In August-September 2001 I rode a Ural 650 sidecar combination from the Caspian Sea to the Mediterranean along the planned Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil and gas pipeline route.
The pipeline has since been built; it's the green line.
The trip was the brainchild of my great good friend Tom Goltz, who dubbed it the 'Oil Odyssey.'
Tom spent much of the '90s based in Baku as a foreign correspondent for the likes of the New York Times and the Washington Post, covering the wars in Chechnya and Georgia and between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Kharabakh.
But in 2001 the story was oil and I think Tom wanted to be part of the story, not just report it. In 2000, he and a group of fellow Ural riders delivered the first barrel of Caspian crude down the planned pipeline route, carried in a sidecar. He conceived it as a charitable ride and publicity stunt; he arm-twisted the oil and pipeline companies and other benefactors to pay to sponsor bikes and riders, then contributed a big part of that money to NGOs helping the internally displaced Azeri refugees from the Nagorno-Kharabakh conflict, who lived in camps along parts of the pipeline route in Azerbaijan. He also held press conferences along the way to draw attention to the refugees' plight and espouse his position was that oil companies and governments that stood to profit from the pipeline should pass some prosperity to the refugees and villagers who lived along the route.
This is really his story -- I just rode along.
Tom's brother Vince from Oregon was his right-hand man:
Carl, originally from the U.K. but living in Baku, owned an occupational health and safety company catering to the oil industry; he rode his own Ural on the trip and also contributed use on of his company's SUVs as a support vehicle.
Sasha was a motorcycle stunt performer and raced Urals professionally in the former Soviet Union -- also a master motorcycle mechanic -- he was basically the head motorcycle wrangler on the trip and also effectively the Azeri diplomat when in Turkey and Georgia.
Here driving his daughter around our test track:
Sasha demonstrating his (not infallible) riding skills:
Roma was an Azeri mechanic who came on the trip and kept the Urals running:
Some of the bikes lined up in their livery: