We set off, excited and giddy like children on Christmas, ready to hit the road on that old Mitsubishi Montero. All three of us overworked and exhausted thinking “At last! A few days of nothingness, no cell phone, no work, no civilization, just us and the mountains” or so we though, haha. Two hours into the trip we decided to stop for ice at the infamous Shell gas station in Pearsonville, along the 395. We topped off the cooler, bought a few enamel pins and off we went, when 10 minutes or so after leaving that gas station, those pesky warning lights illuminated on the dash and we lost all power on the truck. We opened the hood and we immediately noticed that the top tank on the radiator had blown and leaked all of the coolant, we were in for a long day ahead of us.
We started making phone calls trying to see if anyone could locate a radiator for us, we figured that we could order the radiator and get towed to a shop in time for the part to get there, get it installed or install it ourselves and be on our way. So we got picked up by the tow truck and took the 36 mile ride North to Millers Towing in Lone Pine, to continue our adventure. Easy right? Wrong, it turns out that wanting to be different isn’t always the best thing in order to have a smooth ride (pun intended). We quickly learned that locating a radiator for a 1990 Mitsubishi Montero was just as easy as locating a cold beer in the middle of the desert on a hot summer day. After searching for hours we realized that we were going to be in for the long haul. There was no way that we would be able to continue our trip, now it was a matter of trying to get home. This is where the mood starts to turn, you realize that you won’t be able to enjoy your time out in the mountains, you won’t be able to disconnect and camp out the way you’ve planned for months, and not only that but you’re going to have to try to find a way back home somehow. When the tow truck companies quote you over $1,500.00 to take you back home 180 miles away, you begin to wonder if there’s another solution. So we sat there, at the front desk with one of the technicians from Millers, wondering how the heck we were going to get home.
Already down, hot and hungry trying to stay positive in the circumstances, we did what any natural nervous human beings would do to try to make light of the situation, we started cracking jokes. We must’ve done a great job because it made Emilio aka E-z, the tech helping us, open up to us and before we knew it he was comfortable enough to share a little bit of his life story with us. At 70 years old and living in Lone Pine, he works 7 days a week. Some days at Millers Towing, and the rest of the days at the airport next door. “Never stop moving” he told us, advice given to him by his father which has proven to have saved his life for the past twelve years. Emilio lived with prostate cancer for ten years of his life he explained, when they first diagnosed him, they told him that he only had one year of life left. He continued strong and kept working, ten years after being diagnosed he was finally able to get his prostate removed thus getting rid of the cancer. Not before dying twice on the operating table however, and not without the cancer making its way into his bones. Shortly after making a recovery from his prostate cancer they informed him that he had stage 3 bone cancer, incurable and once again faced with only one year to live. He quickly called their bluff and told them that that had been what they told him last time, and there he was. A year later after being diagnosed with stage 3 bone cancer, still working and helping us locate an impossible to find radiator for our truck. Suddenly our insignificant truck and ruined plans didn’t seem so bad, compared to having to live with cancer for the past twelve years of your life.
The search was pointless, he offered to gift us some jugs and gallons of water and suggested that we try to limp our way home while filling the radiator up every few miles. He helped us load the truck up, we gave him some cash in exchange for the jugs of water and off we were, limping into the sunset. Perhaps we were a bit too hopeful after hearing his story, because we didn’t get too far haha. We got about one mile south of the Boulder Creek RV Park before the engine completely gave out and refused to start for us, now we knew we were really screwed. But once again, we turned to each other and remembered Emilio’s story, so what did we do? Pulled out our camping chairs, a lantern, a speaker and the food that we had brought along with us for the camping trip as we waited for a tow truck. We made the most out of the situation that we were in, with the things that we had the ability to control. Sitting there along the the 395 on an empty dirt patch perfectly placed for us to come to a rolling stop on, enjoying the stars listening to music and enjoying each other’s company, it wasn’t quite the adventure that we had planned but it was an adventure nonetheless. Why did the 3 year old radiator blow up? Why did the truck break down there and not on the trail in the mountain? Why couldn’t we find a replacement? Was it negligence, a faulty part or just bad luck? Who knows, what we knew is that we could certainly make the best of the situation that we were in, because it could always be worse, and that’s exactly what we did. Even a moment of silence when the cars stopped speeding by seemed like a gift from the universe, so that we could appreciate the Milky Way in such way that we normally can’t out here in the city.
Fourteen hours and three tow trucks later, we were finally home and in bed. It was quite the day, I never thought I would spend more time sitting on the 395 watching cars zoom by rather than driving on it. A friend sent me a message and said “I hope that your next trip is a successful one” and thinking about our unforgettable day I told her, “it was a successful trip, we successfully managed to get home safe and sound, and still had a memorable time doing so”. Not all trips go as planned, but it’s certainly up to us to make them memorable. If you ever find yourself staring into the shop at Millers Towing, in Lone Pine, California give our friend E-z our best, we thank him for our new outlook on life.