That’s a WHAT?

Pokie Parmidge

February 15, 2002


At the height of the Cold War in 1974, my boss Philip talked me into trying something new: a Ural. From what I was told at the time, these Russian motorcycles were just as good as a BMW for half the cost. I was skeptical but thought I’d give one a go. I ordered one with a commercial box sidecar in February with the promised delivery date in April. When delivery finally came in late May, there wasn’t enough to go around. Philip talked me out of the one I had ordered “for the good of the company” and so started another adventure.

When the new “shop’s bike” came in, responsibility for assembly and set up fell on my shoulders. Both bike and sidecar was shipped in the same crate, side by side. The bike strapped down in the usual fashion but the sidecar was tipped on its side with the wheel off. I’ve got to tell you, the fit and finish didn’t even come close to a BMW never mind the tale “as good as.” After servicing the battery and filling the gas tank, jumping up and down on the kick-start didn’t get you any closer to the silly thing running than throwing dirt at it.

After about two and a half hours of rebuilding the engine’s electrics, the bike started and ran fairly well.

The earlier portion of the road really wasn’t too bad.

I was up bright and early Sunday morning ready to putter off to meet destiny. I studied several local maps before getting under way as this day I would be going on a route that was very new to me. I left in the usual weather (rain) riding over my usual route from Vancouver (Route 7) to Hope. At Hope is where things changed. Instead of going one of two possible routes to Kamloops, I instead opted for the gravel of the Kawkuwa Lake road. Riding this first leg towards Kawkuwa Lake was a little worrisome as it was “Radio Controlled.” Radio Controlled means the logging trucks are in contact with each other using mile markers and have full right-of-way over any and all other vehicles, so, if you get in their way, it’s within their rights to brush you aside and trundle by.

After about six miles, the “Radio Controlled” area expired. At this point the road became much thinner and rougher, periodically cut up by spring run-off. The wide smooth curves gave evidence that I was now following the old Kokahalla rail bed. There were a few wrong turns punctuated with river fords but the little Ural took it all in stride. Arriving at the Merit fork late in the afternoon made me very thankful that I filled the gas tank at Hope.

One of the smaller river crossings, the deadfall ahead proved a little more difficult to deal with.


A remnant of days gone by, or is that trains gone by.

The day was getting late when I arrived at Kamloops. The Ural looked like it had taken a mud bath but at the Kamloops shop it was given a bath before being presented to a small group of curious visitors. After a bit of playing, a bit of working and a lot of visiting, it was time for me to head back to Vancouver and the next day’s work.

After cleaning up and being pressed into service, deliveries are made.

Seeing as how I was going to be on Route 1 for most of the way back, I thought I would run all the way to reserve before gassing up just to see how far one could get on a tank full. I had taken the time, before I left on this trip, to read up in the owner’s manual on the positions of the fuel valve. As fate would have it, at Canaka Bar (after it was dark and everything had closed for the day) I discovered the fuel valve had been assembled wrong at the factory and had no reserve position. When the bike had sputtered its last and came to a halt, I pushed it off the road, opened the top on the commercial sidecar, climbed in and fell asleep.

I woke up the next morning freezing cold!  Gathering up all my courage, I climbed out of the sidecar and started pushing it to get warm. While huffing and puffing along, a VW bug swerved over to see if they could help. Turned out to be my old friend Dave Metcalfe, his wife Chuck and their new daughter Claire. We gabbed for a bit about the bike and before leaving, Dave thought he recalled seeing a gas station about two miles down the road. Sure enough, I came across the “not yet open” gas station and fell asleep propped up against the pumps. The owner opened a little early to rid his station of the “trash” loitering around his pumps. As I attempted to start the Ural once the tank was filled, the gas station owner looked at the bike kind of funny and said, “What the hell kind of bike is that anyway?”   I told him it was a Russian Ural. To that he replied, “That’s a what?” I tried to tell him again and at least one more time after that before giving up, I felt we were both talking a different language. As the bike fired up, his look changed, he stared me straight in the face and said, “You get that Commy Pile of crap off my lot, anybody who would trade with the enemy ought to be shot!” I decided to leave well enough alone and be on my way. It was just as well as I still had a long way to go before breakfast and home.

On reflection, I’m kind of glad I didn’t buy that Ural. Course that’s not to say I never bought one, in fact I’ve now had five of them. Even though I have had others, this first adventure on the “shop bike” is the one I most vividly remember.


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Copyright 2009 Pokie Parmidge