Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Finding Our Way Into Big Sky Country

SOMEWHERE ON THE TRANS-CANADA HIGHWAY — It's a sunny day as we drive out of Calgary to Moose Jaw where our next event is. And at long last, we are on the Trans-Canada.

A while ago, we were treated to an incongruous sight. Up ahead was the silhouette of a cowboy on a horse in the middle of the highway, waving his Stetson at the oncoming traffic to get us to slowdown so he could get his herd across the median. There were a couple of hundred head of cattle and they made it safely back onto the open plain. It was very cool.

But before that, there was the actual getting out of Calgary. One of the stresses of this journey is navigating around places you don't know. Sue, Natasha and I know Toronto the Grid very well. And can sense the logic of its layout. Calgary is baffling. And though we have very clear directions on how to head out, there are things that get in your way. For instance, a downtown labyrinth of one way streets, 5th Street vs 5th Avenue and not really knowing where a more colourfully named roadway like the Edmonton Trail is going to take you.

We had to go to the car rental place, too, to drop off the van we rented in Vancouver to avoid a drop off fee and pick up another to take us to Toronto (a place we thought wouldn't make it to when we began the Caravan almost two weeks ago). We are there with half a tank of gas. Bad, bad, bad. That's s going to cost us $2.30 a litre penalty. Really. In Alberta! So Sue goes out to fill 'er up --$54.00. That involves finding the gas station, and going in a circle to get into the parking lot on 5th Avenudoesn't doesn't just happen like (snap your fingers) that.

Finally, we sign all the papers all over again and we are in our new van, from a red van to blue, and off to find the Trans Canada. We rejoice at seeing one tiny sign for the T.C.H. on the Edmonton Trail, but then lose it and somehow end up on a cul de sac. We stop a woman walking beside a fenced-in industrial property to ask for help. As soon as she starts talking, a snarling pit bull lunges at the fence, bares its teeth and barks like the hound of hell that he is.

We finally find the way onto the highway and now it's s miles and miles of open space. This is where the deer and the antelope play. And so far, we've seen one antelope, quicksilver creature that it is.

It takes some acclimatizing to a 360-degree-view of Big Sky when you're used to the obstructive skyscrapers of Toronto or the mountains of Vancouver. The clouds look just like the clouds in the opening of The Simpsons. And they're moving overhead in fast motion. There's a phenomenal light show on the land. The sun seems to bleach the hilltops making them shine in the distance,which is, in fact, all you can see, distance.

The endless vastness reminds me of being out on the land in the north in winter: nothing but white as far as the eye can see. Or gazing at the ocean from Cape Spear. What you're doing is looking eternity right in the face.

- Shelagh

We encourage you to use the blog comment feature below to pass on your thoughts and/or you can write Shelagh while she’s on the road at: shelaghscaravan@yahoo.ca


Anonymous Aaron said...

Hi Caravan,
How eloquent, Shelagh, your description of being under Alberta's Big Sky. I'm not religious but I still spiritually commune with nature throughout that gloriously beautiful province. I especially miss the northern lights we routinely enjoyed in Alberta; too much light pollution here in Vancouver to see them. How unfortunate, however, that such a remarkable place should be represented by such a political buffoon. - I can't help but ponder such similarity to the current CBC woes....! My best regards and admiration for the important work you continue to do, unlocked, unplugged, undaunted. You're invaluable.

3:10 PM  

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