After taking pictures of the mountains behind Subway I wandered back to the motel grounds, looked over at the room where we were staying, and realized that man and pup were still sleeping soundly.
I stood looking at the door for a moment, picturing man sleeping on his side and red dog curled up in a ball behind his legs. Each of them keeping each other warm physically and emotionally.
Not wanting to disturb them I walked over to one of the benches beside the fire pit, sat down, looked at my watch with growing concern and stuffed my hands deep into the pockets of my jacket.
Daylight was fading quickly and the coolness of the day was turning into the cold of early evening.
30 minutes later LC and Jamie wandered out of the room and headed towards me.
"Have you heard from Chris?"
"Yeah, he said about 30 minutes but that was over an hour ago"
He should have arrived by now.
I called him and the call went directly to his Valley Girl sounding voice mail box.
I hung up and called again but it got disconnected immediately.
I hung up and called again and listened to Valley Girl tell me "Hey There! He can't take your call right now......"
Tried again. Valley Girl.
Tried again and it rang and then got disconnected.
OK.............enough of this.
No doubt Chris was in an area where cell phone service was either non-existent or sketchy, but regardless, something was up.
It didn't take over an hour from the Canadian border to Bonners Ferry so either he had gotten stuck at the border for some reason (what reason?), or Chris had run into problems after crossing the border (mechanical problem, hit a deer, fill in the blank with any other things that could potentially go wrong with a young man traveling by himself in far north Idaho).
As LC, Jamie and I were heading across the lawn towards the truck, prepared to head north in search of my child, he called me.
He had been further away from the border than he thought he was when he called me last, was now across the border and on the way to Bonners.
LC and I gave Chris directions to a well lit Conoco gas station close to a sit-down pizza restaurant we had found, drove to the gas station, climbed out of the truck and impatiently waited for boy-san.
10 minutes later a car pulled into the lot, and out climbed a 6 foot 4 inch man wearing khaki shorts, flip flops, red hooded sweatshirt and a wool hat.
That build. Those clothes.
There was no doubt that this huge man was my child.
He walked to me. I walked to him. And we hugged for a long time. It had been 18 months and Chris looked great.
After talking for a few minutes he reached into his car and brought out two large cups of Tim Hortons coffee for LC and me. I hadn't drunk Tim Hortons coffee in 17 years.
They still had good coffee.
After spending a long time at the pizza restaurant eating and catching up we all headed back to the motel.
Immediately Chris and I began exchanging unexpected gifts to each other.
I had brought him many sets of long underwear because one day on the phone he had told me that he needed some. I had also brought wool hats, wool socks, shirts, jackets.
I knew that he had gear that he had bought from oil rig workers - minus 100 degree boots and coveralls that were made for severely cold weather.
I had nothing to compare with that, but he took some of the sweaters and jackets anyway. Clothing he could use when it was cold but not freezing.
He happily handed me seven seasons of the TV series Breaking Bad and a portable DVD player. I had heard of the show but had never seen it, and he excitedly spent 20 minutes telling me how awesome of a show it was.
And then he handed me something made out of concrete.
I looked at it. Turned it over. Turned it back.
"What IS it?"
It was a miniature of the concrete barricades they had on the outskirts of the Green Zone in Iraq. An Iraqi soldier had made it and given it to Chris.
An actual picture of those outside the Green Zone:
I don't know why I didn't take a picture of it at the time but I was frankly stunned.
Chris - my free spirit Chris - had carried this piece of concrete with him since he got back from his second tour and I knew nothing about it.
He had always told me that he was traveling light - clothes and not much else.
And in the time since he had gotten out of the military my son had traveled from New Jersey to New Brunswick. From New Brunswick to Winnipeg Manitoba to Calgary Alberta.
It had never occurred to me that he would carry this thing with him in his travels, but he had.
And now he was giving it to me.
Chris had given me his military medallions when I last saw him in Tennessee. I had kept them safely in a drawer until the time when I could do something nice with them. Present them in some way that would do justice to his service.
The 2 foot concrete barricade that I was now looking at was perfect.
We'll make something nice out of all of it.........
We had plans the next day to go to Sandpoint to fish and enjoy the beach area that LC and I had found on our journey up to Bonners Ferry.
After a long day of traveling we all had an early night.
Jamie slept with her boy that night, as she always does when she sees him.............
Saturday morning LC and Chris went to Subway for breakfast and then went in search of a place to buy fishing licenses, while I wandered around a thrift store that was directly across the street from the motel.
They not only found fishing licenses but also found a place for Chris to buy badly needed tires for his car.
After making sandwiches, grabbing ice, and loading the truck with poles and jackets we all four (LC, Chris, Jamie and I) eagerly headed for the beach at Sandpoint.
And quickly found out that dogs were not allowed at the beach. Not the beach nor the park adjacent to it.
Disappointedly we got the bright idea to drive beyond Sandpoint.
We were in Northern Idaho. Surely we could find a public access fishing spot where they could fish, I could kayak, and Jamie could just be the sweet dog that she was, doing the sweet-dog things that she does.
We turned down a few roads on the opposite side of the long bridge and found only dead ends and closed communities.
Stopping at a vet we got directions to a small lake.
We turned off the highway and drove on long, winding barely-two-lane road, passing beautiful scenery for many miles, and all the time wondering exactly how far the lake was.
After many more miles we found what we had been looking for.
The lake was small but (aside from one other person paddling the lake in a canoe) was totally silent and empty.
As Chris and I pulled kayaks out of the back of the truck, LC searched for his fishing tackle box.
We had left it back at the motel.
No worms. No tackle. Oh geeze........
We had seen a sign far back indicating some kind of marina, and after some discussion it was decided that Chris and I would kayak, while James and LC went in search of worms and other needed fishing........stuff............
The lake was small and flat, the water was cold, and the day was calm and warm.
My son and I paddled a little, stopped and talked a little, paddled a little more, stopped while I took pictures.
It was neither energetic nor exciting, but it was very nice.
A quiet and beautiful place where my son could detox from the fast pace of a town with over l million people, and a place where I could touch my son, talk to my son, listen to my son, be with my son..............
Slowly Chris and I headed back to shore when we saw the familiar green truck.
And then unexpectedly we heard a shot.
The loud break in what had (up til then) been total silence was startling, and the noise echoed completely around the lake for a very long time.
It was hunting season.
A second shot.
Again, the noise enveloped us as it circled completely around the lake.
Looking towards shore I already knew that Jamie would be terrified, and sure enough she was sitting as close to LC as she could get...................
LC had been gone for well over 45 minutes, and in all the time had hit more dead ends but did not find the marina.
Really? We had seen a sign but he couldn't find it?
Where the heck were they HIDING the place?
OK...........so with no bait or other stuff they needed for fishing, and with Jamie showing signs of getting very tired, it was time to cut our losses and head back to the motel.
Time for Plan B.
Jamie needed to sleep, and we would drop her off at the motel and find a place in Bonners Ferry to fish.........
My sweet, beautiful pup was getting too old for these kinds of trips.
LC and I had decided that on the way up.
After eagerly and enthusiastically seeing so many states, so many trails, so many rivers, so many hill tops, my 13 year old dog needed to rest.
As we placed her in the middle of Chris' bed, I kissed her on top of her furry head, and stroked her furry ears in that way that I know she likes, kissed her again between the eyes, and told her we would see her in a while.
A quick stop at the tire place, and we changed Chris' appointment to later that same day to get his new tires put on the car.
And then we headed to downtown Bonners Ferry.
We quickly found a spot along the river.
The plan was for the guys to fish until it was time for the tire appointment, and I would explore town and take pictures.
Call me when you're done.
I love you both...............
Bonners Ferry is a small northern Idaho town of a little over 2000 people.
It is obviously an old town, but also obviously a tourist town, and there are many "touristy" things to see.
Small museums. Colorful store signs. Colorful paintings on the outside of buildings that help to bring color to a town that is grey often throughout the long winter. Small statues and plaques.
I liked this little town very much, and as I continued to slowly wander through town in photography-mode, realized that this entire area reminds me very much of Alaska.
The trees, the mountains, the rivers, the lakes, the grey sky, the endless touches (even at this time of year) that draw tourists to take pictures and spend money.................