Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Compliance Fitting

Charlie6 from Redleg's Rides had mentioned that having a spare of this item was a good idea. But I procrastinated on getting them ordered. Last Saturday, I heard a slight pulsing, hissing sound at idle and I was thinking that maybe it was the crankcase vent. I reinstalled the crankcase vapor collection canister. This morning, the "hissing" sound was back and the left cylinder was running noticeably lean and when messing with the left carburetor, the hissing sound would go away. When the hose clamp shown here was removed, the crack in the rubber "compliance fitting" was evident. I'm not sure of the origin of the part name.

Replacements have been ordered from Raceway in Salem, OR, but it'll probably take a week to get up here. My temporary repair is a strip of aluminum duct tape around the fitting under the hose clamp. For now it seems to hold and seal just fine. BTW, this aluminum tape is actually metal and designed to seal air ducts and not the normal sticky cloth version. The parts being shipped from Raceway are not the actual Ural parts as they consider them "crap". The original lasted for 25k km, not too bad in my opinion.

There was also a small oil leak from the right valve cover. I removed the cover, inspected the gasket, cleaned all of the surfaces and buttoned it back up. No oil leak. I need to be more careful I guess. The silicone valve cover gaskets on the Beemer have me somewhat spoiled I guess. They are very forgiving.

Occasionally there needs to be one cat picture every hundred posts or so. The cat has never used this part of the cat tree but now that the old tree is getting ready to be discarded, it is getting rediscovered. 

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Ural 25k Service

To simplify keeping track of the maintenance intervals, I decided to do the 25k km service a bit early. Plus, I wanted to switch out the winter weight oil now that our daily temperatures higher. The thin oil flowed out the engine like water so maybe I should have done it a bit sooner. Very little swarf on the engine drain plug magnet but the sliver of steel from the lifter was there. I'm glad that it finally showed up and wasn't sitting near a bearing or something waiting to cause problems.

Just because I'm a little paranoid (plus it's easy to do), I checked the valve clearances yet again. All were as I had set them earlier (lower limit) and I readjusted them to the middle of the adjustment range (0.003" for both intake and exhaust). The gas mileage has been dismal since I put in the Napa filter so I'm assuming that it has a lot more resistance than the stock filter. I cleaned the original filter and put it back in place of the NAPA filter. I also re-installed the crankcase vapor recovery tank from Raceway. It's an 8 month item and will be removed once temperatures drop to be consistently below 0°F again.

Here is the list of tasks to be done as part of the 25k service.
  1. Change engine oil and filter. (Used 20w50 non-synthetic as that's all that was available)
  2. Change transmission oil. (Last change was with full synthetic. Mickey said that I can double the change interval)
  3. Inspect air filter element (Cleaned the original element with soap and water)
  4. Check carburetors while idling for synchronous operation (not done)
  5. Check:
    1. Adjustment of steering column bearings (checked, no issues)
    2. Tension of wheel spokes (checked, no issues)
    3. Toe-in and camber of the motorcycle and sidecar (checked in February)
  6. Lubricate:
    1. Lever pins (clutch lever was dry)
    2. Foot brake pedal shaft (I'm planning to install a grease fitting on the shaft so not done)
    3. Hinges of the foot brake pedal shaft and linkage. (done)
  7. Check condition and action of brakes (sidecar fine, rear break needed adjustment)
  8. Check tires for tread depth greater than 3/32" (no problem. Almost no measureable wear over the winter)
  9. Check fasteners for proper tightening. (checked the sidecar attachment bolts)

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Just Like New

This is almost like getting a new bike, right? I finally installed the replacement speedometer courtesy of Ural (under warranty). It was an easy swap, remove a couple of nuts, remove the speedometer cable, remove the trip reset knob and the wires for the lights. Then reverse the process. Total time, maybe ten minutes. This post is to document the mileage on the old speedometer so the mileage could be added to the new one when needed. The speedometer cable was lubricated before being reinstalled.

The needle has broken free from the spring and the speed displayed is somewhat random though it was sitting at 90 mph for a long time. It's kind of handy to be able to look down and see approximately what my speed is. I had gotten pretty used to knowing my speed by what gear I was in and the rpm but it's still nice to have some validation. Especially since I only use the GPS when I'm on longer trips.

Thank you to JedR, another airhead and future Ural owner, for bringing the new speedometer up from Mickey, the Ural dealer in Anchorage. I believe JedR's new rig is getting here sometime next month.

And here is a short video from last nights speedometer test and this mornings commute. Nothing very exciting.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Too Much Sunshine

We are now above 12 hours of sunlight and, as you can see in the diagram, solar noon is now almost two hours late courtesy of DST on top of the skew put in place by the state of AK to be one time zone instead or four or five. As you may notice, I'm annoyed by both of these things. The weather services were reporting that the temperature this morning was +5°F but after I started my commute, it was obviously much warmer. No heated anything needed. My OAT (outside air temperature) gauge was reporting +25°F upon arrival at the university. Quite a difference. (And I believe the weather services were the ones that were wrong.)

In our absence, Spring has arrived in the interior. Evidence of this are the clear blue skies and way too much sun. By that I don't mean that there was too much daylight but it was just too bright. You can see that most of the snow has melted from the south-facing slopes. March is definitely one of the nicest months in Alaska as long as you don't mind a little snow.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Onion Snow

Someone referred to the yesterdays snowfall as an "onion snow". Apparently, that is a Pennsylvania Dutch saying with several meanings but either is appropriate. One is the last snow of the season and the other is it's time to plant your onions. Both made sense but was surprised at hearing the term.

  • n.
    Chiefly Pennsylvania A light snow in late spring, after onions have been planted.
We leave PA on a flight this evening and arrive in Fairbanks tomorrow morning with a 9 hour layover in Seattle. The warm weather in Fairbanks is apparently creating havoc again at least based on the text messages I have been receiving. Black ice, lots of accidents and cars and trucks sliding off the road. No snow on any roads today from Hershey, PA, to Philadelphia. 

Friday, March 20, 2015

First Day of Spring

Or at least thats the rumor. It's been snowing here at our hotel in Hershey, PA, since early this morning. Not enough to make a mess of the roads as it's still above freezing. The roads are only wet and not very slippery. Oviously, not the place to come for Spring break. I think it's supposed to be warmer in Fairbanks. Isn't climate change wonderful?!

Tomorrow afternoon, we head back to Philadelphia then back home with a layover in Seattle.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015


In a recent post on Scooter in the Sticks, Steve Williams asked the question "Is it fun to ride in the winter?". I have been giving this some thought as I hear similar questions all of the time. The most common being "Why?". First of all, I do find it "fun" to ride in the winter on something suitably equipped for the conditions. But that goes for just about anything. You may be able to get away with driving a cage with marginal tires or leaking fluids in the summer but it'll probably get you into trouble come winter.

Falling over even at a standstill is not my idea of fun. The sidecar helps to keep one from falling over even on roads where it's challenging to walk. The studded tires give you a little bite into the ice and to a lesser extent on packed snow which helps when accelerating, braking or cornering. Riding my old mountain bike with studded tires in the winter is fine as long as I stay out of deep snow, if I tried riding my road bike in similar conditions, I'd be on the ground before I ever make it out of the driveway. But even with studded tires, traction is still tenuous at best so there is still a fair amount of wheel spinning and sliding. The sliding is usually in the "fun" category.

Being cold is not my idea of fun. Dealing with winter temperatures while riding is easier if wind chill can be minimized. The full fairing, barn door sized windshield and bar end muffs on the RT provides such a pocket of air that I rarely needed anything more than my normal riding gear. The windshield, lowers and bar-end muffs on the Ural don't provide as much protection from the wind but it's enough. Many riders refuse to ride with a large windshield let alone a fairing. Those that ride without real wind protection generally feel frozen even at moderately cool temperatures. This was evident from my recent experience with other PBC (Polar Bear Challenge) participants. Some mention needing six or seven layers on top of heated gear and grips and still be frozen after a short ride. The heated jacket liner, heated gloves, flannel jeans and a fleece liner under the Roadcrafter Light was more than adequate down to -40°. At times, too warm.

Not being able to see where you are going is not fun. The Bombardier modular snow helmet that I picked up used last year has largely resolved that problem along with improved lighting on the rig. If it gets really cold, the visor will still tend to frost up even with the rubber face mask. Whojigger, the recent visitor from Ketchikan, riding a blue/white Ural, had an electric visor on the newer version of the same helmet. His visor never frosted up even without the rubber face mask. I may have to look into that. The air vents on the side of the helmet that the rubber mask connect to froze up a couple of times. This made breathing a bit difficult and the rubber mask felt somewhat clusterphobic.

Is it challenging to ride in the winter? As long as you are prepared for the weather and road conditions, not really. Am I trying to prove something? Maybe that a motorcycle with sidecar is a practical year 'round transportation option. Will I continue next winter? Probably. I don't see any reason to stop. The Ural is easier to ride during the winter as I don't need to shovel as much snow. Even with 8" of fresh snow on the driveway and road, no problems at all. I wouldn't try that with the BMW. But, is it fun? I think riding in the winter is more enjoyable than the summer but I don't have enough confidence in the hardware (Ural) to try a long winter ride.

There is a risk to relying on the engine running to stay warm. That would be a good reason for a large capacity battery in place of the standard motorcycle battery. But, on a motorcycle, you are generally on the road system and not in the middle of nowhere. If you were the typical dog musher or snow machine rider, you'd be off of the highway system and not near emergency services.

Trip update - For the rest of the week, we'll be in Elizabethtown, PA, spending time with Bridget's father. The temperatures are much more winter-like than Chicago. I've probably taken a picture of this bronze statue w/printing press before but I like the subject and the contrast with the sky. Note, no green grass yet. Clear blue skies for now but snow is forecast for Friday. It may not be too fun driving back to Philadelphia on Saturday for our flight back to Alaska.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Navy Pier

Sunday was spent venturing into downtown Chicago. Actually, we didn't venture much beyond Navy Pier. We couldn't ask for a much better day, there was a light breeze blowing with temperatures in the mid 60s (°F). This was a bronze sculpture near the entrance to Navy Pier showing kids playing crack the whip.

The ferris wheel was one of the few rides running. Bridget and my grandson took a ride. It moved very slowly with one revolution every seven minutes. Slowly enough so they can switch riders without stopping. Most of the restaurants and gift shops were open as well as the harbor tour boats. The Chicago Children's Museum was also open and we spent several hours there.

From the end of the pier, there was a good view of the downtown area, here dominated by the John Hancock Building. I had originally thought it might be the Sears Tower, now renamed the Willis Tower (now the 2nd tallest building in the U.S. after One World Trade Center was finished).

I never really figured out what the last building on the pier was but it kind of looked like some sort of ballroom or something. Wide open area overlooking the lake. The crowds were minimal until we were getting ready to leave. We were warned that there may be a crowds due to St. Patrick's Day. I guess it's a big deal in Chicago.

One last photo from dinner last night at an all you can eat sushi place. This doesn't have anything to do with Navy Pier.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Detroit Day Trip

On Friday afternoon, we stopped at a train diner, meaning model train themed, and they delivered your food order by toy train. Someone really likes this place for lunch so that was sufficient reason to go. Especially since the rest of the day was spent at very kid-uninteresting places like Kohls.

On Saturday, Bridget and I flew to Detroit for the day leaving Chicago at 8 in the morning and returning at 6 in the evening. I hadn't been in downtown Detroit in over 30 years and things have really changed. Some things like air quality is much better now but other are much worse. These buildings are pretty typical in the downtown area where we were at. It didn't feel like a place you want to spend any time. It looked like there was a war. Block after block of collapsing buildings, no windows, and piles of rubble and debris. We were there for a jazz performance by the McNalley School of Music from St. Paul, MN. They performed just a few blocks away at the Detroit Symphony Hall.

The bus had broken down just a mile from their hotel (about 15 miles away) so they arrived a bit late to the venue. But some members of the community jazz band were there and the improvisational performance was pretty nice to sit back and listen to.

The following video is a combination of the Community performers and the College jazz band.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

78°F Warmer

We were on the plane most of last night and arrived in Chicago at 8 o'clock this morning. We are staying in Naperville which is about 34 miles west of Chicago visiting our grandson. There is still some remnants of winter (snow) hanging around and not a single leaf on the trees but it is far warmer than Fairbanks. This is the Millennium Clarion in Moser Tower within Naperville. The clarion played for quite a while at 4:00pm but I don't know if that was something special or a regular, hourly occurrence.

Here is the grandson riding in the wagon on a short walk from his mom's home. He didn't stay in the wagon long as he needed to collect sticks and leaves along the way. Pretty tired after the flight and not at all sure what is planned for the next several days while here.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Good Time to Leave Town...

Winter has returned. Especially if you look at the prediction for Saturday. It sounds like a good reason to be somewhere else. Almost anywhere else. Actually, this is probably the last really cold spell that we're going to have. Plus, this evening, we are heading for Chicago and Pennsylvania for a bit. I not delusional enough to believe that it's going to be warm but hoping that it'll be warmer than here.

On another note, this is one of the new Raspberry Pi 2 model B single board computers. It has a 900 mHz quad core Arm 7 processor, 1 gig of memory, 4xUSB ports, 10/100 ethernet port, HDMI, analog audio out, camera input plus a smattering of digital inputs. Not too shabby for $35 though I wish it came with a 10/100/1000 ethernet port that supported PoE (Power over Ethernet). Initially, I loaded OpenELEC on a micro-SD card and have it hooked up to an old plasma TV that was going to be sent to surplus. The video performance blows the older model out of the water.

I am setting up another one to run Raspbian, a Linux distro for the Pi, and compile the PerfSonar tools. This would be a cheap method of monitoring network performance around the campus. A colleague at the University of Hawaii has a large number of the older model B Pi's deployed on their campus and I was inspired by his presentation at the last Internet2 meeting. The package also included a wireless network (802.11B/G/N) usb adapter, plastic case, SD cards, heatsinks, HDMI cable and 10 watt power supply. The total for each package ended up around  $65 on Amazon.

On Monday, I met with JedR another soon to be Ural rider and BMW airhead. He had just returned from Anchorage to get Mickey to sign off on some sort of card that indicates that he has been briefed and ridden a Ural. He brought back my speedometer from Mickey to replace the one that died when we first reached -28°F. Then it'll be a new bike restarting at 0 miles, right? His rig is being shipped up from the east coast fully assembled in what must be one huge crate.

Monday, March 9, 2015

DST Foolishness

On Saturday evening, I had the small sashimi plate with a bowl of rice and miso soup at Osaka's in Barrow. This was one of the few times I've eaten out while in Barrow. I've just sort of gotten tired of the standard fare at the different places. Osaka's is the one exception but their prices are pretty steep to go there on a regular basis. For example, this dinner was $45+tip and that's only because they opted not to charge me for the green tea and bowl of rice.

On Sunday morning, the weather app said that it was -20°F but "feels like" -51°F. At that point I just hoped that the flight wouldn't be cancelled due to wind. Fortunately, the wind was blowing in the right direction, i.e inline with the runway, so no problems. By comparison, Fairbanks felt wonderfully warm though it snowed about 8" during the weekend.

Just a week ago, my morning commute was in daylight and warm temperatures. Not any more. The foolishness known as "Daylight Savings Time" took care of the morning sunshine and we are back (thankfully!) to our typical temperatures. Today, Monday, we awoke to -4°F and they that claim to know are projecting lows of -20°F by mid week. This is the little grassy area next to our building right outside my office complete with grille and picnic tables.

I could go on and on about DST. I hope Alaska joins Arizona and Hawaii in opting out of this idiocy.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Bright, Sunny Barrow

There is a new take-out food place with wonderful Mexican food. These tamales were made there instead of just purchasing them ready made from Costco or Sam's club. I had heard that this place had real home-made food but I was skeptical. Not any more. These were wonderful.

I have gotten quite a few things that could not be done remotely crossed off the list. One of the Ubiquity radios had reset itself to factory defaults though I'm not sure why. I need to set something up that I can connect into to access them remotely. But it's up and running again and I have been exercising it for the last couple of days. Maybe it didn't like the -55°F (air temperature not wind chill) that they had a while back. There are now water and temperature alarms in the building. There was an incident a few months back resulting in some frozen sprinkler pipes. I guess it made quite the mess being in the middle of January. I still need to train a couple of folks on how to use the AV setup in the conference room.

And I tried out the new GoPro back that I had in my last post. In this case, I completely removed the battery and just ran it off of the 12v "PowerPort" in the truck. I sped up the video 8x to shorten it. It is just a trip from NARL to Barrow and back returning through Browerville. I also headed out towards the point (as in Point Barrow) past the duck camp. Once you get past NARL and the DEW line site, the land narrows down to about a 100m or so all the way out to the point.

I'm impressed by our Internet link as this video only took about 8 min to upload. I'm not going to complain about that. Don't be fooled by the bright sun as it looks as though it looks like Spring is right around the corner. It's still -13°F.

Update for Coop - There is a gps receiver on one of the Ubiquity sector antenna and at this point in time, it looks like it can see 12 satellites. 

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Heading North Again

It feels like I haven't been on a plane for a long time but it's only been a little over a month. This is the view of the sunset as the flight is approaching Barrow. This was taken using an iPhone app called Hydra. In HDR mode, it'll take up to 20 images and put them together instead of the normal 2 or 3 photos. Using the built in camera app in HDR mode, the sun was completely blown out and everything else was black. I think that this new app did a reasonable job given the huge dynamic range. BTW, this was about 6:40pm. Quite a change from the last time I was here when there was no sunrise or sunset.

I have been waiting for the contract paperwork to get completed before returning to Barrow but things need to get done before the winter field season and things start to get busy. Winter is still here for a while in spite of the longer days. There was only about a 50% chance that we would be able to land due to high winds this afternoon. Something on the order of 45 knots and whiteout conditions.

I noticed a new addition to the university time/temperature sign. Ice sculptures are a big deal around Fairbanks. There are a number of nice sculptures around town and, as you might guess, they don't fare very well in warm temperatures. The Nanook. aka polar bear, is the mascot for the University of Alaska Fairbanks so there has been an ice sculpture of a polar bear at this location just about every year.

One last item that may be of interest to those with GoPro camera. Last month near the end of the Polar Bear Challenge, I modified a GoPro waterproof case to run a mini-USB cable into the camera to provide power. I recently found another solution that retains the integrity of the waterproof case and provides power to the camera using the 30-pin connector on the back. This connector is normally used to interface to optional backs such as the LCD or Sena Bluetooth. I found this replacement door and cable setup on Amazon and it would allow long time lapse sequences without being concerned about the weather.