Monday, July 29, 2013

Denver 2012: Day 9

July 11th 2012

Not having had nearly enough Dinosaurs on this trip, this day was focused on the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. We actually did get up early, but were very slow in leaving, both from preparing for our “early night” taco dinner, and being worn out from walking a million Mesozoic miles the day before.

We were very brave venturing forth, using two GPS’s and no notes or printed directions. Therefore, I ignored both of them as much as possible and followed signs to get to the parking lot.

We took the requisite pictures at the Camarasaurus in the parking garage, using a garbage can that weighed upwards of fifteen tons in place of the forgotten tripod. There were also the equally required photos goofing around by the Bear statue outside the entrance, and the Bakker posed Tyrannosaur inside the entrance.

Somewhere near the beginning of our day’s journey, Anabelle realized she no longer had her water bottle, and must have left it at the pre-exhibit viewing potty stop. As I accidentally forgot Rosa’s Super Deluxe Magic Camera at the gift shop desk later in the day, (which I learned when the sales woman handed it to her after I left) I won’t make any comments about the water bottle. (Sorry honey!)

Anabelle and I did a little “Prehistoric Polka” dance of excitement as we rode the escalator up to the third floor fossil exhibits.

After being impressed yet again by a billion year old rock at the entrance (what can I say, ancient stones wow us) we entered the Prehistoric Journey. The exhibits in the Denver Museum, though smaller, are much more story based than the New York ones we’re used to. This one told the tale of the prehistory and evolution of the area, and the methods used to find and analyze the fossils in the present.

Anabelle spent a bunch of time over at the T-Rex information station seeing casts, actual fossils, and a boomerang wishbone. She was horrified to learn the woman running the booth had never hear of her favorite dinosaur (Doesn’t everyone have one?) the Parasaurolophus. She also tried out several of the interactive kiosks, including an iterative fly catching video game that demonstrated, fairly cleverly, how natural selection works.

Approaching the ancient mammal halls, we all paused to make faces at the giant carnivorous pig thing, whose name I can never remember. At the end of the exhibit was a large glass enclosed room that allowed us to see Paleontologists doing what they are best at…taking a lunch break. Probably could have timed that better.

Before bidding our farewells, Anabelle spent some time “Walking with Lucy” while the giant Colombian mammoth skull inspired me to point out, like I do every time we see a mammoth, how it inspired legends of the Cyclops. My daughter would probably be inspired to be much more impressed with this story if she knew what a Cyclops was outside of the X-men. Time to dig out those Harryhausen films.

She managed to lose, and then find again, cardboard Green Lantern logo she carried to remind herself to be brave. It’s a good thing she recovered it, as it came in very handy in the Mummy Room again. It was quite impressive how well preserved the mummies they had on hand were and how much information they were able to glean from medical scans.
The tiny models showcasing multiple aspects of Egyptian life were also fascinating, and added a great deal of detail and depth to the one room exhibit. Yes, I usually rooted for the wrong side in The Ten Commandments, what of it?

We were all tired and hungry, causing us to greet the “Colorado Environs” showcases with a bit of a jaded eye.
“Oh look, another dead bird,” we would state speeding by each diorama. The Galapagos and African displays held our attentions a little more while we finished the floor, but we really needed to eat.

The cafeteria was filled largely with standard, unexciting, museum fare, with the exception of the burrito bar. Gotta love Colorado for high quality south of the border food, it’s almost everywhere, and the whole recent additions to my menu of beans and onions once again worked in my favor. My only problem was that I got the old Mexican woman as a server, who had forgotten more about proper Burrito construction than I will learn in my lifetime. While I saw some of the younger staff asking people which extra toppings they’d like inside their tortilla, NO ONE was telling this woman how to make a burrito. She fashioned mine in the approved manner, leaving me to try to squeeze in the extra stuff after the fact, on my own.

In similar fashion to the New York Natural History museum, after starting with the top floor dinosaurs, and then having lunch on the ground, we continued on the bottom floor, which contained space and minerals.

The Space Odyssey exhibit boasted a fair amount of donations from Colorado’s astronauts. There were a large number of them, possibly due to the presence of the Air Force Academy in the state. It was also full of interactive demonstrations which were all very cool and educational. Unfortunately, all of them required talking to the person running the interactive demo. Given my family’s general aversion to audience participation, we ignored most of them. We did spend a chunk of time trying various combinations and props on the infrared camera experimentation table, however. Now that I was off Plavix, my power of Super-Insulation returned allowing us to try many different variations.

Similar to the prehistory exhibit, the mineral exhibit was smaller, more focused on locally available artifacts, and more story based. In this case it was all about making one’s home in a silver mine. At least I think it was. With all the geodes, crystals and precious metals, the three of us were constantly losing focus and yelling, “OOH! Shiny thing!”

The middle floor of the museum, mostly consisting of animal dioramas, was our final stop. We used this to get a good look at many of the animals we missed in the zoo or our nature adventures.
This meant spending a great deal of time looking, and choosing which member of each group was Anabelle’s favorite - deserving of a mega close up photograph with Rosa’s Super Deluxe Magic Camera’s Ginormo Telephoto Lens for the Bighorn, Dall’s and Stone Sheep. Somewhere between them our daughter started matching the pose (and face, according to her) of the featured creature in each diorama.

The final two galleries on one side of the level appeared, on the map, to be small offshoot wings containing large animals, and the Native American exhibit. The Indian section was far denser than the other; because you can fit many more Kachina dolls in a room than you can moose.

It was also far denser than we expected and we spent quite a while taking it all in. It sparked Anabelle’s interest instantly, creating a constant series of questions. Of course, she had no desire to get a book to answer the ones I, or the exhibit plaques, couldn’t field, but it was nice to see her get into what she was seeing. The possible exception was when she decided to move into the Navajo Hogan and we couldn’t get her to continue on.

We checked out the last couple of large mammal displays across from the Indians, leaving only the health exhibit. Anabelle wanted no part of it, was tired and wanted to go home. Following some parental cajoling, to “give it a try” she ended up loving it and had a far better time than the rest of us. The entire area was not only interactive, but also computer based - meaning that it both tracked progress and didn’t require talking to museum staff. There were various systems to measure body proportions and ratios, target heart rate, stride length and other features.
The longest line in the place was for the “digital aging” machine. It took a photo, and then used known effects to age it decades on screen. Anabelle came out incredibly creepy looking, as did any small child, due to over extrapolation. Rosa got cut in front of, and then stepped off line herself to help Anabelle set up her “health video log.” A different person cut in on me, and I ended up needing to step off line to see Anabelle’s “health video log.” Considering she wouldn’t talk to any curators, she had quite a bit to say to the camera, and the line reached epic proportions by the time she finished. Considering that line, and how creepy her picture looked, Rosa and I decided we’d take the long path to see what we looked like in the future.

As we left and got our print outs, I learned that everything I touched was defective. While Rosa’s and Anabelle’ s were spot on, my read out informed me that I was five foot four and reached my target heart rate after a single pedal of the bicycle. The drawing of my stride was also of only my left shoe, instead of an entire silhouette. Apparently, my technical issues extended far beyond stuff breaking at Titi LuzMa’s.

Camera abandoning moments aside, the gift shop was a nice experience. I found a plush bighorn sheep to leave Anabelle when I returned home, and a plush owl that satisfied both of Rosa’s requirements for souvenirs: i.e. it was cute and on sale. Similar to almost every other gift shop associated with the Dinosaurs that are sticking out of the freakin’ ground in Colorado, all the Dinosaur shirts were lame. Anabelle found some Indian Art she liked. The woman at the counter was a big Star Wars fan, and thought my “Moods of Darth Vader” shirt was fun. She also used the Imperial March for her boyfriends Ringtone, like my wife uses for me. I feel this personal connection was what allowed them to get Rosa’s Super Deluxe Magic Camera back into her hands as quickly as they did. Thank you George Lucas for creating a united fandom.

We remembered the juggling clubs just before pulling out, forcing another picture session with the Camarasaur. Both GPS’s, insulted by my reliance on signs to get there, sent us out of the same park the zoo was located in via an entirely different route. I quintuple checked the Impala’s locks as we passed through an unseemly looking section of Denver on our way back to recognized highways.

We stopped at the Ginormo Wal-Mart across from Titi LuzMa’s to pick up final taco ingredients. Anabelle kept dragging me over to look at the Lala Loopsy display with her. I found this very distracting from trying to drag her over to look at the Marvel Legends display. Once Rosa finished getting what we actually stopped for, she dragged the two of us out of the toy aisles and home.

The garage door opener was working fine, but we were in no mood to chance it, and unloaded the Impala from the outside lot. There was a baby robin on one of the steps that the woman moving out of a nearby unit told us had been there all day, with the mother stopping by to feed and protect it occasionally.

I took Anabelle to the pool for a bit while they got the taco meat ready. Stellar parent that I am, I forgot both ear plugs and sunscreen, but since it was a short swim in the late afternoon neither was a grievous offence. Surprisingly, a red biplane flew over us while we were swimming. Even more surprisingly, none of the other people at the pool, who presumably lived there, had any idea where it could have come from. Considering the limited range of that type of plane, I chalked it up, once again, to the over-relaxed nature of Colorado.

A check on the robin as we returned yielded only an empty step, and the attack Chihuahua of the moving woman. Alas poor robin.

We washed up for a late dinner, followed by my utter defeat in the night’s camera wars, due to the Ginormo Telephoto Lens on the Super Deluxe Magic Camera perfectly capturing details inside the dioramas.

Rosa took her last turn putting Anabelle to sleep before I had to return home, and conked out herself. Once again, the Mountain Dew fueled driving had left me the only one awake to handle computer tasks accompanied by a glass of El Castillo Del Diablo wine to wind down. I think Elvis’s problems may have started similarly.

No comments: