Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Bright Lights and Grey Skies

The electronic flasher came today from Amazon. To install it, I just needed to make three jumpers with male and female spade lugs at each end. These were inserted into the plug on the wiring harness and matched up with the appropriate terminals on the flasher unit. It works great. I then installed the LED bulbs in the front turn signals. I like this one particularly since it has the projector lens on the front making for a very bright turn indicator. After installing them, I figured that I may as well order them for the rear turn signals as well. The flasher works as advertised and maintained the same flashing rate even with the lower amperage LED bulbs.

Since they are LED, I now have the option of connecting them to the Skene Design Photon Blaster electronic module. One cut wire and a splice later, I had the left turn signal connected and tested. The left signal now has that distinctive flicker and really is pretty visible. The right turn signal is a bit more challenging as there is a single wire from the headlight shell, where all of the wiring is located, to the sidecar and is for the front and rear right turn signals. amber parking lights on the rear are not permitted so I will need to run a new wire for just the right-front turn signal. I have not started this task yet.

Update - I ran the wire from the sidecar front turn signal and connected it up to the Skene module. It is a lot brighter than the parking light on the sidecar and the flicker really makes it easy to see.

And, the solar is working. I set the charge controller to do an equalization charge so anytime the array voltage (red line on the first graph) is high enough, the controller will push the battery up to whatever is needed according to the battery temperature. Since the batteries are on the cold side, the equalization voltage is around 15 volts. The current is low as the batteries are fully charged. The only thing drawing power is the CO/propane detector and the Raspberry Pi monitoring the charge controller.

The weather was very dreary today. Not cold (50°F) but overcast. Everything is gloomy and grey. The following video is just a short loop around town and is sped up 8x like the previous couple of videos. I keep thinking of simply adding voice over to the sped up video and make it a vlog. But that seems like a lot more work...

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Spring Snow

Friday was windy, overcast and it looked and felt like fall. I had removed the gauntlets from the Ural earlier in the week but was having second thoughts. Maybe a week too soon. By late Friday afternoon, we were getting snow flurries. Nothing like the northern midwest last week but just enough to remind one that we were still in Alaska.

Saturday morning brought brilliant sunshine but it was still below freezing. The dark pavement was absorbing enough warmth from the sun to melt the snow but there was still a little ice in the shadows. I'm glad that I still hadn't removed the studs from the tires. Or at least the minimal number that I had installed.

I had ordered some LED bulbs to use in the Ural front turn signals and discovered that, for some reason or another, Ural chose to wire the turn signal sockets backwards. Instead of negative on the body of the base, it is wired to the base of the bulb. Time to dig out the soldering iron and shrink tubing again and rewire. But I still wonder why they would do that. My intent is to wire the front turn signals to the Skene module so they would flicker as well possibly improving my forward visibility. The Ural still has an old style flasher module that uses the current to the bulbs to determine the flashing rate. Removing the front bulb from the circuit causes it to flash very fast. On the BMW, I just added resistors to simulate the bulbs but that just consumed amps. The proper way is to change the flasher to an electronic unit which has a constant flash rate no matter what the load. Like many things, it's easier to just order from Amazon than deal with the local auto parts store as they provide parts based on the year/make/model of the vehicle. If you try to explain what you want, they just ask you for the year/make/model again as that is the only way they know to look up parts. There are exceptions but I get tired of trying to find that person. Once the flasher arrives, I’ll rewrite the lights and I’ll need to rewire the flasher as well. I think the one that’s installed has three connections instead of two. The third one would simply be a ground.

Todays Ural task was replacing the battery. The last battery came from Jed's 2015 Ural as it was still installed even after Ural of New England added the automotive battery. We used the stock battery location for a 12volt bus to simplify the addition of accessories. So it was barely 3 years old. The replacement battery came from Walmart. The only difference between their "premium" AGM battery and their regular AGM battery is that the regular one ships dry. You need to add the acid and charge the battery before use. After filling it with acid, I went ahead and installed it on the bike before connecting my smart charger. The smart charger just means that it has multiple charging profiles including one for AGM batteries.

The video below was shot this morning to show off our fresh dusting of snow.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

RV is Back Home

Finally have the RV back in the driveway. I picked it up around 2:30 pm and thanks to a good friend and neighbor SteveJ, we managed to get it into the driveway. It took multiple attempts to maneuver it in. The truck was in 4WD and low range due to the steep driveway. The resultant speed in reverse or 1st was less than walking speed at idle. This really helps.

Sunday, April 15, 2018


This post seems to have a little bit of everything. Ural issues, RV, ham radio, and technology. Though no travel or anything related to Barrow aka Utqiaġvik. The title of the post started out as CW challenges but over the weekend, more challenges kept arising.

For the Morse code class, which is generally referred to as CW, we use a practice program called RufzXP. It was written back in the days of Windows XP which explains the "XP" in the name. It sends random letters, numbers, and symbols to the audio port and you need to type it into a box. If you get it right, it sends the next series of characters slightly faster. Unfortunately, I have a hard time typing as well as listening. Especially for numbers and symbols. I seem to spend a lot of time looking at the keyboard for the letters. Especially when punctuation is sent. I believe the goal is to remember the letters and punctuation then type it in after it's sent. I have a hard time with that as well.

To help me with some of the audio practice files available for download on the CW Ops website, I installed a morse decoder on the iPad. Feeding the audio out from the laptop into the microphone input on the iPad, the app attempts to convert it to text. As you can see from the text in the image, the decoding is far from perfect. This particular file is pretty straightforward to read but some of the CW files have so much shorthand or abbreviations, I have a really hard time understanding the text even if I decode the Morse code accurately. I believe that understanding the abbreviations comes from experience. Here is an example of a conversation between two operators. I guess it really isn't any different than two teenagers texting. I added the meaning of the abbreviation in parentheses.

cq (calling) cq cq w1rm (the target call sign) w1rm de (from) n3am (the source call sign) k (ok) n3am w1rm ge (good evening) es (and) tu (thank you) fer (for) call ur (your) rst (received signal) 569 569 (numbers refer to the strength and quality of the received signal) qth (my location) is ct (Connecticut) ct es (and) name is pete pete ok? de (from) w1rm w1rm de n3am fb (ok) pete ur (your) rst is 589 in md (Maryland) md name is john john hw? w1rm de n3am k de w1rm r r (are) solid hr john wx (weather) is snow es (and) temp is 24 24 rig runs kw (kilowatt) to 5 el (element) yagi up 60 ft (height of antenna) age is 72 hw? (how are you receiving me) de w1rm w1rm de n3am ok pete gud (good) cpy (copy) wx (weather) is cla (clear) eemp 33 rig runs kw to 4 el yagi at 55 ft age is 70 ok? w1rm de n3am de w1rm all solid john nice to wrk u (you) agn (again) so soon will look fer (for) u (you) agn (again) on 40 (assume meters) take care es (and) 73 (best regards) sk (end of contact)  n3am de w1rm w1rm de n3am enjoyed the qso pete cu (see you) agn (again) sn (soon) 73 sk w1rm de n3am ee ee 
On Friday, I had planned to pick up the 5th wheel from the RV storage lot and bring it back to the house. But, when I went there, the large pile of snow was still in front of the trailer and it looked like they tried to move it with their plow truck. Not much chance of that as the snow pile was solid enough to stand on. Anyway, they were waiting for the loader to come and move the snow. Maybe Monday or Tuesday. Anyway, there were snow flurries on Friday.

On Saturday, I took the automotive battery out of the Ural and reconnected the stock motorcycle battery after having it on the charger overnight. It seemed to crank the engine over just fine. On Sunday morning, not a chance. Just click-click-click. So on Sunday afternoon, the automotive battery went back in. I guess it needs battery number 3. Maybe time for one from Walmart...

BTW, over 15 hours of daylight (sunrise to sunset) today and almost 18 hours of light (first light to last light)!

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Errands To Run

Today was the day for lots of errands including putting the four golf cart batteries into the RV. The sidecar easily held the four batteries plus the group 24 battery in the plastic case. Over 400 lbs of batteries. I also had tools, cables, hardware, and other things to get the trailer ready to pull out of storage. I could definitely tell that the sidecar was really heavy.

But first, I needed to go to the clinic, then federal building and, naturally, College Coffeehouse. At the RV, step one was to remove the fabric cover. Since the trailer is still surrounded by snow, I left the cover piled up on the roof until it gets pulled towards the front parking lot at the RV shop. Then I can drop it to the ground and stuff it into the back seat of the truck. Today, I wouldn't have been able to get the truck within 100 m of the trailer. The Ural wound through all of the parked rigs easily. I installed the batteries into the front compartment and switched on the DC to the RV and flipped the breakers for the charge controller. A quick check showed the batteries around 60% and the Timetric monitor indicated 15 amps of charge current from the solar panels. A quick check of the trailer showed no evidence of moisture or rodents. The shop will pull the trailer out of its slot tomorrow (Friday morning) and I'll pick it up around noon.

The video is just playing with the GoPro again. Leaving home around 7am heading east into the sun on Farmers Loop Road. It really is nice to see the snow pushed off to the side of the road.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Some Ham Radio Activities

The Arctic Amateur Radio Club built a radio-in-a-box to lend out to newly licensed members who didn't have a radio to play with use. It is a Yaesu FT-2980R/E 2M radio with a maximum power rating of 80 watts. Accompanying it is a 12 VDC power supply rated at 30 amps. Both are installed into a 50 mm ammo box. There are a 120 VAC power and SO-239 antenna connectors on the top. They also provided a 2M antenna with a magnetic mount base. After setting up the radio for the Ester Dome repeater, I talked to a couple of local folks whom I had run into before. They said that this radio sounds much better than Baofeng BF-F8HP HT (8  watt unit) that I've been playing with. Apparently, when using the Baofeng, it sounds like I’m talking into a can. Maybe two cans with a string between them. While I’m borrowing this rig I should use the HT just to hear what it sounds like through the repeater.

I've been researching mobile HF radios for a couple of months and have it narrowed down to a couple of models. One of them has a matching screwdriver antenna that adjusts for bands from 70 cm through 40 M with a touch of a button. To me, that sounds convenient especially since I'm looking for a solution that'll work in the RV. I've been talking to Mike, another club member, who is getting ready to pick up his motor home and is planning a much more elaborate installation but, then again, he has been doing this radio stuff for quite a few years.

I rode to the club meeting on Friday evening and there was a fair bit of interest in the Ural. Some questions were just on the bike and there were quite a few inquiries on whether I was considering installing an HF radio. I'm told that talking to someone in Alaska is very popular. They were not suggesting talking while riding but more using the rig as a platform for the radio and antenna at a remote location such as the Arctic Circle.

On Thursday evening, the first class of the CW Academy level 2 course met. This is the morse code course that I had mentioned. The other students are from Nevada, northern California, and Oregon. I hope that I will be able to keep up. The goal by the end of two months of classes is to decode and send at around 18-20 words per minute. I'm barely half that right now. There are two software packages that I need to install for the class and both run on Windows. One of them, a contesting simulation program called MorseRunner, I found with a WINE wrapper (WINE Is Not an Emulator). Basically, a way to run some Windows programs within Linux or OS X. The other program is Windows only. Specifically XP. I dug out my Windows computer, a Lenovo Helix Ultrabook, and it needed a ton of updates including a major update to Windows 10. I guess I should restart this device more often. I think the last time was over a year ago when testing out the solar charge controller.We'll see if I can get it running under Windows 10.

And lastly, on the ham radio front, I met with two others to administer the licensing exams which are offered on the first Saturday of the month. I have received certifications to administer exams from two organizations. Unfortunately, no one had signed up to take the tests today.

And, finally, the temperature this afternoon was over 50°F here at the house. Hopefully, the snow will start melting quickly.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Another Farkle for the Ural

I had installed the Skene Design Photon Blaster conspicuity lights on the R100RT and believe that they really do increase your visibility. The LED lights flicker but if you are looking straight at them, your eyes don't see the flicker. But if you aren't looking straight at them, then there is a very noticable flicker. I had picked up another set for the Ural at the Salt Lake City MOA rally last July and I finally got around to installing them. With the BMW, they included mounting hardware but no mounting hardware was available for the Ural (big surprise there). They did give me a couple of sets of fender mounts. A trip to the hardware store for some aluminum spacers, some ss allen head screws, ss washers and locknuts was all that was needed to mount them to the fender. The wiring was run into the headlight bucket where I located the appropriate wiring trying to use the Ural wiring diagram. Unfortunately, things weren't labled properly and the colors were off but it was pretty easy to identify the right wires. It's nice that these things are so simple.

I ended up using the slow motion feature on the iPhone for the first time. I filmed a short clip at 120 frames per second to capture the flickering. The 12 second YouTube video was actually only 3 seconds. The flicker rate is really pretty fast and doesn't show up at all without the high frame rate.

BTW, Google finally enabled HTTPS for custom domains. I just enabled it in the settings. We'll see if this causes any problems.

Monday, April 2, 2018

More Spring Riding

Yesterday was April 1st and I must've managed to remove myself from enough email lists so that the only April Fools Day email was this one from Aerostitch. I can deal with that number. Right now, my email inbox has a grand total of one (1) email message and that is about the morse code Skype class that will be starting this Thursday. I guess that there is some Windows-only software that needs to be installed. I guess I will be digging out the Windows tablet.

Mother nature did have an April 1st joke for us. Between Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning, we got about an inch or snow of fresh snow. And early this morning, the temperature was only 1°F. By the time I left for College Coffeehouse, it had warmed up. And now (2:30pm on Monday afternoon) it's all the way up to 28°F.

I recorded some more GoPro video and tried to use the new, updated GoPro Quik software but it locked up the machine (MacBook Pro, 3.3GHz I7, 16 GB, TB SSD) three times. After that, I just deleted the software. But, since I had taken the short video clip, I played around with iMovie some more. I haven't found an easy way to add simple text without using one of their presets but I'll keep playing with it. This video is under 2 minutes long unlike the ridiculously long last video. 

Friday, March 30, 2018

Snow Berms

Another beautiful Spring day. At least the weather was nice on Wednesday. It was only 8°F when I left the house this morning but was up into the low 20s (°F) by the time I left College Coffeehouse. After multiple trips to the transfer station (that's what we call the place where we dump household trash) with the Ural, it was almost 30°F. As I'm typing this in the late afternoon, it's all the way up to 34°F with water running across the road. Things around here are kind of dirty and dingy around this time of year. The snow isn't brilliant white along the roads anymore as all of the sand/ash/gravel/trash that has been scattered on the roads all winter is starting to surface.

The picture above was taken on Thursday on the way back from coffee. The clouds are back and there were even a few snowflakes. This is what just about all of the snow piled up on the sides of the road look like. Kind of drab from all of the dirt but then all of that dirt causes the berms to melt faster. The one thing you need to watch for is water running across the road which could freeze at night. DOT usually tries to push the snow and ice far enough off the road for that not to happen but they don't have control of all of the side roads and driveways.

On Friday, I needed gas in the Ural so I put the GoPro on to see if it still worked. Sort of worked. The USB outlet in the sidecar now has one broken outlet (out of two) but since I can't find the remote anyway, it sort of didn't matter. Plus, GoPro Studio on the Macbook Pro no longer imports the video and its replacement, Quik, is pretty flaky. So, I tried using iMovie. A little more flexible but a whole lot more complex than the simple GoPro Studio.

Happy Easter!!!

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Deleted Facebook

Even though I did enjoy hearing about what relatives and friends are up to, I decided to delete my Facebook account. Not simply deactivate it like I had done previously but actually delete the profile. The public statements given by their executives after the latest data breach really put things in perspective. Basically, you choose to put things into Facebook so you must obviously agree that they can do whatever they want with those little tidbits of information. Collecting and marketing your data is their business and that is what allows them to provide the popular social media service for free. I can opt not to be a part of their business. This is also why I had deleted my Instagram account back when Facebook bought the photo sharing site. Facebook, the company, felt slimy before and it really hasn’t changed. Fortunately, I had never used Facebook as an authentication authority for any applications or websites. If I had, I would lose access to those sites when deleting my account.

Oh well, this blog was originally and will continue to be my “not-Facebook” foray into social media. My Twitter account, @RMachida is still active but the only posts are automated ones from IFTTT whenever I put up a new blog post.

BTW, unless you use Google to find an article, the link to delete your account is kind of buried. And they won’t actually delete the profile for 14 days on the assumption that you will change your mind.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Sure Sign of Spring

We just had the hardpack removed from our driveway. Kind of a "thing" you need to do when Spring is lurking around the corner is removing the thick layer of snow and ice from the driveway usually by someone who has the appropriate equipment. Many areas of the country don't really need this done as the snow doesn't just accumulate all winter like it does around here. Even though I was scraping the snow off of the driveway all winter with the plow, there was probably a 6" layer of ice built up. This usually takes a long time to melt. I am planning on bringing the trailer from the storage lot to our house sometime next month after the ice is gone from the road and driveway.

The subdivision road was also cleared down to pavement earlier this week with a grader making multiple passes up and down the road pushing the snow berm well off the road. On the main roads, the snow has been pushed back into the drainage ditches along the sides of the road. 

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

QSL Card

I received my first QSL card in the mail yesterday. A QSL card is a postcard providing written verification of a radio conversation between to amateur radio operators. The term is derived from shortcuts called “Q codes” originally developed for use with morse code where brevity is key. This contact occurred during the Skywarn event at the local National Weather Service office near the beginning of December that I had participated in. We contacted the operator, CG6AO, who was also participating in the Skywarn event from Calgary. The Canada 150 QSL card is a special one that was being used during the 150th anniversary of Canada as a commonwealth. 

I remember reading about QSL cards way back when I was a kid. And, when looking at pictures of ham stations (aka shacks), you can see a wall of such cards. Collecting them is a popular part of the amateur radio hobby. I had mocked up a card with my info and mailed it off along with a self-addressed envelope along with something to cover estimated postage. Dan from the local club provided me with the information I needed to include on my own homemade card to send to the Calgary operator.

Yesterday (Monday), was nice enough to ride the Ural so it was dug out of storage and the truck is back to outdoor parking. After checking the engine oil and the tire pressure, I headed out to the coffee shop then on to run a couple more errands. I guess that it's supposed to be the first day of Spring, right? Ignore the snow flurries. I think that I'm going to move the top box back a couple of inches so my back isn't touching the box. At the same time, I may come up with some sort of system allowing the position of the box to be easily changed without drilling more holes in either the rack or the box.

I'm typing this while waiting at the local dealer for the third part of the recall. Replacing a tie rod. Hopefully, it gets done quickly unlike the last time.

Update - The dealer was done by 9:15am. No complaints about that. I went home and switched vehicles and rode to coffee again. A bit colder today than yesterday and it looks like the wiring on the Gerbing gloves has bit the dust again. Fortunately, they aren't really needed. And, it's snowing again...

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Travel Planning And Too Much Snow

This was the view from the deck at the West Ridge B&B in Elizabethtown, PA. A very nice place with wonderful, tasty breakfasts. This evening (Saturday), we head back home so with the four hour time difference, it’s going to be a long day. Fortunately, only two legs on the trip but it’ll still be over eight hours in the air.

We are starting to plan our travel for the next year. We have been coming to PA two times per year for the last couple of years. Having the Alaska Airlines companion fares help make the trips a little more affordable. With Bridget retiring, we will no longer be constrained by the school district calendar. There are some other constraints but they are not as rigid. We are both bound by the in-state requirement of the Division of Retirement and Benefits for the state if we want to receive the cost of living allowance. We can not be out of the state for more than eighty-nine consecutive days. If we want to continue to receive the Permanent Fund Dividend, we can not be out of the state for more than 180 days and have to explain being out for more than 90 days. Both of these constraints are there to avoid abuse and problems are not unreasonable. We are not planning to be full-time RVers or anything like that but trips a couple of months like my maybe a couple of times per year sounds about right to me.

The RV storage place called this afternoon and asked if I would like them to remove the bulk of the snow from the roof of the trailer. They mentioned that it was still snowing today. Under normal conditions, it is not needed but they were thinking that this was a little more snow than normal. Maybe I need to consider getting some of the snow off of the roof at home (as Bridget has suggested…).

Friday, March 16, 2018

E-Town (cont.)

I’m not sure how well it shows up in the snapshot but it’s snowing. Nothing is sticking but stills flurries. The mornings seems to start out nice and sunny but by mid-day, the clouds are back. We haven’t done any “touristing” as we are only here for a handful of days. By the time we get used to the time change, it’ll be time to head back to Alaska. Last night (Thursday) we did go to a regional food restaurant and had some Pennsylvania staples including a shared apple dumpling for dessert. No leaves on the trees, no spring flowers but at least most of the vegetation and grass is sort of green. Or at least a lot greener than back home.

Piaggio MP3
Photo from https://scooterinthesticks.com/
We have been considering a Piaggio MP3 that a friend of ours has for sale. I was thinking of hauling it on the back of the 5th wheel but after looking at several carriers, the MP3 is probably too heavy. Between the carrier and the MP3, it would be over 700 pounds. That much weight hanging that far out behind the trailer wheels is just too much. It may even transfer too much weight off of the hitch to be safe. Unfortunate as I was looking forward to having something to ride while traveling. The same friend also has a scooter for sale so that may be another option.

And a short video of a player piano in the lobby of the assisted living facility.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018


Monday evening and most of Tuesday was spent traveling. The flight from Seattle to Baltimore was delayed and we didn't arrive at the B&B until around 10:30pm but making the almost mandatory dinner stop at a Cracker Barrel added to the late arrival. We don't have any of these restaurants in AK and I think that there are only a couple in any of the western states.  BTW, the AllStays app claims that overnight RV parking is permitted on their lot. A good reason to stop there even if we aren’t traveling with an RV.

We are spending a couple of days here visiting family. It's not the warm, sunny destination usually associated with Spring Break. In fact, it's below freezing this morning and is only 5°F warmer than Fairbanks. Currently, there are little flakes falling...

Monday, March 12, 2018


It was yet another one of those days. Not only did we lose an hour of sleep due to this archaic practice called daylight savings time but there was this temperature to greet us in the morning. Not that I was planning on doing much of anything today anyway. In fact, I ended up just not feeling very well and taking some ibuprofen. I don't think the temperature had anything to do with it but it certainly didn't help.

I started to get ready for the morse code class which is going to be taught using Skype. I installed a ⅛” audio jack on the keyer so I can feed the output into a two channel mixer. The second audio input is a microphone so I can talk. The mixer is USB connected to the computer and the audio input is set to USB. I’ll need to test the set-up as the class begins around the beginning of April. This is the same setup that I used to record the session at the Internet2 meeting last October. The question is how well it works with that wonderful Microsoft product, Skype.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

More Snow...

The weather is looking grim again. This is the view just outside of where my office is at the university. BTW, the reason that I'm at the university today is that the truck was dropped off at the local dealer this morning for some recall work. Multiple recalls. The oldest one was from 2009. Two of them are automatic and the other two are dependant on their assessment. We'll see if any are done by the end of the day. It was convenient for the dealer shuttle to drop me off here than at home. Plus, I could still walk to coffee.

It turns out that they were able to do the two airbag recalls, parts had to be ordered for the steering linkage recall and the fourth one didn’t need to be done. After picking up the truck, I went to the Airhead get together at the Roundup Steakhouse. The best thing about this location is that it has a salad bar and very good service. It had stopped snowing by the time I headed home. More snow is forecast for later in the week...

Friday, March 2, 2018

Burying the Lead

Another slow week. Still too cold to ride much (-21°F yesterday, +2°F today). Lots of running around this week and needed to plow snow often for the first half of the week. Plus a followup visit was needed to the State of Alaska office as they typed my son's birthday into their system wrong and he was unable to do much of anything on their system. Surprisingly, the visit went very quickly and efficiently. The waiting room was almost empty and the person at the desk had no problem taking care of everything. I guess we just picked the wrong day last week as I was in and out in ten minutes.

The led conversion in our house continued. A couple of 40-watt halogen bulbs in pendant lights were replaced by 3-watt LED bulbs. Almost the same amount of light and the 4000K color was identical. The fluorescent tubes in the kitchen were replaced by LED tubes. The fixture needed to be rewired to remove the ballast. The new LED replacements were double ended so simply wire hot to the four tombstones on one end and neutral to the other end. Now, the kitchen is so bright that I may end up removing two of the tubes and use them in the utility room. Each tube is 18 watts and is equivalent to a 48-watt fluorescent. The picture shows the fixture without the oak cover and diffuser so you can see the LEDs that make up the bulb. In the whole house, we are down to two halogen bulbs. And one of them is the yard light. Do they make LED yard lights?

It's only March 1st and we are already getting 12 hours of light (i.e first light to last light on the figure). No one is looking forward to DST as that means it'll be dark in the morning again. At least for a while. The state government keeps saying that they will get rid of DST but the tourism industry seems to think that the tourists are too stupid to understand and will be confused and upset. I don't know. Maybe they're right...

But the highlight of the week was the Friday evening KL7KC amateur radio club meeting. Bob Heil, as in Heil Sound,  joined the meeting via Skype. He started with some history and explained how his whole audio career started with ham radio. In fact, it even states that in his permanent display at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He is the only non-musician with a permanent display. It was a great presentation with no PowerPoint. Just off the cuff.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Any Excuse For a Ride

Clear skies generally mean cooler temperatures. I did tell myself not to ride when it's below 0°F but it was a pretty nice afternoon. Now that I'm retired, there really isn't anywhere that I "have" to be so finding somewhere to ride now seems to be a challenge. After cleaning out the refrigerator, there was now something that I "had" to do. Throw out the garbage and not just to the trash can in the garage. Ah ha, a riding opportunity.

We had gotten a bit of snow over the last couple of days and riding proved to be a bit more challenging than usual. The snow was deep enough on even the main paved road that 2WD was needed. 2WD has only occasionally been needed getting up the driveway and maybe getting up our subdivision road. This week was the first time it was needed on the main road. The snow berm running down the middle was over a foot and it neede to be approached at right angles and some momentum to blast through it and not get hung up. Any excuse for a ride.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

More Snow in the Forecast

Sunrise this morning was at 8:38am. This picture was taken about ten minutes before that. The clouds moved in and blocked the actual sunrise. The temperature was still in the mid-teens (°F) but warmed up to about 20°F by the middle of the day. Several days ago, the sunshine seemed very bright. Almost too bright.

Snow is forecast again for the next week or so so the plow went back onto the truck. But snow generally means that it'll be warm, at least according to Weather Underground, for the next couple of days. I've been watching the Olympics using the over-the-air antenna that I picked up from Amazon a few months ago. The antenna is working pretty well even though it's just sitting on a table in front of the tv.

Monday, February 12, 2018


That end of the cold spell that was being predicted for the last couple of weeks seems to finally have arrived. On Saturday night, it was still -18°F so the positive (°F) temperature on Sunday morning is feeling pretty nice.

The Ural made it out of the garage but not to coffee this morning. I rode it around the area enough to get the engine warmed up and do some sliding in the fresh snow. I didn't want to get all geared up since I was waiting for a phone call. The front and pusher tires are still only running about half of the number of studs as usual so there is some slipping just to get out of the driveway. None installed on the sidecar tire. I might try it like this for a while.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Still Feels Like Winter

In spite of NWS forecasts stating that it was going to be warming up, the days have continued being on the cold side. I was thinking that it was going to be Ural weather this week but now it looks like maybe not until next week.

Monday Morning - Still -20°F (-29°C). I'm guessing that I won't be riding to the Airhead get together this evening. But it's 9:10 am and the sky is all lit up on the south-eastern horizon as sunrise is in about 10 minutes. Pretty nice. Plus the daily high temperature is matching the sunshine again. In December and January, the high temperature for the day could occur just about anytime as there isn't significant warmth from the sun due to the low elevation in the sky.

Tuesday Afternoon - I finally got the correct resisters to finish the keyer to practice sending morse code. It works stand-alone but will also work with a radio. This type of key is required by the Skype class that I had signed up for starting in April. Most use mechanical switches connected to paddles. The green circuit boards sticking out are touch sensitive with the left pad a "dah" and the right pad a "di" so a very light touch is needed. The configuration is set by entering commands using morse code. Kind of an interesting way. The three of the four buttons on the front are for storing things in non-volatile memory such as your call sign. The red button is to enter command or configuration mode. The knob on top is to set the word-per-minute rate. The 9-volt battery is the box zip-tied to the right side and has the power switch. I'm glad to finally get it working.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Ural Top Box Done

Here are the two of the four threaded knobs holding the box onto the rack. The front two are 8mm bolts and the rear two are 6mm bolts. The only reason for the difference is this is what the hardware store had in stock. On this rack, all of the hardware is either stainless or aluminum to minimize rust. I mention this as removing the stock hardware was a hassle requiring generous doses of PB Blaster. I think rusty hardware is the norm for any Ural. About all that's left is covering the unused mounting holes. Instead of Gorilla tape, I may use the Eternabond roof repair tape. That stuff seems to stick to anything and never come off.

After the knobs are tightened, the box is really solid. And the positioning is just about right to lean against while riding. For the last couple of months, I was trying to figure out how to fabricate a rack with the stock bench seat and every solution I came up with would either put the top box too far back or too high. This seems like a good solution as the box is centered directly over the rear hub. I had considered getting a solo seat from Raceway or Ural of New England but they were way too pricey. Their seats are probably more comfortable since they have spring suspensions but we’ll see how this works. Some people complain about the Ural tractor seats but not everyone.

The lock on the top box is a generic key so I may replace it with something more secure such as the same key as the trailer compartment doors. I think that I may still have one left. And I will probably start riding again next week!

Sunday, January 28, 2018


I borrowed the title from Coop's last post as it seems to fit this hodgepodge of subjects though the “pourri” apparently means “rotten” or “putrid”. Sunlit trees and a dark sky is still my preferred winter picture. This was taken around 11:30 am when the sun is still at a pretty low angle and lighting thing up from below the clouds. The location is Creamer's Field behind the Fish & Game offices on College Road. We stopped so my mom can get some more snow pictures but she didn't bring her camera.

This afternoon (Saturday), was spent fabricating a rear rack on the Ural. There are four holes in the fender for either installing a rack or a second tractor seat. The seat would also have an additional steel that attaches to on top of the rear fender essentially doubling the thickness. For my home-made rack, I added two vertical supports which attach to the rear frame and provide most of the vertical support. I still need to pick up some rubber spacers for the front two fender bolts. And some longer bolts. I will probably disassemble the whole rack one more time to use blue Loctite on all of the screws. The hardware store didn't carry stainless nyloc nuts. There is about 22mm between the front of the rack and the fender. The fender bolts are mostly providing side-to-side and front-to-back support.

The Saturday evening project was this PaddleStick keyer. It came as a simple kit though the all of the components didn't match the instructions. Kind of a pain. The company (individual) is sending the right ones. Fortunately, they provided a schematic simplifying the task. Now, I just need to dig up a 9V battery and connector before I can test it. Maybe I can dig up some 2.2k resistors from my small stash of Arduino pieces. I’ve run into several code decoders based on Arduino boards. Hmmm, that seems like cheating.

On Sunday afternoon, I added the spacers and longer bolts between the rack and the fender. I ground the spacer to match the curve of the fender and bolted everything in place. The rack is incredibly solid. You could probably pick the bike using the rack. I Just drilled some holes in the box and the rack to fasten them together. I’m thinking of permanently attaching bolts to the rack and use some threaded knobs inside the box. This would allow me to remove the box with no tools. My son suggested making another small box or platform to attach to the rack when the box isn't attached. I like it when projects just work...

Friday, January 26, 2018

Ural Mods

How about this, a post with some actual motorcycle content. A few weeks back when I went to Delta with fellow Uralista, BruceW, I asked Mickey about a solo seat aka tractor seat. He mentioned that they were very reasonably priced from Ural so I had him order one. It was delivered to Fairbanks by Muriel as she had some errands to run. Mickey had also ordered a cloth seat cover as it seems to be a popular option for the solo seat.

The reason for the solo seat is that I want to install a top box. On last summer's road trip, KevinH was trading in his old Jesse top box for one of the new shorter "pizza box" style. He sold me the old one for the trade in value. I have been wanting more lockable storage for lightweight things like my helmet or camera and this looks like it'll work well. I just need to fabricate a mount. Ural does make a rack that bolts onto the rear fender that is sturdy enough to carry a passenger but at $120 I think that I'll just fabricate one out of aluminum angle. I suspect that it'll be sturdy enough for a top box. I'll probably wait until the garage warms up a bit. It was -29°F outside this morning.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Slight Radio Mod

I was told that it sounded like I was talking through a tin can when using the little dual-band HT radio. I took apart the microphone and discovered that the microphone was behind a tiny pinhole. I drilled the hole out to 1/16" which is about five times the diameter. The hole was literally the size of a pin. Problem resolved. I suspect that the tiny hole was to prevent overdriving the microphone.

The built-in microphone on the HT radio had a similar tiny pinhole over the microphone so I proceeded to disassemble the radio case and significantly enlarge the hole to 1/16". I wasn't sure how close the actual microphone was to the case so disassembly was the only way to be sure that I didn't accidentally drill into the microphone. I had assumed that my signal was just poor and it was one of those cheap Chinese made radios that many in the ham radio community don't care for. But for less than ½ the cost of a "name brand" radio. I had originally ordered the hand-held microphone accessory for the HT due to the reported poor sound quality but it didn't resolve the problem. Disassembly, drilling, and reassembly took maybe ten minutes.

I had posted about this earlier but hadn't been tracking the progress. I thought some may find this interesting. Right now, the difference between magnetic north and true north is pretty small no matter where in the world you are. Alaska is about the 11 o'clock position. I think that the movement of magnetic north is significant but I'm shocked that there has been no mention in the popular press. I had first heard about this in EOS, an AGU publication. Is this an unpopular message or is it just not newsworthy?

Monday Morning Update - I found a bunch of articles that bring up climate change as the most probable reason for the poles moving. So I guess it's in the "unpopular message to some" category.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

End of the Week Update

The temperature has been bouncing around all over the place from -22°F to +34°F and the forecast for next week is down in the -33°F range again. It has been turning the local roads into skating rinks with lots of accidents and cars in ditches. Kind of an odd January. The Apple Watch screen capture is the Carrot Weather app. It makes snide remarks whenever you ask for an update. I have since uninstalled it from the watch as battery life seems to be a bit short. It's only a couple of years old but seems to be better once I removed a pile of unused apps from it.

The warm weather and heavy snow have given much of Fairbanks the snow-encrusted look with many trees bent over from the additional snow load. And it has lead to many power outages and blinks (very short outage). Last winter, I enabled a temporary way to power the furnace and zone valves off external power but it may be time to plan and install a transfer switch and move some selected circuits into a subpanel.

Not much going on these days. It's supposed to be below -20°F for most of the week so I don't expect much to be going on. I figure that I better go ahead and post this now that the "end of the week" has already passed...

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Dual-Band Antenna Install

I've never been one to be reluctant to drill holes in a vehicle. The NMO (New MOtorola) mount for the dual-band (2m and 70cm)  antenna needed a ¾" hole in the center of the roof which is slightly smaller than the inside threaded piece seen in the picture. The outside thread has a rubber "O" ring to seal against the roof. The inside has “teeth” which dig into the painted surface on the other side of the roof to establish a good ground plane for the 5/8 wave antenna. Silicone grease is used on the “O” ring to ensure a watertight seal.

To protect the contacts and the threads when an antenna is not installed, a cap is screwed onto the mount. To do the install, I needed to mostly remove the headliner. Not only to route the cable but to locate the roof supports. I didn’t want to drill into them but wanted to be right next to one. Fortunately, the headliner in the truck can be lowered easily and the antenna cable is routed down the driver's side “B” pillar. 

For now, I’m just planning to use the antenna with the 8 watt Baofeng HT using an SMA to SO-239 adapter. I'd like to eventually pick up a mobile HF radio that also includes UHF and VHF. In this case, the main chassis will probably be mounted under the driver's seat. Before buttoning up the headliner, I used an ohmmeter to see if the "teeth" on the mount dug into the paint. The ohmmeter claimed 0.8 ohms so all is good at least as far as the antenna is concerned.

When testing the setup, I could clearly receive the call sign from the repeater but what is uncertain is whether my signal is reaching it. The pin on the SMA adaptor didn't look like it would actually reach the antenna contact. When I tried asking for a test, there was no response. I also don't have an SWR (Standing Wave Ratio) meter so I can't really test things. Actually, I do have one that I purchased 40+ years ago but I haven't seen it for over 20 years. Who knows what box it's in. So more research is needed...