Friday, July 29, 2016

There Goes the Weekend

Not that rain is much of a deterrent to riding but unless there is somewhere I need to go or something that I need to see...

Maybe riding for fun is a casualty of everyday, year 'round riding. Riding has become another means of transportation. The addition of the Roadcrafter Light and the Ural has made riding just about the easiest way to get around. Easy to park, no problems backing up and, even with only 39hp it has more than enough power to keep up with traffic.

It always took more effort to ride the BMW such as pushing it in or out of parking spaces with the sidecar and even more so when on two wheels. And pre-Roadcrafter, putting on riding gear always took more time. This was especially the case in wet weather. Now it is under a minute from walking out the door to backing out of the garage.

I have already concluded that the Ural+sub-0°F temperatures aren't a good combination primarily due to the lack of a modern engine lubrication system. Three engine repairs in two years should be enough to convince me. The BMW seems much less "civilized" than the Ural. Very heavy steering and geared too high for sidecar use. It is also much more difficult to get out of the driveway during the winter even with studded tires. I'm considering putting the BMW on the market as I hadn't ridden it since February and even when I did, it wasn't the first choice. It still has the studded tires installed and it doesn't seem worth the effort to install the summer tires. Last year, I installed the summer tires and rode it only once.

Hmmm, lots to think about...

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Out Of My Element

This evening, I went on the Tuesday evening BMW "group ride". I think that the last time I went on one of these rides I was still riding the '83 R100RT without a sidecar. So it's been a while. The group was made up of a F700GS, F800GS, R1200GSA and a Ural. One of these is not like the others in more ways than one. After meeting them at the top of Murphy Dome, we decided to try going down a trail to the Chatanika River. The pin on the left is where I decided to turn around and start heading back as I had been going downhill on a very rough, rocky trail for quite a while. A lot of off camber, loose rocks, tire ruts, etc. The GS's turned around about a mile further due to slick mud as only one of the bikes had knobby tires. That 41 minute estimate is pretty accurate as I rarely got past second gear and was in first for a good percentage of the time. And standing on the pegs for most of it as well. I need to find a set of handlebar risers that'll fit a Ural. At the time, I really had no idea where we were headed and needed to look it up on Google Earth when I got home. The road wasn't on the Garmin map but I do have a track. It was a fun ride but definitely needed some Ibuprofen when I got home.

I wasn't planning on going on the ride but had stopped into the dealer to see what their price was on Heidenau K37 tires. It turned out to be the same price as on the Internet and there was no shipping charge. That seems to be pretty reasonable to me. 

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Odd Summer

This has been a really odd summer. I haven't spent this much time away from home for work since I worked at JPL (Jet Propulsion Lab) back in the early 1980's. But there is no intent for this to continue in the future. The logistics support organization is planning to add IT support to the other support that they supply to the research community.

I came back to Fairbanks a week ago on Saturday and I've been able to ride just about everywhere since I've been back. Actually went through four tanks of gas. Today, there was a group ride to the Monderosa Bar & Grill just outside of Nenana. Really good burgers. There were five of us on a wide variety of bikes. R1, R1200GS, KLR, a cruiser (I don't remember what it was) and the Ural. Of course, I was sweep. The KLR rider was thrilled that he wasn't the slowest one. Actually, the Ural ran really nice with cruising speeds between 60 and 65 for just about the entire trip. This was my type of group ride. We all knew where the destination was and there was no expectation that the group stays together. This is the first sunny day we've had since I've been back. Lots of rain.

I will be heading north in a little over a week and again around the end of the month.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Rain, Rain, Rain

I'm back in Fairbanks for a few weeks and just in time for a lot of rain. At least it isn't miserably hot anymore. I rode the Ural up to the Chatanika River on Sunday afternoon through a pretty steady shower and by the time I got home, water had worked it's way up the cuffs of my jeans. But everywhere else, including my hands and feet, were completely warm and dry.

On the way out, I noticed that the left front turn signal wasn't working so I assumed that the bulb just needed to be re-seated again. It turned to be a broken wire inside of the bulb housing. A quick fix at the Fox Spring turnout. No soldering needed.

Not much was very "picture worthy" around Fairbanks. The rain reduced visibility to the point where not even the surrounding hills were really visible. I spent much of today (Monday) at the university after stopping at College Coffeehouse. On the way home, I stopped to get some keys copied and rode around the back of the runway to see how high the water was on the Tanana as it has been raining pretty steadily for about 30 hours. You'd think that the fair was in town...

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Arctic Broadband Summit

Coincidentally, there is a meeting occurring at the same time I happened to be here in Barrow. The Arctic Economic Council (AEC) and the Arctic Slope Regional Corp. (ASRC) are the sponsors of the meeting. The panels have been pretty diverse with speakers ranging from the principals of OneWeb and Quintillion to the U.S Department of Commerce and the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commision.

It was great to hear how far Quintillion was and that they really plan on having phase I service available first quarter of 2017. Quintilion is laying undersea cable off the north coast of Alaska (phase I). Phase II is extending to it to Japan, phase III is the north coast of Canada through the southern northwest passage and phase IV is on to Europe. This started out as a Canadian project but it has turned into an Alaska project.

Wednesday turned out to be an unusually beautiful day and felt extremely warm. Not as miserably hot as it has been in Fairbanks. 65°F sound so much better than 98°F. I'm not sure I'm looking forward to going back to that in a few days. There is ice still on the horizon and today's forecast is for strong winds driving the ice back into the shore. I'll take another photo later today and add that photo. Today, there was so much fog that visibility was down to less than ¼ of a mile.

I opted to skip the "tour of Barrow" that was on the schedule and when stopped at Arctic Grocery, I noticed this decorated trash can. I'm told that there was a contest a few years back and many of the dumpsters still show those decorations.

Thursday afternoon update -  There was a pretty stiff breeze today but it wasn't directly towards shore. But it was enough to move a lot more ice towards the shore. There was quite a bit of discussion today about the ice as the cable laying vessels are around Point Hope waiting for clear water.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Still in Barrow...

It didn't look like a very good day to walk out on the BEO to the Control Shed again. This photo was taken from the BARC looking south towards the BEO. But, we headed out anyway around 1:15 or so. As soon as we were around a ½ mile from the coast, the weather changed dramatically. Not a cloud to be seen.

Half way out to the Control Shed, there is another trail that headed out to a large tower under construction. Summer has brought tourists to Barrow especially bird watchers. If you go off of the road system, you need a land use permit from the native corporation. I've run into several small groups wandering around with their tripods and long lenses and so far. I think the sign is just an attempt to keep people out of the construction zone.

The last couple of times I've been out here, I noticed a hint of red but wasn't really sure where it was coming from. Today, I noticed these bright red things on the low lying plants. The plastic grid is about 2" so you can get an idea of how tiny these are.

Most of the birds take off as soon a you see them. This one was so busy feeding on the small bugs that it didn't take off. I'm not a birder so I have absolutely no idea what kind of bird it is.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Out on the BEO

Another walk out on the tundra. I needed to replace an antenna on a tower out at the BEO Control Shed and, since I didn't care to climb the tower, I needed to wait until a certain support staff had some time available. It was a wonderful walk out with just enough breeze to keep the mosquitos near the ground. The ground is starting to dry out and the temperature was around 53°F. Pretty close to a perfect day to walk out on the tundra.

Still not too many flowers but these were easily the largest and most colorful that I saw. The Control Shed is only a bit over a mile out from the road but it's still a challenge to walk on the plastic walkway. I feel like I need to really watch where I'm stepping to avoid slipping.

The wide open spaces really remind me of other places that I've visited. Such as Montana or west Texas. But most areas have a lot more vegetation. I took these pictures on Friday when I walked out but today, Saturday, I'm writing this post from the Control Shed partly to check out the network. I was helping a project set up a point to multipoint wireless network that should be more reliable than what they were using in the past. The new one is using Ubiquity 2.4 GHz radios.

It's not quite as warm today (Saturday) as it was yesterday but there is a nice breeze to keep the mosquitos at bay. But still it's hard to complain about 50°F and sunny.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Umiak Race

One of the highlights of Saturday's 4th of July activities was the umiak race. The umiak is the traditional open boat made of walrus or seal skin stretched over a wooden frame. Each boat is entered by one of the whaling crews. The prize for the winning crew is a drum of gasoline. As you might guess, the race is sponsored by the local gas station Eskimo, Inc.

Four boats participated in the race across and back on the freshwater lagoon. This is one of the fresh water sources for the village as it is separated from the salt water by a small earthen dam. The large pipes seen in the first photo running along the shore hold all of the utilities as you can't bury them due to frost heaves. So all of the utilities are run above ground. The building with the red roof is the elementary school. The crew with the matching blue jackets won the race. They seemed pretty organized compared with some of the other participants.

Some other activities included children and adult games. On Friday afternoon, I stopped by to check out the food booths with diverse offerings reflecting the nature of the community. Everything from spam musubi (spam w/sushi rice wrapped in seaweed) to a taco truck to reindeer stew. The popular offering seemed to be teriyaki Copper River red salmon served Hawaiian plate style. i.e. with a scoop of white rice and a scoop of macaroni salad. I opted for a bowl of Filipino spaghetti. The sauce was made with banana ketchup and hot dogs. Below is a pano taken while waiting for the umiak race to start.

I spent most of Saturday out on the BEO (Barrow Environmental Observatory) to fix a few more radios. Things are starting to turn green but that also means that there is a lot of standing water. Fortunately, it was still only 38°F so there weren't too many mosquitos but when the wind dies down or you are near a nice warm building like the BEO Control Sled, you start to see more than a few of the pesky insects.

It turned out that one of the reasons for the poor performance they've been experiencing was the wrong radio being installed. I had asked the tech to install a radio last year and somehow he got hold of a different radio. I had purchased only 5 GHz radios but somewhere they found some 2.4 GHz radios. This is what was installed on the Control Shed which means that it was connecting into the building WiFi and not the large panel antennae on the roof. I'm amazed that it even worked at all...

Bridget had asked me to take some pictures flowers on the tundra. At this point there weren't very many either in number or variety.  I don't know what they are.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Seward Zip-Line

One of the reunion activities that I opted not to participate in was the zip-line. I think a large percentage of the attendees did participate including my mom to celebrate her 90th birthday. My son took the GoPro and attached it to his helmet and captured some footage including one the longest run. There was a lot of other video captured on the SD cad but most of it was standing around on the platform. Since it was a large group I suspect that there was quite a bit of that. The person taking off from the platform initially was my cousin's daughter, Moe, visiting from Japan. BTW, she's also the first one who asked for a sidecar ride.

I will assume that Bridget will add more photos to this post.