The three-wheeled brigade is underway again. Late October is the expected running of another trundling through the wilds of the NSW Mid North Coast. The other half day of the two-day trip was a bit how’s-your-father.
Some time ago WTW’s editor got involved with the Ural sidecar people. He discovered an incredible group of people who were some of the most well-behaved and best fun people he’d travelled with, and he jumps on a Ural now at every possible chance.
In 2017 he was invited on a recce for the company’s annual Adventure Ride.
On that occasion the route wandered from Ural Australia’s home base at Uralla, near Armidale, NSW, south through some fabulous open country and rolling hills, and ground to a halt when ride leader, Greg Jansen from Rocky Creek Designs, disappeared down a trail off Cells River Road west of Port Macquarie and wasn’t seen again until Police Rescue dragged him out later that evening.
The editor and Ural Australia’s Mat Hodge spent a very anxious afternoon and evening trying to organise a recovery, but it all ended well.
Despite the drama of the recce, the 2017 ride itself was an absolute blinder. The weather was perfect, the people on the ride were some of the nicest, most colourful, polite and generous riders ever, and TF still gets all glassy-eyed and wistful when he spins a yarn or two from that event.
For the 2020 recce the same three riders got together at Ural Australia in Uralla and headed south to map out a new route for the Adventure Ride.
What could go wrong?
‘It’s Not Cold’
A glorious sunny morning welcomed the riders as ice was chipped and melted of windscreens and vertical surfaces. Teeth chattered and knees knocked as Mat Hodge assured the other two that for Uralla it was ‘a bit chilly’, but they should stop carrying on like sooks.
Greg was on his own Ural Ranger, a new rig with winch and emergency beacon, and Mat and TF shared a showroom-ready Ranger Sahara with about 300km on the clock. Sales had been very strong and the third rig set aside for the ride had been handed over to an eager customer at short notice, leaving the two to pair up in an arrangement that seemed well-received.
Well…it was well-received by WTW’s editor. While the others were still pulling on riding gear he scuttled in to the sidecar, pulled the tonneau cover across and, with icicles still clinging to his two or three layers of polar fleece and riding kit, called out, “Rightio, Mat! You can have first drive!”
And so it began.
At first the route was fairly familiar.
From Uralla the trio trundled on down to Gostwyck, where a scenic chapel in a postcard setting makes for great photos and an ideal place to pull up for any early adjustments.
Greg managed to generate some warmth in Mat by continually referring to the location as ‘Gospers’. Mat, although protesting against the other two’s judgement of the temperature in his quiet and measured way, probably appreciated it.
From there it was the long, lazy, gorgeous run along Hillview Road and into Walcha. The sunshine continued, the temperature rose all the way to…ooo…must’ve been nearly double figures, and by the time the three were checking their phones and sipping cappuccinos at the bike-friendly Aspley Arms things were looking pretty damn good.
From Walcha TF was assigned control of the shared Ural and Mat endured a terrifying session as passenger while WTW’s keen-as-mustard editor attempted to negotiate the twists and turns of the Oxley Highway.
It didn’t go too badly, really. There was some lurching and swerving, a few poor gear selections, and the occasional left-hander turned into a straight-line with some muffled squealing from the driver, but both Mat and the Ural handled the situation with unruffled calm. On a sunny, fantastic day there was still nowhere else anyone would rather have been, and it was clear the Adventure Ride itself was going to challenge previous rides for majestic scenery and premium countryside.
Things may have become a little tense when a smiling Greg came into view indicating the route followed Cells River Road.
It was along that road somewhere things unravelled last time the same three riders were on the same mission.
Greg reassured the other two, as he had in 2017, “The GPS says this is the way,” and, sphincters puckered, the three set off into the unknown.
Except on this occasion Greg and the GPS were spot on. Cells River Road is one glorious and superb wander through fabulous subtropical rainforest. Dense ferns and huge ancient trees line the smooth, wide, dirt road. The kilometres ticked by in dreamy splendour.
A bridge offered the setting for a few good photos, and in the spirit of fun Greg elected to have a crack at the creek crossing underneath.
The crossing went well, but climbing the bank on the other side turned out to be a bit of a challenge. It was nothing the three couldn’t handle though, and with a lot of hallooing and a bit of a push Greg and his Ranger were back on the road and raring to go.
As the afternoon slowly and peacefully unfolded the two sidecars tackled some slippery dirt, some freshly graded roosty sections, some glorious, rolling hill country and, eventually, found themselves in Taree.
The happy and well-satisfied three made their way to their motels and settled in for the evening.
The Less Said…
Things became a little strange that evening.
WTW’s editor emerged from his luxurious motel accommodation to find two Urals parked at rooms nearby. Greg and Mat had booked into a different motel, so that seemed a little weird.
At dinner it turned out the pair had been asked to leave their booked accommodation.
The less said about that, the better, probably.
The next morning dawned bright and clear, and after signing in to Macca’s, giving names, serial numbers, length of in-seams and various other personal details, coffee and comfort food set the riders up for another beautiful session of chugging along Bulga Road, Blue Knob Road then Knodingbul Road. The goal for the day was to continue the run through the forest to meet the Oxley Highway, ensuring the whole section was suited to the crew on the 2020 Adventure Ride, then scoot back along the asphalt to Uralla to finish the task.
Greg mentioned a couple of times he might run back out to ‘Gospers’, but he may have just been grilling Mat’s bacon a little.
As it turned out, the rest of the route was every bit as beautiful and sensational as the first part. The smooth dirt road wandered along the mountainside and the morning sun filtered down through the giant, old-growth eucalypts and the lush green forest.
Except for one little section right near the end where one of the trees had fallen across the road. TF was driving at the time and miscalculated the room left between the tree trunk and the edge of the road.
Gravity took over and there was some very bad language…but the less said about that, the better.
The recce was successful in that the route is not only suitable, it’s fantastic. The Ural crew from previous Ural Adventure Rides will enjoy every kilometre, every cupcake-and-coffee stop and every amazing and breathtaking scenic view. A couple of sections were just a little challenging, a few were ideal for a bit of Ural rorting, and the road sections curved and swooped in a most rewarding way.
The 2020 ride is going to be good one.
Maybe Greg will add a chainsaw to his kit. Keep an eye on www.imz-ural.com.au and the Ural Australia Facebook page for an announcement of a firm date, or to have a look at the range of sidecars available. Hopefully, we’ll see you there.