In spite of the username, my ideas are often more towards the dummy end of the scale rather than the genius end. This one had elements of both. After a stressful week at work, I’d been looking forward to a weekend ride and was leaning toward something on the longer end. I’d read on Friday that admission to every national park was going to be free on Sunday in celebration of the founding of the National Park Service. Apparently, there are 5 free Sundays each year, each marking different occasions. The article mentioned Yosemite and Muir Woods and I thought, “what a great excuse to visit a park!” Free admission was just a bonus but the most important thing was simply to go out and experience a park. I hadn’t been to Yosemite in a couple of years so I started thinking about it, looking at the map, adding up the mileage, points in between, etc. A little background, I’m a pretty new rider who just received his license in April, logged about 2500 miles, and the longest day I’d done until this was about 120 miles. Clocking in at at least 380 miles, this would be well beyond anything I’d done on a motorcycle. Also I decided, why just ride to Yosemite and back? Why not enjoy a little hike? See some waterfalls? And so the plan was born: Get up early Sunday morning, ride out to Yosemite Valley, hike the Mist Trail to Nevada Falls, ride back home. A little too ambitious? Perhaps. The ingredients for an epic day? Definitely. Saturday morning I tallied up a list of things I would need to pull together to do the trip and chief among them was to attach the side cases to the bike. They’d come with the bike from the previous owner but they hadn’t been mounted. When I looked at the mounting hardware, it was just a bunch of corroded nuts, bolts, and washers. I’d have to pick some after work and I made it to the Home Depot with just a couple of minutes to spare at 9:57 pm. With new hardware and some blue loctite in hand, I went home and got to the task of installing the side cases. It was already getting past midnight by the time I’d gathered everything and I went to bed, excited for the day to come. Wake up, quick shower, say goodbye to the cats and it was time to hit the road. Stopped by the Berkeley marina to take a glamour shot of my Versys 650 and recorded my official start time as 7:00 on the dot. There’s an orange bridge somewhere out there in the fog. It was 56 and foggy as I left the marina but I knew that it would warm up very quickly. To get to Yosemite I decided on taking highway 4 out to Copperopolis, down to 120, and into the park. On the way back, I’d take the more conventional 120/108 to 205 to 580. Crossing over the hills on 4, the sun started to come through it was on with the sunglasses. The freeway stuff was fine but once you get to Brentwood and the 4 becomes a small 2 lane highway, that’s when the fun riding starts, rolling through farmland, levees and countryside. I got to Copperopolis at 9 to take my first break, at a cafe in the Copperopolis Town Square. It was already 86° and it was definitely time to take out the inserts in the mesh jacket and pants. Except for a bicycle race, it was oddly quiet for a Sunday morning In what seemed like a nice, newish retro style town square. On the plus side, they had dedicated motorcycle parking right across from the cafe. From Copperopolis, I took O’Byrnes Ferry Rd down to the 120. This was some great riding, classic California Gold Country roads, rolling in and out of the hills, alongside the Tulloch reservoir. Getting on to 120 was when the real fun started. The road is in great condition with much of it seemingly recently/newly repaved. Clean blacktop all the way to New Priest Grade. I was a little concerned about handling the winding curves of New Priest Grade as I’d driven it quite a few times on the way to the park and it seemed a little intimidating for a rider with my beginner skills. Turns out it wasn’t that bad and i ended up enjoying it quite a bit. I stopped at Big Oak Flat for some gas and then continued on my way to the park. Again, FANTASTIC road conditions all the way to the park. I feel like i learned quite a bit about riding and gained so much experience and confidence traveling the sweeping roads through the hills and forest. For that reason alone, the trip was worth it. Finally, it was into Yosemite. The park ranger greeted me with smile and a, “happy free day!” The 25 miles from the park entrance to the Valley was beautiful as always and I had to remind myself to focus more on the riding and less on the scenery. It truly is different to experience places on a motorcycle rather than in a car. I stopped before the tunnel and asked another rider to take my picture. He and his sister were riding from Visalia on a KLR 650 and KLX 250 respectively. It was a Kawasaki fest! Getting into the valley itself, I stopped at El Capitan. I’ve been here dozens of times, and it’s never not impressive, but especially after seeing Free Solo last year...just, wow! Pulled into the parking lot at Curry village around 12:45 and it was time to take off the moto gear and swap the riding boots for running shoes. Nice little peek at Half Dome from my parking spot. The sign at the start of the John Muir/Mist Trail Of course, the views in Yosemite never disappoint (minus my ugly mug, sorry folks) 8+ sweaty miles later, I got back to Curry village around 4:15 and took a little bit of time to rehydrate and fuel up with a cherry coke and a Clif bar. It was 5 by the time I got suited up and started my bike. I didn’t stop for any pictures or anything to eat because I was going to be chasing the sun all the way home and I really, really wanted to get closer to home and familiar roads before it got dark. I will say the ride out of the park on the curvy roads was great and with the confidence gained earlier in the day, I really enjoyed them more the second time around. Coming back on the 205 & 580 freeways wasn’t as fun or as interesting as the smaller roads of highway 4 but I could see the sun dipping below the hills as I got back toward the bay and luckily I was back in familiar territory by the time the light went out. I did stop in Emeryville to get get gas, figure out my mileage, and take one last glamour shot before the last couple of miles to my house. Finally walked back into the house a little after nine, almost 15 hours and 416 miles after I’d left. I ordered a pizza through Uber eats, took a shower and then sat down to relax and bask in a sense of accomplishment. It had been a long, hot day but it was so worth it. I was thankful to come home safely and feeling pretty good after a day that had greatly exceeded any of my previous riding experience. I’m definitely a little sore and stiff today (Monday) but some of that is probably from throwing in a hike as well. All in all, I'm putting this idea towards the genius side of the ledger. Can’t wait for the next one!