There comes a moment in every person’s life when they are struck by the thought, “Now, how on Earth did I end up here?” For me, that moment happened when I found myself two hours away from my car at the heel-end of a sleeping bag sandwich composed of my fierce Navajo friend Stacie, the most optimistic girl I’ve ever known, and three Indian men we’d met hours earlier who hadn’t stepped foot inside a tent in their entire 20-some odd years of life.
Let’s just say my two truths and a lie game is unbeatable right now.
It all started when my weekend plans fell through and I got tagged by Stacie in the comments of a ridiculously beautiful Instagram pic some chump posted from the top of Taft Point. The envy was insatiable. I packed my bags. I took off work, planning on leaving late Thursday and returning late Sunday with Stacie and our friend Alysha. I watched my dad check the oil and the tires on my car. I messed with my worried parents by dropping questions like, “What would you do if I sat on the edge of Half Dome?” or “How much do you think it would cost to tow a car to Utah from Cali?” Little did I know I’d be sobbing that last question into an iPhone in a park ranger’s car next to some very unsympathetic tranquilizer guns 48 hours later.
But let’s back this thing up to the beginning.
We arrived with excitement in Yosemite Friday morning — Alysha and Stacie and I were having some serious mountain infatuation — and we were so amazed by all of the rocks, the enormous and cold El Capitan, and Yosemite’s beautiful not-Nevadaness that we didn’t get to the information desk to find a campsite until two or three p.m. My heart sunk as the ranger at the desk called up the last remaining campsites on his list and then proceeded to hang “Closed” signs on every last one of them. At this point, Alysha, Stacie, and I were sleep deprived and hangry. We’d driven all night to get to Yosemite, and now Yosemite was telling us he was unavailable. It was a dark time.
Alysha called up a two-star hotel and they told us they’d love to accommodate us if we’d be willing to sell our firstborns and sign away our prince-seducing singing voices. Obviously, we told them no — the other two have boyfriends, and my prince-seducing singing voice is all I’ve got. We looked up some campsites, all of which were hours away. We didn’t know anybody nearby we could stay with. Bears break into, on average, 100 cars a year in Yosemite, so sleeping in our car in some abandoned corner of the park was vetoed real quick, as was backcountry camping, sadly. At some point, frustrated and worried, I remembered the talk by Elder Wirthlin where he reinforced the words, “Come what may and love it.” So I tried and the others tried, too. Campless, we said a prayer and drove off to play in the meadow between Cap and Cathedral Rock. We took pictures, I gabbed about my man crush on John Muir, Stacie and Alysha patiently humored me, and we watched climbers crawl up the side of Cap like little ants with their gear bags in tow. The service in Yosemite is utterly elusive, but eventually, we got through to Alysha’s boyfriend, who managed to reserve a place for us an hour outside of the park. We had a place to sleep and things were good.
Then the longest Saturday of my life dawned.
We woke up and adventured hard that day. We stopped at the famous tunnel view of Yosemite Valley, and I definitely cried. We hiked to Sentinel Dome and Taft Point, both which provided nauseatingly stunning views of Yosemite Valley below. We played with pinecones the literal size of my face. And then we got back into my car and I drove around the corners of Glacier Point road like someone possessed to get down to the valley and get food. That’s when my skills in the art of having no concept of time kicked in. The trees in Yosemite are massive, so they cast shadows that make it look like an all-day afternoon. We had planned on getting food and then going up to see the sunset at Glacier Point. It was 3 pm at that point, and it looked like 5 pm. I panicked.
“Guys, I don’t think we’re going to make it to Glacier Point in time if we go get food. I think we need to turn around,” I said.
We debated about it. After some back and forth, I whipped my car around and started driving back up to Glacier Point, determined to watch the sun set over the entire Yosemite Valley. We were going up a long stretch of road about 14 miles from Glacier Point when my car made the last noise I ever want to hear in the middle of nowhere again: it rattled, then it scraped, then it banged against the road like it had just given up on life.
“Oh no, oh no, oh no,” I gasped as I pulled off into a ditch.
I thought a tire had blown. None had. We looked under the car as best we could and didn’t see anything. I tried driving forward some more, but the banging became severe. People drove past and they honked at us. Nobody would stop. We were going to spend the night stranded in the middle of nowhere in Yosemite National Park with no phone service, all of our phone batteries half-dead from the picture taking we’d done and two us with frozen credit cards because our banks thought they’d been stolen. We were going to starve and then die here and worst of all, miss the freaking sunset.
That’s when a rental car full of three suave-looking Indian boys obsessed with milk and rap music, who had last minute decided to take a crazy weekend trip to Yosemite, saw us, pulled over, and changed my life in a small way forever.
“What’s wrong?” One of them asked.
“We don’t know. It rattled and sounded like something broke,” I said.
The one who spoke first, Kulvir, hopped out of the car and ran over to us. He brought one of the others and waved the third ahead. Together, they drove the car slowly up to a turnout about a hundred feet above us and drove the front tire up over the curb to see what was going on. Kulvir laid his Yosemite maps down on the ground and then his pink collared shirt on top of them to check. Soon, he was speaking in rapid Hindi to the other two.
I didn’t understand Hindi, but I very much understood, “The axle is broken. This is not fixable,” which he said in English between sentences.
I walked away and yes, reader, I cried. Real good.
After talking among themselves, Kulvir and the others offered to drive us down to the nearest town to get service and call State Farm to get a tow truck up. I wrote down my parents’ numbers as quickly as possible before my phone died and we packed all of our valuables into their rental car, which miraculously happened to seat eight people. We got to a little market where I spent ten minutes trying to stupidly explain to a 911 dispatcher where Yosemite is located. Five minutes after that call, a park ranger with pretty eyes named Officer Buckley stepped through the door with a crooked grin and the most cliche’ heroic park ranger stride I’ve ever seen. “Which one of you has the broken car?” He said. For one gloriously stupid second, I was glad to say, “Me!” He was not unattractive, okay, leave me alone.
Together we tried calling a towing company. The only one available that would do anything for us was in Fresno, four hours away, and they charged about a pound of flesh per hour. At that point, Officer Buckley had waved the Indian boys on, in full rescuing damsels in distress mode. Except he crushed all of our hopes with his crooked mouth five minutes later. As the Indians drove away, Officer Buckley told us that he could either find us an outrageously expensive hotel that none of us could afford to stay in that night, or get us to our campsite, where we’d have no service and no vehicle. And, he warned, no help, as he’d have to leave us there. Apparently Knights in Shiny Ranger Hats have their limitations.
I was plum out of come what may and love its at this point.
I managed to call my parents and was distraught as I spoke to them on the phone in Officer B’s truck when a car pulled up and some familiar voices reached my ears. The Indian boys were back. They’d gotten lost trying to find the town that they had stayed in the night before. Like angels from Heaven, they noticed us and offered to take us to our campsite and stay with us as long as they needed to. They also offered to take us up to Glacier Point and at least let us see the stars up there.
We climbed into their car and I realized that none of us had said a prayer together. I asked the boys if we could pray, which freaked them out a little, as they’d never even heard of Mormons or knew anything about prayer, from what I could tell. After we prayed, Kulvir said, “Woah! I felt something! I’m serious! It’s like…it’s like God’s right there!” He waved his hands in the space right in front of him and I was touched by the thought that yes, God was there. He was going to be there through this whole thing.
And that’s how, at 10 o’clock at night, we ended up in a car barreling towards the top of the mountains at 70-90 miles per hour, Punjabi music blasting from the speakers, and our three new friends, Jaskirat (Jazz), Kulvir, and Harpreet (Happy), singing in Hindi at the top of their lungs as I sat in the back with Stacie and Alysha and half laughed, half tried not to barf, because car sickness. We got to Glacier Point, where we could see headlamps dancing like fireflies on the sides of Half Dome and El Capitan. Like manna from Heaven, service fell from above up there and I was able to talk to my parents, who had contacted a nearby bishop with a mechanic in his ward willing to help tow and fix my car the next day. That mechanic would say, to my relief, that my axle was fine and it was just a small part that needed to be replaced, which he would help us with. This is why the church is bae, guys.
With no other place to stay and no other options, we all stayed at our campsite that night with Indian boys who didn’t even know what tents looked like on the inside because their kind of camping was, quote, “driving around, not hiking, and staying in motels.” These guys were goofy and immature. They drove like maniacs and acted at times like 7-year olds, but they were respectful and kind. They got us food and waited for the tow truck with us. They made sure we got an affordable hotel the next day. They were patient with me when I was worried sick. They looked after us and made sure we were safe up until we got to Utah early Tuesday morning. And in a park full of people too busy trying to see it all, I don’t know that anyone else would have seen us in our time of need and stopped. As Happy later shyly told me, “It was like destiny.”
Sunday morning, as we drove out of camp, Jazz said, “Don’t you need to say your prayer thing?” And after the strangest, most stressful and weirdest night of my life, I picked a new motto to go up there alongside “Come what may and love it.”
Don’t you need to say your prayer thing?
I didn’t understand why my car broke down. It wasn’t funny at the time and I was grumpy about it. But just like those little headlamps on El Capitan, I can look over this past weekend now and see little spots of light where Heavenly Father made miracles happen to get us home and, perhaps, help three Indian boys feel the peace that comes from talking with Him. Or perhaps to remind me, through my friends, that everything will be okay and I don’t have to worry. We are in His hands. He does remarkable things to increase our faith and help us see the good, and He does crazy things to help His children get to know Him or remember Him.
Smashed into the side of a too-small tent with friends and good Samaritans, I realized I knew that all too well.