I am cruising down highway 21 in central Alberta. Looks nice doesn't it. Or it could look lonelier than hell. Depends on your viewpoint. I'm a person who needs from time to time to get out on my own. You can't get more alone than this.
Some time ago I worked in this landscape. My job consisted of driving out to an oil rig, recording some data, and driving back home. Those oil rigs were all over the province so, as a result, I became very good at knowing the best roads, the quietest hotels, and restaurants with the best hot roast beef sandwiches. Typically we would work 2 weeks on 24-hour call followed by a much needed week off. At the time I enjoyed the flexible schedule as it gave me a chance to pursue other hobbies such as skiing and sailing. I also liked seeing the countryside even if it was out of the window of a pickup truck. The funny thing is I had always taken the scenery for granted. I suppose if you see this kind of stuff every day for 10 years it gets old. I thought that as long as I was on holiday I may as well do a little road trip to follow again my old stomping grounds just for the fun of it - without any particular place to go.
I had a destination in mind - Calgary. But instead of taking the direct route I took the backroads through the farm belts of Camrose and Stettler and the badlands of Drumheller.
If you can ever get out of the city you will see these giant hay bales sitting around all over the place. Before the oil boom Alberta was an agricultural province. There is still a very significant proportion of the population living in small towns and farm communities.
Also ubiquitous to the landscape are the grain elevators. Everything grown here is collected and shipped out to Prince Rupert by train.
The badlands near Drumheller. Its amazing how quickly the terrain changes here. The flatlands of that grain elevator were only 2 km away. I've seen similar valleys (wadis) in Yemen - particularly in Hadramout - we are just a bit greener here.
Drumheller is also well know for its dinosaurs. There is a spectacular museum called the Tyrrell Museum Of Paleontology. It's a visual treat. If I had kids I would surely take them there.
More of the same. The trip down here from Edmonton took about 4 hours. The roast beef sandwich that I had on the way in Stettler was just as tasty as it was 15 years ago.
I arrived in Calgary later that afternoon. Normally its only a 3 hour commute. But today with all the stops I needed 8 hours to make the trip. I should have been exhausted but I felt strangely refreshed. After all didn't someone say that for every journey half the fun is getting there. In a world that seems more virtual every day - shouldn't we do the real things every now and then?