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Coulee. Dry land crops. Pivot circle. Moving pipe. The vernacular of Southern Alberta is almost as foreign-sounding as the language of another country.

While it’s great to meet new people on the road – and I have met some absolutely lovely folk – it’s still a wonderful thing to hang out with people who know you, have lived where you’ve lived, and are friends of your friends. It feels very solid and very relaxing. And so, after leaving Waterton, it was a delight to go visit my friend Vanessa and her family in Taber, Alberta.

Vanessa and Brady had very kindly put me up on both the West-East and East-West legs of my 2012 road trip, and they showed me the same amazing hospitality on my stay with them this year. Their place is somehow, despite two small girls – Ruby and Nova – running around, an oasis of calm. We arrived on Thursday afternoon in broiling temperatures, and the heat destroyed all my ambition to clean up my truck and camper. So we sat around in the shade and drank cool beverages, and talked agriculture and food politics and planned our ride for the next day.

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Vanessa and Nova

On Friday, despite grand plans of setting off early and finishing our ride before noon, we didn’t hit the track until 11:00 a.m., and so we pretty much rode in the heat of the day.

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Ready to set off: Vanessa on Linus, with Chewy… Just before Chewy decorated himself with a giant cow pie.

Spy and Vanessa’s Bouvier Chewy basically hated their lives, at one point simply giving up, lying down in the shade, and refusing to move. They cheered up after we reached the exceedingly scenic Oldman River, though, and managed to scrape together enough of their waning survival skills to make it back to the truck.

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Overlooking the Oldman River.

As well as the usual wildflowers, which I’m finally learning to identify, there were prickly pear cactus blooming on the prairie.

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Brady is the drummer for Corb Lund’s band, and plays in another local band as well. The Dragon Boat festival was on in Lethbridge, so we headed over in the early evening to sit in the shady beer garden and take in some music.

Brady's band

On Saturday, Pai had a much-deserved day off, and Vanessa and Ruby and Spy and I headed down to Writing On Stone, a World Heritage Site with hoodoos and pictographs. Once again Spy thought I’d lost my mind by taking him for a walk in above-30 heat. He spent his walk clinging to the shade offered by rock walls and small bushes, and booking it for the Milk River when the trail curved close enough.

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Australian Fail: overheated Cattle Dog.

After a some Saturday afternoon errands and a BBQ for dinner, and after a leisurely Sunday morning puttering around, Spy and Pai and I hit the road for Cypress Hills.

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