Sheldon's 1998 Ural Deco - Week 1
"God Does Have a Sense of Humor"
Note: February 29, 2000 Please keep in mind, while reading these missives, that my two Urals are 1998 models. I did have some problems with them, but Ural America listened to me, and to other owners and made changes at the factory in Russia, or at their plant in Washington state, that solved all of these problems on later models. The 1998.5 and newer models came with a better ignition system, electric start on the flywheel, different carburetors and many more changes. My bikes are wonderful rigs, but the newer ones from Ural America are much more refined. If one were to buy a new Ural you would most certainly not encounter the same teething problems that I did. Mine were a magnitude of refinement over the early 1993-94 models, just as the new ones are over mine. The new ones also come with a three year warranty which is probably the best in the motorcycling world. -- Sheldon Aubut
Day 1, Tuesday January 19, 1999 (lots of 9's there)... Sitting here at my computer typing, and watching "Two Fat Ladies" on the Food Channel on Direct TV. They are two elderly ladies who travel the English countryside on a Triumph Thunderbird with Watsonian Jubilee sidecar. They are a hoot. Funniest thing I have seen on TV in years. And educational to boot. It a befitting intro to this tome, considering the title "God Does Have a Sense of Humor". He certainly must, as he put me on this Earth to entertain himself.
Last summer the Wolf's Head Rally, which was held in Cloquet Minnesota raffled off a 1998 Blue/Cream Ural Deco Classic with tractor seat, chrome rear rack, electric start and tire cover options. At the rally I bought four chances on the bike and as you might guess, didn't win. The winner was a NON-RIDING (can you believe that) gentleman from the Cloquet area. He DIDN'T WANT the bike. I can't even imagine that... It is beyond comprehension... He picked it up and some time later dropped it at the dealer's, Northern Sports in Garrison Minnesota, where Marlow, the owner, to put it back on the showroom floor. As winter settled in and the bike was still unsold, the winner told Marlow to drop the price.
I had called Marlow to chat about the progress of the repairs on my Sportsman which was in his shop waiting to have the combination Starter/Generator replaced with the high output 35 amp alternator. In the conversation he reminded me that the Blue/Cream Deco was still there and asked if I would mention it on the NARMA ListServe. I posted it on the NARMA List, the SideCar list, and even mentioned it on the Guzzi list. Unfortunately my mind must have been turning to mush again a the same time. This thing was starting to soak in.
I didn't hear from Marlow for some time as he shuts down for a while in December. He is mostly a boat dealer and there just isn't a whole lot of boat business once winter settles in here in Northern Minnesota. I was getting a bit concerned because I couldn't get hold of him but finally about the 4th of January we connected. We chatted about my Sportsman, his new Ural Bavarian Classic which was on the way from Ural America, and about the unsold Deco.
Shoot, Derek Smith couldn't wait to hear more. He had to call me from Canada to hear what you have to wait for... So now I am tied up talking with my buddy... Be right back...
Well, back to the story: Marlow told me that the winner of the Deco, notice I didn't call him "owner" as he never even transferred the title, had dropped the price considerably. I got a bit excited about that and posted around the net that the price was dropping even more and someone should pick up this bike.
Now if you remember my Diary #1 you know that when I first went to Garrison it was to look at this bike. But when I got there I found that I couldn't operate the rear brake. But this is the bike I originally wanted. And you know how these things go, once they get stuck in your brain the just take hold and are impossible to get out. I started thinking, "If I just wear my Wellington boots which are much more narrow than my normal motorcycle boots I should be able to do it." And, "so what if I just bought another new bike in May. This is an investment." And "Hey I live alone, I have no one to answer to." Of course that is a bit of self justification, but who is here to stop me from doing it.
Just out of curiosity, I hope you understand, I called my friendly neighborhood banker, yes they do still exist, and asked him what would happen if I re-did my loan to cover another bike. I was thinking "Ah, I probably can't afford it anyway, and they probably wouldn't do it, and I really am going to need a truck instead." But no, they refused to refuse me!!! He said to "go for it." Imagine, someone telling ME to buy a motorcycle... Well, of course you know what happened next... Got the check, made the trip...
Last night, Monday, I called my friend and lifelong "Bro" Tony Talarico and asked if I could borrow one of his trailers to go get the bike. Earlier in the day I had told Son #1 that I was going to get another bike, (He stood there shaking his head for several minutes) and he asked, "And just how do you think you are going to unload it?" You see, I had forgotten, in my passion for this bike, that it is Winter. That is with a capital "W" here in the Northland. Usually I drive the truck into the ditch, up on the lawn and back it into the ditch. That ends up with the tailgate at roadway level and we can roll the bike off onto the road with little trouble. Well, what he was trying to tell me that where the ditch is there is now a huge snow bank. Not as bad as some winters but certainly too much to preclude unloading of the bike. So off to Tony's I go last night to get one of his Harley hauler trailers. This one is about an 18 footer with a semi-tractor roof air deflector mounted on the front to protect the bikes from road stuff. Picked it up last night and pulled it to work this morning with the intention of leaving at noon and heading down to Garrison to get the bike.
We were expecting a new server today at work and it didn't show, then it didn't show, then it didn't show. So finally I left work at 3:15 and headed straight off to Northern Sports. Got about forty miles down the road when I hear this squealing from the back of the truck or trailer, and it got very hard to pull. Pulled to the side of the road, felt the hubs for heat, nothing, pushed on the wheels to see if a bearing was out, and they felt fine, looked in the snow behind the trailer and it appeared that one of the right side wheels was locked up. Figured it might be a stuck break so I backed the rig up and everything seemed fine. So I took off and there were no further problems the next 70 miles to Garrison.
When I arrived we went in and did the paperwork, Marlow joined NARMA (four year membership!), and took a few pictures. After a while we went outside to move the trailer to the garage door. Of course I didn't want to make Marlow feel bad by a demonstration of my incredible abilities at backing up trailers so I asked him to do it. Of course if I had tried he might not have a shop left. Especially this trailer, as it is impossible to see around or through. As Marlow was backing it in, and I was trying to show him how far he had to go, I suddenly was distracted when I noticed that one wheel was sitting at about a 75 degree angle. Oh my... The photo on the Left is Marlow holding the pieces of the wheel bearing.
We loaded the bike up and Marlow went looking through his bins of bearings. After all, the guy is a boat and trailer dealer, but wouldn't you know it, he was out of that size. And there were no parts shops open within 30 miles. We talked about taking it home with only one wheel on the right side of the trailer but I wasn't very thrilled about that. I finally called Tony on the cell phone and asked him what to do. He said that I could probably make it home on the one wheel, but it wouldn't be worth taking a chance. I would be traveling on US 210 which at that time of night is a pretty desolate stretch of highway, on a very cold night and he didn't think I should take the chance of ending up with the whole rig in the ditch. He said he would feel terrible if something happened, and I said that I would also. So, Marlow said that I should leave the trailer, he would fix the bearing and deliver the bike to my house on Saturday. I told him that I would take he and his girlfriend to dinner if he did that. Notice the missing shoe on the trailer in above photo.
So now I have to wait a bit longer to get my first ride on my new Deco. Do you think this will bother me???? It is 11:20 and that is enough for tonight. I need to get to bed as tomorrow will be a long day. They are coming with my server at 7:00 a.m. and I have contractors coming to my house to hang doors at 9:00. So it is to work by 6:00 then home at 8:30, then back to work once I get the contractors going. Considering that the new doors for my whole house have been piled in my living room for almost two years, and they said they could do it tomorrow but then probably for another year as they are so busy, I guess I should be here no matter what is going on at work. I will hit NARMA chat before hitting the bed and I hope you all have a good night, I am going to go count Urals till I go to sleep...
Oh, I forgot to mention falling on the ice at the gas station along the way and mashing my knee and elbow... Just added to a fun day. Blood through the clothes and the whole works. As I was driving away from the gas station I started laughing, and asked God what he would do next to me today. I said I was ready for anything, so I really had a laugh when we found the wheel bearing out... So did he, I suspect. G'nite...
Day 2, January 20, 1998... Not much motorcycle news today. I worked on installing a new server at the office, picked up several new customers, and generally had one of those work hard, concentrate too much, burn the brain out days that just BEG FOR A MOTORCYCLE TO RIDE!!! Oops, sorry, kind of lost it there for a minute. The Guzzi is in the garage still with transmission problems. I will address that some day but for now I am just way to wrapped up in these crazy Russian bikes. The Sportsman is at Northern Sports waiting for the 35 amp alternator and the second tractor seat, and the Deco is also at Northern Sports waiting for a bearing on it's trailer. My how nice it would be to get on a bike and go for a ride in the snow, but NOOOOOO.... I instead worked late... My time will come my friends...
Today I ordered T-shirts for NARMA. The first ones are going to be very high quality, black 100% cotton, with the NARMA logo embroidered over the heart. I did get in trouble with Derek Smith and Tom Jordon though when I implied that when I post them on the web site I will be modeling. They almost went ballistic, made all kinds of rude and crude comments about that idea, and suggested that I might then have to pay people to take them. They suggested that I look for some other model, and I do have someone in mind. I was told that if the shirts come in on time we may have the completed product by Friday and maybe I will have a photo on the web site sometime over the weekend.
It is late, and have some work to do before I can get to bed so off I go. Tomorrow I will call Marlow and see how he is coming with the trailer, and ask if he has any word on the back ordered parts for the Sportsman.
Day 3, Thursday January 21, 1999... Never got around to calling Marlow today. Just got too busy at work. Not a whole lot to write about as there are no bikes around and I am sure you don't want to hear about my adventures with computers. Been carrying doors to the basement this evening. The company that I work for owns a door manufacturing plant in Wisconsin. About two years ago, in a moment of weakness, I had the plant cut custom poplar doors to fit all of the doors in my house, including closets. They have been piled against my living room wall for two years now, and I finally hired a contractor to put them up. I also bought white porcelain and brass handles for all the doors and kitchen cabinets. They do look incredible but even better, I ended up with a whole bunch of old doors that will become shelves in my shop. There is always a bright side to things...
Just watched John Water's "Polyester" on TV, while I check out the NARMA chat area. That is one weird movie. But then I kind of enjoy weird.
Only two more days until Marlow delivers the bike. I hope the weather holds out. Last night the weather people were talking about 17-20 inches of snow Friday but today they are saying it will go south of us. Southern Minnesota and Wisconsin look like they are going to get hit pretty bad. Hopefully we won't get it, I am already going crazy with winter and no bikes.
Day 4, January 22, 1999... Another day on the ranch; printers that don't work, computers that don't work and people who should work, but don't. Challenge after challenge, but never boring. Can't imagine what I would do if the job ever got mundane. I'd probably go out of my tree and the Bosnian peace keeping force so I could have a job almost as exciting.
Talked to Marlow today and he is still planning on delivering the bike to me tomorrow, Saturday. He hadn't yet gotten a new bearing for the trailer but he said he was going to get one this afternoon. So far it looks like the snowstorm is going to the South of us and they are getting it from Minneapolis straight East across the Midwest. But we here in Duluth only received about an inch. I do love these mild winters. Anyone that sees the "Greenhouse Effect" as a problem has never lived in Duluth. We look on it as the best thing that has happened around here in tens of thousands of years. Sure beats the Ice age that they were predicting just a few years ago, and the popularity of 40 degree F. above normal is unbelievable. Of course the snowmobilers are a bit dismayed. They have started setting up prayer circles to pray for snow. Hehehe...
All week long I have been trying to get hold of the company Symphony tickets. The Duluth-Superior Symphony Orchestra is one of the best in the Nation. Finally put my hands on them at 3:30 this afternoon. Started calling my female friends to see if one of them would like to accompany me, but on such short notice I had missed my chance. Pretty much went through my list of potential loves, moved on to very close friends, then into the list of friends, and even made a couple of calls to people who aren't friends but are female. I was about to the point of calling male friends, but I am afraid that most of them would rather go to a hockey game than the symphony. I could just picture one of them there forgetting where they were and yelling at the goalie, before they realize the goalie has a baton. So bumming, I headed home. Two tickets and no date, wondering just how low I would sink to find a partner to go with. Even thought about just driving up and down the downtown streets yelling at passers-by, "Want to go to the Symphony?" Probably wouldn't have worked anyway.
If any of you read the Sportsman Diary I, you may recall that one day, soon after buying my Sportsman, I ran across some friends at a restaurant and my friend Lisa jumped in the car and became one of my first passengers. She never even waited for an invitation and she just seemed so at home in the hack. She is a very beautiful lady with one of the nicest hearts of anyone I know. I have always thought that I could only hope to find someone like her someday, but we have been friends for quite some time and I hope that we are friends for life.
As I walked in the door my phone was ringing. It was Lisa. We chatted for a little while when she started to tell me about her recent trip to India for a two week visit when I said, "Wait, would you like to go to the Symphony and dinner tomorrow night, then we can talk all we want?" She said, "I'd love to." So from not having a date, and even trying to give the tickets away, to having a date with a one in a million lady, all in an hour. Once more God exercises his sense of humor, and keeps my life interesting.
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