Sheldon's 1998 Ural Sportsman - Week 22 and Beyond

stlouis.jpg (11297 bytes)9/19/98 Saturday Day 148...  Got up and fired up the computer to send some e-mail and check the discussion group at   "No Connection", my modem was dead.  Worked on it for an hour but couldn't get it to go.  It appears that either my PCMCIA slot or the actual modem was dead.  The modem is a Ethernet/Modem combo card and very expensive.  In the $350 USD range and something I don't relish having to replace.  No internet at all!!!!   Argh.....

So it was off for my second trip to the Arch, and this time I get to go up to the top with my friends Heidi, Keith, and Peter.  Had my Minolta X700 35mm, with a few lenses, and a Polaroid with me and when I pulled out the Minolta the batteries were dead.   The Polaroid took terrible pictures through the double pane glass in the viewing windows.  The photo at right is not one of mine.  Took in a few meetings during the day then went off on a bus tour of St. Louis in the late afternoon.  St. Louis was founded in the 1770s by the French and has a rich history so there was plenty to see.   Ended the tour with a trip to the Busch Brewery to visit the Clydesdale horses.   Horses are about the last thing on earth that I find interesting but these are more than horses, they are HORSES!  Six feet at the back and absolutely massive.   About the only thing we have bigger here in Northern Minnesota is our Moose.

In the evening it was off to a buffet dinner at the hotel and in bed by midnight.


9/20/98 Sunday Day 149...  Went with Scott and Steve to the Union Station mall to do a bit of shopping and look at the architecturally significant building.  They were looking at "Beanie Babies" so I had to ask what they were.  It appears that I must be the only one on Earth who doesn't know what they are but they, and the sales person at a store did their best to explain why these little critters are worth up to $500 USD each.  I ended up buying a couple of them for my grandchildren.  I am told that I am going to be a massive hero for bringing them back.  I still don't get it but I do love being a hero...   Also stopped at a camera store and had them put new batteries in the 35mm.   Still didn't work but once back to my hotel I cleaned the contacts then banged the camera on the table several times.  Must have shook something loose as it fired up again.

Another trip to the Arch at 5:00 p.m but a bit too late to go up.  It was closed when we got there so didn't get a chance to go up again but spent more time in the museum.   In the evening we had a dinner cruise on a Mississippi Riverboat.  The meal was one of the worst I have had in years.  Steak was like shoe leather, salad was wilted and the waitress even tripped and dumped a basket of break on top of me.  Ate what I could and went to the top deck to watch the skyline float past.  Nice, young lady from Iowa sidled up to the rail next to me and we talked for the rest of the evening.   Turns out she is an x-biker.  No bike now as she traded them for horses when she got divorced a couple of years ago.  I tired to explain that there were no engines on those horse things and I couldn't find much use for them but she certainly didn't understand that.  But she is planning on getting another bike soon and promised to visit Duluth.  We shall see...

My how times changed.  She gave me her e-mail address.  Didn't they used to pass out telephone numbers?  Back to my room by 11:00 and just sat and stared at the laptop.  No modem, no internet, no fun...  Sat and wrote a statement for my day in court this week.  Cranked out several pages and hit the hay...

9/21/98 Monday Day 150...   Got up, stared at the laptop some more and decided to go for a walk.    Shot a roll of black and white film before even getting to the Arch.  Once there though it was up to the top again to shoot another roll of color print film.  A beautiful, clear day, and lots to film.  Took in a couple of meetings and went back to the trade show for a few minutes.  Finished up the day with the big dinner/dance where Bob Owens, the president of Owens Forest Products was inducted in as President of the National Hardwood Lumber Association.  After the dinner they had a group from Chicago Illinois called "Odyssey" entertain.  They were wonderful and had us rolling in the aisles.   Then there was a program with the induction, and a couple of hours of dance music.   Luckily two of Bob and Mary Ellen's daughters were there to entertain me.   Danced all but one dance and realized that I must be getting a bit older.   These thirty something ladies just about wore me out but a wonderful time was had by all.

9/22/98 Tuesday Day 150...  Off to the airport and back to Duluth.  Unfortunately I got back too early and had to go to the office for the day.  After work I had a meeting to go to so didn't get home in time to take the Ural out.  Also realized that I had misplaced my keys.  I thought I had left them on my desk at work when I left but they weren't there.  Luckily there are spare keys scattered all over my house and I just have to figure out which they are.   Not an easy thing to do as I have collected keys for all my life.  I have keys to every car I have ever owned, and some that I haven't, every house I ever lived in, and some I haven't.  Just picked up keys everywhere I could for many years.  There are literally thousands of keys around my house and not many are marked, so finding the right ones is going to be kind of like putting together a 1000 piece puzzle.  And as soon as I get the right set assembled my keys will certainly show up.

9/23/98 Wednesday Day 151... 8:00 and off to the dentist where I had two root canals done.  Not a good way to start ones day.   Home after work and planned on taking the bike out but it started raining just after I arrived.  No riding again tonight.  I was told today that I will be appearing in court tomorrow but they didn't know what time I would be called so they told me I should be there at 9:00.  I decided to take a day of vacation.  I have to give a tour of Old Duluth at 3:00 for a group from the Minneapolis area so there just didn't seem to be much point in dropping in at the office.  It is kind of ironic that I will be giving a tour, for tourists, of the buildings that the developers say have "no historic significance" and they want to tear down.  Seems funny that people would travel 150 miles to see buildings with "no historic significance".   Should be an interesting day on Thursday.

9/24/98 Thursday Day 152...   Spent the morning testifying in court and amazingly enough,  I really enjoyed it.   Found myself up against a couple of very high powered lawyers.  They were definitely not prepared to be be pitted against an orator.  Jousting with them was great fun and by the end of the testimony I think they felt like their feet were stuck in clay.  I used every one of my acting skills and they used every one of their lawyering skills.  Hehe...  Acting 1, lawyering 0.

When I showed on the street corner to give my tour there were about 30 people, mostly construction workers, giving a press conference.   There they are, on one side of the street telling the press how wonderful it would be to tear down these old dilapidated buildings, and I'm on the other side of the street explaining to 45 tourists about the historic value of the same buildings. 

Had another meeting at 6:00 p.m., then home.  Walked in the door, put down my bag, picked up the Ural key and hit the road.  Racked up some more miles on a bike that was running almost like a Swiss watch.  Sure feels nice to have the bike running so well.

9/25/98 Friday Day 153...    Rode the bike to work and of course it ran perfectly.  I've been waiting for the other shoe to drop but it just seems to be running better and better every day.

Got a call from the local PBS affiliate.  They want me for a talk show this evening at 8:00.  Should be fun...

Moderated talk show with me on one side and the CEO of the Chamber of Commerce on the other.  He is a very nice person just seems to be stuck on the other side of the issue.  He has to say a lot of things that it is quite obvious he doesn't really believe.  We had a nice chat wherein I thought we both came across well.

I hate to get into too much detail here about what is happening here but it is a part of my life right now and is taking quite a bit of my energy.  We have been seeking "Historic Preservation District" designation for the part of Duluth known at "Old Duluth".  It is made up of historic building many of which are over 100 years old.  The city has been trying to block the designation for some time.   Now the reason has come out.  A developer wants to tear down one block of the district and plop a new building in the middle of all the historic buildings.  We would lose several buildings that are of definite historic and architectural value but even worse we would lose all chance of preserving the entire district.  This property has become the prime real estate in the city and the developers would profit tremendously if they owned it.  There has been a lawsuit filed by a local doctor, at his own expense, to have the project moved to another location.  I have tried to stay out of it but last week I was subpoenaed to appear in court.  Once in I could do nothing but tell of my beliefs in court.  I am not against the project and even not against it at that location.  I do advocate that they keep, and restore, the facades of the old buildings and incorporate them into a new building designed to blend into the other buildings in the neighborhood.  Both sides are adamant about their positions and I find myself somewhere in the middle.  It is a very emotional, and political issue, and I would really rather not be involved.  It is a 33 million dollar project so the stakes are high.

How emotional?  I have been told that there is a rumor going around that I participated in the lawsuit financially and that the doctor and I are old friends.   Truth is that I had never met him before a week ago, and I am not a party to the suit in any way, shape or form, and only got involved because I was subpoenaed.   Because of this rumor, I have been told that some members of the construction trade have threatened my life.  I have been told that "they are asking where you live".  And that they are going to "take care of you".  Do you suppose that means they are going to come to my house and clean or cook?  Sometimes I think that I really do need someone to take care of me...

I'm not too concerned though as I suspect it is just a bit a bravado on their part.

Took another ride when I got home about 9:00.  I do have to figure out how to adjust my headlight.  I have the aftermarket windshield and the brackets are too short.  The screen rubs against the top of the headlight and there is no adjustment left so one is not able to adjust the light all the way down.  It is lined up perfectly, until I sit on the bike.  Then the headlight is too far in the air.   I've only ridden it a few times at night so it hasn't been all that important but with the days getting shorter I am now starting to ride to work in the dark and soon it will be dark coming home also. 

I now have 4,000km on the bike.

(It is now late Sunday night.  Didn't get a chance to post any more but no one showed up to take care of me this weekend.  I'm feeling neglected...  but I did get to put another 100km on the bike.)

(It is now Sunday 10/4/98 and I have not posted for a week.  Sorry, just so very busy.  I will get back to it later in the coming week.  I will be in the Green Bay Area until Wednesday and my modem in my laptop is still not working.  I will try to post when I get back.)


(Thursday 10/8/98, busy, busy, busy.  I was in the Green Bay area for the first part of the week.  The weather was horrible so I didn't take the bike with.  Had planned on it but I am glad I didn't.  It rained the whole time.  When I got home Wednesday night I had so much catching up to do that I didn't get to ride.   Hopefully I will get a putt in tonight.)

Sunday 10/11/98, It has been a beautiful weekend here in Duluth.  In the 60's F. during the day.  For this time of year that is about 20 degrees above normal.  I managed to get a good ride in on each day.  Saturday I had a date with an old girlfriend.  We haven't dated in several years and last week we went to dinner.  Yesterday she came over for dinner and about the first thing she said was, "Maybe we should go for a ride and look at the leaves".  When we dated before it was during the one short period of my life that I didn't have a running bike.  And in talking to her earlier in the week she related a stories of dates who took her for motorcycle rides that weren't all that pleasant.  So I never expected when she said, "on the bike".  We had a blast, riding through Jay Cooke State Park, where the leaves are in full color, the river is running heavy and the rapids and waterfalls are at their best.  Then home to cook shrimp scampi over linguini and watch a movie.  All in all a great night.

Ural on woodland trail near Cloquet MinnesotaEarlier in the day I got the Guzzi engine running.  Picked it up from the motorcycle electrician on Friday night and it was pretty exciting to hear it run again.   Trouble was that when we tried to put it in gear it didn't go anywhere.  It appears that the clutch is not engaging.  I had hoped to get a look at it today (Sunday) but it turned out to be too good of a riding day.  The Ural and I went for a ride in the country.  We found ourselves facing a narrow, private bridge across the Cloquet river.  It appeared to be owned by a paper mill, but there is was, ahead of me with the gate open.  It was too inviting, so I crossed it.  At the other end there was a trail that appeared to be a small road but for snowmobiles and ATVs.  I started to follow it and after about two miles it was apparent that it was a minimum maintenance road.  I did find a sign that said, "No vehicles exceeding 1,000 GVW allowed on this trail".  I figured I was borderline, but who was going to weigh me?  So I kept going.  Passed several ATVs and the road just seemed to go on and on.  At spots it was almost washed out, other spots were rough with dips, holes and hollows, but other areas were very smooth.  Most of the way I was traveling at 10-15mph, but I did get it up to about 35 in one long stretch.  It was great riding, beautiful weather, and traveling through a hardwood forest, in full color, was a real treat. By the time I reached the end of the trail I had traveled just about 20 miles.   It sure seemed like a long distance at those speeds.  There was nothing that the Ural couldn't handle and it was great fun.  Then off on county roads for a ways until the clouds started to roll in and the rain drops started hitting the windshield.   Off to home and onto the computer to work on web sites.

BTW, on Friday they destroyed the buildings that I had been trying to save.   Bummer.  I watched them tearing into them but I only lasted about 15 minutes.   It just about made me physically ill to watch a neighborhood that has been such a big part of my life destroyed.  I only hoped that they would have saved the facades of the buildings to incorporate them into the new building but that can no longer happen.   Check out my Tour of Old Duluth site for the Judge's complete ruling and a bit of history of the buildings and district.

Sunday December 27, 1998...  It has been some time since I have updated the diary and I suppose it is about time that I catch you up a bit.

The bike ran flawlessly until the week before Thanksgiving.  I had noticed for a few days that the starter/generator was becoming just a bit noisier but it was nowhere near as bad as it was when it fell apart some months ago.  That Saturday I went over to Carlton to visit my friend John Zabrocki, who recently purchased a Moto Guzzi V11.   He owns an embroidery shop and is putting together patches for NARMA.  About eight miles into the ten mile trip, the gen/starter started making such a clatter.  I slowed to a crawl and limped to his shop, parked it, and after visiting he drove me home and I went back with the truck.  Picked the bike up and figured my riding season had come to an end until I could get it repaired.

I went home with the intent of waiting until Monday then driving to Garrison to drop off the bike.  After about a half hour at home I decided there was no time like the present.  Tried calling Marlow but there was no answer.  When I arrived at his shop he had just gotten home from a trip the Minneapolis and we unloaded the bike and rolled it into the barn.  He told me that he was pretty much on vacation for a while but he would get to it as soon as he could.  Thought it might take a month or so until he could get it done as, being a boat dealer, he pretty much shuts down for the winter.  He is also going to do the 5000km check up, try to figure out why the tranny is popping out of gear, and give the bike a general going over.

It is now a little more than an month since I dropped it off.  I have not heard a word from him.  I have e-mailed, faxed and called almost daily but can't find him around.  I can only assume that he is still on vacation.  The snow is falling here, finally and we now have about 10 inches on the ground.  I am wanting to take the bike out and give it a winter shakedown but until I hear something I shall just have to be patient.  That is quite difficult though.  I want to ride!!!  Oh well.

Otherwise I have just been working, working, and working.  The NARMA web site is starting to really take off and we now have our own domain, NARMA.ORG.  We have almost 30 members now and it looks like there will be many bikes of all types coming to Duluth this summer for the first ever rally.  I'm hopeful that we may have as many as 100 bikes.  That would not be bad for the first year, and for a group with such unusual bikes.  We are planning great rides, a tin-foil hat contest, a pasty feed (ya have'ta ask someone from Northern Minnesota or the U.P. of Michigan what they are), a BBQ, games, and music. 

So far, we have one of the warmest winters on record here in Northern Minnesota, and I am hoping that it holds out through  what are usually, the coldest months of the year.  I probably won't have much to write until I get the bike back.  I do so miss her.

Tuesday January 19, 1999...  Attempted to pick up my new Deco Classic today..............

Continue with Sheldon's Ural adventures in his new Deco Diary "God Must Have a Sense of Humor"

Thursday April 29, 1999...  Update on Sportsman... I have decided to sell the Deco and keep the Sportsman.  The Deco is very nice, and dependable, and stable at higher speeds, but the Sportsman just has something special about it.  I now know a good sampling of the Ural owners in North America and no one had as many problems as I had.  Mine was an unusual one, but I have fallen completely in love with it and would probably never get rid of it.  I plan on buying another Ural next winter but for now I am sticking with the Sportsman.  It is running so sweetly right now, although I am still operating off the 14 amp alternator with no electric start.  The 35 amp alternator has been on a very slow ship from Russia since November.  I am told that they really should be here soon but the bikes runs fine without it.  I now really want the 35 amps so that I can add auxiliary lights.   The bike has over 5000km on it and that considering that it was out of commission most of the winter while I rode the Deco.  It almost always starts on the first kick, and considering what it was like in the beginning that is a miracle, and recently after sitting for two weeks, I hand cranked it twice, then kicked it once and it purred to life.

The Deco reminds me of dating a well bred ballerina.  The Sportsman makes me feel like I am dating a lovable, very outgoing, slightly overweight, endearing, laugh a minute, wild, kick-boxer...  I guess I prefer the latter...

So, if anyone is looking for a 1998 Ural Deco Classic, Blue/Cream, windshield, electric start, rear rack, let me know...  If anyone wants my Sportsman, you will have to be tougher than she and I together to pull us apart...


Saturday, October 6, 2007...  A lot has changed since my last posting here.  Check out my other diaries at: to see just what has been going on in my life since then.  But one thing is for sure:  "The more things change the more they stay the same", or another cliche, "things go full circle." 

Those who have known me for awhile know that my first Ural was a 1998 Ural Sportsman two-wheel-drive, O.D. Green, my second was a 1998 Deco Classic and my third one was a 2003.5 Patrol two-wheel-drive which look almost exactly like my original Sportsman. The main differences: the 1998 had a full differential and the 2003.5 had a lockable rear end, the 1998 was kick start and the newer ones have electric start. I never saw a huge difference between the older 650cc and the newer 750cc and otherwise they are very similar.

At 6:00 p.m. today a 1998 Ural Sportsman, almost exactly like my first one, with only 4,800 miles on it showed up in my driveway. Really a bit of a miracle. Turns out that Dell at St. Croix Harley/Ural in New Richmond WI couldn't stand the idea of my not having a bike and took pity on me. He'd picked this '98 up at a very good price and made it available to me in a deal that was so, so very low that I just could not pass it up. Practically gave it to me, and that IS in the literal sense. He certainly is one of the "good guys" in my book. For being almost ten years old the darn thing is almost like new. He even threw a set of the tractor seats in the trunk. To me the bench seat never looks quite right on a Ural so I'll be swapping it out right away.  Dell sent someone all the way to Detroit to pick it up, then had to re-wire part of it, put on new carburetors as the original ones had been swapped for the Russian Federation ones, and he replace the generator with the 35amp alternator and electronic ignition.  He did a bunch of work to get it running, but the thing runs like a sewing machine and every thing feels tight.  When I went out to start it awhile ago it started on the first kick.

I'll not be able to ride long distances like I could before, but for taking Nakia for rides around Stillwater, going to the grocery store, and just general winter goofing off it is going to be a blast.

One can't even imagine how, after 42 years of riding, not having a bike for a whole summer tore at me. Seeing my friends at rallies was wonderful, but not being able to go riding with them really hurt, and seeing the thousands of bikes that pass my house any weekend day actually brought tears to my eyes a few times. The doctor bills have completely depleted my retirement funds and having a fun car was a little bit of a relief but I really didn't think that I'd be up on a bike again. But... Life is good.

Probably isn't the best to be bopping around on ten year old tires so I'll probably swap them out in the spring, although before then I will probably put a set of knobbies on for winter.  I've got a pair of leg protectors but don't have the brackets but it shouldn't be too hard to work some of them up.  Also I'll have to look around to see if I can find a pair of hand protectors.  I had an extra set but gave them to the new owners when I sold my Patrol.  It is also missing the gas can from the side of the sidecar so I'll have to snag one of them to have the right look.  We are in for fun now!!!

Oh, and it needs to be cleaned.  Looks like it has been sitting for awhile and it is covered with dust and some Michigan soil on the tires.
Photos at:


Week: Intro, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22 and beyond..

You can e-mail Sheldon at

Check out the "European Motorcycle Universe" at

And Sheldon's Deco Diary at:

Copyright 1998-2007, Sheldon T. Aubut, all rights reserved
Last modified: March 22, 2011
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