Friday, November 30, 2018

The Southwestern Sojourn - Day 3: Very Large Array (VLA)

The VLA or Very Large Array of Radio Telescopes run by the National Radio Astronomy Agency, located between the towns of Datil and Magdalena, New Mexico, has been a sight I wanted to see since about this time last year.

No time then, made time this trip.

After a calm night at the RV park in Magdalena, NM I woke at around 5AM and made breakfast.  Soon after 6AM, I had Scarlett unloaded and was riding west along NM 60 towards the VLA.

Got there just before sunrise and my timing worked out great.  There was an incoming storm to the west as I parked Scarlett and I got these pics of the sun rising just before clouds moved in and it started snowing.

Yes, snowing.

 The horizon was aglow just before the sun peeked over
the eastern horizon

 Using Sunset Mode

The sun rising, you can see the snow flakes coming
down as the clouds moved towards the east, 
finally completely obscuring the rising sun.

So it snowed and was completely overcast for perhaps 30-40 minutes, I took what pics I could but the blowing snow was pretty heavy.

Pretty big dish eh?

Finally, the snow clouds blew past towards the east and the sun started to come out and light things up a bit:

 The eastern "leg" of the three legged formation of dishes

Saddling up, I rode over to the highway to get these shots of the northern "leg" of dishes visible from a parking spot provided for just such viewing by highway drivers.

 Yep the dishes do move, pretty regularly....

The visitor center wasn't going to open till 9AM and I decided to instead return to Magdalena to get the URRV ready for travel.

I left the village of Magdalena shortly after 9am I think and a couple of hours later was setting up camp on BLM land 15 miles north of the town of Truth or Consequences.  Yep, the town named themselves after a game show.

It was sunny finally but the strong gusty wind conditions forecasted till 8PM tonight made for chilly conditions.

Tomorrow is a non-travel day and forecasted to be warmer (I'll settle for little to no winds!).  I hope to explore the canyon area to the east of the campsite.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

The Southwestern Sojourn: Days 1 and 2

The plan is to spend the next 4-6 weeks on the road, exploring the desert byways and sights of the American Southwest.

I'll work remotely of course, making sure my taskings get done as expected.

Day 1 found me cruising down the I-25 Super Slab.  As I approached the city of Monument, I noted that the right inner dually tire was losing air!  Not good.  I called Martha and she told me there was a Les Schwab Tire Store in Monument, CO.

I pulled in with only 51 psi remaining on the leaking tire.  The tech unmounted the tire and tested it in the water tank, no leaks.  Huh.

We attached the valve extension I'd been using, put it back under water, no leaks.  WTF.

So, they reinstalled the tires onto Uma, the URRV and advised me not use the valve extension.  I put the TPMS sensor directly on the inner tire's air stem, without an extension and pressure held as I drove south!  Sigh.

Next stop was the truck scales located two exits down on I-25, the operator didn't seem to know what he was doing in terms of explaining the results but I figured it out for both of us.

Figures are, with a full tank of fresh water and full fuel tank:

Front:  3860 lbs
Rear: (Duallys): 8080 lbs
Trailer: 1380 lbs (Max capacity is 2000 lbs with the trailer weight being 300 I think).

Total: 13320 lbs

Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) for the RV is 14050 so I'm good in terms of overall weight.

The Gross Axle Weight Rating (GAWR) for the front axle is 4600, so the existing weight is good.

For the rear axle, the GAWR is 9450, so weight is  good on that axle as well.

Thanks to RichardM, who knew of a website to calculate optimum PSI based on actual weights, I got this chart:

So, it looks like if I keep every tire at 65 PSI, I should be good to go!

Next stop was Camping World in Fountain, CO, just south of Colorado Springs and bought a pair of valve extensions that I may try over the next few weeks, assuming they hold air of course!

Got to Springer Lake, New Mexico and set up camp shortly before sunset started.  It turned out to be a pretty good sunset:

Day 2:  Magdalene, NM

I caught what I thought was a mild sunrise the next morning:

After breakfast and packing up for the road, I left the area around 9AM.  The rest of the day would prove boringly free of mechanical issues and air pressure issues as I slogged my way past Albuquerque, NM and headed south still on the I-25 Super Slab.

I lost time checking out two BLM sites, the first one near Socorro, NM was a bit sketchy and lacked decent sites so I skipped it even though it had good 4G LTE signal.

The second site, known as The Box Canyon along NM Highway 60 proved too small for the URRV.

The third site was in the nearby Cibola National Forest and while I did find a spot, there was no cell service so I couldn't use it.

I motored onwards to the town of Magdalena, NM which is close to the next day's target, the VLA or Very Large Array.  More on that in the next post.

I found myself a pullthrough spot at a somewhat run down RV park in town but had electrical power for $25 so counted myself lucky.  I did, in all this, miss what turned out to be a pretty nice sunset but them's the breaks I guess.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Happy Thanksgiving Day

Hope you all in the USA had a great Thanksgiving Day....

Martha once again outdid herself in the cooking department, her dad visited us from Phoenix and Terry K. (Patrick's Godmother) and her friend Dona were our guests.

I believe no one was left hungry, though I did leave before the guests to go catch a mellow sunset:

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Tech Day: Top End Removal for a BMW Airhead

This past saturday, the 10th of November, I rode over to Brook R's home in Arvada, Colorado to watch him and Dick P, the Colorado Air Marshall work on Dick's 1972 R75/5 Airhead.

One of the four rods which hold the left side cylinder/head had become stripped you see, and they were going to show whomever attended the tech day how to repair that.

It was only myself and a young fellow by the name of Jason that showed up to be elucidated.  I'd seen Brook do this once before but it never hurts to see such things more than once!

 Brook is describing the oil passage flow into the head
from within the engine.

Dick had rented a special jig from Northwoods Airheads in Golden, CO to do the repair.  It ensured that when he drilled and tapped the hole for the helicoil insert, that the drill bit and tap tool would be straight and "square".

 Installing the round portion of the jig, which allows it to be
centered on the cylinder's hole in the engine case.
It also supports the connecting rod once installed.

 A shot of the main part of the jig, to show how it
slides along the remaining three cylinder rods.
Dick had already removed the stripped rod, as you can see above.

 Jig in place, tube sleeves are mounted and tightened to
hold the jig firmly against the engine case.

 Drilling out the worn threads.

 Tapping in the new threads prior to inserting the helicoil
which will form the new threads for the rod.

 The helicoil just before insertion, Dick had coated it
with Red Loctite to ensure it stayed in place in the long run.

It was at this point that things went slightly askew.  The helicoil was inserted a little bit too deep and while Dick tried to back it off, the helicoil somehow jumped a thread and got stuck.

 The red stuff is in the loctite, you can see (hopefully)
that the helicoil is in too deep.

Much head scratching ensued.  Several attempts were made to try and get the helicoil bit that had jumped a thread to lift and lie correctly but no go.

The session ended with a stop as it was getting a bit late in the afternoon, while Dick and Brook sent off queries to the jig manufacturer describing the problem and seeing if there were any suggestions/solutions.

I rode back home and got to the usual sunset watching spot with Brigitta but the light was to show better further south due to clouds as Sunset approached.

I rode Brigitta instead to the church parking lot near the house and got these shots instead:

 Pikes Peak, America's Mountain

I checked with Brook and Dick on Monday and they'd solved the issued with the liberal use of Acetone to melt the Red Loctite and a jeweler's screwdriver that he successfully fit under the 1st thread so it could be bent. Then a pair of needle nose pliers were used to grasp the bent thread, and turned counter clockwise to eventually unwind the helicoil insert from the hole.

Brook went ahead and successfully installed a different helicoil into Dick's motorcycle engine and now all is well.  The loctite is curing and will be ready for this coming weekend when they'll reinstall the cylinder and new heads which Dick had procured.  Not sure I'll be be able to attend though, still, I'm glad the issue with the helicoil was fixed and it sure was a learning experience for me.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Uraling to Castlewood Canyon State Park

Fiona and I rode out past Parker and Franktown to the back entrance to Castlewood Canyon State Park.  I'd recently adjusted the butterfly plates on her carburetors and was testing out the new settings then required on the idle air mixture screws. 

Note:  Started the ride with the idle air mixture screws at 3/4 turns out from soft seat per the Clymer's manual for the carburetors on Fiona:  Bing 64/32/351 and 352.

Got to the back entrance to the state park, cruised down past the trailhead parking lots which were pretty much empty as it was the middle of the week.

Temperatures were in the mid to high 50s, the sun was out, it felt pretty warm; considering it had been in the high teens earlier in the week!

 Just in time for Thanksgiving, I ran across a rafter
of young turkeys feeding on the side of the road.

Rafter of Turkeys
(yes, that's what you call a gathering of Turkeys)

Soon enough, I got to the vicinity of the Castlewood Canyon Dam, or what remains of it after it collapsed and caused a flood in Denver back in August 3, 1933.  More info on the flood here:  LINK

 The remains of the dam

On can walk partway onto the top of the dam

Retracing my route back towards Franktown, I stopped Fiona to get this wintry scene:

Looks icy doesn't it, however it was quite good traction as it was a dirt road to start with and it seems some gravel had been spread on top of it as well.

Took the long way home by way of Elizabeth and Kiowa, much more enjoyable than driving north on Parker Road through the traffic mess that is the town of Parker.

Note: the air mixture screws setting, once Fiona was warmed up, led to idle RPMs of between 840-900.  Not bad, I turned out the screws 1/8 of a turn more, total of 7/8 of a turn from soft seat on the way home.

Now she idles at 960-1020 RPMs, and I like it better.  She's a bit smoother at idle as well.  All in all, a good test ride.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

A new battery for Scarlett and lunchtime ride's views of Mount Evans

Went to start Scarlett's engine at around 9AM for a quick ride to snap some pics of Mount Evans while the conditions were clear....but when I pressed the starter button all I heard underneath the seat was a "klunk".


No lights whatsoever when the ignition switch was on, and I noticed the voltmeter (which is hooked up directly to the battery) would turn off.  It usually stays on (consuming very little energy).  Hmmm.

Removed the seat (minor PITA), swapped out each relay in turn with a new one.  Nada, no lights.

Finally thought to put a meter on the battery, it would register 12.6 volts with nothing on, then drop to 4.6 volts when I turned the ignition on.  Dammit.

So I removed the battery (another minor PITA), put it in Fiona's sidecar and rode to the local auto parts store.  It registered 4.5 volts at their store, so their tool couldn't test it.  But we both figured it was toast, $114 later, I was enroute home with a new battery, this time an AGM battery with 310 Cold Cranking Amps.

I installed the new battery, added cushioning pads under and behind and to one side of it.  Secured all the wiring that I loosened to do troubleshooting and Scarlett cranked right up at the hit of the starter button!  Sigh.

By now it was lunchtime and the usual hazy conditions had moved in with the temperature.  It had soared to 46°F (7°C) so no need for heated grips!  The sun was warm upon me as I rode to the same area I rode to yesterday.

The snow was gone from the roads, leaving just muddy conditions.

 Mount Evans

The battery had been replaced back in DEC of 2016 so it almost lasted me two years.  I guess I must be hard on batteries, perhaps stopping and starting too much while taking pictures.

Monday, November 12, 2018

23rd Anniversary and a Snow Ride

Today marks 23 years since my loving wife Martha and I got married at my parent's home in California.

Yes folks, she's put up with me for 23 years, the woman should be sainted!

Here's a pic of the happy day, what the photo doesn't show was the nervous tic I had on my right eye....

I am sad to report, I recently tried to put on the Dress Blues jacket I wore at the wedding, and it doesn't fit any more.  Go figure!

We woke to light snow here in the Metro Denver area, but by 9AM the skies were clear and the sun was out.  We had perhaps 3 inches of snow accumulation and naturally I hurried out to take pics before the snow all melted away.

It was a brisk 17°F (-8°C) as Scarlett, my 2014 Ural Patrol Sidecar Rig and I rode out on snow-packed roads to the nearby ranching community where I hoped to find snow covered landscapes.

Sadly, the clouds were still hiding the mountains to the west so no views of the Rocky Mountains.  I did get nicely snow-packed/covered roads though and with the occasional slip and slide, meandered about for these pics:\

Temperatures had soared to 19°F (-7°C) by the time I turned Scarlett towards home, there was work to be done of course.