The longest drive day of our 5 day tour of the “flatlands” is the homeward leg. Five hours by the fast roads. The route most people will take from Lethbridge to Edmonton. Highway 3 west to Fort McLeod and then north on Highway 2. Debbie and I do not particularly like Highway 2 and all the traffic so unless we are in a hurry, which since we are retired is not often, we scour the map for alternate routes. The smaller roads are a little slower but a lot more interesting and we travel through towns that we know the name of but have never visited. Like Vulcan, Alberta, home of a world renown Star Trek conference.
Arriving in Vulcan we are greeted by some strange words that interpreted to English mean ‘Live long and prosper.’ An adage well know to Star Trek aficionados. On the highway is scale model of the Starship Enterprize and when Debbie spots it she lets out a squeal. Something only a true fan would do I guess.
We go in search of an alien ship landing pad, something I had thought was in Vulcan. After a short tour of the town and no sight of the landing pad we opt for a stop at the visitor information and Star Trek fan building. It is strangely constructed to resemble a star fleet space ship. The people inside are very human like and extremely friendly. Worth a stop if you are driving by.
A little further up the road, Three Hills to be precise, we are in need of lunch and again choose the local Chinese food restaurant, The E & W, to dine. There is not much else open and since church had just been dismissed it is one crowded place. The buffet is the drawing card and again the food is quite tasty.
From Three Hill north we have traveled Highway 21 before and the drive is uneventful but very pleasant. All the while I am gloating over the fact that we did not have to run the gauntlet on Highway 2 on a Sunday afternoon, midsummer.
I am fortunate to live in an area that is easily accessible to a diverse geography. I live on the prairies. Where the sky is more than 180 degrees of the everyday landscape. Edmonton is a short 3 hour trip to some of the best mountains this world has to offer and a very long days drive from the eastern shore of the Pacific Ocean. I have been exposed to all of these since I was a very young child.
Even though the Rocky Mountains are completely awe inspiring I was not aware of how grand they are until I was 20 years old. One ordinary day I met a group of people from eastern Canada and all they could talk about was “How long will it take us to drive to the mountains tomorrow?” From that day I started to LOOK at the mountains and to this day I am a dangerous driver in those mountains as I spend more time looking up than at the road.
It is even harder to see how magnificent the prairies are. I did realize they were special around the time I went to school in Vancouver. I would return home for Christmas or for the summer and as soon as I descended the mountains’ eastern slopes I would realize how BIG the sky actually is. This time as we drive through Saskatchewan and Alberta I notice how spectacular that ordinary terrain really is.
The crops are ripening and the diverstiy of colour and how the colours are all of the same palette is very obvious. The yellow gold of the wheat and barley, the green of the hay fields and the huge vegetable fields, the dark coloured soil of the summer fallow fields, the blue and green waters of the swamps, lakes, creeks and rivers, and the orange gold colour of a crop we have yet to identify, lie side by side as if painted by some modern artist.
Every one of the above mentioned areas have their own texture, the wheat with the tuft of fuzz that tops the plant moves with the wind and has a soft pillowy look, the yellow-green canola field looks rough and brierish. The water changes with the amount of wind from glass smooth and mirror like to rough and bumpy with white caps. The corn is tall and barrier like and the range land, a natural type of growth, is rough and untidy.
The other amazing quality is how the man made imposed geometry fits and flows over the natural undulation of the landscape. The prairies are not flat. There are spots where one can see for miles, many, many miles, but that is usually from some high point and you are looking from above. There are few abrupt or extreme changes in elevation but for the most part the prairies roll along mile after miles of subtle but definite changes in elevation.
Man of course doing what man does has imposed a geometric square grid over the entire southern 1/2 of Alberta and Saskatchewan and it creates a very interesting pattern. Of course no grid is perfect and the pattern changes slightly when traveling through areas that are irrigated. The squares enclose a circle that touches all four sides but leaves the corners, the areas not irrigated, to natural growth – this produces an more intricate pattern. They did this just to keep people like me entertained of course.