2015 Ford Mustang GT: A Hike, a Bike, and a Track-Day Wedding
by Mike Monticello, Senior Road Test Editor on October 1, 2015
Pt 1 | Pt 2
It's funny how things can all come together at once. What started out six months ago as a plan to hike up Half Dome in Yosemite National Park with Road Test Editor Jonathan Elfalan morphed into not just a hike, but also a two-day track event in Monterey at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
But wait, there's more. My friends Dave and Sarah were finally going to get hitched on the Friday evening before the track event. And these crazy track-day monkeys planned to wed not just at the track, but on Mazda Raceway's famous Corkscrew.
Senior Editor Josh Jacquot further complicated matters, as is his wont, by also planning to attend the wedding and track day, and deciding we should squeeze in a mountain bike ride the afternoon of the nuptials.
"Come on man, the Sea Otter course is right there," he said. "We gotta go ride those trails again," he said. "It's been years since we raced on them."
A hike, a wedding, a mountain bike ride and a track day? Seemed the most appropriate of our long-term cars would be a cramped coupe like our 2015 Ford Mustang GT, of course.
For one thing, our Performance Package-equipped Mustang was already vetted as a capable track machine by Dan Edmunds at Willow Springs International Raceway. I'd also been hankering to take it on a road trip, more than anything to prove to myself that it's not too stiffly-sprung for long-haul duty. And maybe most important, the rear seat folds down so I'd be able to load my bike in the back.
The first part of this five-day road trip would be the most physically challenging but, without question, also the most beautiful: A 16-mile hike out-and-back to Yosemite's famous Half Dome. First, though, Jonathan and I needed to get the heck out of Los Angeles on a Wednesday afternoon after a morning at the test track. This is an ordeal all its own (getting out of L.A., not testing cars; the latter is fun).
Traffic was thick and miserable as we slogged north, I in the bright orange Mustang, Jonathan in the long-term 2015 BMW M235i (separate plans after Yosemite called for separate cars).
Making our blast (er, crawl) out of town more interesting was the Mustang's new Ford Performance Racing Parts cat-back exhaust. Windows down, of course. As we jinked around side streets, Jonathan, even a car ahead, could hear the thing reverberate off city buildings whenever I'd get hard into the throttle.
Once we got out of L.A. it was smooth sailing up Interstate 5 north to state routes 99 and 41, bedding down for the night in the small town of Oakhurst, the closest city to Yosemite with reasonably-priced hotels. There wasn't much time to enjoy the road trip though, as we got in late and were back up at 3:30 the next morning to eat, pack our gear and make the hour-and-a-half drive to the Half Dome trailhead in Yosemite.
Jonathan drove while I dozed. I'm old. The young gun made up 10 minutes on the traffic-free curvy roads in the little BMW, while the Mustang sat safely back at the hotel with my mountain bike stuffed inside the trunk.
The hike was incredible, with amazing views, several waterfalls and, of course, the crowning achievement being the final climb up to the top of Half Dome via the legendary cables. A little scary, yes, as you could literally fall to your death at any time. But if you have a reasonable semblance of fitness and aren't overly afraid of heights, I highly recommend you add this road trip/hike to your bucket list. You won't regret it. Yosemite's gorgeous scenery alone is worth its own road trip, let alone the hike to Half Dome.
Half Dome's cable climb is pictured above. I can see how it might appear to the untrained eye that Jonathan (right) has bigger "guns" than me. But he's flexing and wearing a shirt that's two sizes too small. Were I to wear an equally tight shirt, my muscles would look pretty much like, well, exactly as pathetic as they do in the above photo.
After hiking it was back to Oakhurst for a much-deserved dinner, a couple of beers and even a foot massage. Yes, tiny little Oakhurst has a Chinese foot massage place. Who knew?
Mike Monticello, Senior Road Test Editor