Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Uraling in Alaska - Day 25: Running Errands in the Snow

Folks who've lived here in Fairbanks for a while have told me that they're experiencing an unusually snowy Spring so far this year.  Not quite the record in terms of cold but a close second in the record books.

So, with snow lightly falling and about and inch or so on the ground, I set out on Valencia to run some errands and go chat with "the guys" at the College Coffee House.  It's a daily thing, and some are pretty consistent about attending, George R, the Alaska Airhead Beemer guru for example.

Got some small tools for Valencia, chocks, an air pump and a tire stem fishing tool.  I could swear I'd bought a fishing tool before I left Colorado but wasn't able to find it this morning:

 Valve Stem Fishing Tool
Saw similar one at Dave R's shop, worked great to fish the
air valve stem through the wheel from the inner tube

Left home without my plastic chocks, now have these which fold up
for space-saving storage to hold the tug in place next time I have
a flat tire.

Bicycle pump, bought more as a backup to my electric air compressor.

The main roads were slushy at first but then as things "warmed up" during the day, it became just wet roads and puddles with lots of splashback.  Valencia did fine in this humid stuff, only ran slightly rough for a teeny bit (I am thinking condensation while I was parked at the coffee house) and it cleared up after the next stop.  It's all good.  Though I am thinking perhaps a vent of sorts that won't permit water in....

RichardM joined me and George and Ken at the coffee shop, the subject of course was motorcycles and stories of past rides, good time as usual.  George, the airhead guru, even had me start up Valencia and pronounced her engine sound as "pretty good".

The new head/valves are enroute, no word yet from the Jon at Frozen Motor Works as to his taking receipt of them yet.

As I neared RichardM's place,  I turned Valencia down a side road for the following pictures, you can see how it starts overcast and slowly the sun starts coming out....by the time I got to his home, it was nice and sunny.

 Snow on Walker Way

Viewpointe Drive

There's a local store called Fred Meyers, kind of an upscale walmart/target type store.  Last night I bought a Chocolate Fudge Upside Down Cake for dessert:

Very tasty

Tonight's dessert: Marionberry Pie

Monday, April 29, 2013

Uraling in Alaska - Day 24: Waiting for Parts

Jon of Frozen Motor Works has placed the order for warranty-covered parts for my sidecar rig.

It's a complete head assembly to replace the left side head on Valencia's engine.  It should be shipping out today, and hopefully URAL will choose to overnight it to Fairbanks.

I'll get a call from Jon once he has his hands on it and I'll drive the rig over for him to do the swap.

No fuss, no muss re whether they'd cover it under warranty, gotta love that.

Spent most of the morning bs'ing with the airhead guys I've met at the College Coffee Shop.  Overcast day, with snow in the forecast but nothing but small flakes of snow if anything.  Valencia is running normally.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Uraling in Alaska - Day 23: Eureka!!!

Good day today.

Spent most of the morning checking the wiring on Valencia one more time.  Even removed the tank again to check for worn wires and connectors, nothing found.  So, I went riding around in 16°F weather, nice and sunny though, to try and induce the rough-running conditions.

Rode all over the city of Fairbanks, stopping at the auto parts store for supplies, stopping at for pictures (which didn't turn out), and pretty much the bike performed rather normally.  Then, about ten minutes away from RichardM's house, my heated grips quit working!  It was a cold ten minute ride to RichardM's house, my hands were quite frozen when I arrived.

Once I got my hands warmed up again, I checked the heated grip fuse and it was fine.  Weird, so I tried turning it on and they worked! Hmmm, loose fuse perhaps.

Did some other sundry maintenance on Valencia, and while doing so, decided to remove the front cover on the engine and spray the PowerArc sensor with a spray water bottle.  In fact, it was RichardM texting me with that same suggestion by his son Kyle, that finally got me checking under the cover.  It's quite the pain, you see, to get at the mounting screws for the cover.  I borrowed a long handled allen wrench from RichardM's toolbox and it was much easier.

Got the cover off, got the engine running and sprayed away at the sensor.  Damn if it didn't start acting like it had before on the road, sputtering and running rough....finally just dying.  The symptoms were exactly like what I had experienced near Healy!  Eureka!

I used the air compressor to spray all the water out of the sensor area and the bike started right up and ran like a champ as before.  Eureka!  

Turns out, apparently, that the wires that go to the sensor from the coil, are routed through a hole on top of the engine cover.  In that position, melting water is basically led to the sensor itself, causing apparently blockages of the optical sensor and thereby, the rough running.  

A view of the wire bundle going from the coil, into the front cover area of the engine.
The ignition sensor is directly below, you can see how the wire acts as a water conduit.
The rough-looking black stuff is just old caulking that I applied last night.

Water getting onto the sensor had led me to caulk the hole last night so had I not even checked, it would have solved the issue.  But, now I know for sure you see.

Here's the new routing path of the wire bundle, to the side of the front cover.
Kyle, RichardM's son, cut a new half-moon hole in the front cover 
to allow passage by the wire bundle.
The blue and silver disks are part of the ignition sensor system.

A view of the cover, with the wire bundle coming out of its side.
A bit of caulking was applied to seal the hole as well as the now empty hole
at the top of the engine cover.
(the red wire goes to the coil, the white wire is for the tachometer, the green wire
is for regular tachometers)

Buttoned things back up. We'll see in the next wet snow storm how things go!  My thanks to all the folks who chimed in over the last few days with advice, tips, info on troubleshooting Valencia's intermittent issues.  My thanks to RichardM for his generous support and time in getting me back and forth to the mechanic, reviewing my thoughts and actions, and providing tools!

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Uraling in Alaska - Day 22: Sporadic Gremlins

RichardM and I were doing some final tweaking of his sidecar rig's leanout (which proved quite successful apparently) when I got a call from Frozen Motor Work's Jon.  He wanted me to come test ride Valencia as he thought he'd found the issue.

RichardM and I geared up and we went in his sidecar rig, with me as the monkey once again.  Sorry, no pics.

We got there and proceeded to wheel the rig outside, I cranked it up with everyone watching and damned if it didn't rough right from the get go!  I was bummed, Jon really looked bummed as he thought he'd found the issue.  I tried removing the mode switch connection at the handlebar, no effect.  So I turned off the engine at Jon's motion.

A few minutes later, I went to start her again, just for GP and damned if she didn't run OK, even when I opened up the throttle on her.  Hmmmm.   The decision was made to go for the test ride anyways and report back to Jon.

I followed RichardM, and we went to a nearby Fred Meyers store for dinner supplies and some materials to do fluid changes on RichardM's beemer.  Back outside after maybe 20 minutes, RichardM headed home and I decided to ride around for a bit to see how Valencia behaved.

She did sputter on me a couple of times, and started rough a couple of times but couple or three restarts later, would be operating smoothly again.  Then, I thought to leave the mode switch wire disconnected, and she didn't sputter any more in the 30 miles or so I rode from that point on.

So we ride back to RichardM's house, I leave Valencia outside to cold soak for later testing and helped out RichardM with his motorcycle's fluid changes.  I get another call from Jon, he'd found a diagnostic test he wanted to run on Valencia's PowerArc ignition system so off I went back to Jon's shop.

Valencia started and ran fine the whole way there, mode switch wire still disconnected.

Jon ran the diagnostic test, the unit passed it though we both remain unsure about the unit's status.  We even learned how to "hot wire" a Ural.  Using a wire lead to bypass the ignition key, so now I know how to steal a 2011 URAL!  The bypassing of the ignition though, proved inconclusive because at this point we couldn't get the motorcycle to misbehave.  Even with the mode switch wire reconnected, she ran fine, so the wire being connected is not a factor apparently.

So, the motorcycle is running fine for now, can't reproduce the problem from this morning.  I am to ride it about town tomorrow to try and induce the problem.  I am strongly leaning towards just putting the stock Ducati ignition back onto the motorcycle and try and return the PowerArc at this point but will make the final decision on Monday.

Why Monday you ask?  Jon is calling URAL re the lack of a cut seat valve for the left cylinder, apparently, it wasn't done at the factory and it only offers perhaps .5 mm area for sealing where it should have more like 3-4mm of sealing surface for the valve.  Once replacement parts are agreed upon, they'll be shipped and hopefully we'll get them on Tuesday.  So by Wednesday, with luck, at least the valve seat issue will be resolved, and by then we might have resolution on the possible ignition module issue.

The above give me about two day's riding time to try and induce the rough-running/sputtering issue and be able to reproduce it reliably.

I hate uncertainty.  :(

Otherwise, a nice if cold weather day, enjoyed helping RichardM with his motorcycle's fluid changes....enjoyed another ride as his monkey on his rig....and at least I have Valencia with me for some riding tomorrow.

Uraling in Alaska - Day 21: Coffee with Airheads and the Museum of the North

Cold day here in Fairbanks, AK.  My rig Valencia remains in the shop, still being diagnosed but the end is hopefully in sight according to a late report this evening by Jon, the owner/mechanic of Frozen Motor Works.  He's done some work on the left cylinder to bring compression back up to 145 psi so that puts it within the 10 psi parameter to the right cylinder's 150 psi reading.

He's still battling the sputtering issue when trying any RPMs much above idle, which the tug does fine.  He's discussing further steps with Jim Pettiti of Raceway Services tomorrow, I am keeping my fingers crossed for some resolution.

As all this was going on, I rode into work with RichardM in his sidecar rig's hack, as the monkey.  A novel and quite "brisk" experience for me as temperatures where below freezing when we left his house.  Still, it was a short ride and hypothermia had barely started to set in when we pulled into his university parking lot.

RichardM introduced me to some colleagues and we then walked down to the local coffee house to meet with some local Airhead riders.  I believe RichardM had sent out emails inviting them, or this might be a regular thing.  The walk down was short but definitely "cool", I was glad to get in out of the cold.

I was warmly greeted by the two Bob's, one is the Alaska Air Marshall for the airhead contingent for the state and the other was a former Alaska State Trooper Moto Officer.  I believe the first Bob was also a moto officer as well.  Coffee in hand, we chatted about my Ural, their Beemers, Ducatis and sundry other bikes.

Later on, we were joined by George R, an airhead legend here in Alaska and former owner of the Trails End BMW dealership.  In his 70's, George continues to be the guru for all things airhead and BMW vintage motorcycles.

As a bonus, I spotted a rider come into the parking lot on a familiar looking airhead beemer!  Yep, it was Austin from Wednesday's riding in the snow!  He joined our table and the process of his becoming an Airhead was begun.

 Bob's checking out Austin's Beemer while he and George discuss the 
finer points of BMW motorcybles

 Austin is from Golden, CO, a fire fighter working a seasonal job as
part of a "Hot Shot" quick reaction fire fighting team in Alaska.
He just bought the airhead behind him and is looking forward to learning all about it
from his new fellow riders, the Alaska Airheads.

The coffee meeting over with, Air Marshall Bob graciously gave me a ride over to Frozen Motor Works where we briefly talked to Jon and he showed me some of the work he'd done.  Troubleshooting is ongoing at this time however so we left him alone
with his work.

Bob dropped me off at the entrance to the University of Alaska's Museum of the North.  There for the small entrance fee of $12, you get quite the education on Alaska's history, it's resources and wildlife.

 Artwork Bear at the museum's upper floor exhibit

 UAF's Museum of the North

Had I been able to stand on the platform with him, I would only reach
to his shoulders, maybe.

 A montage of an old time garage's contents

 More artwork: the Outhouse Experience

Quite the museum, good way to spend a few hours learning about what I am finding to be a great state!  I wandered back to RichardM's office which was close by.  He lent me his sidecar rig so I could run home and pick up the stock Ducati ignition parts and drop them off with Jon at Frozen Motor Works.  This is in case he decides to use them to test the viability of the PowerArc ignition system.  

It was quite enjoyable riding RichardM's rig, though it was quite brisk and I got a bit lost doing so as well.

Returning to the University, RichardM then took me home, with me as the monkey once again.  After dinner we watched a film about this group of Indian riders riding overloaded Royal Enfield Thumpers down some really tough "trails" as they searched for a road that wasn't there in the NE portion of India.  Quite the film, you should watch it if you can find it: "One Crazy Ride".

A rather enjoyable day, helped me keep my mind of Valencia's status.  I got to meet some great guys in the Alaskan Airhead community, a young rider who's becoming part of the brotherhood, learned stuff about Alaska and a great moto movie to top it all off.  What a host he is, RichardM!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Uraling to Alaska - Day 20: Taking Valencia to the Ural Dealer and thoughts on my fortune so far.

Well, you have to admit, if you're going to have mechanical issues with your ride, I personally couldn't have picked a better scenario in to experience it.

Instead of being cold and wet and snow-covered, I was in a warm building with food/drink and tables to sit at.  The windswept view of snow-covered road and sideways driven snow were quite nice, from inside that is....

Instead of being out of cell range, I had not only cell coverage but Internet access provided by the gas station.  I could communicate with whomever, get helpful hints, relay symptoms and call for help.

Instead of the rig being in a ditch because of traction loss or mechanical issues, it was right outside where I could troubleshoot it somewhat in comfort and I know the issues will be fixed sooner or later.  "All that is wrought by man, will break sooner or later".

Instead of worrying about getting back to work, losing precious vacation time, I've time to spare due to many factors, but mainly the gift of this trip by my loving wife Martha.

Yep, it's all part and parcel of what defines adventure isn't it?  I am a very lucky guy.

Anyways, back to today:

RichardM and his son Kyle took me and Valencia over to the Fairbanks URAL dealer (he's pretty new at being a URAL dealer but he was friendly and his shop suggested others trust him with their steeds).  There were several airhead beemers being worked on in the shop so I felt confident he and his crew had experience with these older designs and their foibles.  Not to mention, he's also got on tap the resources of URAL itself in case he's got technical questions or needs parts sent up.

RichardM and Kyle made it look pretty easy, using come-alongs and straps to gently roll Valencia off the tilting trailer's bed.  I described what I experienced yesterday to Jon, the owner of the shop, and left Valencia is his hands.  Jon said he'd get right on it, to try and get me back on the road soon.

We returned the trailer back to its owner (Thanks Dave, aka SolarMoose!) and had ourselves some lunch at a Korean BBQ joint, mmmmm, it was good food too.  Sorry, no food porn shots, we were too busy wolfing it down.

Late in the afternoon, I called Jon and he informed he'd found a big difference in compression figures between the right and left cylinders!  150 PSI on the right and only 100 PSI on the left, not good!  There was also some evidence of oil getting past the left cylinder's rings which would explain why I'd been having to top her off with oil more frequently than usual.

Anyways, Jon was still taking things apart, I hope to hear of a full diagnosis and plan for repair tomorrow.

On the plus side, this hiatus gives a chance to explore Fairbanks more thoroughly.  RichardM has graciously offered me the use of his truck, but I should be able to get around without it perhaps.  I hope to visit what RichardM calls the best museum in Alaska: The University of Alaska's Museum of the North.  Should be quite interesting and hopefully I'll learn a thing or two.

I mentioned how lucky I am, RichardM and his family are the proof, so welcoming and hospitable.  I've a warm room to myself,  Internet access, and their companionship.  There's really not many better ways to wait for one's motorcycle to be fixed eh?

Uraling to Alaska - Day 19: Failed Attempt at Wasilla, AK

We woke to "light snow mist" this morning here in the Fairbanks, AK area.

After some debate, I decided to give it a shot and go for Wasilla which is located about 60 miles north of Anchorage.  I got the rig all packed up and left Fairbanks with snow still lightly falling but the streets just wet, not icy.

Temperatures were in the low 30s for the most part, dipping into the upper 20s in the summit portions of Alaska 3, the highway that leads one past Denali National Park and to Anchorage.

It was a few miles after I fueled up at a Tesoro gas station that Valencia's engine just quit while I was riding up a small hill.  I rolled to a stop at the side of the road, tried a couple of times to restart her, nothing.  I checked the fuel connections, as the issue seemed to be fuel starvation.  I found nothing, went to try restarting her again and this time the engine turned over and everything seemed fine.

Hmmm, I thought, must have been some water in the fuel perhaps.  I continued motoring south, now with a bit of trepidation on my mind to go along with the snow-covered roads in the high portions of the route.  South of  Nenana and about 35 miles from Healy, I had to switch the fuel petcock over to reserve at only 144 kilometers on the odometer.  Hmmm, that's pretty low, I remember thinking.

I was within reach of the village of Healy though so I wasn't too worried, as I still carried my spare gas cans.

Perhaps a couple of miles north of Healy, the engine started sputtering again and running really rough!  I limped into the Tesoro gas station on the north end of Healy and refueled, thinking perhaps I'd been close to running out of gas.

Fueling done, and with the idle seemingly normal again, I started heading out the parking lot but didn't even make it to the parking lot entrance before she started sputtering again, shaking pretty severely.  I slowly, couldn't do much else really, rode her back to the gas station and parked her next to the front door.

Over the next few hours, I would do the basic troubleshooting, follow some other troubleshooting ideas from the guys at Raceway Services, all to no avail.  I pretty much though, eliminated fuel contamination in the carburetors and blockage of the fuel lines by perhaps clogged filters inside the gas tank.  Spark plugs looked as they did yesterday, with that light caramel color one is advised to seek.  The fuel tank's drain tube was clear and besides, the rough running had occurred with gas cap off as well.  Checked air filter, it was still clean from yesterday and even when I ran the engine without an air filter, same rough running/sputtering.

I even put about 1/2 bottle of Heet water absorber into the fuel tank, no luck.  About an hour into the troubleshooting, I had called RichardM up and requested trailer support.  He swiftly moved to borrow a trailer from the same guy who helped us swap tires two days before and headed my way.

I even took off the carburetors, removed the float bowls to inspect, removed/inspected/blew through the main jets, all to no avail.  She would idle just fine, but when you increased the rpm's, she'd start to run rough and sputter/miss.  At this point in the troubleshooting, we moved to the ignition system.

Didn't get very far as I lacked the alligator clips to fabricate a bypass for the ignition coil to see whether it was the ignition switch in the headlight that was the issue.  I tried an old trick shown to me by Jim of Raceway Services where one jiggles the ignition key while the engine is idling to see if you can induce a stumble, none was felt.

By this time, it was 4PM, I was out of ideas, and the local mechanic had asked if I had spare spark plugs, which I didn't.  You see, the spares I did have were for the Ducati ignition system, not usable on the PowerArc ignition system, I had planned on getting spares in Anchorage as the plugs installed by Raceway were only 3000 miles old.

I sat and waited for RichardM to arrive, it was perhaps 5PM when he did arrive in the company of his son Kyle and with his pickup truck and borrowed trailer.  Shortly before RichardM arrived, this fellow on a Airhead Beemer had shown up from the south!

On snow covered roads, on two wheels.....

His name was Austin, from Golden, Colorado!  Small world eh?  He was enroute to Fairbanks to work a seasonal job, having just bought the above airhead in Anchorage!  We talked for a bit and he decided to wait for better weather and went off to check in at the local motel.

RichardM had  found a location where I could drive Valencia and ride up onto the trailer.  It was a bit of a harrowing experience but we finally got Valencia on the trailer and tied down.  Then it was a slow ride back towards Fairbanks, about 125 miles or so I think.


Dinner was at the Grill called Monderosa north of Nenana.  It's a popular eating spot for the local motorcycle riders and I can tell you the burgers were excellent!

We got back to Fairbanks with no issues and RichardM proceeded to impress me once again with his masterful skill at backing the trailer down his driveway and by the garage with seemingly effortless ease.  The plan is to take Valencia to the newly minted Ural dealer in Fairbanks: Frozen Motor Works and have him see what the issue is.

Oh, and of course, to add insult to injury.....the roads on the way back were clear and dry the further north we went!  The sun even came out and made it a nice evening.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Uraling to Alaska - Day 18: Maintenance Lessons by RichardM

Today, Richard and I spent the day finishing off the remaining maintenance tasks for Valencia's 30,000 Kilometer Service interval.  No issues there and I learned a couple of helpful hints from RichardM in the process!

Turns out, he was a mechanic for a while before going to college and ending up in the IT field!

Major lesson of the day for me:  Know your tools and their capabilities.  To Wit:

 My 2 Ton bottle jack, which has been in my sidecars' trunks since I've had sidecars.
I'd always lamented how they really didn't have much lifting reach, and so carried a small 
block of wood to add height.

 Here's the jack, fully extended, not much right?

Well, today RichardM pointed out to me the top cap
screws out and adds like three inches to the reach of the jack!

Second lesson, instead of spending lots of time and paper rags cleaning out my plastic funnels after using them, just do a quick wipe and then store in large plastic bags!  Much simpler and faster:

Part of the day we spend fixing the toe-in adjustment on RichardM's rig.  He'd graciously allowed me to take his rig out for a short ride to see how it felt.  I thought it needed just a small inward adjustment as I felt a slight pull to the right when going straight on his rig.

So he pulled out his measurement devices (2x4s and tubes) and we discovered his rig a toe-out of 2"!  Not good.

So we worked on fixing this and inducing a toe-in instead.  Some time later, we got everything lined up and got it to a toe-in of 1/2" which is "mo better".

RichardM took his rig out for a ride and said he was still feeling a bit of a tug to the right when going against the wind, and, a neutral feel when going with the wind at his back.  Some head scratching later, we decided to remove the plastic portion of his sidecar's windshield and he went out for another ride.

He came back and reported a much better feel when going against the wind, almost neutral which is what you want!  So it was the drag of the windshield that was causing the pull to the right!  I was glad to hear this and we'd followed what we knew to be the right measurement procedures for toe-in adjustment!

Uraling to Alaska - Day 17: Maintenance

Spent the day with RichardM and we worked on doing some of the tasks associated/mandated for Valencia's 30,000 Kilometer service interval.

The major task was putting on new tires for both the spare and pusher wheels, the pusher was pretty worn down and the pusher was a close second.  It looks like I may have to order two more tires soon as the new ones are not predicted to last very long given Alaska's pavement.

We also checked out several items trying to chase down a sporadic stumble in the idle after a long day of riding.  Everything checked out so far:  air filter, compliance fittings, carburetor bowls (replacing the mounting screws with allen head screws), got new screws for the main tail light lens, greased the u-joints on the prop shaft to the sidecar, applied grease to the hub splines for the pusher wheel and the spare, checked the spark plugs colors, looked great.

Determined that the oil burning smell I'd been smelling is most likely coming from the crankcase vent tube that now flows a small air filter!  So that was a red herring in terms of troubleshooting.  The plugs didn't have oil on them so no blowby/oil getting past the piston rings.

RichardM took my two wheels, new tires over to his friend Dave aka Solar Moose on advrider.  Dave graciously let us use/and helped swap out the old tires for the new tires and we were done in perhaps an hour.  Quite the enjoyable time, thanks Dave!

Once we had Valencia buttoned up, a quick test ride was in order and RichardM sat in as the monkey.  No thing fell off, especially the new pusher tire so it's all good. Tomorrow is the changing of the fluids, checking of fasteners and spokes and lubing of several linkages and pivot points as per the service list.

Installing the new tire onto the pusher made me feel better about the riding ahead.  Having a new tire as the spare is also good for confidence.  Once I get to Anchorage and the Ural dealer there, I'll probably pick up two more tires.  The loose plan is to depart for Wasilla, AK on Wednesday then in sequence: Anchorage, Homer, Seward, Valdez, Denali and back to Fairbanks for more maintenance.

Then, it'll be Cold Foot and Deadhorse next.  The prediction is for snow all week for Cold Foot and Deadhorse which is why I am bypassing them this week.

RichardM, his lovely wife Bridget and one of his sons, Kyle took me to dinner at the Silver Gulch Brewery.  Very nice meal and conversation.  Thanks Bridget and Richard for picking up the tab as well!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Uraling to Alaska - Day 16: Haines Junction to Fairbanks, AK

Long day in the saddle today, 12 hours of riding to cross the 500 miles to Fairbanks, Alaska and arrive at RichardM's place.

Great weather though, I walked out the door with 2°F on Valencia's thermometer and it would eventually soar all the way into the low 40's in Fairbanks!

I was up before the crack of dawn, anxious to get this ride done as I knew it'd be a long one and I wanted to take advantage of the forecasted good weather.  I tried to start Valencia's engine, no go.  No worries though, I had a plan.  Murph, a fellow sidecar rider who's presently enjoying the frigid temperatures of Finland had mentioned recently he puts a heat source under his bike when it's in the -20s before trying to crank the engine over.

So, I unpacked my two burner Coleman stove, placed it under the belly pan and battery area and let it warm things up for about 5 minutes or so, maybe a bit more.

As you can see from the exhaust smoke coming out the pipes, Valencia 
fired right up after I "lit a fire under her".

I quickly finished packing and gearing up while Valencia warmed up, my breath easily visible in the cold morning air.  Once I got the key to the room turned in, we motored out of the motel parking lot and to a nearby bench area where folks observe the beautiful mountain range next to the settlement of Haines Junction.

 Martha had put in a request for a picture of Mount Martha Black which
is pictured above from the viewing placard.  

Mount Martha Black
Part of the Saint Elias Mountains

Pano of the Saint Elias mountains next to Haines Junction

I would make slow progress on the way to and at the incredibly scenic mountain views one can see on Alaska Highway 1 on the way to Destruction Bay which was my first planned gas stop.  I suspect you know I have a "thing' for shots of snow-capped mountains....today I had more than my fill.

 The view as you head north on Alaska Hwy 1 out of Haines Junction

 Approaching Destruction Bay

 Destruction Bay

 According to wikipedia, the bay is named thus because:
The name is derived from the wind blowing down structures erected by the military during highway construction in 1942-43.

 More views along Destruction Bay and points north

The road surface from past Destruction Bay had lots of potholes and front heaves, though not as bad as I remembered the north half of the Cassiar Highway.  It turns out that Canada has the USA pay for the upkeep of the road from about Beaver Creek westward, as they say they've no interest really in having the road there anymore.  That's what I am told anyways. 

I mention the above because the upkeep of the road leaves much to be desired.  You really do have to slow down or risk breaking something in your suspension or bending a wheel due to a large pothole!  The last 30KM/18 Miles from the Canadian Customs office and the US Customs office in Alaska are in terrible condition!  I had to slow down to 30 mph and even then I narrowly missed some huge potholes.

I arrived at the US Border at 1:00PM PST, and at same time gained an hour as Alaska is one hour earlier than Pacific Standard Time.

At the Alaska Border

Once I cleared US customs, it was almost silky smooth roads for the first few miles into Alaska.  It's almost as if the US wanted to show the Canadians how it's done.  ; )   Even where there'd been road damage, and covered over with repair material, it was smoother than the previous carnage the Canadians were "maintaining" for the US.

Once I was past the Tok Junction where one can turn to go to Anchorage, it was a bit of a slog riding down this straight as an arrow road for almost an hour till one arrives at Tok itself!  But then, the scenery got much better west of Tok and heading towards Fairbanks.

 Mountain views west of Tok, AK on Alaska Hwy 2

It was, from the border with Canada, about 300 miles to Fairbanks and it took me seven hours to cover it.  Traffic was light, the roads were well paved for the most part and the temperatures had soared into the low 40s!

I arrived at RichardM's house around 7:30PM I think.  Valencia was idling a tad rough but she seems to do that after a long run.  I'll be doing maintenance checkouts on her starting tomorrow, and swapping out both her pusher and sidecar tires with new tires.

I met Richard's wife Bridget and the rest of the family.  Richard's going to help me get the tires swapped out tomorrow I think.  Valencia is also close to being due for her 30,000 kilometer service interval so that will take a full day I think.  Lots of niggling little things to fix/clean up/re-arrange on the rig.  Nothing major though, she runs fine and I think the rough idle after a long day of riding is something I can work out, not to mention she probably doesn't like some of the fuel I've been forced to use.

We shall see, the important thing is I made it to Alaska proper and have connected with RichardM and his welcoming family.  

Uraling to Alaska - Day 15: Watson Lake to Haines Junction

I woke to sunny skies, no snow falling and a brisk 5°F in Watson Lake, YT.  The plan was to wait a bit, hope for a rise in temperatures and leave around 9:00 AM for an attempt to get as far as Whitehorse.  I just looked at the SPOT track hoping to see a start time, not sure what timezone is set up....hmmmm.

Had about a 30 minute delay when Valencia's battery wasn't able to crank the engine on.  Tried for a bit, no luck.  Tried one set of jumper cables from a fellow hotel guest, no go and he had to get going.  Then, with a different guest's car, I tried the ones I carry but this time with a different grounding point and it worked!  The theory is that the battery was just too cold.  I guess I'll see tomorrow morning though it's not forecast to be as cold here tonight.

Anyways, I stopped briefly at the famed Sign Forest for pictures.  Quite the place, it was however full of snow so I didn't linger long.  The temperatures had soared into the low teens so it was time to hit the road.

 Sign Forest in Watson Lake, YT

The roads were clear going out of town but soon turned to snow-covered two lane highway.  It was slippery stuff at times but I was going at only 40 mph and ended up using 2WD in the slicker parts.  I was really glad to have that 2WD, 1WD was OK but there was a tendency to fishtail on the slick stuff, only slightly, but it's the kind of thing that gets your attention.

I did see a small group of Caribou between Watson Lake and the Junction with BC37.  Three young males were licking the road ahead of me far enough that I was able to slow down safely (I am on snow at this point), beeped the horn several times, they finally notice me and they meandered back to their group of friends at the edge of the woods.

Mountain peaks along the Alcan Highway between Swift River and Whitehorse

About sixty fun-filled miles of snow-covered road riding later, the roads started getting better.  First it was a single cleared track, then wider tracks and finally, oh finally, it was clear bare roads!  I almost had myself "a moment" when it became clear that I was rid of the snow-covered slickness.  You know, it's a bit different riding on strange roads, thousands of miles from home, on snow; than it is riding on snow for fun near home.

Also, the roads slush and the cold temperatures contributed to heavy buildup of ice on the undersides of the rig, never had so much ice build up on her before.  I would spend several minutes at rest breaks, with my cheater bar, whacking at the built up ice.  At the last break after the roads cleared, I must have left ten pounds of ice chunks where I had parked the rig!  The ice had built up under the fenders enough that there was little clearance between the ice and the tires!  I even found the sidecar's propshaft covered in ice...we're talking about a part that rotates as one moves, it was covered in about a half inch of ice!

The only really major concerns were when the road went downhill, engine braking was my friend at that point as touching the rear brakes is not a great idea and even thinking of touching the front brakes is an awful idea, oh and damn sure don't downshift!  There were times when I was thinking that outfitting skis onto Valencia would have been fun.  For it felt like one was skiing down some of the hilly portions, no idea how the cagers and trucks didn't seem to slow down.

I rolled through 3-4 bridges that have metal grating as flooring.  There's signs before the bridge warning motorcyclists about the "shakiness" they would encounter.  Let me tell you, I was so glad I was on three wheels!  I felt like the rig was on the grooved pavement from hell at times!  The rig's front end "wandered" a bit.  I can't even imagine what it would feel like on two wheels.  On the last bridge, I made the mistake of peering through the grates and slightly freaked myself out looking down at the frozen water under the bridge.  Fun times.

The scenery along the Alaskan Highway, which is what I was riding all day towards Whitehorse, is quite scenic in spots.  It's a very nicely paved highway too and very little traffic.  I don't think I was passed by more than ten vehicles the whole day, of course, everyone is going like bats out of hell...snow or no snow.  I can't understand that.  Oh well, they gave me wide berth and I made sure to wave them onwards when they neared me from behind.

Getting gas at roadside stations each proved an opportunity for snow fun as the storm had deposited several inches on the ones close to Watson Lake.  Folks seemed quite surprised to see my rig, especially as I engaged 2WD to move about.  I was asked three times if folks could take my picture on the rig, one of them said he's using me as "a sign of spring".

Temperatures continued to soar throughout the day, eventually settling around 34°F around the Whitehorse area!  It was almost balmy!

I got to Whitehorse shortly after 4 PM, after the local motosport shop closed.  But thanks to the efforts of RichardM, I was able to retrieve the new inner tube I'd asked him to get for me.  Since I wasn't going to arrive till after they closed, they stashed it under a ramp near the store.  Thanks Richard!  Now I've got a spare tube and more peace of mind.

 Mountains on the way to Whitehorse, look how clear the roads are!

The S.S. Klondike in Whitehorse.

The pusher tire is looking worn down but I think there's enough to make it to Fairbanks, possibly by late tomorrow evening.  I am within 500 miles of Fairbanks now, staying in the small settlement of Haines Junction.

I had dinner with folks who invited me to join their table after we'd chatted briefly at the motel parking lot.  Renee and Glen were great dinner conversation too; they're on the way to Haines so Glen can take the ferry to Bellingham, WA.  Renee gave me some good intel on good spots to take pictures from and places to visit in southern Alaska as she lives near Homer.  Always best to get this kind of info from the locals eh?  (See, talking like a Canadian now)

Haines Junction has a beautiful range of mountains right next door. You can understand why I elected to stay here instead of motoring another 90 minutes to Destruction Bay even though there was still lots of daylight left.

 Approaching Haines Junction

Oh, and in case you're thinking it's about time nothing went wrong...I almost lost the main brake light's red lens!  Somehow, both screws had come off and it was just lying there, caught in the rear cargo rack, when I stopped to take a picture.  Sheeesh, but, I'll take this kind of trouble any day.  A little duct tape later, it's all good, will pick up some new screws from a hardware store.  :)