On Thursday morning, after moving Carmella from her sprawling luxury PWS location in the Banff National
Park campground system to a 'dry' mosquito-ridden campsite in the non-serviced - and relatively cheaper - section of the park, we set off on the TC 1 East for Calgary.
An hour and a half later we were pulling into the Meineke Garage on the corner of 12th and 12th. Fast closing in on her 7000th kilometre since leaving Montreal, Ruby was booked in for an oil change and a basic service. For our part, we were doing some practical errands in the big city, and getting a sense of Calgary while at it. Unlike some of the other cities we had visited on our journey west, Calgary felt like an urban centre that was booming. It was busy and purposeful and busting out all over. People walked like they had somewhere to go. Buildings were springing up like there WAS a tomorrow.
But this was only a Calgary taster. Once Ruby was set to go - with brand new ball joints and suspension table to boot - we were on our way yet further east to visit with Jessica, a childhood friend of Linnet's, who lives in the village of Rosebud in the Alberta Badlands.
The only real baddie in town according to Jessica, however, is the corporate oil giant, Encana. Jessica - a scientist and environmentalist - is waging a courageous legal battle against Encana, claiming that the fracking process they use to extract gas from the farmland around her 50 acre property has contaminated her water supply.
Our two days with Jessica were an education in fracking: learning about the process itself as we sat over meals and played cards; seeing how the rural landscape is being transformed by the presence of the gas and oil companies as we drove around the badlands; hearing how farming communities across the world are becoming increasingly politicized around this deeply worrying issue as we watched the sun set over the quonset (new vocabulary for the scrabble board!) on Jessica's beautiful stretch of land.
With Jessica as our tour guide, we also visited the world-famous Royal Tyrrell Museum in nearby Drumheller, which does a brilliant job of recreating the lives and habitats of those mammoth and almost mythical seeming dinosaurs, while the town itself goes all out on the dino theme so as to rightfully claim its title as the "dinosaur capital of the world."
Taking a side trip off the badlands beaten track, we stopped in at the ghost-like town of Dorothy with its dueling churches facing off against each other in the dusty heat of high noon. We passed the saloon where Jackie Chan made his film, Shanghai Noon. We teetered across a suspended bridge beside a coal mine set deep amidst the coulees. And we gazed out over fantastic Horseshoe Canyon as our second day in the Alberta Badlands drew to a close.
It was great spending time with Jessica and her wonderful little Border Collie-Jack Russell cross, Magic. We were amazed at her tenacity and integrity in her battle against Encana, and we think that if she ever gives up her day job as an environmental scientist, she has a promising future as a card shark!