Monday, June 14, 2010

Rest Day

A rest day of course allows the body to recover a bit, but it also gives you a chance to explore and to meet some of the people who live here. Dick rode a few kilometers on his bike then hiked to the top of 70-mile Butte in Grasslands National Park. The trail was indistinct, a little bushwhacking was required along with throwing rocks at 4-5 foot long bull snake to get it to move along.

Meanwhile I hung out at the Val Marie Hotel where there was wireless Internet access. Main Street of Val Marie, population 165.

Val Marie Hotel, owned by Aline and her family. Her husband also runs a small cattle operation and farms outside of town.

The hotel restaurant is busy throughout the day. This morning the vehicles are lined up, including two school buses, the drivers having a cup of coffee before starting their routes.

We soon learned to get our own coffee and offer to refill the cups of other patrons along the way. Aline, wearing the dark green t-shirt and white apron, has lived in Val Marie her entire life. She has never been farther east than Regina and just 2 years ago traveled west to BC to visit her brother. Her son, 13 at the time, was shocked to see mountains for the first time and didn't understand how it was possible for there to be snow at the tops in the summer. Aline's daughter, standing, graduates from high school in a few days and is about to wear a dress for the first time in her life. Her standard uniform for 18 years has been cowboy hat and boots and jeans. She plans to spend the next year living and working in Swift Current, just 70 miles north, to see if she can stand to live so far away from home. If successful, she will go to college in Red Deer AB the following year.

Val Marie School is K-12 with 42 students and 7 teachers. Some students ride a bus for an hour to get here each day. It was scheduled to be closed by the provincial government last year, but the next closest school is another hour away. A 2-hour bus ride each way was deemed unacceptable so the school remained open. There are 6 seniors graduating on 19 June, but only 2 kindergärtners enrolling for next year.

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