And that walking path! I kept imagining just sending Benjamin out on his bike to ride and ride and ride without worrying about traffic or anything. What a dream! And such trails are available everywhere we went! We have bike trails down here, but the ones near our house are right beside traffic (until we get to our pond-park), while the trails in Alberta seem to avoid being right beside traffic.
It was interesting to be reminded of all these little differences. Differences make the world richer! And even within a small area there are many differences to be found. While I was at once mooning over the public spaces, once we got to High River, I found myself remembering the downsides to small town life (which I don't know that I'll necessarily detail here). One thing I will mention is a what I might describe as a lack of ambition, though perhaps it's better described as a lack of opportunity and/or knowledge that traps people in generational cycles of alcoholism (frequently accompanied by abuse) and poverty.
To be fair, that's a problem that happens a lot of places, but I see it more when I go "home."
It isn't always the case—my cousins were raised in a small town, but were provided with plenty of opportunities (educational and otherwise) that expanded their horizons and broadened their perspective, so even though they've returned to their small town (or...farm) after going out into the world, attending college, traveling around, etc., they didn't fall victim to the same issues I see in so many of my friends' lives. And many of my friends did just fine, too. I don't mean that everybody raised in a small town winds up ignorant and drunk. But...it's the reality for many more than I'd wish.
But what I really wanted to talk about were the differences to be found even within a small geographic area, right? So, my niece Amy drove down from Calgary (population 1.393 million people) to Cayley (population 340) for my nephew Deklan's wedding. She expressed a desire to procure a caffeinated beverage, specifically Mountain Dew. We told her...good luck!
Deklan had a bar at his wedding, but the only non-alcoholic beverages were water or lemonade.
Amy decided she'd run and grab one from a store. We told her...good luck!
"You'll have to go into High River for that," we told her (High River's population is 13,584).
"I don't want to drive that far for a Mountain Dew!" she said. "Surely there's a store in Cayley."
"I really don't think so..."
"A gas station, then!" she said. "A gas station will have a convenience store."
"I...don't think Cayley has a gas station..."
"How could they not have a gas station?! Just put it in your phone—I promise they'll have a gas station!"
"Yeah...so...my phone says the nearest gas station is the Esso in High River..."
"What?! Where do people get their gas then?!"
Well, honestly, they probably all qualify for purple gas (the Alberta Farm Fuel Benefit Program, where you can buy tax-exempted gas to keep on your property to power your farm equipment). I know the Torries have their own little gas station on the farm. Most people in Cayley probably also farm and keep their own gas tanks on their property. Otherwise, I assume they have to remember to gas up in High River or Nanton.
Amy ended up driving into High River to get her caffeine fix. There were no other options (except, perhaps, for Nanton).
Cayley has a K–8 school and a couple of farm equipment shops, a concrete wholesale place, things like that, a lending library. Otherwise, there's nothing there but farmland. Amy is from Alberta—but not small town Alberta—and she just couldn't compute that a place could exist without a store.
High River is pretty big now, but when we first moved there, it was still quite small—with no traffic lights, no real grocery store, etc. etc. So we could imagine a place without a store quite easily!
High River and Calgary aren't even that far apart—and yet are very different worlds!
(And this post is not intended to bash life in these United States; there are many pros to living in the States as well! There is no perfect place to live in the world (and one of my least favourite questions to answer is "Out of all the places you've lived, which place is your favourite?" because I can tell you good things and bad things about all places! My ideal place is a mixture of all the good (but that doesn't exist). One pro about living in the States that I'll mention is how easy—and inexpensive—it is to rent a vehicle! We looked into renting a van in Calgary, but that was around $1000 per day! That's why my parents drove their van up from Utah. Renting a van in Atlanta, for example, is about $500 per week!)
Also...I just took the pictures off my camera-camera and found more from our time at the lake, so here they are: