Monday, April 10, 2017

The Blue Lady Travels in the Red Lands - A Tiny Vacation to Dinosaur Land

Got myself some fine new luggage mostly from Target,
pretty and just the right sizes,
so Sock Monkey & I can start to hit the road together.
I'm ready to get out of town again. This was the first of several upcoming short trips to a number of places. This time it was a driving trip in my little green car with my friend Jan Mi. We went east up into the Uintah Mountains to the small city of Vernal. We left on Saturday and returned on Sunday. The reason for the trip now was to attend the annual spring concert of the Uintah Basin Orchestra and Chorus. Two members of the Z family, who are friends of ours, were playing and singing.

The Z's had rehearsals beginning in the morning followed by a matinee concert, so Jan & I were on our own until show time. We drove up in a bit of a snow shower storm in Summit County (where Park City is located. Bad weather is not uncommon going over Parley's Summit on I-80.) The weather was still a bit dicey when we got to Vernal, so we decided to stay in town.

Vernal is the largest town in this part of Utah. Our friends live there because Dr. Z works for Indian Health Service which has a clinic on the nearby Ute reservation. Vernal has a boom & bust type economy because it's the center of an oil and gas patch. Sometimes it's filled up with roustabouts with crummy looking man camps around. Right now, oil prices are low, so it's not so bad. We got a hotel reservation easily and at a nice price.
Vernal has dinosaurs all over the place.
The most famous one is pink and welcomes people to town.
The other reasons people go there to visit are because of the Green River and to see dinosaurs. The Green River is the largest tributary of the Colorado River (which eventually carves out the Grand Canyon, as you probably know.) It's well know for rafting and other kinds of fun on or near the water.  Jan had taken one of those trips back in the day when her daughters were still kids. Lots of fun whitewater.

We decided to go the dinosaur route.

Beautiful modern building for the Vernal Brewing Company.
They have garden plots out back where they grow their own herbs.

But, first things first. Lunch. At the lovely new Vernal Brewing Company. We loved the place. Good food. Good beer (well, I only tried one kind in a small glass  - a peach wheat ale which I downed quickly because, it turns out, I was dehydrated. But it was real tasty. Could have easily had more.) Great new built building with art. What's not to like? If we lived there, we would go back a lot. The  Z family likes the place a lot and goes often even though they don't drink much, if any, beer. There were plenty of families with kids there on a Saturday afternoon.
Sock Monkey wanted to get a good view of the artwork.

So next it was to cross the street to the new natural history museum. Vernal was known for having a very good, but old fashioned type museum. Jan remembered that her little kids had liked it even though it was just those old style flat glass display cases with odd stuff with paper labels. Now it's all modern and interactive and all that jazz and so much more fun with learning.

Of course, there is a dinosaur smack dab in the middle of the first floor. And the floor itself is an artistic mosaic designed to teach people about the local geology. And the building spirals up to represent that passage of time, the same way the walkway at the Natural History Museum of Utah in Salt Lake City does. (Maybe it's a thing these days for these kinds of places. Do other museums in other places do the same? You tell me.) There is a short film to begin, an interactive part for kids to play with, interesting things displayed well, lots of light, windows with views of the outdoor dinosaur garden. Overall a real nice little museum.
Bright and beautiful lobby of the museum

Next up was time to check in at the hotel, a Marriott property, for a nap. Then time to eat again!

We found out the Vernal has two breweries, so we went to the second one, called the Quarry Steakhouse and Brewpub. Turns out this brewery was much smaller and only was serving one kind that night - a chocolate stout, not at all what I wanted. The rest of the beers were primarily from other Utah breweries, most of which are in Salt Lake and most of which I could get at any time back home, so I decided on wine for dinner along with the prime rib special, which were all just fine (hard to mess up prime rib and baked potato, in my view. ) Jan had a generous steak salad, which she also liked a lot.

That night happened to be a prom night, and the royal couple and their court also dined with us at the same place. I found one of the best parts of the restaurant was the floor. The owner had created a map of the Green River all over the floor by using pretty blue stones. The server told us to look for red stones here and there. Those represented fish. There were also some gold stones too. I got up and followed the river all over the restaurant. Maybe I'm not the only one who has ever done that.

I caught a little fish near the confluence of the
Green and Colorado Rivers.
Finally it was time to head to the middle school. (Turns out there are two of them, and we began at the wrong one. Be careful if you go looking for a middle school in Vernal in the future.) The theme of the concert was music from the movies, "Classics of the Silver Screen." Why should I be surprised that it was quite good? The US actually has superb musicians all over the place. They are just masquerading as doctors, teachers, insurance agents, farmers, you name it. And musicians like to get together and play and sing from time to time. Good for the rest of us who enjoy hearing them.

Afterwards we all went out to, what we ended up calling, "Our Place" aka the local Denny's, for after concert refreshment. In a town of around 10,000 people, there aren't a lot of chain restaurants. In Vernal Denny's is it, pretty much. We had ice cream fixed in various ways. While we were there, people all dressed up for the prom joined us again. The Z family had gone there for supper before the concert. Clearly, Denny's is THE place in Vernal.
One of the earliest national monuments in the country.
Early paleontologists saw the need to protect the bones.

Next morning, turns out it had snowed hard overnight in Salt Lake City, but things were clear and just fine in Vernal. A bit cool which made it nice. After the hotel breakfast, we headed out to Dinosaur National Monument, a few miles out of town to the east. The Green River runs through it, and a bit extends into the state of Colorado.

We had both been here before when they had the old visitor center. Now they have a spiffy new one (I think the old one was actually the better part of being condemned as a building.)

More up to date design for museum type places
After my obligatory shopping trip in National Park Service gift shops, we headed out to the dinosaur quarry site. We both recalled the wall o'bones from our earlier visit, but of course, it's still pretty impressive.

We had a very nice, fairly long conversation with Ranger Tiffany, who had worked before at Petrified Forest, about dinosaurs and stuff. I actually kept steering the conversation towards things that people did, not the dinosaurs themselves. I asked a lot about what is known about what the ancient inhabitants knew about the bones, about the early paleontologists, about what archaeologists have found in the area.

Part of a "log jam" of dead dinosaur bodies that got
buried in mud at the bottom of an ancient river.
The truth is, I have almost no interest in dinosaurs. I never had to study them in any details. The children's dinosaur craze was before my time. And later, I just never took to them. And they are all dead now.

Yet another well displayed dinosaur skeleton.
Ho hum.
So, all I have to say is bring on the petroglyphs.

The Uintah Basin is also filled up with art like this.
Too bad so many of them are found down dirt roads
where we did not have time to search out this trip.
So after admiring the landscape a bit, it was time to head home.

Just some clouds off the the east.
We stopped to eat at Our Place because we needed some lunch. It was a Sunday in a small town in Utah, after all, and there just aren't a lot of places were you can sit at a table and get served off of a menu.

Breakfast served all day
and a nice little menu for seniors.
A place you can depend upon no matter where you live in the US.
And then it was time to drive back down to SLC. We had no problems with the drive home, and were more than ready to settle in for awhile once we were all warm and cozy back at home.
Sock Monkey was happy for a rest.
Smokey Rose was happy to see us again.

No comments:

Post a Comment