Wednesday, August 31, 2016

It's About That TIme of Year

Clumps of yellow leaves are showing up all over town. Well, actually sort of brownish-yellow clumps. These are just some in our yard. There are a lot more at higher elevations. I'm getting some riding in after what I think may be the last trip to Barrow for this field season. I brought back one ActionPacker (just under 50 lbs) of gear from Barrow including a couple of laptops, some tools, several external drives, the Raspberry Pi-3s and some food that will probably go stale. I also brought back my old riding gear. The Kilimanjaro jacket got a lot of use after I removed the protective padding. It is a still a great breathable, waterproof jacket.

The Ural is almost at 50k km so I'm getting ready to do a "major" service i.e. what is specified for 10k km. The owners manual doesn't go beyond something like 32.5k km. Maybe they're not expected to last that long. Rather than deal with the list of compatible spin-on oil filters, I searched on Amazon for the factory filter, a Mann 75/3, and found several listings. I picked the one listed as "Prime" for free shipping. I just cleaned the air cleaner element in my Home Depot PVC fence post air cleaner aka Leftka 3. It was pretty filthy after only being used since Spring. Maybe there was some improvement in airflow from cleaning but probably not as the Moto Guzzi filter element has substantially more surface area than the stock filter. The inside of the filter housing itself was pretty grimy complete with leaves, sand and gravel. I need to hack up some sort of dirt/water trap for the filter housing intake.

I've been averaging 32 mpg since the beginning of May (after the engine had been broken in). Quite an improvement from my road trip last summer when I opted to use the stock filter housing. I'm still considering increasing the size of the main jets one more step as there is a minor flat spot at full throttle. There is actually more power at 80% throttle. In the last 2500 km, I've added no oil so I'll be switching to synthetic in the engine. The transmission and final drive has been running synthetic as long as I've owned the rig.

Today, I'm headed to Anchorage for the day to attend a meeting. I thought about riding down but the non-refundable airline ticket was already purchased. It would've been a great end of summer trip.

This pano was taken in Barrow last Saturday morning. There were a number of barges on the water and I was just curious if any of them were part of the fiber optic cable project. The one on the far left is in the area where the cable is landing but I couldn't tell what it was doing (besides floating).

Friday, August 26, 2016

Something New in Barrow

Another afternoon spent on the BEO (Barrow Environmental Observatory) to check on instrumentation at one location and to get a new tower up on the network at another. I've seen contractors working on the tower for most of the spring and summer and passed these signs frequently. I guess they don't want anyone messing around with their stuff.

This is the tower site. I believe the intent is to locate the actual data collection instrumentation on the tower itself and house all of the support equipment in the really nice prefab structure with the ramps. I'm told that this is the only site that they've ever installed that needed to be built up on piers. The raised structure is supposed to help minimize drifting as the snow can simply blow under the building.

I was tempted to climb the tower but there were all sorts of signs such as "hard hat zone", "authorized personnel only", etc. I, of course, always obey the signs. I'm told that the tower needs to be higher than the surrounding canopy but that easy here. The tallest vegetation in the area is maybe a foot and that's being generous. I'm not really sure what they will be measuring.

The support building has these nice ramps. Instead of the standard expanded metal or steel grate, this is covered with some sort of green material with embedded traction enhancing material. Given the challenge of walking out here over the tundra even with the plastic walkways, I don't think the ramps are for ADA access. Maybe to help install heavy equipment such as large battery banks in the support building.

The staff member for the project was provided with someone to help haul equipment from the road and I noticed that he carried a 12 gauge. I asked if there were recent bear sightings. He showed me some pictures of a large polar bear that was found washed up on the beach just a little ways from here. So they must be around. I guess I don't warrant a bear guard when I go wandering out on the BEO. Maybe it depends who has sufficient funding for such frills.

From this angle, the tower kind of looks like it's part of a prison. It's actually pretty fancy for an instrument tower. It has stairs and not simply a ladder tied to the side. Anyway, no problems at all getting the tower connected to the network. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Nights Are Getting Longer

I spend Tuesday afternoon out on the BEO again. I was told that there was a network problem as one of the groups was having difficulty connecting to their experiment. It turned out to be more of a power problem in both the Control Shed and their tower. The network was fine. There is a lot more water out here now than earlier in the summer. This section of the plastic walkway is actually floating on the wooden walkway underneath and it feels pretty treacherous. Kind of like walking on a boat. The knee high rubber boots almost seem to be a little short walking along the trail.

I think that there will be at least a couple more walks out here over the next couple of days. On Tuesday, I was out there for about 5 hours. On Thursday, I suspect that I'll be out there even longer. The yellow cable is power for the new tower. I think that I've already missed the "peak" for color on the tundra. No more flowers.

It's only 11:05pm and it's already after sunset. This is the view from the living room window of the hut I'm staying in this week. The quonset hut across the street is typical of where I usually stay. But this week, it's a nice two bedroom frame house. I just thought the view was interesting. 

Monday, August 22, 2016

Heading North Again

Hitch installed in spite of some rainy weather. My son and I did manage to get two cars hauled out of the yard and now I just need to pare down the pile of tires that seems to have built up beside the garage. I still have some other tasks for the truck while it's still not snowing. I need to install a trailer connector inside of the bed teeing off the connector already installed on the rear bumper. Install a toolbox at the front of the bed. And then I can make the wooden frame to hold the bags of gravel in the rear of the bed that I use for ballast when the snow plow is attached. Due to the weight of the diesel engine and the plow on the front of the truck, the plow manufacturer recommends at least 600# of ballast. The wooden frame will hold the bags of gravel against the tailgate. Last year, we tied the together using rope. The wooden frame would be braced against the front of the bed or the tool box.

But no more playing around with the truck as I'm in Barrow again for the week. I know that I have at least two trips out on the BEO. One to the Control Shed and one to a new instrument tower that was constructed over the last couple of months. This is the Fairbanks airport this morning. After the flight to Deadhorse, and a 4 hour wait, I arrived in Barrow at 6:00pm.

I tried the son tofu at Osaka's. It was very similar to the spicy breakfast soup that I had at the Korean restaurant in Los Angeles last December. A slightly spicy flavor including the addition of a raw egg cracked into soup that was still boiling when brought to the table. This version wasn't anywhere near as spicy but was very tasty and served with a bowl of rice. Unfortunately, no banchan.

I'm not sure how many more trips to Barrow after this one. I don't think that I have any scheduled but did leave enough budget in case another trip is needed.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Running Around

On Tuesday, BruceW brought his Ural to town on a trailer as I had offered to see why it wouldn't start without a jumper from the battery to the positive terminal of the PowerArc coil. Since I had also installed a PowerArc ignition, I was pretty familiar with the wiring. After pulling the tank and tracing the wires, we found the problem pretty quickly. The original installer spliced into the positive lead for the original coil which came out of the original CD ignition module which is no longer needed with the PowerArc ignition system. If the unused module failed, the new ignition system no longer receives power and the bike will not start. A quick splice into the power lead between the cutoff switch to the alternator and the CDI, and the rig was up and running again.

This snapshot was taken in the Bentley Mall parking lot where we want for lunch to test the repair. About ¼ mile from the house, his bike died again. This time it was the vacuum line from the left carb to the vacuum operated petcock was loose. Moving the lever to "Prime" and putting the line back on resolved the problem. After a delicious lunch (thank you!), we put on the missing hose clamp.

This morning, I noticed that there were a ton (not literally) of birds at Creamer's Field. There were quite a few people there and the birds were pretty close to the parking area. This is not obvious with this iPhone photo. The nearest birds were only about 25' away on the other side of the fence. This is yet another reminder that Fall is just around the corner if not here already.

Much of yesterday was spent messing with the truck and a borrowed car hauling trailer. There have been a couple of cars parked next to our garage the last several years and it's finally time to get rid of them. We dropped off the first one on Monday at the landfill after checking with three of the local auto dismantlers in the area. None of them were interested in an old Infinity Q45. I guess that there is very little demand for parts. The other is my old Saab 900S which is going to a fellow Airhead. He said that he can always use another parts car to keep the rest of his old Saab fleet running.

The other task was picking up this hitch. (That's why I needed to disconnect the car hauling trailer) The boxes were loaded into the back of the truck with a forklift. A couple of years ago, I had installed an under-bed gooseneck hitch. This fifth wheel hitch plugs into the gooseneck socket mounted under the bed. I was originally going to order it online and take advantage of Amazon Prime "free shipping" but like many other things, no shipping to Alaska. On a whim, I inquired at a local shop and the markup was under 5%. That seemed reasonable so I went ahead and ordered it from them. Towing capacity for the hitch itself is 20,000 lbs. Kind of overkill but I like that the hitch can be completely removed from the truck bed leaving a completely unobstructed load floor. What we are planning to tow is reserved for a future post but it has nothing to do with riding...

Monday, August 15, 2016

Grip Heaters

After going through multiple sets of heated grips on the Ural ($$$), I decided to go cheap and use generic heat pads designed for a snow machine or ATV and generic dirt bike grips. The heat pads were designed to be used with a simple two position switch for high and low heat settings. The resistance of the functioning left heated grip is 7.2 ohms. The resistance of "high" on the generic pads is 7.3 ohms. Close enough. I stuck the heat pad onto the throttle tube and run a couple of beads of grip glue on the heat pad. I also put some of the grip glue inside of the rubber handgrips.

They slid on easily and within seconds, the glue "set" and I couldn't move the grip anymore. Now, it just needs to set overnight. I spliced the white-red pair into the old temperature controller and tried them out. Within 30 sec or so, the grips was already starting to warm up. It may seem odd to install grip heaters in the middle of the summer but I've had these sitting around since the middle of January when the left grip heater failed. Shortly after this the engine in the Ural failed so the grip heaters fell way back on the "list".

The generic heat pads were $14 at the local Polaris shop. And the generic rubber grips were $10 on Amazon (free shipping!). For some reason, I couldn't find any grips at the local motorcycle shops in the middle of January. Pretty cheap when compared to the $120 + shipping from one of the Ural dealers. We'll see how well they hold up this winter. I suspect that these generic rubber grips won't be very comfortable and they are smaller in diameter. Which for me, means tired hands....

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Mine Tour

Another post with zero moto content. I didn't even ride out. This morning, I had the opportunity to get a tour of a gold mine. We were asked not to mention the name of the facility when posting on the Internet. This is one of the medium sized ore trucks with a load capacity of about 250 tons. I think he mentioned that they move around 150,000 tons of ore per day either to the mill or to be put into storage for processing during the winter. The mill runs continuously year around. It was a pretty impressive operation.

This is the main pit. The darker material is stripped of and moved to the side. The grey material is what they were processing. It is very low grade ore and there is not "free" gold such as with placer mining. All of the gold is chemically extracted. The tour included an overview of the entire ore process. Mining is a major industry in Alaska and is one of the largest private employers in the state. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Barrow Misc.

Osaka's, the Japanese restaurant in Barrow, had started to post pictures of Korean dishes on the walls. At first I just thought "decoration?". But one of the owners said they were dishes from their homeland that hadn't made it onto the menu. Like several other restaurants in Barrow, Osaka's is owned by Koreans. I don't have a picture of the first one I tried which was listed as "kimchi stew". Basically a spicy soup made of kimchi, tofu and some vegetables. I had it with a bowl of rice on the side. Very delicious.   

The second dish, shown above, is pork belly. Basically pork belly stir fried with vegetables and made as spicy as you want. I chose spicy and it was also very good. This place was on a roll. Several other dishes I had tried earlier as they were listed in their menu like kalbi or Korean short ribs. Also good and I make these at home. And one of my favorite dishes bibimbap though they didn't have the smoking hot stone bowl. But they do now. When it is brought to the table, you can hear it sizzling. You then add a tomato based chili sauce to taste and start mixing. This partially cooks the raw vegetables and the rice gets a nice crust. 

On this last visit I tried the seafood noodle soup. It was listed as "jam pong" on the photo. It was also very spicy and had scallops, shrimp, crab, fake crab, squid and a variety of vegetables. The noodles were udon which was fine with me. I think I really like Korean food if these are typical.

On my flight back to Fairbanks, the Disneyland themed Alaska Airlines 737 was in Barrow. Of course, this meant that it wasn't a combi (combined passenger and freight) which meant a free upgrade to 1st class. Nothing special though lunch was toasted pita with a roasted red pepper hummus and roasted veggies. No more food posts for a while. I'm back in Fairbanks for a couple of weeks. 

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Farewell George

Yesterday afternoon, there was a short group ride from the College Coffeehouse to the memorial service for George Rahn being held at Trails End BMW. Leading the ride was George's daughter and son-in-law riding his Harley V-Rod. George has been a fixture in the motorcycle community and had started Trails End BMW as one of the first BMW motorcycle dealers in the country and for several years was also the highest volume dealers as well. It was kind of ironic as George kind of despised this type of group ride and preferred to just ride on his own leaving everyone else in the dust.

There were quite a few impromptu speakers at the event with some great stories told. The dealer had moved most of their inventory of BMWs and Harleys out or to the side to make room for the crowd. The owner of Trails End BMW and the Harley Davidson Farthest North Outpost generously provided great barbeque for the event.

George will be missed by many. I had been meeting him for coffee at College Coffeehouse for a number of years and he has provided me with a lot of advice and information on just about all things relating to BMW airheads and sidecars. His current bikes in addition to the V-Rod were several Royal Enfield's one with a Cozy sidecar.

The following video was put together from the GoPro and Bridget's iPhone video.

Last week I was in Barrow and initially sad that I would miss the memorial service until someone (thank you Cee) reminded me that I could simply fly back. The thought had never occurred to me (Bridget said "hmmm, typical..."). I headed to Fairbanks on Friday afternoon and returned to Barrow on Sunday morning. The ocean view has changed dramatically in the last couple of days. You may remember all of the sea ice in my last post. The wind changed directions and there isn't any ice to be seen today. I'm told that the barge in the photo is part of the project to lay undersea fiber along Alaska's northern coast. This phase of the project is Prudhoe Bay to Nome to be completed by the end of the calendar year.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

First Sunset Since May

There was a little surprise this morning. This was the windshield of the side-by-side parked next to the hut. Just a little dusting of snow to welcome the return of sunsets to Barrow. Monday, August 1st, was the first sunset in Barrow since May 10th. By sunset I mean the sun actually going completely below the horizon. Not really very dark just not sunny. I'm not sure what the temperature was but right now (1:30pm) it's about 34°F and there is some snow blowing around in spite of the blue skies.

I was surprised by the amount of ice along the shore and was told that there was a westerly wind that had blown the ice back towards shore. I couldn't pass up a photo from the beach between NARL and Barrow with the sun shining on the ice. The nice, white ice looked so nice especially with the I also took a pano but I think that I like the individual photo better.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Up North Again

As I was sitting in the airport, I noticed that the UAF logo plane was pulling out getting ready to head for Anchorage. I was waiting for the next plane which was heading for Deadhorse aka Prudhoe Bay. As you may guess, I'm headed for Barrow for a relatively short visit. I had agreed to meet with one of the groups this week and another one near the end of the month.

The Deadhorse airport has much better free Internet than the Anchorage airport and if I'm stuck in one of them, I prefer Deadhorse. It was a balmy 35°F and windy and it wasn't too much warmer inside of the terminal since the air conditioning seemed to be stuck on high. Even the airport agents and TSA were wearing heavy coats inside of the terminal. I arrived in Barrow at around 6:00pm which is about 6 hours after leaving Fairbanks. It sure would be nice to have a more direct Fairbanks-Barrow flight. Oh well...