There and Back Again- an Energica's Tale

While Brandon and I do a fair bit of riding, we recently realized we hadn't ridden any sort of trip together since the race from LA over a year ago. Seems like longer than that, really. I sold my Zero SR and got an Energica SS9, Brandon's back is healed enough so that he can comfortably ride the Ego for long stretches, the world is on fire and everyone is in a panic. Seemed like a good time to do a group ride to LA.

One of the best things in recent memory is a new charge station has opened along Highway 101 in King City, this creating an oasis in what was previously the void between Salinas to the Camp Roberts DC station which is ~90 miles of highway speed riding. Just a bit too far at highway speeds, and necessitated taking Highway 99 to LA because there are DC stations littering the highway there, but it's a boring road. With 101 you get some coastal routes, the fun hills through Chumash, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, and other beautiful places. Highway 99 has Fresno and the Grapevine. Not a difficult choice.

It also means we get to start the route with the incredibly fun G16 road from Carmel Valley to King City: 60 miles of technical twisties. However, before we could start, it was decided that my storage options on the Energica were lacking ever since we got rid of the Zero and its Givi case on the rear. We headed up to Cycle Gear in Gilroy to look at what they had for tail luggage and decided on a 32 liter soft expandable bag I could strap down to the passenger pegs. The only downside is that I needed to remove it every time I charged because the Energica seat needs to lift up on its hinge to reveal the CCS port. I got used to it fairly quickly.

The following morning we set off bright and early, by which I mean 10:30am or so. We're not morning people. As we reached the halfway point of our first leg through G16 we were met with a road block indicating roads were closed due to wildfires. This was obviously a huge problem as we were on a deadline. We had two choices: Turn around, charge back at the shop on both bikes, then head to Salinas and, eventually, King City. This would likely add at least 4 hours to the trip. The other option was to cautiously drive past the road block, assess the road, air, and climate ahead, and chance it that we would meet authorities who would force us to turn around. We nervously chose the latter and proceeded with caution. No signs of anyone were seen until about 10 miles away from our destination, before a one-lane bridge that signaled the end of the twisties. Two police cars were waiting and stopped us.

A friendly officer inquired where we were coming from. "Carmel Valley" we replied. And where were we headed? "King City." Did we realize this was a mandatory evacuation zone? "Yes, sir, we're leaving" I said while pointing at my 32 liter tail bag. They shrugged and told us to take the bridge and be on our way. We thanked them and continued to our first stop, realizing it could have gone much worse.

We arrived at the two newly-installed DC stations to find a Chevy Bolt happily sucking up electrons at one of them. This is a problem, right now, of trying to ride in groups of electric bikes. Even if you plan out stops with multiple charging stations, as I did, there's no guarantee they'll be open, or even working at all. This just meant we had to charge one at a time. Oh well; half an hour wasted.

Heading South, it was not necessary for us to check in at the Southbound Camp Roberts rest stop, but I wanted to see the free DC solar CCS station ChargePoint had installed. I plugged in briefly, used the facilities, and resumed our route to the Bank of America in Paso Robles which boasted 4 DC stations from Electrify America (EA). Easy peasy, in and out in no time, right? Or at least, it should have been.

It was reported the previous weekend that EA had taken all of their DC stations offline down I-95 on the East Coast for maintenance. They received a ton of flak because they didn't tell anyone they were doing this. Over Labor Day weekend. We quickly found that 3 of the DC stations in Paso were similarly offline. Thankfully, a friendly maintenance guy was working in the locked area with the inverters and other equipment, so I felt hopeful he would be able to reset something or get them online. No, it turns out he wasn't interested in resetting them or trying anything. He just shrugged, apologized, and left. One of the other stations indicated it was working but wouldn't start, and the one I was able to get going intermittently stopped the charging session several times. Oh well; another 40 minutes wasted. Still, there's something delightful about charging two bikes fully in under an hour. Name another bike you can do that with.

The day warmed up but the Energicas didn't care. The batteries heated up to the "yellow" level during charging but quickly cooled off back to green during the ride thanks to the aggressive air cooling channels in the battery case. At EA stations further down the line we saw similar patterns: over half the stations were deactivated or offline with no explanation. EVgo stations were reliable, but for overall simplicity and cost it's hard to beat good-old ChargePoint, even if there was an Audi E-Tron idling full at a station for 2 hours at the Santa Ynez Marriot. Oh well; another 30 minutes wasted. We passed the time with 2-for-1 McDonalds Chicken Nuggets and milkshakes.

Warmer than it looks, so why is he wearing a sweater?

I would also like to point out just how nice, on group rides, it is to have helmet communications. Brandon and I have Cardo Packtalks which I wholly endorse. I listen to music, I have full hands-free control of my phone, and Brandon and I can chat or warn each other of upcoming road obstacles. Yeah, it takes away my ability to casually sing along in my helmet, but that's only because I'm super considerate. I really wish they'd introduce a DJ mode so one person could broadcast music and the rest could tune in. That, and also have a simple audio recording option. Often we have GoPro recordings which would be great to synch with recorded Packtalk audio, but there is no option for that. Instead you end up needing to install additional microphones from a GoPro into your helmet, and before you know it you're a Gargoyle from Snow Crash.

The rest of the ride down to San Diego was smooth sailing. The next day was spent taking care of business-related tasks that all went delightfully smooth, and we found ourselves reaching out to other local EV motorcyclists to meet up and go ride. Over the next few days were were able to attract a small crowd of an Energica Ego+, a LiveWire, a Zero DSR, a Zero SR, a Zero SR/S, and an Energica SS9+. Absolutely delightful pack of people, many of whom we've talked with over social media but hadn't gotten to meet yet. The biggest problem came from San Diego's DC infrastructure being a little sparse. It was decided we would meet up at a location with 3 DC stations and 1 J1772 plug. Guess which company. Go ahead; I'll wait.

If you guessed EA you are correct. Further, if you guessed that 2 of the 3 DC stations were offline you are further correct. Get it together, EA. That didn't stop us from a lovely evening ride, though. Thanks for showing us those cool back roads! I would also like to give special mention to Daren Sorenson and his Ego+ who offered to drag race Brandon and his Ego at a red light. I had the pleasure of witnessing this firsthand, and I suggest you ask Brandon how that went. Seriously. Please ask him.

Try to use the DC station in the foreground or the J1772 station in the background

The next day we got the majority of the group together to meet ~80 miles North West at the Murrieta City Hall. Free ChargePoint DC and AC stations galore! We all topped up, then hit the twisties. At the peak of the mountain we were greeted with a glorious overlook of Lake Elsinore, so a few quick photos were snapped.

There's actually a little snack stand up here.

We cruised through beautiful, winding mountain roads that, had they not been clogged with slow stupid cars, would have been utterly perfect. The ending destination was a massive charger bank known as The Shops at Mission Viejo. Not only does it have a massive array of Tesla SuperChargers, it also featured 2 EVgo DC stations and 4 EA DC stations. Would you, dear reader, care to guess how many of those EA stations were working? The answer is actually 1.5. That is to say one of the stations errored out while attempting to charge my SS9, but was able to charge the LiveWire. I then swapped to the known working station while Brandon grabbed the EVgo that didn't have a car using it. I guess I was a bit disillusioned with EA at this point which resulted in a grumpy video update from me.

We spent a few more days in LA conducting business and building cool things, but on Friday we decided to head back home, this time independently. It would be easier if we weren't stopping at the same places and trying to use the same stations. Honestly it was the right call, because every station we stopped at was smooth sailing the entire time. The only issue was that it was 107F leaving LA. Even the mighty Energica had to slow its charge rate down to a 40 minute full charge until ambient temperatures dropped to a point where air cooling could have an effect. For reference, that appeared to be about 80F.

I honestly wasn't thinking about writing about the trip at this point. If I had, I'd have taken more photos. For example, my second stop in Oxnard was at an EVgo station with 1 CCS and 2 Chademo stations. When I pulled in, a Nissan Leaf was at the combination station. I got his attention and asked if he wouldn't mind swapping to the Chademo station, and he happily disconnected. We struck up a conversation. I think his name was Ryan, but he's a long-time EV enthusiast who tried to make an EV motorcycle in the late 90s when the tech wasn't as plentiful or easily-accessed. He proudly pointed out, "Yeah, this is my 3rd Leaf. After this one wears out, that's it. I'm selling everything and building electric boat; I'm just gonna go sailing."

Intrigued, I let him talk to me about the difficulties of EV boats including the challenging positioning of solar panels and that the motors need to be under 2000 RPM. The best ones, he said, were very expensive but rugged and worth it.

Having left later in the afternoon was probably a wise move considering the heat. As soon as the afternoon rolled into dusk my battery went back to green and stayed there for the remainder of the trip home. All in all we put another 1400 miles on each of our bikes which rolled me comfortably over 20,000 miles on my SS9. It also signaled the end of my Pirelli Angel GT II tires at around 7k miles. I am very pleased with this as the previous set of Rossos lasted under half that amount. My new Angel GT rear is out for delivery and should be here at any moment. Here's to the next 7,000.

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