Sunday, May 31, 2015

Monkey See, Monkey Do

Motivated by the recent ride done by Bridget, RichardM's lovely wife, to the sidecar rally event in Talkeetna, Alaska; Martha my loving wife agreed to ride with me to check out Trail Ridge Road in the Rocky Mountain National Park.

Note: Monkey, is the title given a passenger in a sidecar rig.

It was officially opened for the season on Friday, May 29, it was a start for the road, after snows kept the crews working hard to clear off all the snow.

We left the house on Scarlett, my 2014 URAL Patrol Sidecar Rig, Martha as the monkey of course.  The weather was just a tad cool but not cold and bright sunny skies warmed us as we made our way to Estes  Park via the E-470/I-25 super slabs and passed Longmont using CO State Road 66.

Traffic was lighter than I expected, which was fine by me.  There was an air show down by the SE portion of the metro area, near the Aurora Reservoir, which may have attracted folks.  Again, fine by me!

We made it to Estes park just shy of two hours after leaving the house.  We paid our fee to get in and it was time to ride up and see what we could see.  Martha did a great job shooting both video and photos using the Nikon AWS110 camera that I used to use before I bought the Sony A5000.  Check out the video at the end of this post, it was ALL Martha's shooting.

 At the Rainbow Curve Overlook

 A view of the Aspenglen Valley (I think)

It was cool but not really cold when we got above the treeline

 Just west of the Alpine Visitor Center on Medicine Bow Curve

 Not a bad pile of snow eh?

 D+M, we'll be historic for a few hours, days perhaps, until the snow melts!

 The view from inside the Alpine Visitors Center's gift shop
photo by Martha's Nikon Camera

It's the park's 100th Anniversary this year!

 Views of the Continental Divide mountains on the other side
of Forest Canyon below

 At an overlook before the Rock Cut

 Near the Rock Cut on Trail Ridge Road, possible views of 
Stone Peak and Flat Top Mountain

At the Rock Cut
photo by Martha

 Jackstraw and Ida Mountain peaks?

Near the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center as one exits the park.
Possibly Hallett Peak in the background?

Sadly, I have to put ? marks on the ID of the peaks in the pictures as I didn't take the time to break out the PeakFinder app I'd recently bought for the iPhone.  I'll try and do better about such things in future posts!

We stopped at Estes Park once we left the park and had us some pie from the Estes Park Pie Shop and Bakery.  Their sign reads: "You need Pie!", and they were right!

It was delicious Blackberry and Peach Pie
Photo courtesy of Martha

The ride home was without incident and in rather warm weather, probably in the mid-80s Farenheit.  Martha claims it was only for 20 minutes but I think it was much longer period of time where she napped in the sidecar!

Make sure you set it to 1080p or HD, the "moving frame" is youtube's efforts to
stabilize or remove shakiness from the video.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Early Summer Sunset

Yesterday evening, after a day of warm temperatures and cloudy skies, it was time to capture my first sunset of the summer.

Scarlett and I motored out an hour before sunset and here's what we got as the best picture via the Sony A5000:

Sunset via Sony A5000, in Sunset Mode

Here's the best picture I got using the iphone while my Sony camera was tied up shooting the time-lapse video below:
Sunset via iPhone6

A few more pics taken during different points in the sunset:

Sony A5000 (sunset mode)


Sony A5000 (sunset mode)

Monday, May 25, 2015

Memorial Day 2015

Today was the day this nation pauses to remember and honor those that have fallen in the service of the country.

I was, rather late to arrive at Fort Logan National Cemetery, it was very crowded and Denver Police officers had to manage traffic at all the gates in order to keep things moving.

Still, the large number of folks gladdened my heart, for it is good to see my fellow Americans coming out to honor their military dead.  Sure, it's only a few days a year that our nation's cemeteries see crowds like these but at least, the people do show up.

The Nation that forgets its defenders will be itself forgotten.  Calvin Coolidge.

I visited briefly with the one resident of this hallowed ground with which I have a connection: SSGT Brian Joiner.  The son of a co-worker of mine from days past, he died while wearing our country's uniform.  His family grieves and remembers him every day, I visit him a couple of times a year.

The skies were filled with puffy clouds today, and it provided a nice background for the below view of the neat rows of grave stones which dot the cemetery.  Families visited with their loved ones interred at Fort Logan, and it was a beautiful day to enjoy it together.

I left Fort Logan National Cemetery, slowly making my way back to the exit amidst the large number of cars and visitors.  There was still a long line of cars queued up waiting for their chance to enter the cemetery; good to see such a turnout.

Making my way south, I stopped by the south side of the Cherry Creek Park to capture the below time-lapse of Mount Evans.  In the foreground are folks out walking their dog(s) in the nearby trails and you can get an idea of how busy a place it is by the number of cars which got pictured in the time-lapse.

Motoring further south, Scarlett and I got on the I-25 Super Slab, exiting at the Happy Canyon Road exit in order to capture this view of Pikes Peak with thick clouds moving past.

Just to give you an idea of far away Pikes Peak was from
where the video was shot.

The clouds of life, seemingly still in the sky and yet swiftly floating on by; remind me of the memories we make, the memories we honor, the friends and loved ones we were fortunate to have met along the way.

I hope you had the privilege to stop, reflect on someone you might have known, who along with thousands of others over the years, gave their all for this country of ours.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Cloudy Colorado

We've been having a rather wet and overcast end of Spring here in Colorado.  Rain every day, solid cloud cover and gray skies darkening everyone's mood and dampening one's riding.

There was a break in the clouds, according to the weather radar reports, so I headed out with Scarlett to capture some cloud time-lapses.  I hope you like them.

The brief view of blue skies did not last long though, as I type this, it's raining once again.  I am hoping for clearer skies come Memorial Day Monday.

Update: One more time-lapse video and some photos, showing a rather cool looking storm cloud brewing....

As I rode home, one could catch glimpses of the mountains to the west, finally!  It had been several days since I'd last seen them.

Above and below pics shot mistakenly with White Balance
set to "Incandescent".....had to do some correcting afterwards

Thursday, May 21, 2015

20K Km Service for Scarlett

Started  yesterday on the myriad tasks involved with the 20,000 Kilometer Service Interval for my 2014 URAL Patrol Sidecar Rig, Scarlett.

Currently waiting on a replacement starter, the one that came with Scarlett has a broken spacer sleeve which causes it to "miss" engaging the flywheel's teeth sometimes; resulting in an awful metallic meshing noise.  URAL is replacing it with a new one, no fuss.  In the meantime, I kick start her as needed.  :)

You can see the spacer which failed, well, the remaining 
half of it anyways.  Not sure who manufactures the starters used
by URAL on their sidecar rigs.  I'll try and remember to look at the 
markings when I swap it out.


         Engine, transmission and final drive oils.  No big metal chunks on the drain plug magnets, just the usual swarf.

         Oil Filter

         Spark plugs and air filter.

         Fuel Filter

Injected fresh grease into main driveshaft U-Joint and sidecar U-joint.

Both the main drive splines, sidecar drive splines were greased less than 3000 km ago during the replacement of the clutch disks so skipped them.  Both had presented nice greasy coatings during the clutch replacement but were re-coated anyways.

Checked the valve clearances, all good except right side exhaust valve was a bit tight at .002 inches, loosened it to .004 inches.

Checked spokes, all wheels.

Checked the balance of the EFI throttle bodies using the Harmonizer tool.  All good!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Post-May Road Trip Thoughts

Some thoughts and notes as I return to regular work day normalcy after having been "on the road" for 13 days.  The trip grew from a two day drive (both ways) with Milli the URV dragging a trailer with Scarlett lashed securely on top to Chicago for work; to 13 days as I added more destinations.

States that were trailered through:  NE, IA, IL, OH, MI, IN, PA, MD, VA, WV, KY, MO, KS.

The idea was to explore several concepts:

1.  Viability of Milli, the 2006 PT Cruiser as a URV: Ural Recovery Vehicle.  In terms of towing capacity and highway speeds, she did great!  She did use a bit of oil, the AC failed, but mechanically she remained sound.

2.  Viability of using Milli as a mini-camper.  Grade: B.  It was OK, though I only camped one night.

3.  Test how much of a PITA it is to dismount/mount Scarlett from the trailer when the opportunity presents itself for a ride in an interesting area.  Got the process down to less than 20 minutes each way, but it was a bit of a hassle.  Also, no matter how hard I tried, couldn't get Scarlett to look good in pictures while on the trailer....just wasn't happening!

At the West Omaha KOA

The thought had been too to claim more states that I'd motorcycled in.  All I had to do was stop somewhere, get Scarlett off the trailer and go riding around a bit right?  Due to time constraints and general lack of will, there were several states I just drove through, electing to not unload the rig.  So much for that idea, and besides, it just didn't feel right in the end.

Parking in downtown Chicago is ridiculous!  Very expensive.

As I drove hour after hour along the super slabs, my thoughts turned to:

This thought came up repeatedly:  Why am I trailering?  If Scarlett develops issues, better now while she's under warranty than later when she's not!?  URAL support has always been outstanding so why use the URV concept.

I wasn't in a race and it's not like I was in the wilds of British Columbia or Alaska!  Note, I would have been limited to 55 mph had I decided to ride Scarlett instead of trailering.  Using the URV enabled speeds in the 65-70 mph range so we covered the same distance faster.

It sure was nice to bask in the air-conditioning in the car on the hot portions of each driving day.  That is, until the air-conditioning failed, then it was miserable; but at least I didn't have riding gear on I suppose, since I was in a car!

KOA campgrounds and their Wifi, slow at best, and on this trip, quite pathetic at the KOA near Omaha that I stopped at.

You can drive, from Orlean, VA to Centennial CO in two days but they're a long two days!  I was a bit punchy when I got home Tuesday evening.

About 2050 miles outbound, with Orlean, VA being the turn-around point.  About 1668 miles on the return half of the trip.  Rough total: 3718 miles.

So, not sure I'll be repeating the same transportation conditions on the next road trip.

Still, I got the chance to visit friends I'd not seen in too many years, saw an awesome flyover by WWII aircraft, met new folks, rode with a pioneer moto-blogger and finally met in person a legend in the moto-blogging world.  All in all, a good road trip.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Uraling in the Shenadoah National Park's Skyline Drive

Sunday morning and first half of the afternoon was spent in the company of Otto B., my friend of over three decades and fellow Army ROTC graduate.

Otto has recently retired as a full Colonel, and he was in town and staying at Lee S's place near Orlean, VA. The previous blog posting talks about this gathering and the main objective it held, a flyover by over 50 World War Two aircraft to conmemorate VE Day.

Otto, Scarlett and I rode out pretty early and some 40 miles later were motoring onto Skyline Drive.  The first stop showed promising views though we'd seen fog up higher.

 At the first stop as one enters the park from US211.  Skyline Drive itself
stretches for many miles to the south.  We would just ride a short portion 
north towards Front Royal, VA.

 Shortly after that first stop, the fog and clouds pretty much shut us down in
terms of being able to shoot the views of the valley below.  No real safe spots 
along the side of the road for "in the fog" pictures either.

So, since we were socked in with fog, we just rode past the remaining overlook sites hoping to see them later after lunch at Front Royal.  It was quite "brisk" while riding in the clouds/fog for both Otto and myself! We were both glad we'd both the liners for our respective jackets.

At one point in the drive north though, there finally came a spot where we'd outrun the clouds/fog and could get a nice view of the valley below.  

Otto and I decided to relax here a bit, warm up and have a cigar as I positioned my camera to do a time-lapse of the clouds as they rolled over the valley below.

 Otto and Scarlett

Front Royal proved to be a neat little town.  We had lunch at The Mill Restaurant and I am happy to report the food and service were great.

Riding back on Skyline Drive back towards US211, we took some shots from the overlook sites we'd bypassed before but the bugs were out now and the scenery, though quite nice, wasn't exactly conducive anymore to more picture taking shall we say.

We could see rain clouds inbound as we rode south.

We made it back to the town of Orlean with no rain hitting us, that evening was spent enjoying Lee's marvelous production of Lobster Fra Diavolo.  He had cooked as it was Mother's Day while Lynn took it easy, in the company of her son and daughter who came to visit.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Northern Virginia Visit and Flyover

After touring Gettysburg Military National Park, it was about three hours (mostly due to the hellish traffic associated with the DC metro area) to the home of a friend of mine.

Lee S and his lovely wife Lynn, were part of the University of Miami, FL Army ROTC program when I studied there.  I met them and another then cadet, Otto B. and we became friends as we went through the program.  I've known them over three decades now.

There was, coincidentally, a big WWII Aircraft Flyover scheduled to commemorate the anniversary of VE Day, Victory in Europe.  56 aircraft of the time were scheduled to fly over the nation's capital and it was a big reason for me to come down to visit Lee, Lynn and family, Otto B and others.

The ride into Washington, D.C. in Lee's car (no moto content in this posting), wasn't too bad according to them but it reminded me as to why I'd left this over-crowded and humid part of the country.

We got there early enough for Lee and I to find ourselves some good spots on the Smithsonian Mall's grassy areas between the US Capitol building and the Washington Memorial.

Lee preps his camera gear, that's the Smithsonian Museum in the background.

Note: the aircraft pictures below were taken with the telephoto lens at max zoom AND with 2X optical zoom piled on top.  Still, they came out usable:

 Spotters and Trainers

 P-40 Warhawks

 B-25 Mitchell Bombers

 PBY Catalina

 P-38 Lightning

 P-51 Mustangs

 C-46 Cargo

 F4U Corsairs

B-29 Bomber

The show lasted about an hour and then it was a hot and humid walk to the restaurant where we got lunch.  It was the Ebbits Restaurant, which apparently has catered to the political elite for some time.  I can tell you it was pretty crowded in their lobby, the place had very nice and luxurious fittings and the food was good.

A cooling beer while we waited for our table
Barry, Lee and Otto...Otto is the one with beer glass in action

 Left to Right: Bryan, Otto, Barry, Stephanie and Lee's daughter Jennifer

Yours truly, Lee and Bryan

Lunch over with, we endeavoured to get back to Lee's car and spend the next few hours retreating out of the DC metro area and back to Lee's house near Orlean, VA.

We were wiped out that night, very tired from the heat and humidity of the day.  Still, it was a great day.

The next day, the same aircraft that overflew us at the nation's capital were scheduled to be at the Udvar-Hazy Aircraft Museum near Centerville, VA.

We rode in two cars this time, and apparently everyone and their brother had the same idea to go view the WWII aircraft up close.  It was overwhelming the amount of cars that showed up and clogged up the entrance ways to the museum.

Still, we eventually got in and parked.  Only to find weather had precluded all but one aircraft from arriving.  The lone aircraft was the C-46 Cargo Plane.  We walked about the museum taking pictures in spite of this disappointment:

We decided to head over to the nearby airport of Warrenton, where Lee S. trained for his pilot's license, and lucked out by showing up in time to watch the B-17 Flying Fortress below take off:

We also lucked out by being in the right spot outside the airport to photograph this P-51 Mustang come in for a landing.

So, two good days of aircraft watching and photographing.  Enjoying the sights in the company of old and new friends, no moto content but still quite enjoyable for me.