Substitute Dad

© 2006 - 2010 By Scribe1971 (scribe1971@hotmail.com)

Chapter 22

Recharging the Batteries

I awoke the next morning after a very restful sleep. The sun was shining brightly and the hotel room had a nice warm glow to it. Thankfully I didn't have to use the bathroom all that badly because I found myself buried under a pile of Josh. Somehow we had rearranged ourselves in our sleep and I ended up on my back with Josh lying face down on top of me with his chin on my right shoulder and the right side of our faces touching. As usual, he was sleeping like a log.

I wanted to see what time it was, but my left arm was pinned so I gently turned my head and looked at the digital clock on the table beside the bed. It was about 9:30 in the morning and it was a rest day so I closed my eyes and decided to go back to sleep.

Next thing I knew, Josh was frantically shaking my shoulder. "Wake up Dad, we really slept in," he said urgently.

"It's OK Josh, we can be lazy today," I replied, still half asleep.

"But it's noon!"

"WHAT?" I said as I sat up like a shot. Thankfully Josh had rolled off of me before trying to wake me up. I looked at my watch and sure enough, it was 12:11 PM! "Shit! We slept through half the day!" I lamented as I jumped out of bed and headed for the bathroom.

The hotel room featured a nice big glass walled shower stall with dual showerheads so Josh and I decided to recover some of the lost time by showering together. We climbed in and began frantically soaping and shampooing ourselves. After washing each other's backs, we rinsed off and I took a moment to do my weekly self-check for any sign of testicular cancer.

"Hey bud, did I ever show you how to check yourself for testicular cancer?" I asked Josh as I turned around to face him.

"Cancer of the balls?" Josh asked with a horrified look on his face.

"Yeah. It's a pretty common form of cancer and it tends to strike guys from the teen years up to the early 40s. It's almost always curable if it's caught early enough," I replied.

"How do I check myself?" Josh asked.

"It's easy. I do it once a week and its best to do it in or just after a hot shower. The warm water relaxes your scrotum and makes it easier to feel any unusual lumps."

"The reverse of shrinkage, eh?" Josh asked with a grin.

"Something like that. All you do is gently roll each testicle around in your hand and feel for any lumps, sore spots or changes in shape or size. Yours will be growing quite a bit right now and you might even have one grow a little bigger than the other for a while and that's normal, but if you feel a lump or something on one of them, you need to get it checked out." I demonstrated the proper technique for Josh and he quickly picked it up.

"What exactly is cancer?" Josh asked as he carefully checked himself.

"It's basically a cellular mutation which causes cells to grow and divide uncontrollably and form tumors. The cancerous cells invade and destroy healthy tissue and they can spread to other parts of the body through something called metastasis. Most types of cancer can be treated and some can be cured if it's caught early, but others such as pancreatic cancer are almost always fatal."

"What causes it?" Josh asked as we stepped out of the shower and began to dry off.

"There are lots of things which can cause it. It can be genetics, exposure to chemicals, exposure to radiation, cigarette smoke or even viruses. Sometimes it seems to just happen with no identifiable cause. They say that virtually everyone will either get cancer of will know someone who does."

"That's scary," Josh said dejectedly.

"It is scary, but don't worry about it. All you can do is live well, keep an eye on your body and hope for the best."

As we often did, Josh and I shared the bathroom sink as we shaved and brushed our teeth before heading back to the main part of the room to get dressed. "It's strange," I said.

"What's strange?" Josh asked with a raised eyebrow.

"I'm surprised that housekeeping didn't come by to make up the room yet. Usually they come around before noon."

"They'll probably come around while we're having lunch."

"Probably," I replied. Something felt sort of 'off' but I couldn't quite place it.

We got ourselves dressed and then we headed downstairs to the restaurant in the lobby. The plan was to grab lunch and then head out for a day of exploring. We were going to see the sights, cap off the day with dinner in a nice restaurant, and then take in a movie. After that, we planned to return to the hotel room for a nice soak in the hot tub. The next day we'd be back on the road and head for Saskatchewan.

We rode the elevator down to the lobby and found it surprisingly quiet. I looked around the restaurant as we waited to be seated and despite the fact that we were in the middle of the lunch hour, there were few diners to be seen.

"Table for two?" The perky waitress asked as she grabbed a couple of menus and motions for us to follow her.

The waitress led us to a table and we took our seats. "What can I get you to drink?" she asked.

"I'll take a pot of tea please," I replied.

"I'd like a large Coke," Josh said.

The waitress looked strangely at Josh for a moment before replying "You want Coke now?" She asked with a grin.

"Pepsi's ok if you don't have Coke," Josh responded.

The waitress sort of stared at Josh for a moment before shaking her head and going to retrieve our drinks.

"What's with her?" Josh asked.

"I don't know. That was kind of strange."

A moment later, the waitress returned with a small pot of tea for me and a large Coke for Josh. "I guess you have to get your caffeine from somewhere," she said with a smile as she handed him the glass. "Have you boys decided what you want? We have a lovely breakfast buffet," she continued as she pointed to a row of steam tables on the other side of the room.

"A breakfast buffet at this time?" I asked incredulously. "Isn't it kind of late for that?"

"Oh no, we serve breakfast until noon when we change over to the lunch menu."

Josh and I just looked at each other thinking that we were in the middle of an episode the 'Twilight Zone'. "I guess I'll have the buffet," I replied.

"Yeah, me too," Josh said hesitantly.

The waitress looked strangely at both of us for a moment before making a note on her order pad. "Ok then. Help yourselves and enjoy your breakfast!" She said cheerfully before heading off to greet the next diners.

Josh and I, still feeling as if we'd slipped into some alternate dimension made our way to the buffet tables. Sure enough, they buffet was stacked with steam trays of bacon, eggs, sausages, fruit, pastries and other breakfast staples.

We loaded up our plates and made our way back to the table. "Ok Joshy, lets retrace our steps. Something very weird going on here. Short of being zapped into an alternate universe by a lightning bolt, something very strange is going on here."

"Everything was fine until we crossed the time zone and set our watches ahead last night..."

My mouth dropped open comically and I slapped my forehead. "Shit on toast!"

"What?" Josh asked with a strange look on his face.

"We really must have been tired last night," I said with a shake of my head. "Think this through for a moment. We're going west - away from the rising sun."

"Sure, that's why we... Oh shit!" Josh exclaimed.

"Why the hell did we turn our watches ahead by an hour?" I replied.

"We should have turned them back!" We both said in unison before breaking out into raucous laughter and earning a look of reproach from some nearby diners and the waitress.

"You know something; I woke up about half an hour before you did and looked at the alarm clock. I saw that it was only about 9:30 and went back to sleep. When you woke me up, I thought I'd slept for another two and a half hours!" I said with a laugh.

"I didn't even look at the clock - I just looked at my watch," Josh managed to say between giggles. "We are quite a pair aren't we?"

We both fixed our watches and then settled down to enjoy our breakfast, and the two hours of our lives that we had just reclaimed!

"You know bud, we really should take it easy and not push it when we're that tired. It ended ok this time and gave us a laugh, but it could have resulted in a crash."

"You were driving ok and you weren't falling asleep or anything," Josh replied.

"I know, but I don't think either of us was as alert as we normally are. Let's make a deal, next time either of us feels that tired, we'll tell the other and we'll stop for the night."

"Deal," Josh replied with his trademark grin.
I paid the cheque and we left the restaurant. We decided to head out and see the sights. It was a beautiful, warm and sunny day and we had no schedule to keep that day. The hotel lobby contained a rack of tourist brochures and we picked out a couple which looked interesting before heading out.

Rather than taking the Jeep, we hailed a taxi and headed out. Our first stop was the Forks Historic Port. The Forks is located on the Assiniboine River and winds through Winnipeg. It's also the starting point for the Assiniboine Riverwalk, a trail which follows the river through the city starts at the port and ends at the legislature building. We decided to tour the historic port and then take the Riverwalk. We finished the afternoon with a tour of the legislature. The famous "Golden boy" statue which is perched atop the legislature dome was one of the sights we wanted to see in the city.

The Forks features a market, rowboat, canoe, and sea cycle rentals, as well as a boardwalk and numerous dining venues. In addition, the Forks plays host to many seasonal festivals, cultural and recreational events. The Forks Market was high on our list of things to do. It's housed in historic stables and features a variety of restaurants, specialty retailers, arts and crafts.

After exiting the cab, Josh and I headed straight to the canoe rental stand and rented a canoe. Canoeing had been one of our favorite activities back at Tonawonka and we were still the undisputed cross-lake champions, having shattered the old time by more than 2 full minutes.

"I wonder what the record is to get from here to the legislature," Josh asked with a grin.

"I don't know son, but I'm sure we could beat it!"

We donned lifejackets and then climbed into the canoe. We took our customary places with Josh in the front seat, paddling on the right and with me in the back seat, steering and paddling on the left. For the next hour, we explored downtown Winnipeg from the confines of the canoe as we paddled up and down the Assiniboine River. Despite having to paddle and steer the canoe, we managed to shoot a whole lot of video and snap a pile of digital photos. We encountered all sorts of other people in canoes and paddle boats and we talked to most of them.

"Hey bud, how about we head in, check out the market and then grab some lunch?" I asked.

"Cool," Josh replied as he switched to the left side and helped me to sharply turn the canoe back towards the Forks.

After turning in our canoe and gear, we headed to the Forks Market and its 75 shops and restaurants. The Forks Market is advertised as having something for everyone and we found that to be absolutely true. Josh and I had a great time checking out the unique creations offered for sale in many of the small shops. Josh bought an Indian necklace for Susan and I picked up a hand carved soapstone carving of a polar bear for James. I figured it would look nice on his desk. We intended to pick up unique souvenirs for everyone we knew during the trip and we had to discipline ourselves not to go nuts and buy everything at once. We wanted to make sure that we bought everyone something completely unique. With the purchase of the necklace and the carving, we were done with the First Nation's theme as far as gifts went.

We had been touring the market for more than an hour and were beginning to think about lunch when we came to a very unique shop. The sign above the shop advertised palmistry and fortune telling. I was just as happy to keep walking abut Josh stopped me.

"Let's get our palms read," Josh said. "The sign says it only costs $20."

"Give me some read paint and I'll give you a red palm for a whole lot less," I deadpanned.

Josh just rolled his eyes and shook his head. "I can't take you anywhere," he said in mock seriousness before grabbing my hand and dragging me into the tiny shop.

We entered the dimly lit shop and were met by an older woman dressed in what can only be described as a Gypsy costume. The sweet smell of incense hung thick in the air and the walls were decorated with a variety of spiritual and mythical images and symbols. To say that I was skeptical was an understatement. I was not a believer in the concept of fortune telling and I really thought it was going to be a waste of our time and our money. I only went along with it to make Josh happy. I really didn't think Josh put much stock in such things either, but he seemed to think it would be fun, and having fun was our mission that day.

"We'd both like to have our palms read," Josh announced to the woman as he handed her $40 from his wallet.

"Certainly, who would like to go first?" She asked in a lightly accented voice. I wasn't sure if the accent was authentic or not, but it seemed to fit the costume.

"Can we go together?" Josh asked.

"Of course," the woman said as she pointed us towards a small covered table.

The three of us sat down and the woman reached for Josh's hand first. She stretched out his fingers and began to examine his palm. She seemed deep in concentration as she traced the lines on Josh's hand. After a couple of moments, she looked up and began to speak.

"You are a good boy with a big heart. You will be a good man when you grow up. You are going to live a long and adventurous life. You have been through much and you will face a very tough decision before you reach adulthood. The decision you make will have a great affect your future. I see a lot of love in your life now and in your life to come. I see that you will have a wife and you will have children. I don't know the meaning of it, but I see two numbers which will be of some importance. I see the number 24 and the number 25. Those numbers may offer a clue to your destiny so watch for them. If you make the right choice, you will one day become an important man with a lot of responsibilities. People will respect you and look up to you. You need to listen to your heart; it will lead you in the right direction when the time comes."

The woman finished with Josh. I was still very much a skeptic, but oddly enough, some of what she had said meshed with some of my dreams of the future. My skepticism slipped a bit as she began to examine my palm.

The woman frowned slightly as she traced her index finger down my lifeline. After about two minutes of closely examining my hand, she began to speak "I can see that you are a good and honorable man. You have faced much suffering and many challenges. Those challenges have made you stronger. I can see you that will face four great dangers that threaten, but will not take your life. I believe that two of those dangers have passed but the third and fourth still lurk. Of those that have passed, I can sense that this boy... your son," she said indicating Josh, "saved you from one of them. For the future, I see danger from above as the source of one threat, and danger from within as the source of the other. Circumstances as well as your own actions will see you through. You will see great success in business and in life. Business will only be part of your life. Your real success will come through your son."

My skepticism really began to falter at that point. How could she have known that Josh was my son? If she were simply making a guess, she probably would have guessed that we were brothers. How could she have known about my illness and the fact that Josh saved my life by performing mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on me? How could she have guessed that I had been through more than my fair share of hardship? Josh and I thanked the woman and we left the shop to find someplace to have lunch. We were both a little quiet as we headed to the food court.

"I know that stuff is all make-believe," Josh said. "How could she know all that stuff?"

"I don't know kiddo. Usually, they say very general things which can be interpreted many different ways, but she was quite specific and actually seemed to know, or at least sense things, that she wouldn't likely have had any way of knowing."

"That was odd, but fun. I wonder what she meant about the numbers 24 and 25?"

"I dunno kiddo. Maybe you should start buying lottery tickets and play those numbers!" I replied with a laugh which earned me an elbow in the side from Josh.

"I'm worried about the danger from above. If I was superstitious, I'd probably ask you to stop flying," Josh said.

"Well, I'm not superstitious either. Anyway, she said danger FROM the air, not in the air."

"That's good," Josh said with a grin. "I like flying."

"When we get back, I'll get you signed up for lessons. You can solo as soon as you turn 14."

"COOL! Thanks Dad," Josh exclaimed. He put his arm around me and hugged me briefly as we walked along. "I love you so much."

"I love you too kiddo."

We had burgers and fries at the Forks Market food court and then we headed out to take the River Walk to the Provincial legislature. It was a beautiful scenic walk and we shot a lot of video and digital photos along the way. When we arrived at the legislature, we spent some time marveling at, and photographing the magnificent architecture of the building, and we made sure to get lots of photos of the famous golden boy.

The Golden Boy, which is perched high atop the dome of the legislative building is a 28 foot tall bronze statue of a boy clutching a sheaf of wheat and a raised torch. The sheaf of wheat is symbolic of the fruits of labour, and the torch represents a call to youth to join his eternal pursuit of a more prosperous future.

"Check this out," Josh said with a chuckle as he looked at one of the brochures which we had found in the hotel lobby. "This says that the Golden Boy statue was sculpted in France in 1918 and loaded onto a ship for transport to Canada. The ship was commandeered for wartime service and the statue spent the rest of the First World War in the ship's hold being carried back and forth across the ocean. It finally arrived in Halifax and was shipped here by train in 1919. The statue was painted gold and installed on the top of the legislature on November 21, 1919. In 1951, the statue was gilded in 24 carat gold and in 1966; the Manitoba government installed an electric light in the end of the torch."

"That statue has really been around, eh?" I replied. We finished out the afternoon with a guided tour of the legislative building before heading back to our hotel for some rest and relaxation before dinner.

We had nice steak dinners in the hotel restaurant and then we headed off to the local movie theatre. We wanted to catch an early show which would give us an early night. We planned on hitting the road once again the next day. The driving would be easier than it had been, but we had a lot of distance to cover and a lot of sights to see. We were both looking forward to seeing the vast prairies of Western Canada. Our next major stop was going to be Regina, the capitol city of Saskatchewan and the home of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police national training depot. The training depot has a really good museum which we really wanted to tour.
We ended up seeing "Pitch Black" with Vin Diesel. It was a really good Sci-Fi/action/horror movie which we both thoroughly enjoyed. It was about a group of passengers on an interplanetary spacecraft who crash-land on a distant planet. The planet is inhabited by nocturnal creatures which only come out in the dark. Unfortunately for the wayward travelers, the planet, which was surrounded by three suns, was just entering a period of eclipse which would last for several years.

"Do you think people will ever travel to other planets?" Josh asked as we left the theatre and headed back to the Jeep.

"I'm sure it'll happen some day," I replied thoughtfully. "People have walked on the moon and Mars will be next. I'd love to go to Mars."

"I would too, but only if both of us went," Josh replied.

"Definitely. It would take six months to get there, you'd stay for six months or so, and then it would take six months to get back."

"Well that settles it," Josh replied firmly. "I won't go if you don't! I can't be away from you for that long."

"Same here kiddo," I replied warmly. The idea of being away from Josh for 18 days let along 18 months was inconceivable.

"Why does it take so long? I mean rockets are pretty fast."

"Sure they're fast but they would have to go about 300 million kilometers to get there. You can't just aim at the planet and light the rocket engines. We don't have any rockets with nearly enough power for that, and even if we did, we couldn't carry enough fuel to run them that long, and the massive acceleration would be fatal. Spaceships traveling to other planets have to boost themselves into really big orbits around the sun and then coast all the way."

We got back to the hotel and we both stripped down and once again hit the hot tub. We soaked for a good hour in the hot, soothing water before showering off and then climbing into bed. I showered first and was pretty much dead asleep the instant my head hit the pillow. I partially awoke a few minutes later when Josh climbed in and wrapped himself around me.

We awoke the next morning to the sound of the digital alarm clock on the table between the beds. As much as we were enjoying our stay in Winnipeg, we were both ready to hit the road again, and resume our journey of a lifetime. After showering, shaving, and dressing, we checked out of the hotel, and were on the road by 9:00 AM.

Just outside of Winnipeg, we stopped at a Humpty's restaurant for the lumberjack breakfast special. The lumberjack breakfast consists of two bangers, 4 strips of bacon, 2 slices of ham, 3 eggs done however you like, a generous helping of hashbrowns, 2 slices of toast, fresh cantaloupe, fresh strawberries, a large glass of orange juice and a cup of coffee.

Josh managed to devour his entire plate and chased it down with one of my sausages and about half of my hashbrowns. I marveled at the way Josh could eat and eat, and never gain the slightest bit of fat on his body.

Loaded up with hot and tasty food, we hit the road and soon traded the urban scenery of Winnipeg for the flat and colourful prairies. Within an hour of leaving Winnipeg, we were deep in a sea of wheat, canola and flax. The colours were striking. The wheat was a wonderful golden brown colour, the canola was a brilliant yellow and the flax was a bright purple colour. Lush green grass filled in the spaces between the mammoth crops.

The Trans-Canada highway is arrow straight through the prairies and the land is as flat as the surface of a dinner table. It was possible for us to see as far as the curvature of the earth would allow. There were no tall buildings, no mountains and no hills as far as the eye could see. The flatness of the earth made it difficult to judge distances. I could see trucks approaching us from behind without realizing that they were actually 10 or 12 kilometers away.

The sky was a brilliant blue with a smattering of shockingly white clouds sparsely distributed high above us. It was warm and there was no humidity to speak of. We shut down the Jeep's air conditioner and rolled down all the windows. The prairie air had an almost sweet taste to it. There was none of the smog and pollution that we, as city dwellers, were used to. The difference in the air quality between Ontario and the prairies was truly amazing.

"It almost smells like it does after a thunderstorm," Josh remarked.

"It's the lack of pollution," I replied.

"I didn't realize how disgusting the air is in Toronto until now. The farther west we go, the nicer the air seems to get."

"No kidding. Ontario still has a couple of coal-fired power plants, and there is a whole string of them in the States. We get all the crap from those plants in the air along with the smog and other junk from car exhausts."

"Why don't they get rid of those plants and replace them with nukes? We learned in school that CANDU reactors are perfectly safe and perfectly clean. The type of thing which happened at Chernobyl could never happen with a CANDU reactor."

"I guess it all comes down to money," I replied.

"Money? What about people's lungs? I don't know how we'll even be able to breathe when we get home."

"A lot of politicians tend to do what's best to get them reelected rather than what's right. Spending billions on new power plants isn't something which would win a lot of votes."

"Then why do we keep electing idiots like that? They're supposed to do their job, not just what will help them stay in power," Josh said a little angrily.

We reached Saskatchewan early in the afternoon and stopped for lunch in the town of Fleming. We stopped at a local Tim Horton's for soup and sandwiches and then we pushed on.

While we were having lunch, we remembered to set our watches back by another hour. Saskatchewan is in the same time zone as Manitoba (Central time) but I remembered that they don't change to daylight saving time in the summer months. As I explained to Josh, it makes it easier for farmers, especially for dairy farmers. The cows that don't know the difference between daylight saving and standard time. The cow's milking routine is scheduled by the cow's biological clock, which runs by the sun, not by the time shown on a farmer's watch. At least we wouldn't wake up tomorrow morning with the shock we had in Winnipeg two days before. The result was that we after that change, we didn't have to change our watches again until we crossed into Mountain Time in Alberta.

The approach to Regina was a remarkable sight. As we hurtled along the highway, a small speck became visible on the far western horizon. Over the next hour, the speck gradually grew into a city skyline. We finally reached Regina just after 5:00 PM. By then, the Jeep was running low on fuel, so we gassed up, then refueled ourselves at the local Denny's restaurant before checking into our motel.

Our plan was to spend the next day touring Regina. Points of interest included the RCMP museum and the provincial legislature, and we intended to take our time exploring them. After a second night in Regina, we'd push on to Alberta and head for Drumheller and Dinosaur Provincial park and, unbeknownst to Josh, our reunion with Mark and his brother Bryan.

We spent a little time that evening watching TV and waited for it to get dark. Josh didn't know it, but I had a big surprise planned for him that night. Back at Tonawonka, I had instilled a love of astronomy in my campers. We had spent many nights camping under the stars on top of Mount Tonawonka. During those outings, I had hauled my telescope and binoculars along and I had given the boys a tour of the universe above. The sights of Saturn's rings, Jupiter's moons, the phases of Venus and the polar ice caps of Mars had held them enthralled and, I hoped, had planted a seed of interest which would last a lifetime.

The remote location of Camp Tonawonka, far away for the bright lights of the big cities of the south, had provided a pretty decent view of the night sky. As good as it had been, it was nothing compared to what the prairies have to offer. We had brought along my telescope, and I was planning to drive us out on the prairies to check out the night sky.

I glanced at the window and saw that the sun was setting and decided it was time to leave. As much as I was enjoying being curled up with Josh in front of the TV, I knew this was going to be quite the experience.

"Hey bud, do you want to see something amazing?" I asked. I wasn't sure if Josh would catch it or not, but that was the phrase that I had used with the boys back at camp before I took them to the top of the mountain for the first time.

"What are we going to see?" Josh asked without moving. It wasn't that there was anything all that great on TV, he was just enjoying being in close physical contact with me.

"It's a surprise," I replied mysteriously. "I promise, you'll really love it."

"Ok, let's go!" Josh said as he hopped up and began lacing his shoes.

We climbed into the Jeep and headed out to the prairies northwest of the city. We drove for almost half an hour before pulling off the highway onto a small dirt road. I pulled the Jeep off to the side and parked it. "Here we are," I said cheerfully. It was starting to get dark by then, and the first few stars were beginning to appear overhead.

"OK," Josh said with a bemused look on his face.

Before we exited the Jeep, we both smeared on a large quantity of insect repellant.

"Are you sure we didn't take a wrong turn somewhere?" Josh asked.

"No, this place will do nicely," I replied.

"It'll do for what?" Josh asked.

"Come on, I'll show you." I put my arm around his shoulders and led him to the front of the Jeep. On the way, I stopped and opened the rear passenger side door and retrieved a blanket. I spread the blanket over the hood and windshield before we both climbed up and sat down. We leaned back against the windshield and stretched out our legs. Josh snuggled up to my side as we lay there and we both looked up.

"What's that up in the sky?" Josh asked as he pointed to a long bright stripe of whitish light which ran from the eastern horizon to the west.

"That, son, is the Milky Way Galaxy. It's so dense with stars that it looks almost like a cloud. You can't see it back home or even at places like Tonawonka because of the light pollution."
"Light pollution?" Josh asked.

"Yeah, its excess light which distorts the night sky and makes it hard to see anything but the very brightest stars. Wait until it get's really dark and you'll be amazed." The view of the Milky Way was breathtaking. It was even more beautiful than I imagined. It looked just like it did in those colourful astronomy books and magazines.

As darkness fell and engulfed us, the universe unfolded before us in all it's glory. We remained perched on the Jeep for more than an hour and gawked at the array of thousands and thousands of stars which lit up the sky. We watched in awe as meteors and the occasional fireball streaked across the sky. We traced the rapid advance of several satellites as they sped past. Most of all, we just enjoyed being together and sharing the experience of truly seeing the heavens in all their glory for the very fist time.

"This is the most incredible thing I've ever seen," Josh whispered. There really was no need to whisper - there were no other people for miles, but it felt like the right thing to do.

"I know; it's incredible how much difference the lack of light pollution makes. Some experts say that there may come a time when there won't be any place left on earth where you can see the night sky this clearly."

"That would be a shame. Everyone should get to see this," Josh replied thoughtfully. He looked up and pointed to a particularly bright dot. "That's Jupiter isn't it?" I had taught him how to spot and identify planets back at Tonawonka and evidently he hadn't forgotten.

"It sure is. Let's get my telescope out and take a closer look." I jumped down from the Jeep and went around back to dig out my telescope. I found it quickly and had it set up. It was a good quality scope with a decent sized main mirror and well made optics. In no time at all, Josh and I were taking turns examining the splendor of Jupiter in living colour. We could clearly see the bands of colour and the great red spot was plainly visible in the southern hemisphere of the giant planet. The four Galilean moons were clearly visible as bright points of light flanking the colourful world.

"I've never seen it so clearly before," Josh said breathlessly as he gazed into the eye piece.

"I wish I had a camera attachment, it would make an awesome picture," I remarked.

We managed to drag our attention away from Jupiter and located Saturn. The ringed planet truly is the jewel of the solar system, and that night we saw it clearly and in more detail than either of us had ever imagined possible. As the night wore on, we both began to tire. Josh let out a huge yawn and stretched his arms over his head.

"Getting tired son?" I asked gently.

"Yeah, but I hate to miss out on seeing more of this," he replied and indicated the telescope.

"Don't worry bud; we'll have plenty more opportunities to see the night sky on this trip. Wait until we camp out in the big parks in Alberta."

"Cool," Josh replied with another yawn.

I began to take down the telescope as Josh retreated into the passenger seat of the Jeep. By the time I had the scope stowed, he was fast asleep. I reached over and buckled up his seatbelt and then placed a light kiss on his temple. "I love you son," I whispered in his ear before doing up my own belt and starting the engine.

Josh slept the whole way back to the motel. I parked the Jeep, then went and opened the door to our room and turned down the sheets on Josh's bed. I then went back to the Jeep to retrieve my sleeping son. I carefully undid his seatbelt and then lifted him up in my arms and headed inside. He wasn't a little boy anymore, but I managed to get him to his bed, get him undressed and tucked in.

With Josh safely secured in his bed, I went out and locked up the Jeep, then retired for the night.

As I lay there and began to drift off to sleep, I began to formulate an idea in my head. I had been thinking about a computer program which would merge the digital photos, video and text which we were collecting into a multimedia movie. I began to envision an application that even a young child could use to produce a remarkably good multimedia presentation. Sleep claimed me as I contemplated user interface designs and marketing strategies.

I didn't realize at the time, but I had stumbled onto the idea which would ultimately lead to my own success and give me the means to help Josh achieve his own.


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