The northern portions of the Pacific Northwest spoil road-trippers when it comes to winding asphalt and inspiring backdrops. If you take the time to poke around, they also boast an impressive array of destinations for foodies on the prowl for new bites. Which also played a large part in my wife insisting she be included my most recent motorcycle adventure. Well, plus the fact we’d be doing it all in a Ural.
I’m a firm believer in the personal connection between man and machine. On every long haul I’ve ridden thus far, I’ve made it a point to suss out a deserving handle for my steed. This time, Carolyn, my wife, was with me. And while she understands my addictions, vehicles, for her, are mainly appliances. That’s why she stunned me a little when she christened our ride before I’d even fired it up. The Moscow Mule would be our home for the next couple of days. Moniker: nailed.
Urals are slow and stubborn but incredibly sure-footed, and can schlep more gear than you (and your significant other) can possibly pack. Thanks to its sidecar, the Siberian-built sleds also buck and yaw with every throttle modulation, which makes it a bit of a workout to keep one reined in.
Of course, the sidecar is what truly endears the Ural to traveling couples, and Carolyn was immediately smitten with its combination of moto-level freedom and car-level comfort. Five minutes in, she chimed in to inform me that the odds of her riding pillion in the future were sinking with each relaxed and comfortable mile.
The first leg of our journey had us heading to Mukilteo to catch a short ferry to Whidbey Island. There’s always something about a water crossing that adds to a journey’s excitement, so I pointed our front wheel towards the Interstate to catch the next ship. Speed and motorcycles typically go hand in hand, but there’s nothing typical about one that weighs 740 pounds, has three wheels and boasts only 41 horses of puff. Mirrors full, we tucked as best we could and chugged our way up to 70 mph. A train of other bikes quickly overtook us the first chance they got, but instead of a series of angry gestures and frowns, we were greeted by a parade of passers all looking our way, noticeably happier in the presence of our Mule.
This proved to be the theme of our journey. Motorcycle riders skipped the customary two-finger-salute for a full thumbs up, so we did the same. Cyclists had similar reactions, and almost every motorist, barring a Prius or two (clearly in a hurry to hug a Western White Pine), looked on longingly. We were chatted up at every stop sign and red light, with most of the questions heading Carolyn’s way.
“How comfortable are you in that thing?”
“Do you think my wife would prefer riding in that over this?”
“How much legroom do you have?”
Each time, Carolyn was thanked for her opinion, and the people would proceed to pull alongside us to take one more look and smile before waving goodbye. It really was quite magical. Never in 20 years of riding motorcycles have I experienced so much cordiality. Hell, nobody even raised a fuss when we skirted around a two-hour-long line of cars to board the ferry.
On Whidbey Island, we pulled into the Bayview Farmers Market, nudging the Mule between a VW Camper Van that smelled of fryer oil and a Toyota Corolla clad in “THINGS GO BETTER WITH KALE” bumper stickers. We stuck out a touch. We were headed towards Deception Pass and needed a quick bite and fresh supplies for the journey. Some locally prepared jerky, strawberries that were picked that morning and a few other essentials were packed into the trunk, and we sat down to a delicious plate of Filipino street food. Pancit noodles and lumpia from Julie’s Lumpia Hut are second to none. If you find yourself at the market, wait in the line. It’s worth it.
After passing through Deception Pass and Fidalgo Island, the plan was to do a scouting run for the next day’s activities before dinner and drinks somewhere near Mount Vernon. We had planned stops in both Edison and Samish, but the weather was exceptional, the views epic and the road just too good leave. A quick chat confirmed that our moods aligned, so we left those highlights for the next day and continued on into Bellingham. We arrived at the Chuckanut Brewery and Kitchen and were promptly greeted by a chilled growler of award-winning Kolsch, some delicious heirloom tomato gazpacho and a plate full of spicy tuna poke — a perfect late-afternoon snack for two warriors still hungry for road.
And so it continued. Our following day, instead of sleeping in, we made early tracks to ride high into the mountains. The pleasant on-road encounters continued, and we were even chased into Edison by a gentleman on a fully restored vintage Moto Guzzi V7, just so he could say, “Nice bike.” We gorged on bounties at Slough Food and Tweets before a stop in Samish for fresh oysters — shucked on the beach, no less.
I’ve been blessed to ride two wheels through some truly exceptional places. And although I’m always traveling with a group, those journeys are always very much on my own. With a third wheel, proper seating and Carolyn by my side, this ride instantly became a road trip. Communication, even without headsets, was easy. We didn’t need to clunk helmets and fight over sight lines; in a Ural, moments can be shared. And at no point is the fun of a moto adventure watered down; if anything, the quirks and the looks of these bikes brighten the day for you, your passenger and everyone else on the road.
Having a sidecar-equipped Ural at your disposal will go a long way to convincing your significant other to come ride with you, but it’s certainly not the only way. Spoiling your lady with some expertly crafted, women’s-only moto gear will help her feel not just safe, but, thanks to some flattering cuts, sexy too.