A Perfect Day
By Janey Womeldorf
The date was June 10, 1996 – a Monday – it was the perfect day. My conscience feels obliged to add, “of course, my wedding day was also perfect” but the reality is wedding days require work, attention and worry. June 10 required none of that.
The story started months earlier when a change in my husband’s work situation rendered us unemployed, or as we preferred to say, “in between jobs.” Several soul-searching conversations and bottles of wine later, we made the decision to sell our house, buy a motor home and travel. We adopted the new motto “Frugal is Fun” and by the time our mid-life retirement was over six months later, we had driven 20,000 miles, covered 42 states, visited 12 national parks and gained an appreciation for our country impossible to grasp from any photograph or book.
After our adventure, people would ask what our favorite part was. How could we choose? Hiking down into the Grand Canyon was equally as breathtaking as experiencing the larger-than-life trees of Sequoia National Park. Touring the Library of Congress in our nation’s capital was as riveting as experiencing the chill of Alcatraz in San Francisco. Enjoying an indulgent (and generous) wine-tasting in Napa Valley, then sleeping it off in the motor home in the vineyard’s parking lot was as wickedly-memorable as pulling our 32-foot home-on-wheels into the drive-in movie. Our journey overflowed with joyous stories, but June 10 stood out above all others.
We had booked six days in Yellowstone National Park at the campsite on the North side of the park. As we drove into Yellowstone, a herd of bison ambling across the road forced us to stop. With bison just feet from our windshield, we scrambled for our cameras to capture the unbelievable moment. We were still grinning as we pulled into our campground, ecstatic that it at least offered electricity, albeit no water. Fortunately, we had loaded up on gallon jugs and were used to creative showering; besides, sometimes hot coffee is all that matters.
For the next four days, we hiked, biked and embraced as many free, frugal-is-fun, ranger-led programs as we could. We had chosen not to tow a car so staying on the park’s north side meant packing up and unplugging the motor home to drive it to the park’s famous geyser, “Old Faithful,” on the south side. The geyser was magical but as we left the crowds and drove back to the campground, we knew the quieter north-side location had been the right choice. We would soon discover why.
The following day was a Monday but that didn’t matter, we were craving “a Sunday” – a day to just sit, chill and do nothing. After a long, slow wake up, we switched on the breakfast TV, and let Katie and Bryant amuse us while we made coffee. Then, dressed in lounge shorts and comfy t-shirts, we went for our morning stroll. We shared animal sightings, camping advice and future travel tips with our fellow campers, always impressed by how jolly everyone seemed. How could they not be? We were in one of the most beautiful National Parks in the country. It is a bizarre irony of camping that when people give up all the comforts and conveniences of home, they seem happier for the experience
Back at our home on wheels, we sat outside and hugged our coffee mugs as we watched the campers lock up their motor homes, jump in their cars and set off for their day. After the luxury of a brief nap, my husband reached for his novel, and I opened my laptop, eager to catch up on the diary blog of our adventure. The occasional touch of the hand or passing kiss was the only conversation needed.
By lunchtime, the campsite was a deserted shell of empty motor homes; apparently, we were not alone in our hunger. One by one, elk appeared from the woods and wandered towards us. We sat, riveted. Were they curious? Were they scavenging? Would the distant herd of bison also venture over? We were sharing our campground with the visiting wildlife, humbly aware that we were the guests, not them. For the next few hours, the soothing rustle of a page turning and the melodic click, click of computer keys were all that could be heard along with the distant chattering of birds. As the sun shone, elk meandered around our campground, oblivious to our presence. The tranquility of the day consumed us, and it was cathartic bliss. All our concerns about the job (or lack of), dwindling finances, no permanent home and no concrete direction for our future vanished and, for that one magical day, we had no cares in the world. I looked over to my husband and smiled. He was busy building the camp fire so we could roast that night’s dinner. When the flame finally caught, he looked up at me, proudly grinning from ear to ear. Peace and contentment oozed from his body, and his face glowed. For a few seconds we just looked at each other – magic needs no words. Soon after, the animals disappeared as if they had never come, and our fellow campers trickled back into the park, none the wiser.
That night, the crackle of burning logs and distant howl of coyotes serenaded us as we savored every smoky-sweet mouthful of our chargrilled feast. It had been a blissful yet strangely thought-provoking day. We had both experienced an overwhelming sense of peace, contentment and simplicity we never knew existed in this busy, must-do, must-have world. It was an epiphany worthy of celebration; we bypassed the coffee and searched for the corkscrew.
Twelve years later, the memory of that perfect day still makes me tingle. Of course, that isn’t to say our wedding day wasn’t perfect, but…
About this writer
- Janey Womeldorf is a freelance writer who drinks too much coffee, loves elastic and can no longer wear high heels. She scribbles away in Orlando, Florida.