Friday, November 30, 2018

Day 4 - Williamsburg, VA

The governor’s palace. Kind of an odd term at least on this continent. But I think it is leftover from English nobility and the governor of the colony.

Merchant Square was our first stop after picking up our annual passes at the visitor’s center. Bridget had picked up the passes on Black Friday and was apparently a good deal. The annual passes were cheaper than the multi-day passes. Now we’re set until 12/09/2019.

A model of Williamsburg at the visitor’s center. The glass top and the overhead lights made a picture challenging.

An actor portraying Thomas Jefferson talked about current events in a half hour talk.

More Colonial Williamsburg tomorrow or Sunday...

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Day 3 - Warrenton, VA

This morning, we drove from Frederick, MD, to Warrenton, VA. Only about 60 miles but it took a couple of hours due to construction delays and lots of traffic. We arrived a bit early for our lunch appointment so we went to the museum located in a historic jail. The attendant gave a summary of the history before we were let loose in the facility. This was a dentist office set up in one of the former cells. I got a kick out of some of the equipment like the foot powered drill just to the right of the chair. Or the old X-ray equipment.

We then went to meet Kathy (aka Toadmama) and Mike at their home. We walked to Molly's Irish Pub on Main Street for lunch. The food was good but the company was great. This was only the second time we've met them but it's great to meet other motobloggers. You almost feel like you've known them for a long time just from reading their posts. I'm afraid that I didn't take a picture until Mike had already left for another appointment but Kathy gave us a mini tour of Warrenton including the former train station. The railroad bed is now a bike path with some pieces of it's former life lying around. Such as this small building.

This is an unofficial addition to the Virginia LOVE program. It is described in this blog post including the addition of the satellite dish. Below is the "official" one for Warrenton right next to the former train station. In case you didn't know, many of Toadmama's moto riding posts involving searching for these examples of Virginia art. Warrenton is a very nice, small town with many restored buildings in the historic downtown section.

After leaving Warrenton, we headed to Burke, VA, to visit Bridgt's brother and his wife, Sharon. Tomorrow, we will be headed to Williamsburg with them for about a week (I think).  

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Day 2 - E-Town to Frederick, MD

The breakfast room at the bed and breakfast. We were the only guest so they basically asked us what we wanted to have. And it was fantastic as always. Anyone looking for a wonderful place to stay in the area, look no further than the West Ridge B&B in Elizabethtown, PA, aka E-Town.

We stopped at the Masonic Village to visit with some of the caretakers of Bridget’s parents. Bridget has been here numerous times per year for the last 14 years that many of the care providers have become like friends and family. It doesn't seem like they've been there that long but I guess 14 years is a while. The bird is just one of many that are scattered around the assisted living facility.

After leaving E-Town, the next stop was the Bird-in-Hand farmers market in the town of Bird-in-Hand. I didn't pick up much. Some sugar-free chocolate candy, a magnet, and some old-fashioned Lebanon bologna. The sample was pretty good. Closer to a summer sausage than dry salami but not something readily available in Fairbanks. I was tempted by the bacon brittle but passed. Essentially peanut brittle made with crispy bacon.

We then headed west and south through Gettysburg and out of PA back into Maryland. We made it as far as historic Frederick, MD. Tomorrow morning, we'll look around and try to find out what is the historic part. BTW, it has been cold and windy around here. Windy enough to blow the rental car around...

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Day 1 - Escaping AK to E-Town

Bridget thought that a follow-up picture of the Christmas tree needed to be added to the blog. Still no ornaments but it’s up. Now that I’m finally sort of adjusted to cooler temperatures enough to enjoy riding, we fly out on the red-eye. I really hate these early morning flights as I always end up feeling "off" for a couple of days. I guess the good part is you arrive at your destination completely exhausted making it easier to adjust to the time difference.

We arrived in Baltimore, MD, by late afternoon. Just in time for rush-hour traffic. It really wasn't that bad compared to many other areas but it did slow us down enough so that we had to drive most of the way in the dark.

I guess one of the “benefits” of the right coast is the number of Cracker Barrel restaurants. Just plain food but on days like today, that’s a good thing. Anyway, tonight’s stop West Ridge Bed and Breakfast that we’ve stayed at several times before. Nicely furnished rooms, fantastic breakfasts, and decent Internet. It's kind of sad knowing that this will probably be the last time we will be staying here. 

Sunday, November 25, 2018

That Time of the Year

It looks like it's that time of the year again. The weekend after Thanksgiving has "traditionally" been the time when the Christmas decorations go up. In this house, "traditionally" means that it's happened at least one time before. Last year, the tree never even made it to the storage shed after Christmas. It was still in the garage on its way to the shed. At least no one had to slog through the snow to drag it up to the house.

I finally ventured into the box store area after seeing an email from Lowe's that the Black Friday prices were still in place. Maybe sales were slower than expected. There were still more cars in the parking lot than normal. After discovering the cracks in our shop vac last week, it seemed like a new one was needed. They had a stainless steel, Shop-Vac brand for 60% off. That seemed like a decent deal. Of course, once you're there, you find other good deals. So I came back with a couple more things than I was looking for. A set of ball-end allen wrenches since my old set now lives in the Ural. And a light timer to plug the Prius into whenever we go out of town. Not to keep the engine warm but to keep the tiny 12 VDC battery charged. The motorcycle sized battery is used to run the computer and other things such as the door locks.

Earlier in the week, my son used his 3D printer to make a support (red arrow) for the 70cm radio daughterboard in my Raspberry Pi hotspot. It is mounted with two screws to the Pi using mounting holes that I'm not using with this case. The radio daughterboard is screwed into the plastic support (yellow arrow). Now it provides a really solid foundation for the antenna which screws onto the board on the SMA connector right next to the daughterboard mounting screw. The four 24 awg wires near the top of the picture go to the OLED display mounted to the top of the case. Before, the only support for the daughterboard was a small connector on the corner of the daughterboard at the same location as the OLED display wires. If you picked up the hotspot by the antenna, the daughterboard occasionally becomes partly unplugged. An easy way for things to fail due to fatigue. Thank you for making the part!

It was a chilly 6°F at 7:30am. The Ural started up on the first compression after sitting outside for five hours. And someone believes that the tree is done enough.

Friday, November 23, 2018


Thursday Afternoon - First of all, Happy Thanksgiving to all those in the U.S. It’s getting to that time of year when the sun really contributes very little to the temperature. The daily fluctuations are pretty minimal. This was a pretty relaxing Thanksgiving. At least for me. The day began early. The roads were very icy today so I opted to not ride the Ural. I had volunteered to help cook breakfast for a community meal at University Presbyterian Church on College Road. I'm not sure of the number of meals but they seemed satisfied with the turnout.

The rest of the day was spent relaxing as we opted to go out to dinner instead of cooking the normal Thanksgiving spread. When Bridget had asked me earlier what I was planning to cook for Thanksgiving dinner, I would just say Swanson. And I'd get the evil eye. Instead, we went to Pike's Landing for their Thanksgiving buffet. Probably a much better choice and the senior discount was 33%. They had all of the normal stuff plus unexpected things like seafood crepes. Honestly, the price of the fabulous buffet for three adults and one old guy was about the same as purchasing all of the normal groceries. The downside is, no leftovers. But that's probably fine since Bridget and I are flying out in less than a week. But not back to AZ.

Friday Morning - Another couple inches of snow. A good opportunity to try out the additional studs in the tires. The conclusion, the smaller studs are much less effective the #1200 ones that I have been using for years. Braking was slightly improved. It was +15°F this morning and by noon, it hadn't changed. The driving conditions today would be in the horrible category. Fresh snow on top of a thin layer of ice. 2WD was used to get out of the driveway and the return trip up the subdivision road. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

More (Better) Traction

Monday Evening -- While poking around in the garage, I ran across a partial box of 29 Grip Studs #1200. I counted the center lugs in the Heidenau tires and if I just put one in every other center lug, I needed 27 studs. Normally, I would use double this number in the pusher by putting in one on the outer blocks between the center studded lugs alternating side to side. I'm thinking of picking up a box of the smaller Grip Studs carried by Goldstream Sports for use on fat tire bikes. I would use these on the front tire to help with braking. On an icy day like today, better braking traction would've been nice to have. A side note, I wore the heated gear but forgot to plug it in and I was just fine even though the amount of actual insulation is close to none in the Gerbing liner.

Tuesday afternoon - I went to ACRC this morning for coffee then attended a staff meeting at the university. It was another balmy, overcast day so I didn't bother with the heated gear. Maybe if I don't use it, it'll last longer. Around noon, I headed out on Sheep Creek Road towards Goldstream Sports for the fat tire Grip Studs that they carried in stock. They carried packages of 100 and 150 of the #1000 Grip Studs. They are smaller in diameter and only go 6.5mm into the tire. They may pull out on the pusher under the hard acceleration (I don't think so on the Ural)  but I was planning on using them on the front tire. Here is the pattern I used on the front tire and used 54 studs. The #1000 Grip Studs is probably a better choice given how worn down the front tire is. I must admit that these are much easier to install than the larger #1200 due to their smaller diameter.

Since I still had quite a few left in the box so I added another row to the rear tire. Now both front and rear have 54 studs. If you look closely, you can see the size difference between the #1200 in the center and the #1000 to the left. This still left 19 in the box. I these in a random, pattern on the sidecar wheel as there weren't enough to do an actual pattern. The extra studs on the pusher are to help with right turns and the ones in the sidecar help on left turns. While riding today, I could easily tell that the studs in the pusher mattered less on left turns than right turns.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Freezing Rain?

The forecast was for moderate temperatures, sleet, and freezing rain. There was a little bit of ice on the windshield when I left the coffee place, Alaska Coffee Roasters Company aka ACRC. I stopped at the bank with questions about our last mortgage payment (Yay!) and a conflict with another bank statement but all is good. The last payment will be sent next week.

I then stopped at the university and ended up staying around until almost sunset. Took a picture before heading to the gas station and back home. There was a little ice on the road but not enough to be a problem as long as you kept your right hand under control. 2WD was only needed to get out of our driveway. 16°F when I got home. The heated grips and Aerostitch insulated gloves were a good combination. The fleece liner was more than sufficient under the Roadcrafter Light.

Tuesday AM

Last night, the hot water maker started leaking all over the utility room floor. After shutting off the supply as well as the feed from the boiler, I pumped out the 45-gallon tank down the drain using a small acid pump that my brother had let me borrow to flush a line inside of the boiler. We were using a shop vac to pick up the water on the floor but when emptying the vacuum canister, we noticed that there were cracks on two of the wheel supports. And they did leak water.

This morning, I removed the inspection panel to get to the O-ring as that is what was leaking. The O-ring was pushing its way out between the inspection cover and the tank. This is the second time this has happened. I went to Ferguson Plumbing which is where I had purchased the hot water maker. They didn't have one in stock but he removed the one from their cutaway model of the unit and gave it to me. No charge. Reinstalled the inspection cover and opened the valve to fill it with cold water. Checked for leaks. Turned on the boiler feed to start heating up the water. Checked for leaks. It's all the way up to 70°F from the well water temperature 41°F. It should be ready soon. No leaks, so far.

BTW, just about everyone had questions on the Ural as I had ridden it down to the shop.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

More Power

Even with the new battery, you only have a couple of attempts for the engine to start when it's cold. By cold, I mean somewhere around 0°F not simply a cold-ish 40°F.  So I went ahead and installed the group 24 automotive battery in a marine battery box into the sidecar. This is the same setup that I've been using for years. The battery still seems to be in good shape or at least good enough for the Ural. After sitting around since last April, it still had 95% charge or at least that's what the display on the battery charger claimed. In the past, I removed the sidecar seat bottom for the battery box but even with the battery located here in front of the seat, the weight of the battery is still (barely) within the triangle formed by the contact patches of the three tires. I do have the three gallons of gas near the rear of the sidecar body. And that is behind the triangle.

3:32PM and the sun has already set. This was just shot from our back deck looking towards the southwest. I rode the Ural this morning and it sat out at 8°F for about five hours. It started up on the first compression though the enrichers had to be left on for about 30 sec. Normally, I only leave the enrichers on for a couple of seconds. The automotive battery is nice insurance to have.

The forecast for tomorrow is snow flurries but I do have some running around to do. I think I'm starting to get used to the temperatures again. 

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Fragile Heated Gloves

The wires in one of the Gerbing gloves broke again. This time, an inch from the last failure at the end of the heat shrink tubing supporting the previous repair. The next time, battery-powered gloves. I was all set to solder the wires back together and use heat shrink to support the wires when I remembered that all of my heat shrink tubing and the heat gun is in the RV. At least I did remember to bring the soldering iron and solder back with me but that's only because I needed them to install the OLED display onto the DMR hotspot.

Since I only needed the repair to work for a couple of weeks of occasional riding, I just insulated the repair with vinyl electrical tape. Tonight, I will be at the church for a couple of hours. This will be a good test of the battery. I will throw in one of the old (heavy) jumper boxes into the sidecar as the nice, compact LiFePO4 jumper pack is in the RV.

I took the rig out for a ride today and without the studded tires, it was more squirrelly when riding through deeper snow and 2WD was needed to get back up our subdivision road from the main road. Once on the main road, the rig ran fine. My temporary repair of the heated gloves seems to be working as are both heated grips. With both of them on, I had very warm hands in spite of the +1°F temperature.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Getting Ready for Winter Riding

A few more tasks done to get the Ural ready for cold weather riding. Added the gauntlets which cover the handlebar ends. They do a great job of blocking the wind from your hands and dramatically improve the effectiveness of the heated grips and/or heated gloves. The gauntlets do prevent you from seeing any of the handlebar controls so you do have to do everything from memory. The wiring for the left heated grip had come loose sometime this summer. Probably when I installed the horn as that involved running wires under the tank. It was a simple task to lift up the tank, locate the connector and plug things back together. Since I just replaced the battery last April, I'm going to try relying on that battery instead of installing the group 24 battery that I've used for the last couple of winter.

I swapped the two rear tires (and wheels) so the tire with the almost new tread from the sidecar is now the pusher. The last time I removed the rear wheel was to replace the rubber boot on the driveshaft. At that time, I noticed that one of the brake springs was broken again. In the picture, it's the spring on the lower right. The entire assembly was replaced under warranty about 25k km ago and that included the brakes.

Raceway didn't have any springs in stock when I was in Oregon so I ordered a couple from Ural Northwest. The shipping was almost as much as the parts and they were sitting on the counter when we arrived back in Fairbanks. I used the nice brake adjustment tool that I picked up from an independent Ural mechanic in Maryland who goes by Gobium on the Soviet Steeds Ural forum. This homemade tool made it a snap to adjust both shoes to provide even braking. BTW, the way Raceway had the brake shoes adjusted, one of the pusher brake shoes wasn't even touching the drum. It still looks brand new. Maybe Ural needs to add this tool to their tool roll.

I'm still debating whether to replace the front tire. I still have another brand new tire on the shelf. But the front tire still has some life left so, for now, I’ll leave it as is.

I think the last couple of months have made me feel the cold. I used to be able to work in the garage for hours at a time. Not any more. What should have taken one afternoon has taken me several days...

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Alaska Statewide DMR Net

Yesterday, as on most Monday evenings while we were on the road, I participated in the Alaska Statewide DMR Net hosted out of Homer, AK. Since Fairbanks does not have a DMR repeater, I use my Raspberry Pi hotspot. While on the road trip, I generally paired the hotspot with my iPhone. I probably could’ve actually used it while on the road as the Pi is powered through a micro-USB port. There were only ten participants on the net including two people from out of state. Ohio and New York.

One of the original justifications for the FCC to support amateur radio was to encourage skills that can be used during an emergency. The nets are for the same thing. Develop skills that can be used to maintain organized communication during emergencies. To me, this is less applicable to some of the digital modes such as DMR, D-Star, Fusion, etc. as these need Internet connectivity to function. Granted, very little bandwidth is needed but connectivity is still needed for use outside of the range of the local repeater.

This afternoon, I took the Ural out just up and down the unplowed subdivision road several times to warm up the engine oil. It's draining right now as I write this. After messaging Dom about the newer oil viscosity recommendations from the Ural docs, I picked up a gallon 5 qt jug of 5W40 full synthetic oil. It took three quarts to fill up the deep sump. I'll include the Ural graphic here so I don't forget. 31k km on the replacement odometer which means the rig now has a shade over 55k km.

After changing the oil, I ran the rig up and down the snow covered road a few more times and the engine really runs quiet and smooth. I don't have very many of the carbide studs as I had not ordered any this year. So I'm thinking of not studding the tires and just rely on 2WD to get up the hills. And just not riding when conditions are less than optimal. Such as now... 

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Freezing in AZ and DMR Hotspot

Yep, I guess it was a good idea to winterize the RV. This is an iPad screen capture (I deleted the ads) from the Weather Channel app for Benson, AZ, the place we stayed just a few days ago. I wasn’t sure if I was wasting my time winterizing the rig but I guess it could get cold in any area. I just didn't expect it so soon. You can see that there is a freezing alert for the area.

I had ordered a small OLED display from Amazon before we left in September but it never arrived. I canceled the order and Amazon promptly refunded the money. I reordered from another supplier and deliberately looked for "Fulfilled by Amazon" and had it delivered to Corvallis, OR, and it arrived before we did. But I forgot to bring the 3D printed holder for the display that my son made. Now that I'm home and have the display, the tools, the 3D printed part, and some wire, I finally installed the display onto the Raspberry Pi. I mounted it to the top of the Pi case. It shows the call sign and first name of whoever last talked on the talk group that I have keyed up on the radio. I can get the same (and more) information on a web page being served up on the Pi.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Back Home

I think the dogs were more excited at seeing the snow than I was. Or at least they prefer to not riding in the belly of the plane. There isn't a lot of snow and the neighbor mentioned that this is the first snow that is probably going to "stick". We went to Alaska Coffee Roasters this morning and met with some from the usual crowd. Then we went to the yarn store that will be closing up shortly. After a little more running around, we are back home. Time to get going on some other projects.

Not a very interesting or exciting picture but I have three Raspberry Pi computers in the RV and two of them haven't had any updates applied since I put them into service. This is the one that has been continually collecting data from the Tristar solar charge controller. It ran continuously from around 3/2017 to 10/2017 and from 4/2018 to 11/2018. Not a single crash or hang during the entire time. I'm impressed with the Raspberry Pi computers.

The second Pi is running OpenElec and has been a media server connected to the TV in the RV. It hasn't been running continuously as I shut it down if we don't have sufficient Internet bandwidth. We mostly use it to watch YouTube videos. Instead of updating it, I am probably just going to install whatever the current version is.

The third Pi is my DMR hotspot and it is the previous generation Pi2B+ that I had lying around. It doesn't have built-in WiFi and Bluetooth that the Pi3 has but the metal case I have it installed in negates those features. It is current as it has the update process built into the Pi-Star distribution. I do have an OLED display that I'm going to install so it'll show real-time connection info. I have the display sent to me in OR but I neglected to bring the 3D printed display mount that my son made for me.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Day 56 - Returning to AK

Here we are waiting for the shuttle bus to the airport. Two dogs adds a lot of stuff but it all easily fit into the Ford Transit shuttle. There was a longish wait at the airport counter as TSA needed to send someone over to inspect the kennels. But after that, no issues. I hope there is no problems with either the truck or trailer while being parked/stored.

In an email this morning, Ural highlited an all electric sidecar rig. It used the Zero power plant and batteries so the hp and torque are almost double the stock engine. No clutch lever so I’m assuming no transmission and probably no geared reverse. It is going to be on display at the motorcycle show in Long Beach later this month. The same one I had attended last year. They list a range of about 100 miles. But it also looks like it uses a standard 15 amp outlet for charging. It would be better if it supported fast charging and more batteries. Especially since the battery technology has progressed far enough for lighter, smaller battery packs. But they are limited to what Zero uses. This is just a demonstration or proof of concept.

Now in Seattle. We moved from summer to fall with all of the orange trees seen on our approach. The gloom from the overcast and wet pavement just adds to the “fall” feeling. Fairbanks is supposed to be 15°F and snowing tonight when we get in.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Day 55 - Tucson, AZ

This was starting to resemble work. But fortunately, Bridget helped and it went much faster than the last time I used the cover. The cover is very bulky but carrying it on the cargo carrier worked well. Unzip the bag and start pulling the cover up onto the roof and towards the front. I know it’s an older rig but we still want to keep it in decent shape. If the cover helps, then it’s worth the trouble.  The AZ sun is hard on the roof and tires so trying to keep those covered. I guess we’re the exception as none of the other rigs in the lot were covered. “Winterizing” the fresh water system and the traps went pretty quick. I did remember to bypass and drain the hot water heater as well as shut off the A/C power. The larger air compressor made purging the water lines an easy task. This time, I think I remembered all of the lines including the kitchen sink sprayer and the outside shower.. Since the solar panels are covered, I turned all DC power off and disconnected the negative cable from the shunt. I’m definitely going to miss being on the road.

We are now resting at a pet friendly hotel that has a free shuttle to the airport and we can leave the truck in their parking lot. For every night you stay, you have 30 days free parking. Since we are staying here at both ends of our trip, we get 60 days free parking. We fly out tomorrow for Fairbanks. Now, where’s the ibuprofen... 

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Day 54 - Benson, AZ - TT

Yet another clear, sunny day but today is a packing and cleaning day. The awning came out again as I had more digging around to do in the storage bay. Every day around 4 pm, the wind picks up and the awning gets put away. I take my cue from the newer RVs around us with wind sensors on their awnings. They retract automatically. Anything that could freeze, including cleaning supplies are being removed from the cabinets and storage bins. Bridget’s kayak will be moved inside the RV along with the bike since the dog kennels will be used for the trip to Fairbanks.

I topped up the water in the batteries again. I did not check after running the equalization cycle while we were at the Orange Grove RV Park in Bakersfield. They took around a quart of distilled water so not too low. Back in September, the batteries took around three quarts and the water was still above the plates. I’m still amazed at how clean that whole area is. No corrosion on any of the battery posts or connectors.

The Raspberry Pi that collects data from the charge controller will go back to Fairbanks with us so I can install updates to the OS. As will the one that is a media server. The Apple TV is an old series 2 and is essentially useless. AirPlay no longer works reliably anymore.

Since I plan on working on the DMR hotspot, that Raspberry Pi is also going back as well as the DMR handheld radio. Lots of electronics...

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Day 53 - Benson, AZ - TT

This fall RV trip is almost over. On Thursday, we will put the trailer and truck in storage and stay at a hotel near the Tucson airport for our flight to Fairbanks on Friday. This means that we need to essentially winterize the trailer, empty out the refrigerator and remove any food items. There isn’t much left in the freezer but a lot of condiments in the refrigerator.

I rode the bike into town this morning to get some stuff done. It’s nice to be able to cruise at 20 mph as there isn’t much of a shoulder once you get into Benson. Actually, there isn’t any shoulder but there are two lanes in each direction. No problems at all with traffic. I needed to dig through the storage compartment to get some stuff out that I’m going to need back home. Enough that I may be using an Action Packer as luggage. I think that I may be bringing more stuff back down here in January such as tools that I didn’t think I needed.

Now that we are almost done with our week at a TT RV park, I’d have to say that I’m more than satisfied with our TT experience so far. 24 nights so far using our membership plus 7 nights at an Encore park. Some have been more “campground” and some have been more “RV Park”. But I wouldn’t classify any of them as “glamping”. The first two didn’t have sewer connections at the site but it really wasn’t an issue. The Florence, OR, park didn’t have a working dumpstation. That could have been a problem if our next campground didn’t either. The Cottonwood park also didn’t have a working dump station but it was working by the time we checked out so no problem. The last two in AZ had the pool heater running and they’ve been great. So I’m more than satisfied with our TT experience and I’d really consider a regular membership for the longer stays, park to park, and 120 days advance reservation. Double what the Camping Pass that we currently have. The Trails Collection add-on for Encore is still a “maybe”.