Texas to Tuktoyaktuk by Ural!
So I just turned 27 this past June and suddenly realized that my days of complete freedom were quickly coming to a close. My wife and I have been quietly discussing having kids, the idea of finding and keeping a career is growing evermore important, and I just feel like there’s not much time left before my life as a lazy vagabond is apprehended by responsibility. So, with that in mind, I talked my wife into driving across North America with me in our 2007 Gear Up.
For the past year, I’ve been planning and preparing. I became obsessed with compiling gear and parts and tools… I’m certain that this site only fed my habit. I bought so much stuff that I soon realized it wouldn’t even fit in my Suburban let alone on my bike. So I somehow condensed my list of stuff and made a pretty good effort in not taking too much stuff. I impressed myself, I must say.
- riding gear: Rev’it!
- helmets: HJC and Shoei
- heated clothing: Gerbing
- communications system: AutoCom
- GPS: Garmin 478
- duffels: North Face
- security: Pacsafe
- tent and bags: Mountain Hardware
- cots: LuxoryLite
- cameras: GoPro wide, Canon 5D, Canon G9 (my wife is a pro photographer)
I’ve read literally hundreds of ride reports and yet over the past year I couldn’t seem to be able to put together a definite route. I decided that I’d rather just hit the road and not worry too much about it. The only thing I needed to know is that we will start in San Antonio, TX, stay off all main highways, and our goal is Tuktoyaktuk, Canada. There are definitely some things we’d like to see but we really just want to be free with this trip.
The bike is a 2007 Ural Gear Up. A few have toured pretty extensively with such a rig, but it will provide quite a different touring experience than most bikes. I haven't made many modifications: an extra gas can to the hack, highway peg (yes, I said peg), electric clothing, comm system, GPS. This thing is ready for the road!
Before we left, we did a few tests to make sure we were ready:
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We’ve actually already hit the road and had a handful of experiences. I guess I need to get everyone up to speed…and if anyone is interested, we're doing a more interactive blog at www.bugsonmyface.com
We left our house in San Antonio at about 8 am. We definitely tried to get out earlier because it has been ruthlessly hot in this part of the country and we wanted to enjoy a few cooler moments on the road, but we’ve never been a couple that sticks to our schedule.
Anyway, the first hour of riding was great. Not much traffic. Small country roads – even a little dirt.
Then, all of a sudden, as I’m pulling up a small hill, the bike dies. I pull off to the side of the road and get off to take a look at things. Nothing seems out of the ordinary and it starts up beautifully, so we take off once again. Then, five minutes later, it dies again and I’m barely able to muscle it off the road. We spend the next 4 hours sitting on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere while I try to do everything in my mechanical know-how. I pull the plugs, find that one is black, and begin focusing my energy on the left side. I check the valves. I pull the carb and do a bit of cleaning. I pull the airbox. I do absolutely everything I can think of but the bike refuses to run. Finally, after hours in the sun with no water or food, my wife convinces me to call for help. I am defeated. No pictures were taken during this part of the day - with the amount of curse words being thrown around, my wife doubted that it would be the proper time for a photograph.
Finally, I decide to call some friends to come pick us up with a trailer and as we’re sitting in the tiny bit of shade that we find under a small tree, a man stops and gets out of his car. Much to my chagrin, it is a good friend of my dad. He talks with us for a few minutes, hears that we’re okay and that we have a ride lined up, and leaves us with a chuckle. “All the way to Canada, huh?”, he says before taking off. Minutes later, our phones are choked with the calls of friends and family asking what has happened. Awesome.
Finally, after several more hours of waiting (thankfully a kind woman stopped and gave us water, grapes and cherries), we’re picked up and driven back home. After talking to Ken Storm (our faithful dealer), we decide to drive 5 hours to Dallas to stay with a friend and take our bike into Stormseller Motorcycles. What a day…what a depressing first day…
Day 1 mileage by bike: 60 miles
Day 1 mileage by car: 400 miles
We wake up the next morning, after getting into Dallas way too late the night before, and head over to Stormsellers. For those that don't know, Ken Storm is about as standup of a guy as any man walking the earth. I trust him. A lot.
Anyway, we get to the shop and bring the bike in. Ken and I start talking and checking some things: valves, carbs, plugs, airbox, etc.
Finally, after several hours, we realize that the engine has almost no compression. Something is very, very wrong. Ken tells me that he'd like to keep the bike for at least a day to check out some other things - namely, taking the heads off and having a look inside. After wandering around his shop a bit more we take our leave and head to my buddy's house to wait for a phone call.
a '55 Ural in the shop!
Later that night (yes, he worked into the night to get me some information), Ken calls and gives me horrible news. My left head needs to be replaced and he will need to order parts to do the job properly.
This news basically slows our trip to a stall. We only have a month and a half to go across North America, and this type of hold up is not what we were hoping for.
Again, dejected and defeated, we decide to head home the next day.
Day 2 mileage: 0
Day 3 and 4
So we went home, thinking that our bike was destined to sit in the shop for weeks while we waited for parts. I spent the next day pouting and acting generally pretty pissy while we went back to our normal way of life, sans Ural. Then, while sitting on the throne on Friday, I received a call from Ken.
"I have some good news, your bike is ready to go!"
I nearly jumped off the pot without taking care of my business first.
"How is this possible? I thought you had to order parts?"
"Well, let's just say I found a way..."
So Ken was a hero that day. We were both extremely excited and couldn't wait for the next day so that we could finally get our trip underway.
Day 3 and 4 mileage: 0
And this brings us to today.
My wife and I woke up this morning, tossed our gear in our car and headed to Dallas, once again.
We saw this bumper sticker on the way. I have to say, I kinda look like a hippie with my long hair and was scared.
We arrived at about 2 and were overjoyed to see our bike eagerly awaiting our return. Ken explained to me that he just happen to have a perfectly good, used head that (after getting it cleared with Ural first) was used to replace my broken parts under warranty. The main culprit had been a busted valve guide that was causing all sorts of problems.
Here's the little trouble maker.
I had never seen these models in person before - wowee.
Again with the '55.
Before I took off with my bike, however, Ken suggested I take it for a quick ride. I eagerly jumped on and took off down the street. Less than a mile later, the bike died. I coasted to the shoulder and immediately began spouting curse words. I called Ken on the phone and he was on the scene in minutes. He got out of his car, took a few minutes to assess the situation then asked, "Does it have gas?". I am a schmuck.
We returned to the shop, and I got my wallet out to pay. Yet, when I asked how much I owed, Ken told me $20! Twenty-freaking-dollars for hours and hours of work! And really, all I paid for was the extra tube and tube repair I had done by his shop. If that doesn't say something about how Ural takes care of their customers, I don't know what will. Not only that, Ken went out of his way to make my trip possible. I will not forget that...
With the savior of our trip.
Anyway, our trip was finally on! We spent the next 2 hours fighting our way out of the DFW area. Can I say I hate driving in the city? It sucks. We were sweaty and I was tired from all the stop and go but we were happy. It was weird - we were just happy to be on the road after such a strange couple of days.
When we finally got out of town, the ride really started. It was early evening, the roads were small and empty, and all seemed right with the world.
We stopped just outside of Dallas in a town called Mineral Wells for the night and we are stoked for what's coming next!
Day 5 mileage: 127 miles
Today was our first full day on the road and it was... hot. Not just hot, it was frickin' hot! I can't believe how much water we consumed and how dehydrated we still are. We definitely started out way too late (9:00 am) from Mineral Wells, TX and missed some of the cooler weather of the morning. We won't make that mistake again.
Either way, the day was filled with back roads and nearly empty highways. The perfect playground for the Ural.
And you can never complain about those Texas skies.
I believe my favorite moment of the day came when we came back to our bike after having lunch at Buck's in Knox City. A guy with an eye patch (no, i'm not kidding) was standing near our bike, checking her out, and as we walked up he chuckled and nodded,
"Now that is a kick ass bike. I have a heritage classic, but I'm guessing that not even my bike tracks as much stink as this."
"Well, sir", I said trying to hold back a laugh, "I wouldn't be surprised if you were right."
I definitely had never heard that phrase but will be using it soon.
Our seats were so hot after lunch, Kristen tried to cool it down with some water but I swear it immediately boiled off. It was ridiculous.
We then tried a few things to cool off, one involving some undressing in public. It turns out that if you douse your shirt with water, then put your riding jack back on, it cools you off for a short time. Better than nothing, I guess...
One of the more exciting moments of the day involved an unknown insect and the inside of my shorts.
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After spending 6, or so, hours on roads like this, getting blasted by the sun we stopped and did some of this.
Anyway, we made it to Plainview, TX and were tired enough to stop for the evening. By the way, the bike ran beautifully. Honestly better than ever - even in the heat.
Can't wait for tomorrow and for the cooler weather that we must be headed towards.
Day 6 mileage: 300 or so (I need to pay better attention tomorrow)
Click here for our Spot Tracker: http://share.findmespot.com/shared/f...VXqZ65BK7im4EK
It's always better to get the problems out of the way early.
Thank you for taking us all along.
Looking forward to more great pics and reports :clap
I feel your pain
I tried to take a little trip to the coast 100 - 120 miles on the Ural with my dog and made it about 15.
Towed it home, left the dog and took another bike but that's not the end of the story.
I replaced the right side piston, jug and head which required pretty much complete disassembly of the rig. Deepest I have ever been into a motor and have it run :lol3
Anyway she has run excellent since and I am planning a week long trip with the dog as we speak.
I can appreciate your tenacity in getting back on the road after THAT problem :clap Personally it has taken me about a thousand miles to build up some trust in the rig.
Safe travels and I am definately subscribed.
Day 6 and 7
We started off yesterday with burnt hands and kneecaps - for whatever reason, we had neglected to realize that we have a few parts of our bodies that are completely exposed to the sun. Whoops...
Anyway, we had much nicer weather as we entered into New Mexico via RR 1058. The sun was shinning but the breeze was much cooler than the dragons breath that beat us down through Texas.
At some point on our way towards Tucumcari, we came upon this nice, scenic viewpoint and decided to take a quick glamour shot. So we took this -
but immediately afterwards, Kristen leaned against the exhaust pipe, resulting in this:
As you can imagine, she wasn't very happy about that. But she's a trooper and I hardly heard anything about it. After stopping for lunch in Tucumcari and driving for a little ways north, we came upon a pretty threatening sight.
There were dark clouds and rain seemingly all around but instead of turning around and heading back the way we came, we decided to prepare ourselves and continue on through the weather. It took us a moment to get everything put in a few waterproof bags then we moved forward. The wind was incredible. It was impossible to keep the bike up to speed but thankfully there wasn't a heavy downpour. We eventually made it through the weather and began to climb towards Las Vegas, NM.
But as soon as the elevation started to rise, you guessed it, the bike freaked out. It spat and sputtered and complained and moaned as we struggled to keep a steady 30 mph. Thankfully, the scenery wasn't half bad even though I had to do a lot of this:
So we eventually stumbled into town at about 8 pm and decided to stay the night in a Best Western instead of camping. I just left the bike to be dealt with the next day.
So I woke up early after sleeping well and dug into my bike's problems. After consulting a few people, I pulled the plugs and cleaned them, pulled the air filter box and cleaned that, took the shim out of the needle in the carbs and cleaned those. Even with all that done, the bike still ran so horribly that I gave in and phoned for help. As we speak, an extremely kind and generous man named Chuck, who has never met me, is driving 180 miles from Clovis, NM to save our bike from any further damage I might bring upon it. Man, Canada seems a long way away...
Hangi n there brother!!!
Hang in there brother ans sista. :freaky
Things are bound to start looking up :deal
I have to say that with my last post came a lot of frustration. I'm just learning how to do a lot of this stuff on the go and am never aware if I'm really doing it correctly. But to catch up with pictures, the day started like this - with chores.
Kristen started with the important stuff, like getting us clean underwear, then headed up to complete a entry for our website leaving me to start work on the bike.
My portable workstation:
My beautifully fouled plugs:
A dirty, rotten punk that mocked me throughout all my work in the parking lot:
I finally broke after checking everything I could think of and finding that it still ran like crap. We ended up going to eat at the peak of my frustration across the street at a truck stop which ended up being the worst food I'd had in years. I couldn't even bring myself to take a picture.
After that, I threw my pride out the window, and called a fellow SS member, Chuck, to my aid. Now Chuck lives in Clovis, NM - 3 hours away! And he gladly drove up with a trailer and a ton of experience and wisdom to our rescue. He arrived and we immediately got down to it. First, we started the bike and he noticed that something sounded completely off straight away. It turns out that the washer that seats the spark plug on the right side was completely flat - which caused a leak. The plugs themselves were so fouled that they were pretty much useless anyway, so we chunked them and put new plugs in. Right away, the bike idled nicely. Did I just have Chuck come up to change out my plugs??? Thankfully, he was extremely thorough and we checked my airfilter again and also changed out my pilot jet. After screwing around a bit, my bike really felt like normal.
Chuck showing me a thing or two (or 20):
Chuck then suggested we take the bike - fully loaded - and test it out properly. So, we took a quick drive and found that everything seemed to run quite normal. SUCCESS!
Chuck - you're a super guy and we can't thank you enough for your time. Thanks so much and if you're ever in San Antonio and need anything, be sure to let me know.
After a hard day of work (cough, cough) we spent the last part of our night relaxing. Tomorrow we head up through the mountains!
Day 8 mileage: 23 miles
Day 9 and 10
After getting some much needed help and guidance from Chuck, we headed north towards Angel Fire. But not before Kristen caught up on reading her favorite publication.
Kristen and I had never been in this part of the country and were seriously floored by how unbelievably beautiful it was. I'm not totally sure, but I think it was 38 that took us north and I have to tell you, I've never been on a better ride. It was a two-lane road and we hardly saw any other cars. Unreal.
After having some lunch in Angel Fire, we kept heading north to Eagle Nest and Red River. If you haven't traveled in this area, you should. It is so gorgeous and late August seems to be ideal for the weather.
We then hit 522 in Questa until we connected with 159 - in Colorado! I have to say that we were pretty excited about getting here since we've had a few hiccups in our trip - mainly due to my ignorance in maintenance.
Feeling good, and with the bike running super strong, we kept on to Monte Vista and to South Fork before realizing that the sun was quickly setting behind the mountains. Luckily, we ran into a great little campground that was totally empty except for the manager.
Kristen had some fun with night photography as the sky gleamed with stars.
We slept amazingly good with the sound of the river in the background and the cool, mountain air filling our tent.
We woke early the next morning and prepared for a long day. I don't know if you guys know, but it's cold in the mountains! We, Texans, don't get weather like this very often, so Kristen and I bundled up and headed up through Lake City and on to Gunnison. Again, unbelievable riding and Elga stayed strong even at 13,500 ft (even if we had to go some stretches in 2nd gear)! Again, if you haven't ridden 149 between Creede and Lake City, you should.
We then rode to Gunnison which was actually a pretty cool town. I wish we could have stayed longer. But seeing as it was early afternoon, a decision had to be made - go west towards Montrose or east towards Buena Vista. "What about Aspen?", Kristen asked me. Aspen sounded great, so we plugged it into the GPS and blindly followed the seemingly direct route that it wanted us to go right through Gunnison National Forrest. After 20 minutes or so, we hit dirt. "Awesome", I thought. And it really was, for the first 30 minutes or so.
But after looking at our GPS again, and seeing that we still had 45 miles to go, we decided that it might be midnight by the time we rolled into Aspen at that pace. So, regretfully, we turned around. Making it back to Gunnison, we made the hard decision to bypass the mountains to the east and head west to Montrose. If we were going to make it to Canada, we definitely needed to eat some road.
On the way to Montrose via highway 50:
So we stayed in Montrose last night, but before sleeping I did a quick air filter cleaning, spark plug brushing and added some oil. A great day and a comfortable bed...
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