Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Bonners Ferry ID - Part 1

I think my lap top finally died.
I have been fighting a losing battle with it for a while now, trying to get it to stay on electricity and not on battery power.
At first I thought it was my power cord even though I had just bought a new one before leaving Cody.
And then I spent a month twisting and contorting both my computer and myself until it transferred from battery to electricity, and now it's just stuck on a rapidly running down battery.
Sometime - soon - whenever - soon - I will take my long suffering lap top into the geek shop so that they can take a look at it.  
Paying for what I know will be the inevitable information, which is that my lap top is toast.
And then they will try to sell me another one.
Until I can both afford and face all that, I am posting on LC's desktop.
I can't post pictures of our trip up and over Arco Pass because they're on my lap top, so instead started a thread about our most recent adventure.
I hadn't seen Chris in 17 1/2 month, but finally saw my youngest man-child again this past weekend.
With him unable to take much time off work (and with him having to return to work again on Tuesday) we agreed to meet in Bonners Ferry, Idaho for a quick couple-day visit.
Mapquest told me that the trip to Northern Idaho (only 30 miles from the Canadian border) would take Chris about six hours from Calgary and us about 10 hours from Atomic City.
I had missed my son very much.
Missed his beautiful face, his easy laugh, his outrageous sense of humor.
Missed his massive 6 foot 4 inch and 240 pound frame that garners attention everywhere he goes, but which also willingly bends down to accommodate the need of his mother to wrap her arms around his neck, hug him tightly and kiss his cheek.
Missed him because I love him dearly, worry about him continually, and now he is all that I have left of my children.
All I have left that is a part of me.
The trip was very long (and even though we made few stops) it still took us a little over 11 hours to get from our town in the south to Bonners Ferry in the north.
A trip that began in the dark and that ended almost at dark, and that took us through seemingly endless and winding two-lane highway, beautiful small towns hidden in the mountains, a snow covered pass, the Big Lost River Valley in Idaho and the Bitterroot Valley in Montana, a lot of interstate driving through rugged Montana mountains, and then the pine trees, lakes and mountains that told us that we were finally (finally) there.
Aside from speeding through the northern part of the state on the way from Washington State to Kalispell Montana a few years ago, neither LC nor I had been to northern Idaho before.
We both were eager to see it.
And were both eager to see Chris.
Before leaving the house LC grabbed for something he hadn't grabbed for in a long while - a couple of fishing poles and a tackle box.
And I grabbed something I hadn't grabbed for in a long while - a couple of kayaks, the paddles and life jackets and skirts.
Even loading the kayaks into the truck sent me into an emotional tailspin.
Spinning me back a year and a half.
A lifetime ago.
A split second ago.
And so it went.  Off and on throughout the day before leaving for our long drive and long awaited reunion, LC and I held each other continually.
Both of us excited and both of us struggling with emotions that could no longer be contained in the neat little boxes we have both protectively built for them.........................

I took very few pictures on either the trip up or the trip back.
Miles to go before we slept.
This picture was taken along the side of the highway just south of Salmon.
I had meant to take a picture of it during our trip to the VA in Salmon last month - noticed on the way up that morning and forgotten about on the trip home later that day.
This time my Mountain Boy remembered it, and stopped for a picture...............
After taking a couple of pictures of the sign and mountains surrounding us, I looked back across the road towards LC and Jamie.  
Behind them was a huge, sage covered hill, and coming off that hill were a couple of guys struggling mightily with a deer they had taken down.
Why they were coming straight down the steep front side of the hill (instead of the less steep left side) I will never know, but I watched them struggling for a few moments before impulsively raising my camera and shooting this picture of them...............
I had never really paid close attention to the highway routes running south to north in Idaho, and had made the (mistaken) assumption that there were major highways (either four lane or two lane) that would take us through the state and directly up to Bonners Ferry.
We debated two routes - one took us interstate to Butte and then another interstate to Couer D'Alene, where we would pick up paved two lane highway.
The second route took us up through the Lost River Valley in Idaho and then the Bitterroot Valley up to Missoula, where we would hit interstate and then Couer D'Alene.
The interstate route was 120 miles longer.
The valley route would be winding two lane, a major pass, and then interstate, but was 120 miles shorter.
We took the valley route up and the interstate route back.  Both took us a little over 11 hours.
Climbing the pass between Idaho and Montana................ 
At the top of the pass we found plenty of snow, and signs indicating that we were passing from Idaho over into Montana and that a ski resort was close.
Pulling into a freezing cold rest stop I climbed out of the truck.
Grateful to be moving even for a few minutes after spending too much time in 4x4 confinement, Jamie and I wandered through the snow.
The driveway was completely clear, and the greyish color of the snow surrounding us told me that this snow had been around for a while, and that nothing fresh had fallen in a while.
Completely devoid of people, this place high in the mountains was absolutely and eerily silent................
I hadn't noticed this sign when we pulled in.
In fact, we almost drove by it unnoticed.
A stop sign is a stop sign is a stop sign, right?
Just as LC began to pull into the intersection I really noticed it for the first time, and asked LC to stop the truck so that I could take a picture of it.
As he backed up I looked at it more closely.
I had never seen a stop sign before, that visitors had enthusiastically turned into a sticker board.
Surprised that people had done it (and surprised that it hadn't been taken down at the first sign of defacement) I snapped this picture before we continued with our journey..................
And that was it.
That was all the pictures I took through Idaho and a large swath of Montana on the trip north.
Speeding over pine-tree filled passes and pine-tree filled deep canyons, we finally (after what seemed like a never ending trip), pulled off the interstate and hit Couer D'Alene.
And then promptly left Couer D'Alene.
It was mid afternoon as we pulled off the interstate and pulled into the first gas station we found.
As LC pumped gas, and as I stood in a line 8 deep to pay for gas, I looked out the windows and saw endless traffic streaming by.
Turning to the guy standing in line behind me I asked "Is this town always this busy?"
"No.  Mostly on the weekends".
It was mid-afternoon on a Friday afternoon in mid-October.
I had read about the traffic in CDA but it never really registered until I stood in line at a gas station impatiently waiting to pay for gas.
Loading back into the truck we drove out of town, intent on getting out of there and getting to Bonners Ferry, that was still more than sixty miles away.
I know that there must be beautiful - stunningly beautiful - places in CDA, but neither LC nor I had any desire to go in search of them on this trip.
It had turned into a long day of driving (but as LC told me "every square inch of it was beautiful" and he was right), we had just two full days and three nights in Bonners Ferry and then were facing another long day of driving home.
We'd see enough beautiful further north...............

At one point I worked in Sault Ste Marie Ontario.
The Soo was the single coldest place I have ever lived, but the drive up through the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to reach it was a spectacularly beautiful drive.
North of Gaylord Michigan (the boys used to always laugh at the name of the town in that same way young boys  always laugh at words like "gay" and "balls") and not too far south of the border between the US and Canada, is a miles long bridge that spanned the bluest expanse of water I had ever seen.
This bridge heading into Sandpoint instantly reminded of that bridge in the UP.
For someone who is now a desert rat, the sight of this river (and this bridge crossing the river) left me speechless..................
As we crossed over the bridge and reached terra firma again I could see a sandy beach, green grass, hard wood trees with their bright yellow fall leaves.
As we continued following the two lane highway (Bonners Ferry was 30 miles away) I knew instantly that I loved Sandpoint.
LC and Chris would fish here.  Jamie would walk here and sleep under a tree here.  I would kayak here and then wander town and take pictures here.
I liked Sandpoint and this is where we would spend a good part of our Saturday, I had decided.......

Welcome to Bonners Ferry.
Finally the sign.
Thank you.
Glad to be here.
We almost blew right past the motel.
But then LC pointed and made the comment "That's a nice motel", and I looked up, read the sign and at the last moment said "That's it!  That's the place we're staying at".
We had made it..................
After checking into the motel, finding our room, letting Jamie wander, and the unloading the truck with what we needed for the night, my sweet man and my sweet dog took a much needed nap.
Needing to move - and not needing to sleep - I kissed both of them, grabbed a motel room key and my camera and headed outside.
"Chris, where are you?"
"I dunno - Alberta.  Maybe British Columbia.  There's nothing - absolutely nothing - here".
"Call me before you cross the border.  Drive safely.  I love you baby".
With that I began to wander the grounds of the motel.
There were three structures in the shape of a U, surrounded by trees, picnic tables, a huge fire pit and beautiful landscaping.  One smaller building was the office.  A second longer building contained rooms.  The third small building contained more rooms.
I had found the motel online and booked a room over a month before we arrived, and was pleased and surprised to learn that the room was a little cheaper than they had listed for this time of year on the Internet.
And instead of $10 a night for Jamie, they would charge us $5 a night for pup.
Good deal.  It wasn't a huge savings, but any unexpected savings was an unexpected gift.
I had seen the pictures of the room and of the grounds, and at least online it looked like a nice place to spend a few days.
In person it was just as nice.  
Another unexpected gift.
Restless I aimlessly wandered the grounds.
Too much pent up energy.  A body that struggled to keep pace with a brain that was moving very quickly.
Without a lot of thought I began to snap pictures of the motel and grounds surrounding it, pleased with my choice..............
30 minutes after getting off the phone my boy called me back and told me that he was at the border.
"Alright babe.  I'll see you in about half an hour."
Looking across the road I could see a U-Haul, a Subway, a grocery store, a thrift store, other commercial buildings.
And behind the Subway I could see the mountains.
Impulsively crossing over the (surprisingly busy) two lane highway I headed towards the back of Subway, emotionally pulled towards the mountains..............
Traffic on the two lane, a Subway restaurant, a slew of dumpsters to my left and a slew of pallets to my right.
And beyond all of...........that...........if you disregarded all the junk and the noise and the distractions...........there they were...............
I hadn't slept well for days.
After tossing and turning the night before we left, I got up before the alarm went off at 5am that morning, realizing that I had slept for two hours.
Little sleep.  Long journey.  Overburdened brain and heart.  Excited to see my boy.
I stood at the top of a small rise behind Subway and looked out over the mountains.
And for the first time in a few days felt like I could breathe.................
After power picture taking for 20 minutes or so, I turned away from the mountains and walked the gravel path back towards the road, Subway and the motel.
No Trespassing sign?
What No Trespassing sign?
Walking over to the benches that surrounded the fire pit in the grassy and tree-filled motel, I sat down knowing that LC and Jamie were sleeping and that Chris would be here soon................

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