Searched For dinosaur museum

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!

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?

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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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The Bishop Museum in Oahu

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If you’re looking to learn about Hawaiian history and culture, the Bishop Museum may well be your jam. It absolutely was mine, and was in fact one of the most interesting and educational museums I’ve ever had the pleasure to visit. The Bishop Museum contains the largest number of Polynesian artifacts in the world, from royal kahili (feather standards) and royal feather cloaks that are woven so tightly they appear to be made of cloth, to ceremonial artifacts and deity statues. Each section was beautifully displayed and evocatively described; you can appreciate the artifacts on their own, but the placards gave you the opportunity to dig deeper and learn more.

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Look at all that luxe koa wood: those display cases are actually worth more than the original museum buildings! The Hawaiian hall covers everything from the gods of pre-contact Hawaii to Hawaiian daily life to Hawaiian history. There are a number of stations where you can learn Hawaiian storytelling, play with kala’au sticks, and more. Adjacent is the Pacific Hall, which teaches you about the distinct but connected cultures of Polynesia. They even had a small section on the aboriginal Taiwanese, which surprised me for some reason. Maybe because I didn’t learn much about the aboriginal culture when I was actually in Taiwan.

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The placard underneath this tiger shark tooth weapon said that it was used to kill tiger sharks, which is the most metal thing I’ve ever heard.

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The placard with this statue of a shark deity said that its burial location was discovered in a dream where it had begged to be found, and they had to cement it into place in its current location, because despite their efforts to relocate it outside the Hawaiian Hall, it refused to be moved. Now look at its eyes again. Following you around? They haunted me that entire room.

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There was an entire room dedicated to the craftsmanship of grass hats, and when you neared this camera, the monitor would plop a hat on your head. Fabulous, no?

protest signs    white people ruin everything

The Bishop Museum was very tasteful in their labeling of sheet music about America’s newfound interest in Hawaii, merely saying that the songwriters “created some absurd versions of the Hawaiian language.” My label would have been “Goddamn it, white people.”

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We moseyed over to the science hall to make sure we arrived in plenty of time for the lava pouring demonstration, the only place you can see melted lava in person on Oahu. Inside the science hall, they’ve got a wee volcano that wafts smoke from its top, and a sad slide that not even children can work up a good speed on, so it was extra sad when I tried it. I looked like a dog scooting his ass on the carpet, dragging myself down the slide with my feet. Echoes of the Kennedy Space Center and the ramp slide I made when they wouldn’t let me slide down their actual slide, except people were openly laughing at me this time.

To get to their hot shop under the volcano, you need to take a trip down the rainbow road, aka Stoner’s Paradise:

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We were right on time, and the demonstrator taught us all about the different kinds of volcanic glass and passed around samples for us to touch and inspect. He also passed around a chunk of what will eventually be the new island in the Hawaiian chain, Lo’ihi, some 10,000-100,000 years from now, which means neither you nor I will vacation there in our lifetimes, barring vampiric immortality or robot bodies, neither of which would probably appreciate the salty sea air and blazing sun.

Then on to the good stuff: the lava pour. To get it into its liquid state, it has to be heated to over 1292°F, which is so hot that I’m assuming you can toast a marshmallow from 100 yards. No one has really invested in the marshmallow toasting sciences enough to tell me for certain. The lava solidified rapidly, and even though it was still incredibly hot, it could be picked up and manipulated.  At that level of heat, even in a protective suit the demonstrator couldn’t be near it for long, and he was out of the containment area before it cooled down enough to look like the rippled lava we more readily recognize.

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They also had dinosaurs. Poseable ones, rideable ones, and so many animatronic ones, and you know I’ll always take a hot second to gawk at some animatronic dinosaurs or maybe feed one an onion ring.

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The Bishop Museum was completely amazing, and even though every fiber of your body urges you to be outside every moment while you’re visiting Oahu, if you have any interest in Polynesian history or culture, I wholeheartedly recommend you carve out some time to visit.

The American Museum of Natural History in NY, NY

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One could easily spend an entire day seeing everything there is to see in the American Museum of Natural History in New York City (or longer, hence their overnight visits!), which is why, of course, we only spent about two hours there and bemoaned the fact that we couldn’t see more. Since my energy levels were low due to the plague, I had to carefully choose which things were most important for me to see, and thus we had visited The Cloisters earlier in the day which didn’t leave much time for AMNH. But I’d rather see part of a museum than none of it! Since we knew right off the bat we wouldn’t be able to see everything, we narrowed it down to the halls that would have the least overlap with museum visits we’d done recently: The Hall of Biodiversity, The Milstein Family Hall of Ocean Life, The Hall of North American Forests, the Arthur Ross Hall of Meteorites, the Morgan Memorial Hall of Gems, and the Harry Frank Guggenheim Hall of Minerals. We also took a peek at the Gardner D. Stout Hall of Asian Peoples on our way out, and passed through the Akeley Hall of African Mammals on our way in. Mainly, we skipped out on fossils and the center for Earth and Space even though planetariums and dinosaurs are my jam.

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The Hall of Biodiversity was insanely awesome. It features more than 1,500 specimens and models, showcasing both the diversity of life on Earth and the threats to that life, including a timeline of the five previous mass extinctions. More than any museum exhibit I’ve ever seen, it serves as a call to action to guests to do what they can to preserve the variety of life teeming around them as each creature plays a important role.

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eww some ocean creatures are not cute

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The Milstein Family Hall of Ocean Life features, in addition to a 10.5 ton model of a blue whale suspended from the ceiling from a relatively small anchor point, some of the diversity of life in the sea, from the shores to the deep oceans. The quality of these displays are top-notch: if you can close your ears to the people around you, it’s almost like you’re underwater with these creatures. They also feature a squid vs whale sea battle, though it’s far from being the largest in the world.

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The Life of the Forest Floor exhibit shows how terrifying it would be to be insect size. “Honey I Shrunk the Kids” doesn’t even begin to touch on the nightmare world beneath our feet. I don’t even like centipedes at centipede size. Centipedes the size of a horse? Kill me now.

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Up until The Hall of Meteorites, I was really impressed with the attention to detail and the care given to the museum’s subjects: to display them in a way that’s interesting and relevant to the modern viewer. However, some of the latter exhibits we visited have begun to show their age, the Earth and Planetary Sciences Halls in particular. The Hall of Meteorites is the only one that appears to have been touched since the 1970s; everything else has a display quality on par with the mineral exhibit we saw in some guy’s backyard near House on the Rock. Stained carpet everywhere, dusty exhibits, exhibits falling apart that haven’t been tended to, and a “wet paint” sign for paint that’s so old that the wall has since been scraped and chipped again. I know that minerals aren’t the most exciting subject, but there’s got to be a better way to display them than ringed in carpet.

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Overall, we enjoyed our visit to AMNH, and I think it would definitely warrant a repeat visit should we find ourselves in New York again. I just hope that some of our admission fee was earmarked toward updating some of the lesser-loved exhibits so that the museum can be truly distinguished in every way.

The Buffalo Bill Museum and Grave

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Sometimes it takes visiting a museum dedicated to another person to realize that you don’t have enough items in your home with your face and name emblazoned on them. For me, that museum was the Buffalo Bill museum. I’ll admit to not knowing much about Buffalo Bill prior to my visit, other than he was shot during a poker game at Deadwood….which wasn’t Buffalo Bill at all, it was Wild Bill, so let’s go ahead and say that I had a baseline knowledge of zero as pertains to Buffalo Bill.

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William “Buffalo Bill” Cody was one of the more well-known figures (barring my ignorance) in the American West. He was born in Iowa, and like many Iowans, couldn’t wait to leave*; from there he covered nearly as much land as a person could cover in those days, traveling across the West as a scout, a Pony Express rider, a ’59er, a trapper, a hunter, a showman, and even as a founder of a town. The Buffalo Bill museum was established by his foster son, Johnny Baker, four years after Cody’s death.

I bore that fact in mind as I toured the museum; while every museum of this type has a vested interest in making the subject as appealing as possible, by being opened by his son, there’s an undeniable bias and some potential truth-twisting.

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I had visited the restroom prior to entering the museum, and inside each stall was a short Buffalo Bill story. The one in my stall said that Cody was a great believer in women’s rights, had given Susan B. Anthony box seat tickets to his show, and when she arrived, he made a point of bowing to her in front of the entire audience. “Wow, what a great guy!” I thought. But when I saw the bit above about how his family was anti-slavery, and elsewhere in the museum that he was one of the first to call Native Americans “Americans” and recognize their rights as citizens, and that he didn’t even kill that many bison so he can’t be held accountable for their brush with extinction, I began to wonder how it was that he ended up on the right side of history in every major issue of his time. Given the caption of the above illustration, I figured there had to be a first-person account of this incident somewhere, and as it turned out, it’s free on Kindle. Cody’s father was stabbed at a public meeting regarding slavery, but his stance wasn’t quite as noble as the museum depicted:

“Gentlemen and Fellow-citizens: You have called upon me for a speech, and I have accepted your invitation rather against my will, as my views may not accord with the sentiments of the rest of this assembly. My remarks, at this time, will be brief and to the point. The question before us to-day is, shall the territory of Kansas be a free or a slave state. The question of slavery in itself is a broad one, and one which I do not care at this time and place to discuss at length. I apprehend that your motive in calling upon me is to have me express my sentiments in regard to the introduction of slavery into Kansas. I shall gratify your wishes in that respect. I was one of the pioneers of the State of Iowa, and aided in its settlement when it was a territory and helped to organize it as a state.

Gentlemen, I voted that it should be a white state–that negroes, whether free or slave, should never be allowed to locate within its limits; and, gentlemen, I say to you now, and I say it boldly, that I propose to exert all my power in making Kansas the same kind of state as Iowa. I believe in letting slavery remain as it now exists, and I shall always oppose its further extension.”

The autobiography cuts off before his Wild West show days, so a number of my questions are unanswered, but if his own book is to be believed, he certainly did kill a hell of a lot of bison: there’s an account of killing sixty-nine in a day in a killing contest, he attests to killing 4,280 over the course of his 18 month stint with the railroad, and it seemed like every time he spotted a herd, the entire thing was doomed. This isn’t the work of a conservationist, and I don’t know why the museum would attempt to portray him as such. No one is infallible, and I think the truth ultimately serves the public (and his legacy) better. When you see a few small not-quite-truths, it throws everything else that’s actually true (like the Susan B Anthony thing) into question. He was an interesting man, and it seemed like he was the Forrest Gump of his time, having a hand in just about everything of note during that time period–he even helped Marsh during the Bone Wars! There’s really no need to tell any half-truths to make him more compelling. Besides, it’s not like he was otherwise unlikeable from a modern perspective–I particularly enjoyed his bits of self-deprecating humor sprinkled throughout:

“Had the villains captured me they would have undoubtedly put an end to my career, and the public would have never had the pleasure of being bored by this autobiography.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis issue included no fewer than 17 new sex tips involving pemmican and hard tack.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI want–no, need a lamp with my face tastefully painted on it.

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One of my favorite parts of the museum was the “Kids Cowboy Corral”, where I ignored the “kids” part entirely and tried my hand at lassoing a plastic calf. As it turns out, even when your “mount” and your target aren’t moving, this is really difficult to do, and I only succeeded in roping the calf’s ear. Jason cheated, and placed the lasso around the calf’s neck before taking a seat on the horse. In the Old West, they might’ve stabbed a man for that.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI don’t know why I find having little locks of hair on display so creepy. I just do.

An entire section of the museum was dedicated to Buffalo Bill artwork, and they left it to the viewing public to decide whether each was an example of folk, fine, or funky art.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt first, my attention was grabbed by the horse being shot in the forehead. As I look back on it later, I have to wonder–where is that guy’s neck?!

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADefinitely fine art.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI could also use some really badass personal stationery. Wax stamp with my face on it mandatory.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPart of Buffalo Bill’s storied spoon collection. Supposedly, he hired a guy whose sole job it was to polish them. So where are the rest?

At the end of the museum, they offer up an area for you to vote on your preferred museum experience–guided tours, audio tours, self-guided, etc. I took one look at the general public’s remarks and became incensed on behalf of the museum.

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What are the odds that the majority of these were from one giant illiterate asshole family? Really, you and your shitty children were bored from too much reading? They had two videos, a dress-up station, a place to rope a calf, and a place to touch all sorts of animal pelts that you would probably otherwise never be able to touch. That’s not interactive and entertaining enough? What else do you need? A bank of game consoles so they can play “Grand Theft Stagecoach”? Someone walking around in an anthropomorphic bison costume? Maybe try the water park next time if you can’t handle all the reading at a fucking museum. It really irritates me when a museum that was this well-done gets slammed for not pandering to the lowest common denominator. I walked into the museum knowing nothing about Buffalo Bill, and from all the (gasp) reading I did while there, I left knowing quite a bit and wanting to know more. That’s a success, and I’d be very sorry to see it change format and lose some of the information contained therein.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt’s like they knew I was coming.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABetween these plateaus is the Coors plant, where they turn water into tinted water and can it.

Buffalo Bill was so immensely popular that multiple states battled over his corpse, each claiming that they should have the right, or that Buffalo Bill had stated his desire to be laid to rest there. Ultimately, he ended up in Golden, and Denver parked a tank near the grave while it was covered with over ten feet of concrete to prevent anyone from stealing the body.

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The gift shop had a lot of your standard gift shop crap–snowglobes and t-shirts and pins and generic Colorado/vaguely Western stuff, plus an entire wall of creepy collectible dolls. I would have liked to have seen more Buffalo Bill-specific merchandise, more poster replicas, lasso kits, old West weapon replicas…things that you wouldn’t find at the very next gift shop down the road.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABecause if there’s one thing we need, it’s more armed kids walking around.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is the door of mixed messages.

If you have any interest in the Old West and don’t mind doing some reading, the Buffalo Bill Museum and Grave is one of the better museums I’ve seen. It was definitely among my favorite activities on our jam-packed Colorado trip.

*According to a recent (2013) poll, this is a lie, Iowans generally speaking have a lower than average desire to move elsewhere.Damn facts, messing with my hack jokes!

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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“I can find a good career at this museum, or at least see if they fixed that mislabeled raccoon I complained about.”

On our second day in San Diego, Jason and I visited the Natural History Museum in Balboa Park, arriving in time to see the Skulls exhibit but thankfully missing the Titanic exhibit–the fewer times I’m reminded of the three hours of my life I wasted watching a movie about a selfish woman who tells rambling stories about banging in jalopies, getting drunk, and showing her boobs to people, who then throws her legacy into the ocean, the better.

First, Jason made friends with a dinosaur.

Next, we saw a display of a velociraptor being torn apart by hungry rats. I have problems dealing with the idea of the flamboyant assassin of the dinosaurs being eaten by small mammals, yes, but I have even more of a problem dealing with the fact that Liberacesaur is being devoured by animals with such derpy looks sculpted onto their faces. Particularly that guy on the left.

I don’t even remember what this animal is, but riding it was far more important than learning anything.

Then, Jason made friends with a manatee.

Upstairs was the exhibit about skulls. Surrounding the area was a blackboard that people were encouraged to draw on–I honestly don’t know how they thought any good could come of this. I’m shocked that we had the self control not to draw wangs all over everything.

In the skulls exhibit, I learned that rhino poachers are extra super huge douchebags as the “horns” they kill the animal for are just lumps of keratin (hair and nail protein). Good job, guys, maybe next time you can make your magic potions when you clip your toenails instead of making all the world’s rhinos extinct.

Your compass is broken.

Also upstairs, they had a tank filled with animal bones that were being cleaned by their “helpers”, flesh-eating beetles. It smelled about like what you might expect a warm tank of bugs munching on fetid tissue might smell like. After we were done checking out the skulls, it was time to go downstairs to watch a 3D movie. We’d carefully considered our options and decided to go with “Sea-Rex, the T-Rex of the seas” because we felt like it would deliver on all levels, but especially on the blood and gore level (but always with an eye toward science, mind).

What we got was a 3D movie about a creepy late middle age time traveling guy hitting on a young teenage girl. I am shocked that none of his “Let me show you” statements ended with “my penis”. Also, what’s with this “T-Rex of the seas” bullshit? Is this the only way they could get people interested? I watched an entire film about it and I barely remember that the actual name of the creature is the Mosasaur because it was blocked out by the phrase “T-Rex of the sea”. Granted, I could have just been crabby while watching said film as I was hungry and there was no concessions stand available to sell me the “T-Rex of hot dogs” or the “Ankylosaur of sour patch kids”. There was also no blood or gore. Disappointing on all levels–but if you don’t believe me, now you can own it on blu-ray! We were very nearly running out of time but decided to be a little late to our next engagement so we could see the minerals exhibit. “Formed by unimaginable heat and pressure deep inside the earth, minerals explode in a vast pa–ugh.” This bra made of precious gems and metals makes my bras seem both comfortable and affordable by comparison.

It bears mentioning that this is the only section of the museum that contained armed guards, but we were still allowed to touch many things–and everything we could touch, we DID touch. I was especially keen to lay my hands on a meteorite as I like the idea of handling something that was hurtling through space (No, I do not have an astronaut fetish). Since we visited San Diego, Jason purchased a small meteorite and I go handle it almost compulsively. I’m sure I’d be typing with it in my lap right now if it didn’t weigh so damn much.

This piece is called “Neptune’s Daughters”. I think it’s time to call CPS.

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Baked Alyeska: Seven Glaciers Restaurant

Occasionally while on a trip, I will forget where I am. It happens in museums most frequently, it’s as though in the process of taking in new information and linking it to things I already knew, some other recent stuff has to be shoved out temporarily. Goodbye, plane ride! Goodbye name of the street my airbnb is on! Goodbye, gas station sandwich! The important stuff comes back, such as if I’d already thought of a good joke to tell about the sandwich (because what is writing and specifically blogging but constantly immediately acknowledging to yourself how clever you are and making a note to tell everyone about it later?). At least, I think the important stuff comes back later. How would I know if it didn’t? I’m sure this spacial forgetfulness also has to do with subject matter as well–if you’re in a museum display of dinosaurs, it doesn’t really matter whether that display is in Colorado or Wisconsin or Utah. You could, in essence, be anywhere looking at dinosaurs. 

Alaska doesn’t ever let visitors forget that they are in Alaska. You wake up in the morning and open your curtains and a mountain range that screams Alaska slaps you in the face. Maybe when you’re walking to continental breakfast in the morning, there will be a musician in the lobby playing the 2013 smash hit “Let it go” from the movie Frozen, and even though you’ve never asked anybody or done even a second of preliminary research, you know in your heart it’s because all of Alaska, the frozen state, loves Frozen more than anywhere else. Also because without a gold rush, trends can take a little longer getting up there. Either way, ALASKA. From there, you could have lunch at a pub called Moose Tooth. Alaska.  Maybe at some point in the car, a moose will just amble across the street directly in front of your hood and into the woods and you’ll hiss “get the camera get the camera GET THE CAMER–goddamnit”. Alaska.  A shop isn’t a shop in Alaska if it doesn’t have a stuffed bear looming somewhere. Neither is a hotel lobby. I haven’t checked and thus have no basis on which to claim this but I feel almost certain that in any Alaska dinosaur museum, there will also be a bear. Potentially fighting the dinosaur. No matter what, you will at all times know that you’re currently in Alaska.

I definitely didn’t forget that I was in Alaska at any point during my drive to or time at the Alyeska resort, what with the aforementioned moose road incident, the mini museum in the lobby of the Alyeska, and its giant grizzly statue staring menacingly at me through the window. The one time, the sole time I forgot was when I was browsing in the Alyeska shop, and one of the shopkeepers half shrieked “Ewww! A mosquito!”. I kept my mirth to myself, but on the inside, I thought it a severe overreaction to a minor pest. After all, I grew up in Wisconsin, right? Where we grow ’em so big the locals joke about them being the state bird? Pfft, I could defend against them in a dead sleep. They’re annoying, but not a big deal. 

We made our purchases from this young woman ten minutes later (a button up shirt for Jason and some Alaskan unguents for my face), and she brought the mosquito incident up, not because she was embarrassed and wanted to explain the earlier shriek, I think, but because a mosquito biting her head was extraordinarily noteworthy. “All this over a mosquito? Do they not have Game of Thrones?” I wondered. Later, while sipping some cold beverages and waiting for the tram, we started poking one another and whispering “EW! A mosquito!” giggling maniacally. Then one drifted by. Or, rather, we drifted, shocked, in the wake of its passage, the slow, meaty flap of its wing slapping at the air, demanding to be borne upward, and physics too frightened not to comply. An Alaskan mosquito can be properly described as “husky”, as in, an average one could carry away and fully drain a husky child, leaving only a husky husk. Alaska.

Properly chastised for our ignorant mockeries, we rode the tram to the top of the mountain to have dinner at Seven Glaciers. What can I say? I like eating on mountains when the option is available.  Alaska had its stamp all over this restaurant as well–Alaskan crabs, halibut that was caught that morning on the restaurant’s proverbial doorstep, incorporating local flavors like birch syrup. We ordered half the menu and ate until we were fit to burst.  During the course of the courses, our server mentioned that today had been a particularly good day, in that she’d seen a bear crossing the road that morning. I don’t think it had occurred to me until that point that it’s possible that every single Alaskan has a bear story. I deeply regret my missed opportunities for bear-related lines of questioning up until that point, but I hope to never miss another, and, in fact, started almost immediately making up for lost time.

My server’s other bear story was an older tale involving the restaurant itself, and the time an intrepid bear broke in, ate pounds of butter, and was caught in a butter coma. By viewing security footage, they were able to determine that in order to get inside, the bear had to stand up on her back legs and shimmy sideways down a hallway, culminating with an “I’m a little teapot” side crunch to leverage the door handle. Authorities were able to get the bear out and away, but evidently a bear who has discovered the wonders of butter is difficult to dissuade.  If a bear took a liking to my house enough to break inside, I would just go ahead and deed the house to the bear, there’s no feeling safe in there in your underwear ever again.

We ended up bringing back a goodly portion of our entrees back with us down the mountain, eyes peeled for hungry bears and mosquitoes alike. The doorman didn’t have a bear story.