Saturday, August 2, 2008

Day 14: A place where buzzing ever happens

I had not been impressed with my first day in Medicine Hat. It did not seem like a good place for cycling, for living. And I had felt like an enemy of the place most of the day, as they were either going to steal my boat or cuff me and confiscate my boat.

So it was with much enmity towards the town that I went in the next day. I proceeded to get thoroughly lost, and ended up at Medalta Potteries*. I took the $10 tour there, saw some ceramic factory buildings in a romantic state of disrepair, and was almost disappointed when told they planned to renovate it all to working condition. They also had many examples of the pieces that were made there; all, in the words of our guide, were "pretty cool".

I found the bike trail out of there and my heart softened a bit. It ran by a pleasant creek, was relatively well connected, and had an interesting conversation.

"You better look out," the man said, "there's some big snakes around here."

"Oh snakes," I said, "big ones?"

"Little ones."

And then I was off. I saw the Saamis teepee, which was somehow not as impressive as I hoped, and what was, according to the map, a "giant chessboard", which was also somewhat disappointing. But overall, seeing the town through the eyes of a tourist out looking for fun rather than a guy running errands, I began to see why people might want to live in the town. This is the only city where I have literally helped a little old lady cross the street. I didn't know that ever happened outside of films.

That night I found an unbelievable camping location. Plenty of sand to lay on and pull my boat up on. Gravel for cooking, with larger rocks to hold my tent pegs if necessary. An elevated, smooth location between trees perfect for a tent. I looked around and saw no signs of human existence other than a few staggered posts high on one of the cliffs, as if smoeone had started to build a fence but quickly gave up. And all I heard at first was a lonely moo, which I couldn't place.

But that night things were not so quiet. Any time I think of the river as isolated I see some great powerline crossing the river, connecting what towns only its engineers may know. And all along the river are great pumps to irrigate fields, to fill ponds, and I guess to service homes as well. They reach down into the water with great tubes or even miniature waterwheels, have rambunctious motors that feed the water way up, up over the cliff to its dry destination. And here, in what ought to have been my private heaven, I heard the rumble of these machines all through the night, sounding impossibly close for a location where none could be seen.

Day 14 ended: 50*08.773N, 110*38.852W

* - Medalta is short for "Medicine Hat, Alberta". I often see Alberta abbreviated this way, as alta. I guess people are just trying to take the brr out of Alberta.

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