My left hand eased off the clutch as my right hand fed the throttle. I looked ahead at the open expanse of asphalt that lay in front of me. The wind picked up as my RPMs revved and I ducked to miss a few falling leaves from the orange maples overhead.
Left hand, squeeze (clutch). Left foot, up (gear). Right hand, rotate (throttle). Left hand, release (clutch). Right foot… stay away from rear brake. We won’t need that anytime soon.
I wasn’t flying down the road, by any means. But I was riding (solo). For a fleeting instant, I wished I had a full-face helmet on, to camouflage my goofy smile from curious onlookers. It was only a passing thought and I realized I didn’t care if they saw it or not.
This is it. This is what’s next.
It’s one of the questions we’re always presented with. It’s one I don’t mind so much — it keeps me pressing onward and reminds me to never settle for the easy or predictable. People have the expectation that we always have a crazy idea or plan in the works, and we don’t like to disappoint. The problem is, it’s a question I haven’t quite known the answer to in awhile.
Such a loaded question deserves only an equally loaded answer. It’s not an answer landed upon in the course of a simple chat. Our discussions usually include sub-questions, such as: Do we want to stay on this continent, or move to another? Do we want to plan smaller trips and travel, or do we want to sell everything and just take off? Or do we want to buy a house and have a yard? Do we want a pet?
Even in our greatest moments of clarity, we never have a clear picture of exactly “What’s next?”. But a few months ago, we did know that “What’s now?” looked like:
We were called back to North Carolina for this season.
We both have jobs we love.
We both felt life was a bit too stagnant.
In an effort to mix things up, we started looking harder for the answer to “What’s next?”. And in a moment of weakness and feeling influenced by our newsfeeds (cramming the usual slew of newly purchased houses, ultrasounds, DIY projects, and other baby/domestic related announcements down our throats), we courted the idea of buying a house. We looked at two and decided, no — that’s not what’s next.
Naturally, we went from the idea of putting down some roots to tearing up all roots and purchasing two-wheeled machines; putting the rubber to the road.
My fingertips feel faint at the thought of typing out everything that went into our decision.
To sum it up as efficiently as possible, there was never a moment where the idea to get a motorcycle was only “Gabriel’s,” nor was the plan for him to get his endorsement so I could tag along for the ride. I’ve never been a passenger and I didn’t plan on becoming one.
In one of my greatest displays of “if-you-can-do-it, I-can-do-it” attitude (re: stubbornness), I signed up for a riding class. Somewhere around 20 instructional hours later, I passed my riding test; 48 hours after that, I was getting my mugshot at the DMV for my motorcycle endorsement.
No, the big decision was never whether or not we should get motorcycles — it was what motorcycles to get?
True to himself, Gabriel went for the most unique option available to us: a Ural.
The abridged-edition of Ural’s history
The original ideation for the Ural motorcycle was the result of an order given by Joseph Stalin in 1939 — for the Russian military to ready all areas of operation as they prepared to defend the motherland against German forces in WWII.
It’s difficult to know exactly what happened next. The official story reads that the Red Army smuggled BMW R71 motorcycles from neutral Sweden, dismantled the bikes, copied the BMW design, and made moulds to reproduce their own bike with new engines and gearboxes. An alternative version of the story claims the Germans abandoned the bikes near the front line, where the Red Army gladly took the motorcycles off of Hitler’s hands before bringing them home to replicate. However the method they came into possession of the bikes, in 1941, Stalin reviewed the first trial samples and approved their immediate production in Moscow.
Not long after, Russian strategists feared the Moscow factory was in danger (being in range of German bombers), and moved the plant into the middle of the Ural Mountain region. From 1941 to 1950, approximately 30,000 of the machines were produced.
Eventually, the demand for the motorcycle clamored on until the Russians began producing them for civilian use. The first Urals were exported in 1953.
The abridged abridged-edition of Ural’s history
With the exception of minimal adjustments here and there (and the conversion to electronic fuel-injection in 2014), the motorcycle has maintained its design integrity since 1941. This is why it looks like it is something straight out of WWII — it kind of is.
On October 30, 2015, Boris Vladamir Sams joined our family.
A 2015 Gear-Up, the bike comes standard with 2WD, spare tire, luggage rack, sidecar, sidecar bumper, and high-intensity spotlight. It’s max speed is listed at 70 mph, although 50 mph and under is a much more comfortable ride.
It’s not a motorcycle built for speed, or endurance. It comes with a tool kit because sooner or later, it will break down. But it is a motorcycle that comes with a lot of character (and one we know we will not see another of, riding down the road).
Less than an hour after announcing on social media his arrival, we noticed we were no longer being asked “What’s next?” Instead, we found ourselves innocently prodded by curious friends and family for the answers to these questions:
“Does the sidecar come off?”
Yes, but it’s not recommended. The bike was designed and balanced with the intention of keeping the sidecar attached. Besides, if the sidecar is taken off, it becomes nothing more than a slow motorcycle on the road.
“Where did you get this thing?”
Ural motorcycles are still made in Russia, before being shipped and distributed throughout the States. While there is a dealership in Charlotte, we purchased Boris from a larger dealership in New England.
“Is the sidecar comfortable?”
Incredibly and unexpectedly comfortable. However, it’s not comfortable enough for me to forget I have my own motorcycle license and would like to eventually have my own bike. We love riding around together, but I also know Gabriel likes riding around without “a monkey in the seat” next to him.
“What made you do it?” Why did we want to get bikes?
It wasn’t because we wanted to give our parents heart attacks.
It wasn’t necessarily because the future was looking a bit too predictable.
It wasn’t because we were experiencing quarter-life crises.
It’s much more simple… it’s because it sounded fun.
Author's Note: Don't worry — theWhiteBlankPage has not evolved into a "Biker Blog." It will still be managed as a travel blog and you can expect upcoming posts to center around regional things to do and places to eat stateside, as we explore and cruise around on Boris. Our international travels are also not over — our next scheduled trip will take us to Central America in Spring 2016. So stay tuned! – Sarah