Friday, May 31, 2019

Longer Days

Sunset is after midnight for the first time this year though you can't really tell by looking outside. Just about every evening, it's been pretty cloudy so no spectacular sunsets to be seen. At least not around here. But maybe all of the rain in the area will help with the fires.

Friday morning - The smoke from the Delta fire has moved into town again. Not pleasant. Hopefully, we will get some rain to wash the smoke out of the air...

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Smoke on Sunday

On Sunday evening, the wind changed which brought the smoke from the Oregon Lakes fire northwest of Delta into Fairbanks. Visibility was limited to maybe a mile and the smoke smell was almost overpowering. By Monday morning the wind had changed direction and we no longer had the smoke. The fire is listed as "human-caused" but it is still under investigation.

On Tuesday morning, I rode the Ural to coffee at Sunshine Health Foods (they have a coffee shop inside of the store). It was raining when I left at 11 and wouldn't you know it but I had opted to not wear the Roadcrafter nor the riding boots. Live and learn. On Sunday, I got some of the details worked out for the Dust to Dawson, aka D2D, trip in a couple of weeks.

Of course, I hadn't done anything with the front porch yet beyond some measurements and looking up deck construction guidelines online. Such as recommendations on wood dimensions based on the free span. And the guidelines from Trex, the material that I'm planning to use for the surface of the deck.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

First House “Chore”

So begins the chores. I suspect that there are a lot of them. Not looking forward to projects such as this. The front porch has needed to be replaced for a while. It is just non-treated pine and is probably 30+ years old. And whenever the rain gutters get full of leaves, the water just overflows onto the porch. Not a good design.

It looks like all of the ledger and supports need to be replaced. The support beams are not only in poor shape but there aren't enough of them. I’m planning on using Trex or some other composite material so the spacing has to be 16”. And, I’m thinking of running the deck boards parallel to the wall as there aren’t any support piers for the support beams. The original decking was 2x4 material which is a lot stronger than the composite material.  

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Talkeetna, AK

This morning, Bob, Sharon, and I went to the Roadhouse for breakfast. Like usual, the half order was almost too much. They have long tables so you just grab seats as they become available so you get to meet new people. The others at our table were on a Princess Cruise and were bused into town from the Princess Hotel near Denali. Their tour started in Fairbanks before taking the train to Denali.

At 10 am, the streets were still pretty empty. The Princess group will be catching their train to Whittier in the early afternoon so most were still either having breakfast or packing. Many seemed to be worried that they would miss the train and not make it on board the cruise ship. They were heading to the depot hours before the train was scheduled to arrive.

It was nice and clear in the morning. This is an iPhone picture of Denali from the shore of the Susitna River. It didn’t stay like this for long. By noon, clouds were moving in and by 2 pm, the clouds were starting to look menacing. Rain was forecast to start this evening and continue into tomorrow afternoon. Rather than pack up a wet tent tomorrow, I went ahead and packed and headed north. Once I passed Broad Pass, the temperature warmed up a lot. Going through Nenana at 6pm, it was 75°F. I arrived back home around 8pm. Quite a bit warmer than it was in Talkeetna.

I had a tailwind for most of the return trip and only needed to stop for gas once. I stopped three times on the way down. On the return trip, the Ural got 35 mpg. Versus the 27-29 mpg for the trip down.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Alaska Sidecar Rally

It was a cold ride to Talkeetna. Overcast, a headwind and temperatures in the mid-40s (°F). This picture was taken at the south McKinley viewpoint. Needless to say, there was no view of Denali today. In Cantwell, I dug out the heated liner and ended up using the heated grips. Not expected.

But other than that, it was a nice ride down. Dan and his daughter had claimed a campsite at the city campground. When I arrived at 3:30pm, it was completely full. Driving through Talkeetna was packed with pedestrians. Dan pointed out that it was mostly tourists who arrived on the train and they would be leaving on the steady stream of tour buses.

Three sidecar rigs are here and we are all camped in the one campsite. Dan and his daughter Sophi, Bob and Sharon, and myself. We went to the brew house for dinner and it was a very long wait. This is the first weekend that they’ve been open.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Getting Ready for a Ural Trip

This is one area where the Ural shines. Luggage space. I'm getting ready to head to Talkeetna tomorrow for the Alaska Sidecar get together. It is a very informal gathering organized by Dan, the Alaska representative of the USCA (United Sidecar Association). We meet at the Talkeetna City Campground at the edge of town near the Susitna River. We meet there because Dan played softball and there are quite a few games here over the long weekend. I've missed this event for the last couple of years since we've been out of town with the RV so it'll be great to renew old friendships.

The campground doesn't allow RVs so I'm taking the Ural. All of my camping gear fits nicely in the footwell of the sidecar. The trunk has tools, food, and clothes. A folding camping chair is on the rear rack. It could fit inside of the sidecar if I wanted to re-organize things. Talkeetna is around 280 miles from here so it'll be an all-day trip on the Ural. This will also be the first trip with the tractor seat and the top box. We'll see how comfortable (or uncomfortable) it is. I don't plan on having much in the top box except water and snacks.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Ural Hand Guards

I just noticed that I missed the 2000th post onto this blog. This is post #2003. When I started this, I had no idea that it would go on for so long. We arrived back in Fairbanks at 2 am. Those flights are starting to feel longer and longer.

There was a box from Revzilla waiting for me at home. I had been thinking about some hand guards for a while but wasn’t sure what would fit the Ural. Kevin, who’s place we stayed at in Montane, had ordered a set from the dealer for his new Ural. So thanks to his purchase, I now had a Barkbuster part number. I shouldn’t have over thought it as it is a generic hand guards for 7/8” bars. Note that it doesn’t have the nice aluminum bar that attaches to the handlebar end. It’s purpose seems to just keep wind off of your hands which is fine with me.

To get some clearance for these hand guards, I moved the windshield slightly more vertical. There is now less wind noise so that’s another plus.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Glen Echo Park, MD

This warm afternoon was spent geocaching at Glen Echo Park in Maryland on the shores of the Potomac River. It was around 90°F (32°C) and a bit humid. We never saw the river from the park due to the trees. Glen Echo is an only amusement park that is now owned by the National Park Service. The cache was a “letterbox” meaning we answered multiple questions from the plaques and signage around the park with the answers giving the coordinates of the actual cache.

The bridge goes over the Minnehaha Branch which I’ll assume means creek. The next picture was me playing around with the iPhone camera again to get a slow shutter speed picture of the creek. This uses the “Live” feature which takes a short video at the same time as the picture. Software in the phone produces the slow-shutter speed effect by blurring the parts of the picture that changes.

There was an aquarium, multiple art shops, and a merry-go-round. The merry-go-round was very nicely restored and was, by far, the fastest moving one I’ve ever seen. The music was provided by a calliope which included bells, drums and cymbals. And a large selection of music.

The cafe was open and had ice tea which was wonderful due to the very warm temperatures. Once we had found all of the answers to the clues, numbers were transferred to a form which resulted in latitude and longitude. It was only about 100 feet from our starting point.

This faded painting is on the waves of an old bumper car ride. Obviously no cars anymore but it was interesting to see that they had such rides. The ballroom was open and dance class was in session. I’m assuming ballroom dancing. This park was not crowded but then again, it wasn’t fully operational either. It did seem to be a strange place to be operated by the National Park Service. 

Friday, May 17, 2019

Geocaching in Fairfax

We went for a walk this afternoon with geocaching as the reason. I don’t remember the exact number of caches we found but it was around six. With Bridget’s brother Jim along, it would have been hard not to find them. He’s had a lot of experience finding caches. It was over 80°F while we were walking around and, I thought, starting to get a bit humid. The trail was at Lake Mercer Park in Fairfax, VA. The screen capture shows the location of Lake Mercer.

We had dinner from a Mediterranean chain called Cava. It has been described as a Mediterranean Chipotle and the description seems accurate. They have an excellent website that allows you to build your pita or bowl with whatever toppings match your taste. Excellent food... 

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Arlington National Cemetery

Today, we attended a service at Arlington National Cemetery where Bridget’s dad’s ashes were interred. Her brother arranged for a limousine as it would be more convenient than driving multiple cars  into Arlington.

I had  only walked by Arlington National Cemetery on my prior trips to Washington D.C. It was a very well done service complete with a twenty-one gun salute and a group of seven honor guards unfolding and refolding the flag.

Bridget’s niece, Kelly sang a wonderful hymn near the end of the brief service. The time available was controlled by the staff to ensure that things ran smoothly. E.g. the chaplain was given 7 1/2 minutes to speak. About every fifteen minutes, you hear another twenty-one gun salute.

Attending were Bridget’s brother, his wife, daughter, her boyfriend as well as Bridget and myself. There was a professional videographer so a video of the ceremony should be available at some point in time. 

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Heading Out

It’s 11:30pm and we are waiting for our 12:30am flight to Seattle. The first leg of three as we make our way to Washington D.C. The cheapest ticket runs us through San Francisco to Dulles International Airport. This is one of the reasons why we needed to get back to Fairbanks. To leave again…

Sunday, May 12, 2019

De-Winterizing the Ural

This afternoon, I got the Ural “de-winterized” which basically means removing the carbide studs from the tires, the sidecar-mounted automotive battery, and the handlebar muffs. This past winter, I had tried the smaller #1000 GripStuds instead of the #1200 GripStuds that I’ve used in the past. The smaller ones didn’t provide the same grip on the icy road.

While we were in Oregon, someone had posted somewhere that they installed an LED headlight on their Ural. They were happy with the beam pattern, it’s DOT approved, and it fits inside of the headlight shell. I went ahead and ordered one. Sunset isn’t until almost 11pm so it won’t be dark enough to really test it until maybe August. So the jury is still out. The power draw on low beam is 18 watts. If nothing else, this should eliminate the melted plastic headlight connector.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Pioneer Park

This afternoon, while walking around the park, I heard the steam train engine running. They weren’t giving rides but just testing it out after all the restoration work. They’ve listed several dates when they were going to be using it to pull passengers around the park. Normally the small engine is diesel powered.

I’ve been clearing out the RV taking stuff to the house as I took the trailer to a friends home this evening. I figure that it’s easier than getting it into our steep, narrow driveway. Last year, it took quite a while getting it backed in. This time, only a few minutes…

Thank you Tim and Sue!

Friday, May 10, 2019

Pioneer Park - Fairbanks, AK

Just a few shots from walking around Pioneer Park aka Alaskaland. This riverboat used to be open for tours but, I believe, it was shut down by the fire marshall for not meeting code for a public building or something like that. There are very few of the businesses here open. The merry-go-round is operational and they have a small snack shop open but that’s about it. I stopped at the park office this morning and they refunded my money for dry-camping. They said that the potable water spigot was still frozen so no charge for staying here.

This is a metal sculpture of a raven just outside of one of the food shops (still closed) in the old cabin section of the park. The Alaska Salmon Bake is closed but it usually opens on Mother’s Day so that should be this weekend. But I haven’t seen any activity at that end of the park. I took advantage of the free RV dump station at Sourdough Fuel and added 5 gal of water that I’ve had in the back of the truck. I also moved the trailer to the other side of the parking lot as the other side seemed to be a hangout spot,

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Dry Camping in Fairbanks

To get our RV into our driveway, the pin box would need to be dropped about 8” due to the steepness of the driveway and the sharp angle at the top. A good friend is letting us store the trailer on his property but space won’t be available until Monday. So I am dry-camping at Pioneer Park. $12 per night with a maximum stay of 5 nights. A nice, cheap place to park.

We parked at the Fairbanks Walmart last night. There were only three RVs but a whole bunch of people in their cars. The manager told me that due to the large number of people “living” in the parking lot, they were going to start enforcing the 24-hour stay limit. This is a change from prior years. 

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Day 58 - Fairbanks, AK

The shop did have the replacement shackles, bushings, and bolts. And the time and equipment to get the job done quickly (and probably in a safer manner) so I had them install them. The holes in most of the shackles were elongated so I had them replace all the shackles, bushings, equalizers, and bolts. All of them were pretty worn.

Here are the old shackles and you can see that the bolts just tore out of the holes in the shackles plus you can see the elongated holes. After they broke, the eyelets of the springs (the ends) were up against the frame. There was minimal rubbing on the frame so this happened near Tok. The road was much worse on the Alaska side of the border with numerous frost heaves and potholes.

The repairs were done at a small shop and between parts and labor, it was under $500. And we basically have a new suspension. The mechanic mentioned that the leaf springs were in great shape and we must not run the trailer overloaded. They get a lot of people with broken leaf springs, broken hanger brackets and a lot of cracked frames. All because of overloaded trailers and driving too fast. I’m glad they were able to get it done. With only one screw jack it would have been a challenge. 

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Day 58 - Tok, AK

Back in Alaska. We stopped for lunch along Kluane Lake, one of the most scenic locations along the Alaska Highway. It was pretty windy almost pulling the doors out of your hands when opening. We crossed the border into Alaska around 4 and the thermometer in the truck read 70°F. I had to run the A/C. Quite the change from just a few days ago.

We are dry camping behind the Tesoro station in Tok. We went to Fast Eddy’ For dinner as is our tradition. While there, I noticed that the trailer was kind of tilted. Further examination showed that one of the spring shackles on the trailer was broken. Not sure when it happened. The RV repair shop across the street has replacements for $10 a set. I just needed to remove the old one so I can get the right size tomorrow morning. I’m glad I brought all those 1/2” drive tools today. As it was, I needed the breaker bar to get the bolt loose. Hopefully, the shop has replacement bolts as well. 

Monday, May 6, 2019

Day 57 - Whitehorse, YT

Today, we went from Watson Lake to Whitehorse, YT. Only one tank. There was some drizzle and threats of ice on the road on the east side of the Continental Divide. But once we passed through the mountains the temperature rose to 50°F. We stopped at Johnson’s Crossing, where the picture was taken, for lunch and about an hour or so later, we were at the outskirts of Whitehorse. Only about 600 miles to go so we should get home around noon on Wednesday.

We are staying at the still-closed Hi-Country RV Park. The water and power are on and we used the dump station on the way in. So we are staying here at a significant discount. I think there are three RVs here. The last time we were here this place was packed. 

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Day 56 - Watson Lake, YT

We left Fort Nelson around 10am and it was around 34°F but at least it wasn’t snowing. About 60km out, we started into the mountains with a lot of 6%  to 10% grades and temperatures ranging from 33°F to 26°F. We just took it slow and after a while the southbound vehicles started to look cleaner. By the time we reached Muncho Lake, we could see blue skies up ahead.

We stopped at this lodge for lunch and they had schnitzel sandwiches. The schnitzel was home made as one of the sons trained as a chef in Switzerland. The interior of this lodge is impressive and definitely a stop I make often. Partly because this is one of the few places open year around on the highway. And one of the few places to get fuel between Watson Lake and Fort Nelson. And the fuel price reflects the remote location.

We were planning to stop at Nugget City like we usually do but it was still closed. Since we didn’t have enough diesel to reach Teslin, we turned around and headed back to Watson Lake. The gas station, Tags, has a small RV park in back but it really wasn’t open yet. We are parked back there right now and paid $20CAN for the electricity and the off-highway parking spot. We had called the visitors center and they said that the public campgrounds don’t open for a couple more weeks. But this place is just fine. We are parked next to another 5th wheel that was also at the Fort Nelson campground for the same days that we were. They are on their way to Hope, AK, where they will be camp hosts.

867 miles to go. 

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Day 55 - Fort Nelson, BC

Still in Fort Nelson. I went to the Chamber of Commerce Annual Trade Show which is basically a place for local businesses to promote their wares. And, some free entertainment, lots of giveaways though the only things I left with was free popcorn, potato chips and a bottle of water.

The forecast is for warmer temperatures tomorrow so we are planning on heading out late morning. Maybe.... I must admit that it’s nice not to “need” to be in Fairbanks by a certain date. (Edit: Bridget say that we do have a deadline!) Having the ability to wait like this really is something that I appreciate. The general consensus around the RV park is that a late morning start tomorrow should work out. The temperature will be higher and there shouldn’t be any more accumulation tonight. The web cam image from Steamboat Hill is definitely looking better today than it has on previous days.

Friday, May 3, 2019

Day 54 - Fort Nelson, BC

The road didn’t look too much better this morning. The truck had a couple of inches of wet snow on it. A few RVs took off this morning but the bulk of them are sticking around for another night. I’m inclined to wait around for clear weather or at least clear roads. I think we may stick around for another day. It’s a nice break from all of the driving. I really don’t care for driving every day. Stopping is nice.

Refilled one of the 30# propane tanks today. It was the most we’ve paid. Even more than California. $39 CAN ($29 USD) for 30#. With these temperatures, were burning through a tank every 4 days.

It’s now 8:00 pm and it has been snowing for several hours. The high temperature for today was only 34°F and all of the vehicles coming through have been coated with frozen mud and ice. Not looking too good...

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Day 53 - Fort Nelson, BC

Today was a relatively short driving day but it was another stressful driving day. There were several hours of driving through snow flurries with air temperatures fluctuating from slightly above to slightly below freezing. We stopped at a gas station about 180 km south of here and asked about the road conditions. She said that it was about the same as we were driving through and would get worse once we passed Fort Nelson.

We decided to stop at the Triple G campground at the north end of Fort Nelson so we would be able to run the electric heater plus have access to more propane. The water isn’t running yet within the campground. Between Fort Nelson and Watson Lake, there are very few stops of any kind. Probably most if not all of the Provincial Parks, with the exception of Liard Hot Springs, are closed like the Provincial Parks that we passed over the last couple of days. The  first picture is from a highway webcam about 80km north of here. An RV returned after heading that way this morning as everyone was pulled over putting on their tire chains. I have a pair of chains for the rear wheels but I would rather just wait here for better weather.

It’s 5:45 now and the snow is really starting to come down. I think we will be here for a bit... We only have 1184 miles to go.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Day 52 - North of Fort St John

Today finds us at Coffee Creek RV Park. This is the third time we’ve stayed here and it was a long driving day. The sites are gravel and mostly level and the only way to describe their bathrooms and showers are “spa-like”.

We have about 1,406 miles to go according to Google or 3 to 5 days. Today, between Edmonton and Grande Prairie, we had snow flurries and temperatures just above freezing. It made for stressful driving.

This morning, the Trimetric battery monitor was showing 71% which is lower than normal for not doing any cooking with an electric appliance. By lunch, the solar panels only raised it to 76%. Odd even with the weather. It turns out that I had left the refrigerator on “auto” and the inverter was powered on last night and while we were driving. So the refrigerator was running off of the batteries through the inverter. That would be an almost continuous 300 watt load. By evening, the batteries still aren’t fully charged so I’ll plug in the new converter.