Rocky Road Trip Day 5: Dinosaur Bones in the Badlands

Along with North Korea and the United States, only Canada allows the killing of the unborn. Canada protects endangered species like whales, but not human fetuses. That’s what the billboards told me today, in the Alberta prairies.

I shuddered. It wasn’t the billboards, or the giant Christian mega-plex replete with preschool and movie theatre. There was more to the impending doom than extreme religiosity. As I gazed out at the endless expanse of grassland, it hit me what felt wrong. I had entered Michael Pollan’s nightmare zone. Canada’s Agribusiness HQ.

Corn and canola. Corn and canola. Corn and canola. Like a bad pop song, it won’t go away and only gets worse. We pass a McCain factory complex, bordered by heavy metal gates with guards. Its smokestack spews god-knows-what mixture of unborn fetuses, and I shout, “People still eat this stuff? But it’s not FOOD!” McCain’s makes the Rogers Sugar factory, which we also passed, seem like an artisan producer.

Yesterday we learned how native people understood how to slaughter thousands of buffalo at the same time and keep it sustainable. Of course, not all traditional cultures managed their food and other natural resources wisely. Many did a disastrous job, as they did on Easter Island. Archaeologists of the future will decide whether we did a good job or not, eh?

Throughout fields of canola, commercial beekeepers have erected tiny tents in the fields. It wasn’t difficult to figure out what the tents were used for, given that every field with the miniature tents also has apiary boxes off to the side. Canola producers have learned that bees are necessary “for precise pollen transfer of specific genetic lines.” That’s pretty cool, yes, but the problem is that the tents are necessary because they protect the bees from spraying.

Alright, enough of this tangential rant. Food politics makes for a fun discussion but this blog is about drinking, dammit, and unfortunately, today was bone dry except for what we already had in our cooler.

What we did find, however, were dinosaur bones. And I like taking my bones just like my beer: IN SITU! In its place of origin. Bad to the bone.

Hadrosaur, or "duck-billed" dinosaur. Skeleton is still where they found it.
Hadrosaur, or “duck-billed” dinosaur. Skeleton is still where they found it.

The Dinosaur Provincial Park is a UNESCO World Heritage site because it’s a dinosaur graveyard. It used to be a jurassic park an unfathomable number of years (hundreds of million or something like that) ago. Much longer ago than the people in the Church Megaplex believe is possible.DSC08363

The most shocking thing about the Provincial Park isn’t even the dinosaur bones, which are in fact, RIGHT THERE. That’s awesome as expected, but the most shocking thing for most people is the scenery. DSC08356No one expects the Euclidian flatness of the prairies to turn into the badlands, but they do.

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You literally drive around a bend and the flatland goes “plonk!” and you could fall off a cliff (and have your head smashed in) if you weren’t paying attention.

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We did all the self-guided walks in Dinosaur Provincial Park. All were easy. Although it was hot, a wind offered respite and kept the mosquitoes at bay too. Alberta has a mozzie problem. It’s what I remember most about the province when I first visited in the late 1990s.

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We bedded down near Brooks, at our first B&B of the trip. The proprietor recommended a restaurant, and the online reviews were also good so we went. It was a Thai place, run by a Thai family, called Wasana. They did a great job, and unlike most Thai restaurants outside of Thailand, they actually made it spicy. The B&B we are staying at is called Lake Shore, and it is on a pretty lake in a prairie. After dinner, we watched CBC coverage of the Calgary Stampede and are getting in the yeehaw spirit. So bring on the unborn baby billboards and the canola, baby!

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