the bowls in the future. Buttoned everything up, put the petcock on the prime position to allow the bowls to refill. Hit the starter and it started right up. Since it's still raining, I didn't take the rig for a test drive but it should be running a little bit cooler. It no longer "pops" when first started so this is a good start. I gotta admit that the "popping" was annoying. Hopefully the mileage won't be impacted too much.

I checked the idle mixture adjustment just to see what it was set to and it was 1½ turns from a soft seat. This, I believe, is the default setting.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

A Little More Light

Now that darkness is threatening again, it's time to light up the sidecar a little bit. These are the LED fog lights that I had put on the Cozy sidecar. I just used an aluminum angle fastened to the sidecar bumper. They are mounted a little bit higher than they were on the other sidecar. I roughly aimed them so they don't blind oncoming traffic. The purpose of the lights is to make the rig a little more visible rather than really lighting up the road.

I found this cheap handlebar switch on Amazon. It is designed to fit on a ⅞" handlebar and is labeled "Lights". The quality of the switch is okay i.e. cheap, but is probably more than adequate given the very low amperage of the fog lights. They are only 6 watts each or a total of 1 amp for the pair. I powered them off the headlight switch that I had installed a couple of weeks ago.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014


It seems like I was just here a couple of days ago. I'm on my way to Barrow again and it looks like a windy 34°F today. No longer summer but no snow yet! This is going to be a really short trip as I should be back by the weekend.

Actually, I'm not complaining about the temperature. It has been so nice the last couple of days in Fairbanks after the heat of Southern California. It has been really nice to be out riding again, even for the boring commute.


Sunday, August 10, 2014

Culver City

On Saturday, we stopped by Fry's in Burbank, an electronic superstore chain with a lot more variety than a Best Buy and aimed more at the hobbyist. Every store seems to have some sort of theme and here it seemed to be UFOs. They had things little scenes set up all over the store following this theme. I managed to escape without buying a single item! (though I was tempted by some of the Arduino pieces)

Afterwards, we drove down to Culver City to visit my cousin and his family and we ended up having a mini-reunion on the other side of the family. Another one of my cousins was visiting from Japan with two of her kids. Kind of odd to say kids when all were over 21. We had stayed with her and her husband last year in Tokyo.

This is a snapshot of another rendition of the MGM lion. We were just a little ways from Culver City Studio and MGM. The old hotel in the background was where most of the munchkins stayed during the filming of the Wizard of Oz (so I'm told). We did a little bit of geocaching in the area. But the best part was visiting with family.

Today, we are heading back to Alaska. Sitting in the Seattle airport with a ten-hour layover.…


Friday, August 8, 2014

Indian Food and Documentaries

This morning (Friday), I headed the opposite direction on Reseda Blvd towards Tarzana in search of Indian food. Pretty easy quest as there were five places on Google within about a five mile radius of the hotel. This is a photo of the Los Angeles River looking "up river" towards the west. During heavy rainfall, this concrete channel actually fills up with water from all of the storm drains in the area. The somewhat outdated goal is to get rid of the rainwater as quickly and efficiently as you can. Don't worry about the drought as the drinking water comes from somewhere else.

I was headed for Asha Indian Restaurant on Ventura Blvd. It had pretty good ratings on Yelp (four stars). As you can see in the picture, it is a very modern place with white tablecloths and surprisingly modest prices for lunch. You can also see that I was the only customer which made me wonder about the quality of the food. But I was not disappointed.

I had the saag paneer, naan bread and rice. And three glasses of water to try and re-hydrate from the walk. The food was fabulous and it was a real treat. It was about 86°F during the 3½ mile walk back to the hotel but I stopped at a couple of places along the way. A hiking/backpacking shop, a bicycle shop and a motorcycle accessory shop. All were nicely air conditioned and the bicycle shop had complimentary bottles of water. 18,754 steps today. Another good day!

On a completely unrelated topic, I just finished watching a movie on Netflix called Particle Fever. It documents the final construction effort of the LHC in Geneva Switzerland. It talks more about the personalities of the theoretical and experimental physicists involved and ends with the announcement of finding the Higgs particle at a mass of 125 times the mass of a proton. That's what's being referred to in this screen capture from the movie. Very interesting and a very entertaining documentary.

Yesterday, I had watched Maidentrip, a documentary of a two year, around the world solo sailing trip by a teenage girl from Holland setting a record for youngest solo sailor. Equally interesting and entertaining though the subtitles took marginally more effort to watch.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Quiet, Relaxing Day

This morning, I walked north from the hotel to Cal State University Northridge for no other reason than to wander around. By then, it was about lunchtime and I searched for a nearby Indian restaurant. As I may have mentioned before, we don't have any in Fairbanks anymore so just about any chance I get, I'll look for one. This was also prompted by ChrisL's post on his food blog about a visit to Gorkha Palace. We had gone there with them last November and the food was fabulous. When I arrived, the place was still not open for lunch yet so I just headed back towards the hotel stopping at a Mexican grocery store for something to drink. It had a huge "deli" section with all sorts of prepared Mexican food instead of the traditional deli fare. By this time, I was more thirsty than hungry anyway even though it was a relatively modest 80°F. Maybe I'll look for another Indian place closer to the hotel tomorrow.

I walked about 9 miles and took advantage of the hotel pool to cool off. Bridget and the boys are off doing more Los Angeles touristy activities and since they are picking up her son and a friend, I volunteered to hang around the hotel so there would be enough room in the rental car. I didn't care to visit Hollywood or go to a movie in a fancy theatre. Plus, this way I don't have to deal with traffic. This is the courtyard of the modest hotel. Nothing fancy but a nice way to spend the day.

I plan on doing a little geocaching this afternoon and maybe visit the pool again. Just a quiet, relaxing day…

While walking today, I did see a lot of motorcycles on Reseda Blvd and most of the sport bikes rode pretty recklessly. I.e. passing on the shoulder or in the center turn lane and going pretty fast. Maybe it just means I'm getting old…

Wednesday, August 6, 2014


Today, we went to Exposition Park to see Endeavour, the shuttle that went to Los Angeles. As you can see, they built an addition to the California Science Center to house it. There was some great video of it's trip through Los Angeles from the airport to it's new home next to the Coliseum. We also saw a 3D Imax movie about the repair of the Hubble Space Telescope.

After the movie, we started the slow trip up the Harbor Freeway during rush hour. I think we averaged 6 mph. We stopped at Universal Studios for dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe then wandered around the shopping and entertainment street. A good day!

Both pano shots done with the iPhone built-in software.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Reunion Over

The last of this incredible cake shows that the reunion is over. This was a mango cake made in Chinatown and was absolutely fantastic. Supposedly, the bakery goes through thousands of cases of mangos each week making these signature cakes. My aunt who just turned 91 and this was her birthday cake last on Saturday. Thank you to everyone who helped put on this reunion!

Now that the reunion is over, time for some more routine tasks to get done. While the rest of the family went to Hollywood to watch a movie, I opted to stay at the hotel and do some laundry. I'm not much of a movie person and the thought of sitting through a three hour movie didn't sound like much fun to me.

We moved to a different hotel today. From Agoura Hills to Reseda. A little bit closer to Bridget's oldest son and activities in the downtown area that the family wants to do. Across the street was an interesting Mexican restaurant and this is their taco salad with carnitas pork instead of the normal burger. Pretty tasty...

Monday, August 4, 2014

Family Reunion

A lot of family activities during the Machida reunion. On Sunday morning, we went as a group to the Japanese American National Museum just at the edge of "Little Tokyo". On the same grounds was a memorial to the Japanese Americans that served in the U.S. military during WW II.

We spent a couple of hours at the museum with most of the exhibits focused on the internment during the war. There was a report to the President that there was no evidence of any threat even on the west coast. But, as a group, they were easily identifiable. There were more Japanese Americans in Hawaii then all of the continental U.S. but they decided that there would be too much of an impact the the economy in Hawaii.

Here is some minimal moto-content. This photo of two women riding a sidecar rig was on display at the museum.

This was an art project made of suitcases and trunks from folks taken to the various internment camps.

A reconstructed housing unit from one of the camps.

On Monday morning, we went to the Getty Villa southeast of Malibu along PCH. A very interesting structure and attraction built as from a time long past.
It is on the edge of the Santa Monica Mountains overlooking the Pacific. I don't know a lot of the history of the property except the that it was commissioned by J. Paul Getty and he never saw the museum completed. Here is the LINK to the villa website with probable more information than you want on the site.

There was an amphitheater near the entrance to the museum. Lots of artifacts and some replicas of statues recovered from Pompey.
The gardens were phenomenal and it would've looked even better if California wasn't suffering from a drought. Most of the pool and fountains were dry. The following photos were taken during the tour of the gardens.

In the herb garden, there was this relative of an artichoke though instead of harvesting the blossom like a normal artichoke, the stems were harvested for food.

Tonight was the banquet and the official end of the reunion though quite a few of us will probably be descending on my cousins home here in Agoura Hills. Their whole family has done an incredible job organizing this reunion.