Dinosaur Trail

Trip Start Jul 08, 2011
Trip End Jul 26, 2011

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Flag of Canada  , Alberta,
Friday, July 22, 2011

The day dawns bleak and gray and blustery. That rules out the last option.  And Budget R-a-C will charge extra for Montana, so I take the logical safe option, the southern Alberta badlands tour.  That starts in Drumheller, aka Dinosaur City USA… oops!  I mean Canada.  You could be forgiven for thinking you've landed in Bedrock, Flintstone Country.  Everything is dinosaur-themed, but the town itself is fairly nice, with a traditional downtown still intact.  The museum out on the edge of town is the main attraction, and it is quite vast and comprehensive, with many dinosaur bones and reconstructions on display… for a price.  Dinosaurs are long gone, of course, and field work doesn’t mean much to the uninitiated, so this is about as good as you can do.  The funny thing, of course, is that dinosaurs DID leave descendants, though hardly recognizable as such, in the form of birds.  If that particular path of evolution is hard to believe, it’s almost even harder to believe that there was ever a non-aviary world that preceded it.

Not far from Drumheller, there’s a so-called 'hoodoo trail’, so I decide to tentatively venture into that, for closure if nothing else.  The world’s premier hoodoos- soft eroded rock capped by hard rock ‘hats’- are in Cappadocia, Turkey, around Goreme, and the last time (only time in fact) I was there, my computer- the same one that’s with me now- took a dive during the night and hasn’t been the same since, despite several surgeries and some major TLC.  I haven’t slept with a computer since.  So I’m hoping for a little closure and sympathetic magic in the sense of putting all that behind us and starting a new era of cybernetic cooperation.  I’m not sure these hoodoos count, though.  The ones I see are babies in comparison to the ones in Cappadocia where Christians lived for centuries in hiding.  Since it’s starting to drizzle pretty heavily I don’t even bother to get out of the car.  I think I’ve seen enough.  I could swear I heard a little giggle coming out of my laptop.

So I decide to head south toward Brooks.  That’s the closest major town to the ‘Provincial Dinosaur Park’, which sounds interesting.  But first I’ll do a little backtrack at Hwy. 1, to go see the First Nations homeland of Siksika, literally ‘Blackfoot’, no explanation necessary.  Unfortunately the rain’s starting to come down heavily, which requires me to slow down some in the process.  It finally lets up, though, making an already beautiful landscape even more so.  Most impressive are the vast fields of yellow flowers, which I think is canola.  It looks surreal, as do cows sharing pastures with oil wells and pumpers, a landscape similar to the one I grew up with in Texas and Mississippi.

I make the detour to Siksika, but by the time I get to the museum/cultural center it’s almost closing time.  It’s almost the same price as the dinosaur museum, too, so I blow it off.  I’m starting to feel nickeled-and-dimed to death.  I DO stop at the rez’s one real town, though, Cluny, at a little store/bakery/liquor store, just to get my sweet tooth juiced.  It’s interesting that Native lands here do not proscribe liquor, as do most in the States.  They didn’t get to vote until the ‘60’s, either, remember.  Since most Natives, except for the Pueblos, were not really town dwellers, it’s just not easy to get an easy grasp of the culture… but I keep trying.  Mostly I try to imagine Indian life in 1750, NOT 1850, and that’s not easy.  That was the era BEFORE horses.  The coming of the Spaniards was something of a cultural golden age for them, really, and good preparation for the battle with Anglos to come.  But it wasn’t enough, of course. 

By the time I get to Brooks I’m getting pretty tired, so pull into a motel for the night when I see one advertised for $60.  That’s cheap for Canada, a fact worth advertising, especially when it’s half-way decent and includes WiFi and cable TV.  So I get domestic and start washing enough clothes to last me the remaining few days of this trip.  This is the first fully equipped private room I’ve had the entire two week trip so far, so take full advantage.  It seems more like two years by now, though, doesn’t it?  Whitehorse seems so long ago and far away.  TV here sucks, though.  ‘Cable’ means that and no more, no HBO or anything fancy like that, so nothing really to miss… so 70’s…

I fall asleep with piles of papers and clothes and books on the bed as usual, so next day when I get up early it’s all on the floor in a heap… but not my computer.  The Acer is sitting wide open where I left it running beside the bed, ready to perk up and compute at a moment’s notice.  I swear the thing’s smiling.  So I eat a quick continental breakfast, gather up my things, and head out to the Badlands, socks drying on the dashboard.  It’s pretty nice, and I’ve never been to the Dakotas, but these badlands don’t seem all THAT bad.  I guess that sums up Canada in general for me, very very nice, but not spectacular.  From there I have to backtrack to Brooks then start heading south.  I had intended to go to Medicine Hat, but decide to blow it off, just to save time and gasoline.  It IS the day of the big chili cook-off, but I doubt they have vegetarian options.  I get the impression that that might be a good area to see Native culture if you show up during a festival, but that’s not today.
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