Sunday, June 30, 2019

Pi Problem

This was kind of disconcerting to see this evening. The Raspberry Pi that is monitoring the Tristar charge controller was down when I picked up the trailer yesterday. I simply rebooted it. Have not had a problem with the Pi before.

We now have a full water tank, empty grey and black tanks, and a full refrigerator. What more do we need? Tomorrow we head south towards Anchorage. Not quite sure where we will be camping. Probably parking in a rest area. 

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Camping Local

This afternoon, I picked up the trailer and brought it to Rivers Edge RV Park here in Fairbanks. It is a full hookup site with 30amp power, water and sewer. I wanted to sanitize the fresh water system as I hadn’t done that for a while. Having water and sewer makes that whole process easier. They also had a high pressure washer so I was able to remove some of the grime from last May’s trip through Canada.

We will be here for a couple of days and on Monday, we head south towards the Anchorage area. Lots of stuff to haul back from the house including two dogs and a cat. Yes, we are trying the cat out on a short trip. We’ll see how the cat likes travel. She’s a completely indoor cat so it probably won’t be an issue.

One but of the nicest benefits is the trailer has A/C. Especially on a hot, smoky day like today. Being able to retreat to cooler temperatures is nice. 

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Only a Day

The weather here up north is great. Last week, they said that it was in the mid-70s (°F) but not today.  The high 40s (°F) will probably be about it. There is still some ice on the ocean but it is mostly gone at least to the horizon. Upon arrival, I came to the BARC to start messing with the network again. They were having a barbecue when I arrived. Of course, it was the tail end so I had a black bean burger and a hot dog. Actually, the black bean burger wasn't bad at all.

One of the groups just received some supplies and it was packed in dry ice. Of course, the best way to dispose of the dry ice is to toss it into a puddle. This was pretty entertaining.

There is a conference going on here in the large conference room. They had a Subway lunch brought in. So I sort of jumped in line. I know many of the participants so it was easy to do.

The morning has been somewhat hectic. With a lot of phone calls and running around the building and NARL.

For the conference today, someone brought in some muktuk for the group to try since a common question for anyone who visits Barrow is "did you get to try whale?". 

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Heading Further North

Heading north to Utqiaġvik for a short trip. Possibly my last one. And one of the few summer trips. The 34°F temperature may not sound much like summer, but at least it’s above freezing. ACS, the network contractor for UIC Science, has had their network running for several weeks and the challenge is to move the science experiments over one by one from the legacy network to the new network. The trick is, no one is actually there to do it.

I made a suggestion (again!) to simply bridge the two networks and have two layer 3 broadcast domains on the single Ethernet network. As it is, several VLANs already have multiple layer 3 networks running. So it’s nothing new but not what is normally done. So that is now the plan.

The first picture is the Fairbanks airport and the second is Deadhorse aka Prudhoe Bay. The airport is packed with people headed home after their shift. That’s why I just took a shot out the window. Once that plane left back towards Anchorage, I have a three-hour wait until my flight to Barrow.

Monday, June 24, 2019

More Broken Stuff

I guess I was wrong. The other casualty from the trip was me. I got home and was extremely tired and sore. Not too unusual I guess but I was feeling even worse 12 hours later. Since I am the only one at the house last night, I took myself to the emergency room before it became a problem. Very high blood sugar levels (for me) and severely dehydrated according to the doc. And I must’ve drank 3 quarts of water on the relatively short 4 hour trip.

I stopped at the Birch Lake turnout again as it really is a nice view. Had some snacks and more water before continuing on home. I arrived home a bit after noon and all I wanted to do was sleep. Anyway, at that point, I had sort of decided that I don’t want to do any long motorcycle road trips. At least in the near future. I don’t plan on going to the sidecar rally in Coeur d’ Alene, ID, since I don’t think I can take the multi-day, long distance ride. 

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Stuff Breaks

There seems to be at least one casualty from the Top of the World Highway. The aluminum angle that I used for the steering damper mount broke from fatigue. I thought that may not be heavy enough but it’s lasted for quite a while. I need to look for some steel and possibly put in some gussets.

I took off this morning around 7:00 and there were dozens of RVs waiting to cross on the ferry. Fortunately, they have a separate line for small vehicles and it was only about a five minute wait. The border didn’t open until 9:00 PDT (8:00 AKDT) so there was almost no oncoming traffic, which was very nice. I arrived at the border about 15 minutes before they opened. Pretty quick with only a couple of questions.

I stopped  in Chicken for gas and some breakfast/lunch. The daily special was biscuits and gravy. With the five gallon gas tank, the Ural just doesn’t have enough range to make it all the way to Tok. And I filled up in Tok as there wasn’t quite enough gas to make it to Delta. I’m back at Thompson’s Eagle’s Claw motorcycle campground again. The Dawson City to Tok road took around six hours or only a 30 mph average. So I’m taking a break.

Friday, June 21, 2019

Dawson City, YT

Today’s D2D activity was a poker run. I believe the intent is to get people out and about seeing the area around Dawson City. I decided that I have too many aches and pains for that. I’m really out of shape to go riding everyday. Especially on the gravel roads. Yes, they are a blast but you really end up moving around a lot on the bike. There is a pretty good group from Fairbanks, and Trails End/Outpost sent up quite a few items for the drawing later today. Tonight, is the dinner put on by the local fire department as a fund raiser. The food is usually pretty good.

Part of the fun of this event is seeing the different setups that people have such as this BMW GSA with a Freedom Sidecars custom setup.The sidecar is huge and designed for hauling stuff. They have two rigs and just returned from Tuktoyaktuk, NWT, and they were looking for a car wash with a pressure washer.

This evening, they are having “biker games” and at midnight, assemble all of the bikes for a group picture. At the dinner, there were drawings for a lot of donated stuff. I won a shirt and picked up a tool roll in the silent auction. 

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Tok to Dawson City

I took off from the campground at around 8:30 this morning. It was a quick ride to the community of Chicken. Topped up the gas tank and headed out on the dirt and gravel. It took a bit but eventually I got re-familiarized with the handling of the rig on loose gravel. No issues and the Ural hummed right along. Interesting that I was going with the flow of traffic and even passed vehicles. From Chicken to the Eagle turnoff is all gravel then the road changes to wonderfully smooth pavement until you get to the border.

This was in near/in the community of Chicken. I don’t think the place is actually incorporated or has any form of government. There must’ve been twenty or so bikes there. A couple of people commented that they were impressed with the Ural’s performance and handling through the windy road. I think they’ve heard that the performance and handling was dismal. That’s not what they observed. I think I was in third gear for most of the trip.

The first picture is while I was waiting for the ferry to cross the Yukon River. Dawson City is on the opposite shore. The border crossing was a none issue. A couple of questions, show them the passport and got waved on. The buildings just to the right of the top of the windscreen is the border crossing. The road in the background is the Top of the World Highway. At the border, the road changes to a much wider, mostly gravel road. Some potholes and a lot of washboard. The temperatures dropped to the low 60s (°F) but when you got within 15 miles of Dawson, you drop into a valley and the temperature shot up into the 80s(°F)! I’m glad I’m in a room with air conditioning.

Upon arrival, I picked up a t-shirt, a pin, a dinner ticket and a raffle ticket. I had stopped at an atm and picked up some Canadian currency. I had some from our road trip but I forgot it at home. BTW, this trip is on Spotwalla. I’m using SWConnect on the iPhone for tracking. If you don’t have data service, the data is buffered on the phone until the Internet is available. The gap was from not turning tracking on within the iPhone app.

Tok, AK

I left at about 10:30 this morning headed to D2D aka Dust to Dawson. With the Ural, 200 miles is a reasonable day. I stopped at Birch Lake for a short break (2nd picture), Delta Junction for gas, and filled up again in Tok. I then headed for Thompson’s Eagles Claw motorcycle campground located a little south of Tok. I didn’t make reservations so I’m overflow camping between campsites. I have stayed here a couple of times before in 2015.

In addition to campsites, Eagles Claw has a wall tent, a bunkhouse, an ambulance and a school bus that you can rent. Supposedly, everything is booked up tonight so I snagged an “overflow” space. Set up the tent anywhere on the moss and park along the road. It’s about 180 miles to Dawson City tomorrow including the Top of the World Hwy. Looking forward to it. 

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Almost Ready

One last oil change before taking off was the final drive. It only takes 135 ml of oil so the quart of 75/90 full synthetic that I have on the shelf will do many oil changes. The drained oil had a trace of moisture and very little swarf on the magnet so I think it's still doing fine. On the Talkeetna trip, I was missing the throttle lock that used to be installed so I dug out the pieces and re-installed it. I'm amazed that I still had all of the parts and pieces including the tiny set screws after all these years. I had removed it when I put on heated grips as they were slightly larger than the stock grips. I'm now on heated grips version 3.

I decided to bring the iPad Pro so I can blog while in Tok and maybe in Dawson City. Assuming that there is any Verizon signal or useable WiFi. Other stuff that made it into the rig are several light jackets as I'm not sure what the weather will be like. The weather apps don't agree. I charged up the Sena for the first time in at least a year and synched it to my phone. It's been at least a year as I've had this phone for about a year.

In case you can't tell, I'm anxious to get on the road. Tomorrow...

Monday, June 17, 2019

Packing the Ural

This is actually a pretty easy task as there is plenty of room. It’s more a matter of putting stuff where you can find it again. The tool roll now has all of its tools again plus a few more. I had picked up another set of ball-end metric Allen wrenches at the last “Black Friday” sale at Lowe’s so the older set was added to the tool roll. The battery on the jumper pack was recharged, tire pressure checked and the mix of camping and hotel stuff was packed. I plan on camping in Tok Junction both going to and returning from Dawson City. It’s roughly half way. I’m even bringing a small ice chest to keep drinks cold and even have an 8-pack of sugar-free Gatorade as I tend to get dehydrated when riding. While in Dawson City, I’ll be staying at the Downtown Hotel since TomK made reservations last winter. It’s kind of expensive but I suspect that I’ll appreciate the good nights sleep. Otherwise, I was planning on camping.

Non-ice chest food, tools, spare parts (clutch cable, throttle cable, donut, bulbs, fuses, final drive oil), cooking utensils, and the heated gear (just in case) is in the sidecar trunk. My camping gear: Tent, ground cloth, sleeping pad, sleeping bag, cot, coats, water, drinks and the ice chest are all in the footwell of the sidecar. The under-sidecar ammo box has a quart of oil, funnels, extra fuel line and a spare tube. The small ammo box between the sidecar and bike has my registration, passport, camp stove, and visor cleaning stuff. The top box just has an extra visor, extra gloves, flashlight, and first aid kit. It’s pretty empty so I can easily stick my helmet and gloves in there when stopped. The Roadcrafter will easily fit on the sidecar seat under the tonneau cover. The mini tank bag will just have my phone, some snacks, and earplugs. Water will be on the sidecar seat under the tonneau cover. I think I’m ready to go. BTW, the grease remover actually did a decent job of cleaning the gunk from the engine. I don’t think it’s looked this clean in years. None of the compartments or boxes are “stuffed” so I don’t think I’m bringing too much junk.

I must admit that I can’t wait to be heading out again. I plan on leaving Wednesday morning...

Saturday, June 15, 2019

A Busy Saturday

I finished the one section of the porch so at least the front door is useable again. I need twenty-eight more deck boards or fourteen twelve footers to finish it off. Then I need to start on the railing or bench. I haven't decided which would look better. I'm leaning towards a bench with the backrest functioning like the railing.

I also continued working on the Ural. Checked the front brake pads, new ones have been ordered but there is enough material left on the pads for the Dawson trip. The air cleaner has been cleaned and re-oiled. Valve clearances have been checked. All were within the 0.002" - 0.004" range but I set all of them to 0.003". And I re-installed the blow-by catch can. Raceway had a fancy name for it. Essentially, the crankcase vent pipe is routed to an aluminum container mounted to the frame above the left cylinder. And another hose is run to a small air filter behind the battery.
For the last couple of years, I had simply run a hose along the top of the engine so the left side of the engine is very dirty. I sprayed it with a degreaser and after letting it sit for a bit, I rinsed it off with water. It looks better but there is still a lot of built-up grime.

Also ordered with the brake pads is another oil filter, a Heidenau K28 for the pusher for the Idaho trip, and another tube so I'll have a good spare.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Not Procrastinating Any More

Finally getting the porch put back together again. The stringers were ready-made ones from Home Depot. The original steps had only four stringers spaced around 5' apart. I am using four stringers but they are on 16" centers. The original ones were held on with 3 16d nails each and I'm using 5/16"-3" galvanized lag bolts. Hopefully, these will last another 30+ years like the last porch. The stringers and decking are pressure treated wood so the "staining" is just more of the treatment applied to wherever I needed to cut.

Just like the original porch, the decking is 2x4. I'm considering using some of the original 2x10 for the steps but I may just pick up some new pressure treated material. I will pick up some cedar lattice to cover the opening. Mostly to keep out the leaves so maybe something with smaller openings.

Between porch tasks, I changed the engine and transmission oil as well as the oil filter on the Ural. I used Mobil 1 full synthetic 15w50 oil as I wasn't able to find any 20w50 synthetic oil. The filter came from Amazon. I still need to clean and re-oil the air filter as well as adjust the rear brakes. I should check the front pads as I do rely on the front brake for most of my braking. 

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Looking Forward to Summer Solstice

The Weather Underground app, Wunderground, is a bit confused with our sunrise/sunset times. First and last light both say 2:00 pm since there is no “dark” at this time of year. Between sunset and sunrise, it's sort of dusk/dawn and never really getting very dark. And there are still ten more days until the Summer Solstice.

I won't be in Fairbanks for the solstice as I'm planning on going to Dawson City in the Yukon Territory for what is known as D2D or Dust To Dawson. It's about 380 miles from Fairbanks so I plan on taking two days to get there. I'm planning to stop at Thompson's Eagle's Claw Motorcycle Campground in Tok Junction which is a bit over half way. From there, you go through Chicken, AK, over the Top of the World Hwy, across the border into the Yukon Territory, cross the Yukon River on the ferry, and arrive in Dawson City.

The last time I went to D2D was in 2015 during my Ural trip to the Pacific Northwest. This trip is simple there and back again. Still on the Ural. I probably should do some maintenance before leaving but today's effort was removing the steps and stringers from the porch. The existing porch had only 4 stringers over the 15' length. Probably not enough especially in front of the door. I'm thinking of only installing four stringers just in front of the door and not have the steps go all the way across the front of the porch.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Debugging Trailer Electrical Issue

Sometime near the end of our last RV trip, most of the electrical outlets in the trailer stopped working. Most but not all. And just about all of the outlets are on the same breaker. But some that are on that breaker still worked. This means a wiring problem. When I pulled the breaker panel, there was only one cable which went to the automatic transfer switch. And only one cable returning from the transfer switch to the electrical panel. From here, it branched out to two cable runs. One went to the TV, which worked fine, and one to the outlet that we plugged in the heater, which also worked fine. Also, the outlet on the ceiling of the bedroom worked fine. But the other outlets in the bedroom, the GFCI outlet by the sink, the kitchen convenience outlets, and the outlets on the rear wall of the trailer did not work. The refrigerator outlet, which is also on the same breaker, continued to work. It turns out that the outlet on the bedroom ceiling was a "hub" as it had three cables. Ont to the bedroom outlets, and one to the refrigerator. The bedroom outlets continued on to the GFCI outlet. From there, it daisy chained its way through the kitchen, the external outlet, and the outlets on the rear wall.

RVs use these odd outlets that are kind of designed for retrofitting into walls. Here is an image of the rear. Unlike regular household outlets, these are designed to just lay the Romex into the three slots then force the rear cover on which pushes the wires into metal slots which cut through the insulation and make contact with the copper wire. Convenient but not a lot of load carrying capacity. It worked fine with the kitchen appliances but when I plugged the electric heater into the last outlet on the long chain, that's when it failed.

I knew that it was a bad connection somewhere as I was still measuring 118VAC between hot and ground but only 12VAC between hot and neutral. Between neutral and ground, I was measuring about 95VAC. So things haven't completely failed. I pulled a couple of outlets including the refrigerator, one of the kitchen convenience outlets, and the bedroom ceiling. I think these weird RV outlets are only designed for two cables and not three. I used wire nuts on the ceiling cables and a short wire for the hot, neutral and ground for the outlet itself and all of the outlets are working once again. The 12VAC is still a bit confusing. Where is that coming from? I removed the GFCI outlet, no difference. Odd.

Of course, working on the RV is just an excuse to not work on the front porch...

Thursday, June 6, 2019


I started tearing out the deck last week and finally got back to it. We finished pulling out the rotten deck boards. The ones under the eaves were in pretty good shape and replacing them seemed silly (to me). I just need to remove the stair stringers and pick up a couple of replacements at Lowe’s before installing new deck boards. I will probably prep and paint the support beams as they don’t seem to be in bad shape either. Just the deck boards themselves or more specifically, the ends of the boards not under the eaves.

Last night, I put on the sidecar windscreen and took off the screen on the motorcycle while cleaning up some wiring. This morning, I rode to coffee at Sunshine Health and, honestly, I don’t see how people can ride without a windshield. The wind pressure meant that I needed to hold on the grips much tighter than I do normally. To me, it was tiring. The wind noise in my helmet was slightly lower but it wasn’t enough to make me want to leave the windshield off. So it’s now back on. One of these days I’ll try one of the smaller ones.

Saturday, June 1, 2019

LARS Open House

On this wet afternoon, we went to the Large Animal Research Station (LARS) open house. They were showing off their new additions i.e. musk ox babies. There was quite the crowd there and they had a table set up for naming the new additions. The popular themes seemed to be Disney princesses and Star Wars characters.

In addition to musk ox, there were what I thought were caribou. The kids called them reindeer (they were right), and some large, long-haired breed of cattle supposedly for the vet program. The ground was pretty muddy. Earlier today, I was just up the road for the ham radio test session and the owner of the home said that it had rained almost 0.75" in the last 24 hours. I guess I wasn't paying too much attention.

I think the majority of the people were there to see the musk ox and here are four of them running around the pen. Every time the handlers brought them down towards the fence to show them off, they would run back up to the upper part of the pen away from all of the phone cameras.

Here is one of the adults feeding on birch leaves that the handlers brought down to the fence line to lure them down. In this pen were two more baby musk ox that were a bit older. They harvest the wool from the adults and spin it into yarn. The gift shop was selling these small skeins of wool for $100/oz. Pretty pricey! They also sold finished products such as hats and scarfs.