Tuesday, April 11, 2023

CUBA BABY: Day Two - URAL Club of Cuba

This Thursday morning we will meet some of the Ural Club of Cuba members for a morning photo op 
then a sidecar tour of the city.

Up early, Alan sets up his camera for the day.
Our Airbnb is on the 17th floor with great views of the cityscape and the ocean.

Looking across the Vedado neighborhood,
 toward the US Embassy in Havana.

The Catholic Church across from our building was never open while we were there.
Asking about it, was told Fidel rounded up the Priests, put them on a ship 
and sent them back to Spain back in the 1960's. 

Found only one Catholic church open. It was being run by a few Nuns from the convent next door. So different from the experience in Mexico just a month earlier.

Osmany, the Ural Club President showed up with a second rig to take us 
to meet other club members for the photo op.

All of the Ural rigs here are 650cc, kickstart, old Russian military rigs that were given to the Cuban Army, then sold for scrap when the military could not keep them running. The club members cooperate with each other to keep their rigs running. Parts are an issue, so improvised solutions is the norm. When I asked what I could bring from the US for the members, they asked for headlamps and tail light bulbs. Ordered enough Hi-Lo LED bulbs off E-Bay for every club member to get one. And two dozen bulbs for tail lights and turn signals. 
Since there was still room in the suitcase, scoured through the shop's tool chests for every duplicate tool, socket or wrench I had.  Hauled them all down to Havana for the club to use.

Motorcycle helmets are mandatory in Cuba, 
not sure how much protection these local made bucket lids provide though.

Kick starting the Russian iron...

We saw many sidecar rigs in Cuba, not just Urals. 
Most are two stroke 250cc rigs from Soviet satellite countries.

We reach the gathering spot where other rigs are patiently 
waiting near the malecon (waterfront) and the National Hotel.
Smart group, they waited in the shade of the palm trees.

We quickly gather in front of the landmark Hotel Nacional for a group photo before we were shooed away.
This hotel was a popular pre-revolution night spot with the mafia 
as portrayed in the Godfather movies. 

From there we paraded around town, finally reaching a spot where we took the "Greeting" photo above,
with the old Spanish Morro Castle from 1585 in the background.

By noon, most of the members had to get back to work. 
They dropped us off at the ornate National Theater building where we could find lunch.

Before dropping us off, we were invited to join the club for a pre-planned country outing on Monday. They felt comfortable enough with us to invite us to a club social / ride event. They organized to provide plenty of food while we agreed to bring the cold beer. 
With Monday's plans set, we said our "hasta luegos".

After lunch, Alan, Marianna and I visited a Cigar factory showroom, where we could purchase and enjoy one of Cuba's finest. No, not the premium cigar of US$100 each, but the ten for $80 pack. 

We bought the 10 pack to enjoy during the rest of our stay in Cuba. 
Bringing Cuban cigars into the US is prohibited, 
as is Cuban Rum. Do so at your own risk.

Driving around, seeing the sights, we spotted a young 15 year old posing for photos for her quinceaƱera party.  Not to miss the opportunity to photograph a beautiful your lass, I jumped out of the car to grab this.
A quiceaƱera is when a young girl reaches the age of 15, her family celebrates her new womanhood. A coming of age party/tradition popular in Latin America, Caribbean, Spain and many US cities too.

Then we met a school teacher drawing water from a well in the middle of the city for his family.
The sun is bright, shadows are harsh in the middle of a hot day.
Temperature in the nineties.

On a shaded plaza bench, a young couple are spooning and cooing. 
Discreet photography called for here.

A shared sweet dessert won him a smile and admiring looks from his lady friend.

This is the dry season now, no rains until later in April or May.
The mid-day sun is intense, umbrellas are a common sight.

Hmmm... which American automobile had this hood ornament? 
There are many, many old American cars still on the road in Cuba today. More on that later.

That evening Osmany returned to take us on a night tour of the city.
He has a URAL Servicar. Have only seen photos from the URAL factory of these.

His special rig has several modifications to keep it running and functionable. 
Note a steering wheel now replaces the handlebars. Also the transmission shifter is a lever,
 not the Ural floor pedal. 

Everywhere we went the traffic was light due to a fuel shortage.
This service station was closed as they had nothing to sell today.
A common sight in Havana. Maybe tomorrow they will get a shipment. 

The station employees work for the government so they receive their wages for showing up,
even if there is no fuel to pump.

The National Hotel is well lit at night.

Young couples enjoy the cool breezes along the malecon (waterfront). 
Being a week night, not many are here. But the weekends are a different story.

We wandered around looking for that special photo op, where light and shadows come into play. 
Never once our entire time in Havana did we ever feel threatened, in danger or think maybe we were in the wrong neighborhood.

That wraps up our first exhausting non-stop events day in Havana. 

Tomorrow starts the photo workshop on street photography. 


  1. Very cool meeting and spend time with the Uralisti!

    1. Makes me miss Da'mit and the adventures we had. Am not envious of their 650cc kick start though. I like having the majic button.


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