Dinosaurs Without Chris Pratt
The National Dinosaur Monument is seven miles south of Jensen, Utah. Everything, and I do mean EVERYTHING, for miles and miles in all directions is dinosaur-focused. The entire region incorporates the word dinosaur or a play on the word dinosaur into the names of virtually all of their shops, products, signage etc. There are dinosaur-themed restaurants, clothing stores, pawn shops, trailer parks, motels, feed stores, liquor stores, bars, souvenir shops, gas stations, and more. You name it, they have it. There is even a small town called Dinosaur.
By the time Mariah, Harry and I drove to the National Monument, we were half-expecting an animatronic dinosaur and not much else. The last time I recalled this much hype may have been the hundreds of miles of signage for “South of the Border”, a tourist trap in South Carolina I encountered on a college road trip from Philadelphia to Florida in the late 1970’s.
Much to our relief, the monument was exceedingly cool. After a short shuttle ride from their visitor center, the bones from more than 1,500 dinosaurs dating from the late Jurassic period are visible, in situ, embedded in a massive wall of rock. A two-level exhibit hall was built to enclose the quarry wall, which included specified areas where visitors could actually touch 149 million year old dinosaur bones. It is remarkable to see the partially exposed, jumbled remains of dinosaurs just as they were when they were discovered. Exhibits explain the extensive work done in research institutions around the world to reconstruct the massive dinosaur skeletons we are familiar with today.
The Dinosaur National Monument also included a self-guided drive to a nearby protected site called Swelter Shelter where 1,000 year old petroglyphs (chipped or carved rock designs) and pictographs (painted images or patterns) from the Freemont people were visible. We were entranced by these preserved images and all of the other features at this National Monument with one exception. As luck would have it, Mariah and I just watched the newly released movie, Jurassic World, a few weeks ago. So we were less than enthusiastic about the electronic gates and security measures used at the Monument to manage traffic and ensure security. We had visions of crazed Velociraptors and the Indominus rex fixed in our minds, and well, we could have done without the shuttle ride and the electronic gates.
We concluded our dinosaur portion of the trip, with a stop on US 40, in Vernal, Utah, to see Dina, a forty fort tall anthropomorphized pink dinosaur statue. She is something of a roadside legend, weighing 4,200 pounds of pink fiberglass. Dina has been around since the late 1950’s and seemed like an essential site to include on any legitimate cross-country road trip.