This is part 5 of a TBT Travel Series: A Taste of California. Check out these posts on why I picked California, how I saved money on travel, the magic of hiking in Malibu, why you shouldn’t miss the Getty Villa, and the sacredness of friendship.
You know what they say about the best-laid plans, right? Well, I’m a master of creating no-wiggle-room, down-to-the-minute, grand plans. And sometimes it feels like Dan and God are in cahoots to subvert my brilliance. Sometimes these are big plans—the timing of our engagement or deciding when to have kids—and sometimes they’re small plans—exploring off the trail or taking a different road.
We left LA mid-morning on a Thursday and made our way north and inland toward Yosemite National Park. We anticipated the trip would take us about 6 hours, giving us a couple hours to explore the park that afternoon. We ended up on a 10-hour adventure because of a car accident (not Dan’s doing) and a decision to take the scenic route (Dan’s doing).
Earlier in the week, when we were stuck in the legendary LA traffic, we were rear-ended. Initially we thought the rental car would be okay, and but later I insisted that we exchange it at the Burbank airport on our way out of town. Dan thought we should just keep driving, but I didn’t feel great about our low-hanging back bumper. I was terrified that it would start to scrape the ground and cause sparks, and then the car would catch on fire and we’d both die in flames out in the wilderness. In addition to my planning abilities, I am gifted at playing out worst-case scenarios, and this gift makes me a real treat to travel with / live with / be married to. Dan is a richly blessed man.
We got lost a few times during our drive, and the sun was just starting to set as we reached the southern entrance to Yosemite.
Even though we wouldn’t have time to hike that evening as we’d hoped, Dan suggested that we drive through the park and come out the northwest entrance and continue on to our hotel.
Great idea! I readily agreed, thinking it might add an extra 30 or so minutes to our drive time. I had no concept of how big Yosemite is and how winding the roads would be, and as a result, how long it would really take us to get all the way down to the valley and then back out the other side.
So we began our descent into Yosemite Valley—Dan was driving, of course, because if I’d been in charge of navigating those roads, we would have crawled along at 15 miles per hour so that by the time we arrived, we might as well have slept in our car at the bottom of the valley. Instead, I white-knuckled the sides of my seat and tried to look straight ahead as we zigzagged our way down the switchback roads, whipped around sharp curves, and nearly brushed against the guardrails and oncoming cars.
(Note: I’m exaggerating. Dan drove a safe 30 miles per hour and took great care around curves. But when you’re afraid of heights and narrow roads and falling to your death, anything over 15 mph feels purely RECKLESS.)
It took us nearly two hours to get to the bottom of Yosemite Valley. By the time we reached it at 7:00, everything was shut down for the night. We had no choice but to head right back out the other way, on toward our hotel and—we desperately hoped—food. And this leg of the trip, joy of all joys, took place in the dark.
We finally arrived at our hotel around 8:30 that night. We ordered greasy French dip sandwiches and fries from the diner next door, snuggled into bed, and watched a terrible made-for-TV movie until we fell asleep.
My frustration had grown and grown over the course of the day, with all the setbacks and time delays and my own completely absurd gap in understanding of just how expansive Creation is.
But as is often the case, whenever I look back on that day—which definitely derailed from my perfectly calculated timeline—it becomes a sweeter memory over time. We took unexpected detours that led us on new adventures, to new heights, to new sights. I got my first taste of true splendor—Creation like I had never seen it before. Several times, we got out of the car just to stand near the edge of a cliff and gaze out over the valley. Dan pointed out El Capitan and Half Dome and Yosemite Falls.
We weren’t feeling pressured to do more and hike the trails and see all the things—there would be time for that tomorrow. For that day, we were free to drive, stop, gaze, admire, repeat; no striving necessary. We dreamed of seeing these far-off sights the next day, experiencing the reality of the already-and-not-yet.
It was just what we needed that day. Thank God He doesn’t let me call the shots.