California Winery Adventure Aboard the Kawasaki Mule PRO-FXT
Over the past few years, off-road manufacturers have gotten really creative when it comes to Side-by-Side design. Kawasaki‘s latest offering, the Mule PRO-FXT, which converts from three to six passengers, takes the Mule line to the next level with its versatility.
We recently got to experience the Kawasaki Mule PRO-FXT in a unique environment when we let the good times roll in Pasa Robles, Calif. with the owners of two wineries. It was a chance to see the Mule PRO-FXT in its natural habitat.
Our adventure begins with the fine folks at the Ancient Peaks Winery. This winery has many long service roads with varying terrain covering approximately 14,000 acres. From high mountainous peaks down to the rich soil, perfect for growing the best grapes in the lower regions, the Santa Margarita Ranch acted as our scenic ride spot in the 2015 Kawasaki Mule PRO-FXT.
Our ride covered many of these areas for the first part of the day so we suited up and jumped into our Mules for a tour. You might remember our first look and ride in the Kawasaki Mule PRO-FXT back in June as we were first introduced to this next generation of work vehicles. The Mule PRO-FXT is boasts a strong lineage as a hard working machine, but it is also a trail capable one. Kawasaki added to the fun factor as well as the working features in 2015 with the ability to haul up to six passengers.
COMPARISON: Read our review of the 2015 Kawasaki Mule Pro-FXT
Powering the Mule PRO-FXT is a fuel injected, 812cc triple cylinder engine that is liquid cooled and geared for labor, producing 46 ft-lb of torque for incredible low gear pulling power. Getting the power to the ground is facilitated by Kawasaki’s Automatic Power-Drive system. This CVT (or belt drive system) is geared for towing and heavier loads to ensure reliable operation in any situation. When driving down steep grades the KAPS system is also incorporating engine braking to give the driver confidence and to help slow the big Mule during its descent.
The versatile Kawasaki Mule PRO-FXT benefits from impressive low-end pulling power.
Our ride through the mountainous areas along the Santa Margarita Ranch allowed us to not only appreciate the picturesque landscape, but also learn about the land under our tires from co-owner of the Ancient Peaks Winery, Karl Wittstrom. The first grapes planted here were laid in the ground by Franciscan missionaries way back in 1780. APW had also located and recently planted a small vineyard in the original location where it was believed that these missionaries had planted so many years ago. Being situated close to the Pacific Ocean, 14 miles away to be exact, and along the Santa Lucia mountain peaks San Margarita Vineyard offers a unique climactic environment that benefits the grapes.
The massive Margarita Vineyard proved to be a scenic spot to take the Mule PRO-FXT out for a spin.
One very interesting thing we had learned about the ranch is the twin fault lines near by. Now we all know that when Californians talk about fault lines it not a section of the office where the bad people stand. This is typically an area where earthquakes seem to be regular. The Continental plate and the Pacific plate have ground together in this area to not only produce incredible soil mixtures for growing, but have also revealed the uplifted sea bed and exposing many fossils of the Oyster variety. This was incredibly interesting as the land used to be covered by the ocean! The oyster fossils are high in calcium and this is also a key ingredient in the most prestigious growing regions. We even had the opportunity to see an ancient whale back bone discovered on the property. This was truly an interesting trip around the property and learning about the art of the land as well as the particular soils needed to grow some of the world’s best wines was a treat.
Traversing the landscape we found that there are also many cattle grazing around the property. With the bed of our Mule PRO-FXT being able to haul an impressive 300 lbs in the six-person seating arrangement, we loaded up a couple of green hay bails into the back and proceeded to feed these large animals. Even though we managed to scare off the typically curious cows, it was yet another way we were able to experience the 2015 Kawasaki Mule PRO-FXT in real life.
We hauled some hay in the bed of our PRO-FXT to feed to the cows on the vineyard.
Utilizing this machine with on the job experience, even though it was semi-limited, was indeed exciting. The vineyards were full of workers who could benefit from the use of this Mule and the new platform is a winner in my book. Wild animals could be found everywhere on the ride and many deer and ground squirrels greeted us on every turn. Someone even mentioned the existence of a mountain lion hanging around sometimes, but we never laid eyes on him. However, he very well could have been eyeing us.
Our Mule made us comfortable in many ways during our trek across this property, thanks in part to the power steering system. Having power steering on a real-world working vehicle seems to be a no brainer in today’s UTV manufacturing plans. The steering wheel turns smoothly and this little bit of stress relief, in our opinion, would be huge in a full day or week’s work. Seating in the Mule is also comfortable and there is plenty of room between the driver and passengers. Some would consider the top speed of the Mule, around 40 mph, to be a limiting factor, but while fast is fun, it’s not always needed – and certainly not in a vehicle like the Mule Pro-FXT.
After our ride we were treated to a very non-typical Winery/Vineyard inclusion. The owners, Karl primarily, had developed an adventure plan that would get guests flying across the property while hanging from large steel cables. The Margarita Adventures Winery zip line tour was born, executed and placed inside the property for provide another reason to entice visitors to drop by. After a few minutes of safety harness installation as well as a little brief on what to do and what not to do, we were off the ground and in some places sailing over some of the region’s most sought after grapes. There are 4,500 total feet of zip lines and it is broken into five sections to keep things interesting. Some even had the chance to drop pumpkins into targets, which just added to the excitement.
We got to see Margarita Vineyard from the ground and the air.
Wrapping up our time in the Paso Robles area, we were treated to another winery not far from our hotel. The J. Dusi Vineyard was our destination for dinner and we were treated to not only the history of this winery but an incredible dinner in the wine cellar where many barrels of aging wine was being stored. The entire adventure with Kawasaki and these great hosts was not only educational for a guy who really isn’t into wine, but a great time to experience more of the culture of the Mule PRO-FXT and Kawasaki’s intended market for the machine.
Wine tasting and dinner at the J. Dusi Winery is a great way to wrap up a day of riding.
More by Rick Sosebee