Yesterday I drove up to Bassano for a meeting of the Calgary-Macleod Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church of Canada. They are one of the sponsoring bodies of the chaplaincy and I try to get to one of their meetings every year or so to report and to connect. The Mission committee invited me to have lunch with them first so I headed up there about 10:30 - out East to Taber, then north on #36, and then west again on the #1 to Bassano. It took me 1 hour and 50 mins and I figured there had to be a more direct way home. I don't particularly enjoy hwy #36. Over the years I've preached in Taber, Vauxhall, Scandia, Enchant, Tilley, Rolling Hills, Bow Slopes, Brooks, Duchess and Bassano so I've done that road a lot. And I don't enjoy it. The only part I like is the Old Man River valley just north of Taber. Otherwise it is boring to look at and dangerous to drive. I don't know how many times I've nearly been hit by someone trying to pass on the narrow two lane highway. It is a narrow road and there are a lot of trucks on it. Between oil and beef Brooks is booming and that translates into a lot of transport trucks.
So, after I left the meeting I stopped at the Esso and got gas and directions. It turns out that there is a shorter way back on a new dirt road that isn't on the map. You turn south at Lathom and take some jogs and you end up at Bow City. This means heading east (and south - that is where the jogging comes in) again but not as far as to the #36 and then you get to head west to Lomond before heading south to Coaldale and then west to Lethbridge. Did you get that?
She tells me to be very careful because the sign for Lathom is small and easy to miss so I head back down the #1 watching carefully for a sign when I see one that says, construction, 80 km. So I slow down. There is another sign saying that the left lane will be disappearing. Then I see a big flashing sign indicating that I should go right - and it is pointing right at the Lathom sign. And there is no construction in the left lane. I don't know if you remember the scene in Bruce Almighty where he's driving and complaining that God isn't saying anything to him. Meanwhile every sign he passes, ever vehicle that passes him is flashing a sign warning him of danger ahead. Well I felt like Bruce only I paid attention. I turned south and followed the dirt road until I came to a place where I thought maybe I was supposed to jog - she had warned me to jog and not go straight or I'd end up back at the #1. I wasn't sure what to do but a truck came up one of the two options and the driver waved. This way, I figured that meant. So I took the jog and came to another corner. Was this where I jogged south? I kept going east but then realized that there were people coming up the other road. Turn around I thought. I stopped and asked the woman on the ATV with her kid. Was this the road to Bow City. Yes, she said, just go straight. So I did, although straight was more metaphorical since there were lots of jogs yet but easy jogs without all the options. Oh, except the corner where a big piece of farm machinery blocked the wrong way. How is that for divine guidance!
The funny thing is that this short cut may have been shorter in distance but it took longer than the highway would have. So it took me 15 mins longer to get home but I enjoyed the drive a lot more. I got to drive along the Bow River valley for a short while and it is lovely. The valley is greening up and the coulees are beautiful. Then it was south along #845 and through several coulee valleys including the Old Man River valley and I find those so lovely. I was wishing I had taken my camera along.
I have friends who long for the beauty of the Rockies, or the ocean but I love the prairies. Mountains are showy and the ocean is pretty dramatic. But the prairies are subtle. There are a million colours but they aren't in your face colours. And the prairies are wide open so you can breathe deeply but they aren't flat. The joke about watching your dog run away from home for three days may work in parts of Saskatchewan but in Manitoba where I grew up, and south west Saskatchewan where I vacation, and southern Alberta where I live there are hills and valleys and trees and bushes and thousands of different grasses. I've seen pronghorn and white tail deer. I've seen pheasants, owls, eagles, hawks, a million geese, coyote, and fox. And you can breathe here. Well, okay, this part of the country has the highest rates of lung problems in the country because of all the wind and dust, pollens, etc. But think metaphorically. When I studied in Southern Ontario I used to feel so claustrophobic and when I'd fly home I could feel my lungs expanding when I looked out the airplane window and see all the farmers' fields below. My grandpa used to feel uncomfortable when he'd come from Victoria to visit us because he said he felt so exposed. But I've lived next to the Great Lakes and in the Swabian Albs and nothing can compare to a prairie sunset.