Searched For dinosaur

Sunburn and Bugs 2016: Even More Dinosaurs

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I second-guessed myself more often than normal on this trip. I mean, sure, I pretty much constantly live in my head anyway, but as the person who picked out all of the stuff we were going to see and do along the way, I was feeling some pressure. If I picked a bunch of stuff that made me and no one else happy, I ruined two thirds of the trip, wasted two people’s money and vacation time, and that would probably do a sizeable blow to our friendship. I knew that The Dinosaur Musem in Blanding, UT, would be approximately the jillionth dinosaur thing we’d done on the trip, but I felt pretty passionately about it when I put it on the list, though I couldn’t remember exactly why as we rolled up to this warehouse-y building in the middle of nowhere. I tried to tell myself that if it was terrible, at least we could leave, though that probably wouldn’t make up for me telling Emily she couldn’t browse the Moab shops for earrings.

Dudes and dudettes, this museum was awesome. It was possibly the best dinosaur exhibit I’ve ever seen, and you know I’ve been to many a dinosaur museum. The admission is dirt cheap (possibly cheaper than dirt) at $3.50, and the AAA discount cut it down to three bucks even. But this inexpensive entrance was really just a bonus. The collection here was top-freaking-notch, and there’s good reason for it. The museum was founded and the exhibits were done by one Stephen Czerkas, paleontologist and preeminent paleo artist, who devoted his later years to correcting our misconceptions about dinosaurs–namely concerning their appearance. The feathered dinosaurs I saw here were unlike anything I’d ever seen before. They have one of only four pre-Cambrian logs in the world. And they have a full Edmontonsaurus complete with some areas of fossilized skin! AND the world’s largest collection of dinosaur movie posters and other dinosaur movie memorabilia! The woman working there was awesome as well–within a minute of entering the building, she’d already told me a new-to-me fact about the T. Rex, and while we shopped around in the gift shop, she told us about how she used to fossil hunt in the area before it became illegal. We all loved her and wanted to take her with us, but since she had museum duties and we would be traveling home on a different route, we sadly parted ways, but not before buying a dinosaur mascot and naming her Feminist Killjoy.

sunburn and bugs day four (27 of 76)The aforementioned log, found in San Juan county.

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sunburn and bugs day four (40 of 76)Dinosaur or skeksis?

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sunburn and bugs day four (42 of 76)I so hoped they’d sell these in the gift shop.

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sunburn and bugs day four (54 of 76)Obvs my favorite poster.

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Our last stop before we hit Santa Fe was Four Corners, because even though it’s totally cheeseball and everyone and their brother has already done it, I wanted to do it. I also wanted to do it because it’s totally cheeseball and everyone and their brother has already done it. I mean, come on: if you’re passing on a road thisclose to Four Corners, how could you not stop?

sunburn and bugs day four (75 of 76)You should probably also stop for horse crossings.

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Four Corners is pretty much exactly what you’d expect it to be: an almost unreasonably hot tourist attraction with a long line of people waiting to take photographic proof that they were in four states at once, sweating and squinting, and looking miserable. But since there’s a three photo limit and a limited number of poses that could array all one’s limbs into even state distribution (at least for your average tourist, I have no doubt a contortionist could manage a few more), the line moves quickly. Also, any part of your body that comes in contact with the ground that’s not covered in a protective shoe will probably immediately regret it as it starts to cook, so that doesn’t encourage tarrying. Afterward, you’re free, freeee to browse the almost 60 kiosks spread among the four states, selling jewelry, magnets, knives, and again, pretty much what you’d expect. So browse we did, and buy we did, and I think the afternoon’s jewelry shopping possibly made up for the morning hustle. Possibly.

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sunburn and bugs day four (63 of 76)These cacti were attracting dozens of hummingbirds, zipping and divebombing and generally making people wonder what it would be like to be impaled with a teeny tiny hypodermic beak.

sunburn and bugs day four (76 of 76)Also a fair number of hummingbird size bees.

sunburn and bugs day four (64 of 76)Rachel, Feminist Killjoy, and me in four states! Ok, Feminist Killjoy is in four, anyway.

sunburn and bugs day four (65 of 76)Yo blogger’s butt’s so big! How big is it? It’s so big it can be in four states at once!

sunburn and bugs day four (67 of 76)Shipwreck rock

The ride from Four Corners to Santa Fe was dismal. The most direct route is through these tiny backroads with nothing to look at but prairie dogs. There was no place for food (it may in fact be the longest stretch of road in the United States without a Starbucks, but that’s just a wild guess), there was approximately one place to gas up, and we arrived at the hotel late, after pretty much every restaurant had closed, starving and miserable. But I had my own room while we were there (the rooms were too small for three unless someone was up for sleeping on the floor, which, surprise, was not something any of us was enthusiastic about) so I was able to eat a protein bar in bed, totally pantsless, while finally watching the previous week’s episode of Game of Thrones, so it wasn’t all bad. And the following day was the big day, the entire reason for our trip: Meow Wolf’s House of Eternal Return. Now that it was so close, I could hardly wait.

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The World’s Largest Dinosaurs in Cabazon, CA

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It would not be incorrect to say that my blog and thus, my life, is about finding the world’s most disgustingly appealing food and every last damn dinosaur sculpture on the face of the Earth. It may be a slight oversimplification, mainly due to the exclusion of “fart jokes” in that description, but for a sentence with only two descriptors, it’s pretty accurate. Which is why it’s straight up ridiculous that for all the time I’ve spent in southern California, I’d never yet been to visit the largest dinosaurs in the world, the Cabazon dinosaurs. The Cabazon dinosaurs were the dinosaurs of the 1980s, appearing in advertisements, music videos, and (of course) Pee Wee’s Big Adventure.

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Apparently the whole shebang was acquired and turned into a creationist museum of sorts, and though to be honest, I didn’t really notice any overt creationism messages, like a statue of Jesus walking among the dinosaurs, in hindsight, some of the displays inside do make more sense within that context. Like, for instance, the sculptures of lions and other modern mammals mixed in with the dinosaurs. Or that the sign out front says “by design, not by chance”, which I thought was just a weird turn of phrase to say they intentionally built the world’s biggest dinosaurs instead of it turning out that way by accident. What I’m saying is, I’m a little slow on the uptake.

Regardless of the message, this place gave me the opportunity to climb up inside a T-Rex’s head for under ten bucks, and that was not an opportunity I intended to miss. Plus, it’s not every day that you can visit a gift shop in a brontosaur belly, and it would be a shame to squander that. What was squandered was my opportunity for a pressed penny, as both of their machines were broken. Why? Whyyyyy?

whymypiggy

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In order to climb up inside the T-Rex, you need to purchase admission to the park. You can go into the bronto belly gift shop outside of the park proper, because they don’t want to deny anyone the opportunity to buy a souvenir if they really, really want one. The park itself, while it contains many dinosaurs, is a little janky, in the way that many dinosaur parks are a little janky. Sometimes, the sculpts are a little derpy. Sometimes the paint jobs are funky. Sometimes the proportions are weird in relation to other sculptures. Sometimes they just go ahead and throw in a few lions or komodo dragons or whatever else among the dinos because they were part of some discount bundling deal. Sometimes they put them behind some really sad netting that comes across a little less “Jurassic Park” and a little more “mini golf hazard”. This park had a mix of all of the above.

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cabazon (22 of 56)Now that I think of it, this sculpt is exactly the same as one I saw at the Jurupa Mountains Discovery Center, which begs the question, where are they ordering these dinosaurs from and how do I get one or ten of them for my front and/or backyard?

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cabazon (27 of 56)This one is one of the na’vi dinosaurs visiting from Pandora. Or so I can only assume.

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cabazon (29 of 56)“Oh, hello there. You startled me. I definitely wasn’t using my tiny arms to rifle through some old old timey dino porno.”

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radicalThere was nothing I could do to this photo to make it not look like a completely photoshopped 80’s postcard, so I decided to take it to its logical conclusion.

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The important thing was that I was eventually able to make my way to the mouth of the T-Rex, which was actually somewhat terrifying. At first, there are normal flights of stairs, but as I got up into his neck, the stairs turned into a tight metal spiral staircase with very little in terms of handholds or visibility, especially as I was descending and feeling for the next step with my foot. Then there’s the mouth itself, which wobbles ever so slightly in the wind and/or with my movements and made me wish I’d eaten just a little less for lunch, because I really don’t want the news article about my death to be how my morbid obesity snapped the head off a T-Rex that subsequently rolled into the freeway, killing thirty others. Just as an example. Other notable ways I would prefer not to go include but are not limited to: sending a car off the highway due to some horrendous odor expelled from my body, causing the driver to black out, sinking a cruise ship from a scrape with one of my ragged toenails like it’s an iceberg slicing through air pockets, or somehow ruining commercial space travel for everyone, possibly involving lack of supervision and a giant red button that says “do not push”. Again, just some examples of broad categories of humiliating ways I could go, and certainly not limited to those alone.

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For now, however, Mr. T-Rex’s head remains attached and your highways remain safe. For now.

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Granger, Washington: The Dinosaur Town with Volcano Toilets

wire frame dino granger

welcome to granger

bustin loose

Brachiosaurus

ankylosaurus

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mellzah prattkeeping

dino munching on leaves

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mama dino and nest

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stego on the hill

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Only one dinosaur bone has ever been found in the state of Washington (an unidentified theropod in the San Juan islands), but that didn’t stop the small town of Granger from conspiring to capitalize on Jurassic Park mania in 1993. In 1994, the first dinosaur statue was produced, and their collection has grown by leaps and bounds since, with around thirty concrete dinosaurs scattered around the town. Driving around to see them is like being on a much safer, easier-to-spot safari. There’s also significantly less chance of a mauling, though it came close when I was repeatedly heckled by some little bastard children out a car window because I dared to climb on and ride a baby brontosaurus like god and nature intended, losing a shoe in the attempt. “Boo! Boo! You suck!” over and over and over. It might not be strictly polite to dropkick someone else’s child, but I think the rules of society occasionally allow for it. After all, it takes a village. I made do with “I can see you, you little shits!” and they piped down. Score one for profanity and vague threats.

There was also a slight risk of mauling by dinosaur descendants. I visited at the peak of nesting season, and several species of birds made it clear that we were not welcome in the area. None so clear as the goose that hissed and charged at Jason while his back was turned. I warned him in time which I feel makes up for my failure during The Pony Incident™ of ’14.

Although a few of Granger’s dinosaurs have “battle damage”, most of them have sweet and goofy expressions, not unlike the dinosaurs of Dinosaur World. Unlike Dinosaur World, the dinosaurs of Granger are a little worse for wear, but they are free to gander at, ride, and generally make an ass of oneself in public. It’s also evidently a prime public makeout spot, even at high noon on a Sunday, and I have some spectacular photos of people grinding intently on each other’s laps that I took by complete accident. Whoooops. Take that action into the privacy of the volcano toilets, people.

Spotted on the Roadside: The Dinosaur Doctor

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While dashing to and fro taking photos for a friend’s ridiculously demanding photo scavenger hunt, I spotted this velociraptor and immediately pulled over. First of all, I wish my orthodontist had been dinosaur themed. Mine had more of a pain theme going on, between the palate expansion and the headgear and the three years of braces and the incorrectly made retainer which shifted my teeth so much overnight that I needed braces for another entire year and the multiple shitty remarks (while my parents were out of the room) about how sad it was to do all of this work on my teeth when it was really my jutting chin that was ruining my face. Because what every child needs to be told by their orthodontist is that they essentially look like a fat Beavis. Ahem, I seem to have gotten a bit off-track.

Anyway, I can appreciate a dinosaur themed orthodontist, whether that means that the orthodontist is a dinosaur or that he treats dinosaurs or that he only uses the really old school kind of braces. I’ve also taken the liberty of shooping their statuary with an addition that I believe would make it truly next-level.

Dinosaur dental work

Think about it, Dr. Max!

 

Spotted on Main St in Monroe, WA.

Dinosaur Discovery Museum in Kenosha, WI

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Will I ever get tired of visiting dinosaur museums? In a word: NO. The Dinosaur Discovery Museum in Kenosha, Wisconsin packs a lot of dinosaur into a relatively small space, eschewing individual platforms in favor of one large grouping. It’s the only museum in the United States designed specifically to show the evolutionary transition between dinosaurs and birds and it does so with the largest collection of theropod dinosaurs in the country; by containing them all on one platform, it’s easier to compare them to one another. Especially delightful are the motion sensors which trigger dinosaur noises and make you feel as though you’re being stalked around the room.

IMG_0409I thought it was a trick question with the answer being “this museum!”

IMG_0419Although it’s not a scientifically sound theory, based on similar facial expressions, I postulate that this dinosaur may in fact be Napodog’s ancestor as they both appear to be pleased as punch to be tracking mud around like it takes no work at all to clean the floors. NONE AT ALL. Happy-go-lucky jerks.

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IMG_0412This guy just needs a little nap, evolution is hard work!

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IMG_0432Downstairs, you can watch fossils being cleaned and prepared for research. You can also assemble a dinosaur puzzle and do some coloring; of course we elected to do all of these things, for science.

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As you can see, Jason’s Eoraptor explores how one might camouflage itself in the 1980s, and mine is exploring hipster fashion. SCIENCE!

Walking With Dinosaurs: Dinosaur Ridge

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If you’re into dinosaurs and paleontology, Colorado is an excellent place to visit. The Morrison formation has been one of the most fertile sources of Jurassic fossils in North America, but more than that, it was one of the main sites of the Bone Wars between Othniel Charles Marsh and Edward Drinker Cope in 1877. Cope and Marsh loathed each other with a passion that made for excellent stories but terrible scientific method; not only would they rush to be the first to name new species (resulting in misidentifications like the Brontosaurus), but they’d also sabotage each other’s sites, bribing, stealing, destroying fossils, and each trying to ruin the other’s credibility so as to cut off his funding. Basically, if these guys were around today, we’d ask them to celebrity box or kiss and get it over with. Or there’d be a reality show: EXTREME PALEONTOLOGY. As it stands, they made both enormous contributions and did substantial harm to the field, discovering species while yet reportedly blowing up others with dynamite; their lasting animosity left both destitute, and yet they still would not yield. Before his death, Cope issued a challenge to Marsh by donating his skull to science, his desire that Marsh do the same so that their brains could be measured to “prove” which was more gifted. Though as we know, brain size is not an indicator of intelligence, and they’d both be dead anyway, so I suppose it was just a matter of getting it in the fossil record. Marsh never took Cope up on the bet, but Cope’s skull is still hanging out at the University of Pennsylvania today. What makes Colorado so awesome for paleontologists, aside from apparently easy-access dynamite? Well, it was above water during the Jurassic and underwater during the Cretaceous, which means that it has an astounding diversity of fossils–dinosaurs, plants, and marine reptiles. The area was then uplifted by the formation of the Rocky Mountains, and at the Morrison formation, a creek carved through it, exposing the strata of Mesozoic and Paleozoic sedimentary rocks. Excavation is no longer happening at the Morrison formation, but you can tour and see all of these things for yourself: it goes by the more tourist-friendly name Dinosaur Ridge. You can do a self-guided tour and hike up Dinosaur Ridge, or you can pay a nominal fee at the visitor center and take a guided tour on a shuttle bus. We elected for the guided tour, and you can decide for yourself whether it was laziness or the thirst for knowledge that drove that decision. P3230639

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P3230648I don’t want to spoil the story, but we only saw one of these things. And we saw a LOT of them.

P3230647 We arrived just in time to hop aboard the next shuttle bus. Unfortunately, so did several families with a veritable herd of children around the age of two. I believe that the scientific term for a gathering of children around that age is “a terror”. We should have waited for the next bus. It’s not that our shuttle guide wasn’t fantastic–she was! She was knowledgeable and enthusiastic, she was quick to point out photo opportunities, and she deserved every cent of the tour fee and tip we gave her. Unfortunately, however, it was incredibly difficult to hear anything she had to say over the reverberating screams of that many children. I’m not saying this as an unreasonable kid-hater, I’m saying this as one of the only two people on that bus trying to hear the tour guide, the other being Jason. Literally no one else was paying attention to her. Not the screaming kids, not the parents with glazed-over eyes. She’d ask a question hoping for a response and get “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAIEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE” shouted back at her for her efforts. Hostage negotiation and traffic control are notoriously difficult jobs, but I’d put this at a close third. At least in those first two professions, you don’t spend any portion of your day hoping for the sweet release of death. I’m sure there are things I would have liked to have learned about whatever it is going on in the below photos, and I would have been happy to share that knowledge, but when I think back to this tour, I mostly just hear “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAIEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE” which is really only helpful if you’re looking to memorize some of the vowels.  Sometimes I think it would be helpful to travel around with a little notebook so I don’t forget important details, but in this instance, I think all that would have come from it was a series of furious scribblings of increasingly angry faces. P3230649

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One thing I did learn is that one way paleontologists quickly determine if they’ve found a fossil is to lick it, though the tour guide recommended that we not lick any of the fossils on site as they’ve been touched by many many many hands. I don’t know whether I’d rather lick a stranger’s hand or a coprolite, personally. Preferably neither. I also learned that the bulk of Allosaurus remains have come from this area, and that Allosaurus may have been a more badass dinosaur than the more popular T.Rex. T. Rex is widely believed to be a scavenger and carrion eater. Allosaurus is believed to have been more involved in active predation; with their incredible expanding jaws, they could eat a chunk out of live prey and run away, and even if they took a beating for doing so, they often lived to see another day.  Plus: usable arms.

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P3230659Dinosaur ridge needs to update their signs! Though “Apatosaur Bulges” doesn’t sound as pleasing to the ear.

P3230663The area the tour guide is standing in originally contained a fossil that was cut out by some modern-day fossil-wrecking buttwad, possibly a descendent of Cope (Marsh never married). It was eventually found (I am not making this up) propping open a door at the University of Colorado.

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The next bus that rolled up the hill only had two adults on it. Damn, we should have waited.

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The Rocky Mountain Dinosaur Resource Center

Before we paid our admission to the Dinosaur Resource Center, I grilled the poor employee about what makes this museum different from other dinosaur museums. He told me that this is the only dinosaur museum in the world that includes fish and marine reptile fossils (aka the T-Rex of the sea) in their exhibits, and that you can also observe a working fossil laboratory; that many of the specimens we’ve seen elsewhere have been processed and sent out from this location. He also added that the things they had in their museum were real, unlike the other tourist attractions in the area (Zing! And yet we still ended up getting suckered into a few of them.).

The Oviraptor, or “chicken from hell”–you certainly didn’t see it here first, but you DID see it here, and the owner of the museum was actually brought in to collect, prepare, and restore the original find. Another selling point for the museum.

This wall mount has the goofiest expression of any I’ve ever seen.  It looks like he’s taking the ANGRIEST poop. Why don’t they sell replicas of this in the gift shop? I’d have bought one in a heartbeat, and mounted it directly opposite the toilet so guests to my home could compete in a poop-off. I can’t believe the Rocky Mountain Dinosaur Resource Center is crushing my dreams like that.

Is there a rule that all dinosaur art must have lightning or volcanoes in the background? Dinosaurs aren’t an exciting subject, so you need to jazz up the background a little?

The employee failed to mention that the fossil workers they had on site were BEAVERS with punny names. Oh, and that the beavers had the day off because there was no fossil lab work going on that I could see. Jason had to fill in as best he could.

“I’m flying, Jack!”

The employee could have saved himself a lot of breath by uttering the three magic words: “baby mammoth mummy”. SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY!

I believe that Dinosaur World is the only place where a boy like me can be happy.

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One of the things we wanted to see outside of the immediate Orlando area was Dinosaur World, which is essentially Florida’s Jurassic Park, except a few expenses were spared and all of the dinosaurs were frozen in place.

When we arrived, I realized my description required a correction: all of the dinosaurs were frozen in place with incredibly stupid expressions on their faces.

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