Trip to Yosemite.
During the first week of June, my wife and I had planned a research trip that would end in Yosemite National Park here in California. The park is approximately 425 miles from our home. Having only ridden my Majesty in and around the area's where I live; I thought this would be a good opportunity for my first real scenic ride on the scooter.
After some speculation, I calculated a game plan. The idea was to rent a pick-up truck, haul the scooter up most of the way, unload the bike in the city of Merced, and then just cruise the scenic 140 freeway way directly into the park.
Seemed like a good plan.
I was able to rent a Ford F-150 long bed.
Turns out, not many car rental firms here in the southland deal with truck beds long enough to accommodate a seven foot plus vehicle like the Majesty.
The Ford F-150 long bed was one of the very few around that would be able to do the job.
Next, I needed to find a ramp to get the bike up on the truck with.
I found a tri-fold steel and alloy ramp at my local Pep-Boys Shop.
I was a bit nervous in the days preceding the trip as to how well the ramp might hold up under the weight of a 450 pound beast like the Majesty. (Despite the 1100 hundred pound weight boasts on the outer packaging of the ramp.) The welds looked fair at best.
I also selected a set of four heavy duty tie-downs at my local hardware store to button up the bike in back of the truck for transport.
Leaving day was at hand.
My spouse and I prepared to meet at a rendezvous point to make our first attempt to load the bike into the truck. The state university.
Once I had the ramp secured into place to the back of the truck, I was ready to attempt to run the bike up for the first time. I decided not to sit on the bike for this, but to stand along side of it, and throttle it up.
No sooner than the skid plate got hung up on the top of the ramp, did I for the first time consider the low clearance of the bike versus the high pitch of the ramp to the truck.
The bike's center stand had notched its way into the rungs of the ramp and locked it up tight right there in full pitch on the ramp. I was unable to throttle the bike out of it, and I certainly wasn't going to use my hands and the considerable upper body strength it would have taken to attempt to rock it out, and roll it back, hoping to get to the breaks in time before it might come rolling back and crashing to the ground or falling sideways on the ramp.
I was stuck!
I called a friend of mine who was close by.
He agreed to come over to where I was and help me get the bike off the ramp.
Two full grown and healthy men exuded considerable strain and effort to carefully unlatch the center stand from the rung it was hung up on and back the bike down off the ramp in a controlled manner. It was during this I really began to consider just how heavy this scooter was going to be for me to handle alone, loading and unloading off the back of this truck this weekend.
Since my wife is about as strong as an eight year old girl, I never considered her into that equation.
Once the bike was backed down and safely on the ground, I began thinking about the problem at hand. The clearance of the bike was to low, and the distance up to the truck was too high. The ramp was too short.
I decided I needed to extend the length of the ramp using scrap wood. My friend told me he would loan me a piece of scaffolding and some blocks. We drove back to his house and set the ramp up on the truck once again. Once the ramp was ready, we overlaid the 6 inch wide scaffolding to extend the length of the ramp and we jacked up the bottom of the steel ramp with some blocks to lessen the overall pitch. It was clear; this would and should take care of the clearance problem allowing the scooter passage to the back of the truck.
I started the bike and prepared to walk it up while gently throttling. The thing that made it tough this time, was that I was going to need to line it up exactly right. There was no margin for error.
I only had a 6 inch wide board that needed to line up with the tires almost precisely. If not, the bike would fall off the side. My friend held on to the back of the bike and pushed as I throttled and steered. We were able to successfully drive it up this time. It was an unsettling experiment.
But the bike was now on the truck?
My buddy was pretty gung-ho to strap it in and send me on my way.
But I got to looking and thinking?
How and the heck am I, by myself, going to guide this beast rolling backwards off the back of this truck onto a 6 inch wide slab that I cant even see from that prospective, and not blow it. Even if I was lucky enough to roll it back perfectly straightly onto the narrow ramp extension, I would have thrown my back just from the sheer weight of holding and balancing it in such an exacting manner on my own.
I convinced my friend into helping me back it off the truck together one time just so I might have an idea as to what I might be in for while trying this on my own.
With the two us, it was difficult at best.
Trying to roll the bike off backwards and keep it lined up just right, so that when it hit the scaffolding portion of the ramp, it would stay straight and roll off track.
Though we were able to pull it off, we were both breathing heavy and perspiring by the time the bike rolled to the ground entirely. This made it clear to me; I hadn't solved the problem yet. No way was this set up going to work. If I tried this alone, the chances of me or the bike being hurt were very good.
I zoned in on what the new problem was. The scaffolding. It was just too narrow.
So, I figured I would just go over to home depot and purchase a sturdy wide wood replacement and alleviate the problem. I did, and it all appeared to look good. So good in fact, I felt sure I would be able bring the bike up and down on my own with no problem once I looked at the new set up in place. I guided the bike up the ramp into the back of the truck with no problem this time. My friend was no longer present.
I decided this would also be a good time to get a feel of what it would be like rolling it down on my own as well. If there were to be any problems or difficulties, I wanted to iron them out now, while I was close to home, as opposed to on the road. Again, begging the process of pulling the bike back from the bed of the truck and inching it slowly to the lip of the ramp, I began to realize just how heavy and cumbersome this bike can be in tight confines. It required considerable effort. The back tire of the bike slowly inched over the first few rungs of the ramp as I slowly balanced, braked and guided. I was much focused. For what ever reason, the ramp shifted slightly, and the center of the bike once again got hung up on the top of the ramp. Now I was right back to where I started. I knew I was going to have to get out of this one myself.
I mistakenly got the idea that I would try to rock the bike. I was so flustered, and behind schedule by that time, that I suffered from a momentary lapse of reason and removed my hands from the break caliper. Then it happened. The bike unhooked itself and went rolling and crashing down into the black top.
I just stood there for a moment, took a deep breath, and looked over to my wife who was terrified. She looked more upset than me. I sat down on the back of the truck and lit up a cigarette. I didn't even pick up the bike or look at it until I finished my smoke. I was physical
worn out. I Felt like I had gotten beaten up after wrestling with that beast on and off that truck for the better part of the last two hours. We had now lost the daylight as well. Whatever else was going to happen, we would be working under the cover of darkness.
When I picked up the bike, I couldn't believe it. The damage was very minimal.
It landed on its left side. The back air filter housing sustained a few deep scrapes but was still very much intact. The bottom left cowling just above the kickstand had a hole about the size of a nickel in it. There is a very small but deep scrape on the very side of the bike right where the curve of the floorboard contours up to the front left side of the bike. Two small scratches on the fender, and that was it.
I couldn't believe my luck?
If you could call it that?
Now, I had to make some decisions. What was I going to do?
I knew for sure I was done trying to secure that monster to the back of the truck solo.
I would not be able to wait for the next day and figure out an alternate plan, we had hotel reservations for that evening in Merced, and a meeting for our book project at 10:30 the following morning in Merced County. The wife and I discussed a few things and I came to the decision I was going to attempt to ride the bike through the duration of the trip. I figured at that point, if anything else happened to me or the bike, at least my wife wasn't far behind with the truck. Worse case scenario, we could just shovel up what was left, and put it in the bed of the truck anyway we could get it up there.
Our route took us first up the 5 freeway.
This was my first real experience driving on the super slab. And let me tell you, Driving through California's Grape Vine at midnight is one hell of a way to earn your wings for the first trip out.
Huge gusts of wind were plentiful through the mammoth canyons and wide open winding steep grades. There were several occasions; I thought I could just be blown right off the bike. I learned what it feels like when you end up driving close to an 18 wheel big rig at higher rates of speed as well. You tend to feel sucked in, or pushed out. By the time I was riding the heart of the most dangerous part of the journey (The Grape Vine) the bike was holding 75-80mph @ around the 6 mark on my tachometer. The temp was running smooth and cool. My attention was focused on two areas. One; My Life, Two; The performance of the bike. I wasn't sure about what would end up of me before I got off this road; one thing was for sure though,
The Majesty was flying!
Between 11:30pm and 4:30am the next morning we drove on through the night.
As the hours passed, I began to feel more secure on the bike. I couldn't believe the power, speed and stamina this machine was showing. The temp never moved any higher than the half way mark. There where times when I jumped from 70-85 just to have a go at it, and see how fast it picked up and held out. Perfect! I couldn't get it to falter!
At 4:30am we arrived for a very late check in at our hotel room in Merced.
That was about as tired as I have ever been in my entire life. Luckily, the nice lady at the front desk listened sympathetically to our story and told us we need not worry about checking out at the required 11:00am. If we wanted to we were welcome to sleep till noon. Upon entering the room my wife called her contact and left a message that we would be running a couple of hours behind schedule for our meeting the following morning at the University of Merced.
I feel asleep within minutes. I awoke at nine that morning and jumped directly into the shower to wash the bug carcasses and road crime from my body. I walked outside my room and had a look at "The Red Torpedo" It was pretty dirty. I checked the coolant levels and had a look at the engine oil. Both were still very clean and level. This was also my first chance to have a look at the damage I had incurred the night before in the daylight. Again, All things considered, the damage was not too bad.
The previous night we had covered a lot of ground. We were now less than ten miles from the University. We made conformation with our contact and proceeded en-route to the school. Along the way we stopped into a local coffee shop and drank down some well craved iced coffee. It tasted great. We also scored some cheese sandwiches to scarf down before heading out to photograph the school library. Though it was barely noon, I noticed the temperature seemed very warm and dry. The air was also very dusty. There were a lot of open fields, pastures and wind blowing around in the open areas. It crossed my mind this would perhaps be a good climate to observe the performance of the Majesty in. It had certainly never been run for any period of time in any kind of real hot dry heat. I knew it was going to be put to the test today. If it didn't overheat today, I would know for sure this scooter was the real deal.
After gearing up and heading out, we took to about a 12 mile scenic cruise on some fairly rural country back roads. All paved of course. I am going to guess the ambient temperature had reached at least 90 degrees by this time. Once we had finished our business at the university, my wife and I gathered in the parking lot. We were looking over a hand drawn map that charted a short cut route to our next destination some where 35 miles away in neighboring Mariposa County. Apparently, one of the employees thought she knew a better way into Mariposa County aside from the more traveled main road. The wife decided to take the lead and we headed out.
The first sign of trouble occurred to me when we hit the main road. There was a sign which pointed out Mariposa County in one direction, however, my wife turned into a different direction. I thought to myself, Hmm, I hope she is sure about this. After about a 15 mile trek, my wife flipped the distress signal and we exited the small two lane highway. She was perplexed. As was I. It seemed the map we were given by the employee was incorrect. Once we confirmed this,
I had my first temper tantrum of the trip.
Now the temperatures had reached well into the 90's.
We were now going to have to backtrack the way we had just driven to access the correct road to Mariposa. In all, taking us some 30 miles off our course and putting us behind in the time bracket. The scenery was indeed very nice even though we were traveling in a backwards direction. However, as the heat and sun pounded down mercilessly on me during the 15 miles back track, I must admit I felt a bit livid. I hadn't taken any sun screen. There was no doubt I was going to get a scorching burn on my arms and nose. Though I was showing signs of wear and tear, the majesty wasn't. We arrived in Mariposa county Sometime around 2pm that afternoon.
This was a really cute little city. We were only going to be there long enough to photograph the library for our book project, and then we were going to head out for Yosemite Park.
We learned sometime earlier, the main road to the park, highway 140 had been closed down earlier that week due to a massive rock slide. We would now be forced to take a long detour. First, down in a southern direction, and then up, in a northern direction on highway 41. Taking us an additional 70 miles on the trek. The upside was that this was the road less traveled. It was going to be more scenic. Better riding. After about 30 miles we stopped to refuel. The Majesty had now been running in high temps for almost sevral hours. I was red as a beat. The Majesty's temp remained the same. I expected the gauge would move its way up past the half way point traveling at speed in excess of 55mph in temperatures in excess of 98 degrees. It didn't. Once we reached the alternate gateway to the park, we discovered there would be an additional 30 mile ride to our location and destination at the Yosemite Lodge at the falls. All up a steep and winding grade that would bring us to an elevation of 6,000 feet. I felt as though this portion of the ride might be more enjoyable, as there was ample tree cover making for much cooler temperatures. We grabbed some goodies at a cute little general store, had a snack and headed back to the vehicles. We had been messing around longer than expected and failed to realize, with a 35 mile trip in front of us, we had better get going. You don't want to drive that road after dark for your first time up it. (Maybe you do?) Not me.
These road conditions offered optimal scenic riding conditions for cyclists. The black top was sloped and varied. Climbs and assents. There was a lot of variety. And did I mention, No stop Lights! As we neared the final miles to the lodge, you couldn't help but feel a sense of amazement. The giant cliff walls, tunnels and mammoth water falls provide a surreal backdrop.
I cruised the last few miles with my helmet loosened and enjoyed the fresh clean mountain air.
I couldn't believe it. The Majesty had made the trip without a problem.
(Other than the fact that it had been dropped off a four foot ramp the night before)
Once we checked in and parked, I had a look at the Engine oil. It was a little darker than it had been 375 miles before, but still clean. The coolant levels remained good. The biggest problem was that I had a lot of dead bugs stuck to my beautiful red paint! I was going to have to do something about that in the morning. Good thing I always have my cleaning kit with me wherever I go.
(Skip romantic evening under the stars, that's another story for someplace else)
I awoke at around 6:30am the following morning. The morning was quite a site to see.
Took some really nice photos and made my way to the coffee shop. As I sipped from my cup, I headed back over to where the majesty was parked and spent about 30 minutes getting her all shined up. It looked a lot better after that. The wife awoke sometime after 8am that morning. The plans were for us to double up on the Majesty and tour some of the sites like the tree groves and curry Village all very nearby. We were due back down at the bottom of the park to photograph another library anytime before 5pm. The Majesty handled great beating around up there with the two of us on it. As the early afternoon approached, we had brunch and prepared for the trek back down Highway 41to the Wynona Library in the park. She in the truck, me on the scooter.
It was a slow ride down the mountain. I had a motor home directly in front of me most of the way down. This kept speeds at a minimum. I was probable better off though. This was much more a perilous journey to descend than to climb. I bet many of those trees have a lot of motorist's names written on them. I didn't particular feel like adding mine to one of them and really took it easy on the way down. By the time we hit the bottom of the mountain and reached or next photo shoot, it was just after 1 in the afternoon. Again the temperatures soared in the open sun. This was also to be the day we would begin the journey back home to Orange County some 400 plus miles away. The plan was to complete or mission in Wynona, hit the road, and be back home before midnight. I knew full well, that was going to be a fairly long ride. I made the preparations to prepare myself.
The heat the bike drove through during the rest of the day was amazing.
Bakersfield, Fresno, the central Valley. Temperatures exceeded the 100 degree mark.
The bike powered through without falter. The temp remained the same. On the all, I took a far worse beating than the Majesty ended up taking.
I learned a lot on this trip, later this month; I'll take that wisdom with me when we do the California coast.