Monday, September 19, 2022

Denver 2022 day 4: May 7- The Ugly Monkey’s Mesozoic and Meat Marvels

We got up and ate quickly in order to leave for our early reservation at the Morrison Museum!
Woo hoo! 
Pigeon made his triumphant return to dance along with the Ugly Monkey’s tunes!
 Woo hoo! again!

Siri, clearly deep into the local herbs, stopped providing directions in the center of the small town of Morrison. Fortunately, we had been to the amazing, little, working paleontology museum enough times that we remembered which side road to take and found it.
Every time we go to this small yet awesome place I always learn more about dinosaurs, but this trip was a huge upgrade. Arlo, the tour guide, was the best, most fun, and most informative we’d ever had. 
And I’m not only saying that because he was clearly a Godzilla fan who not only recognized the era on my mutli-image club shirt, but also many of the more obscure Toho characters.
And while mentioning that, he brought up the facts that, even though they did have tiny heads, Stegosaurs did not have a sacral brain to control the back half as was previously taught in the past, however, Godzilla did. (Citing evidence from the Heisei era Godzilla Vs. Mechagodzilla.)
He had the dress style, beard and long hair to make him look like a younger version of Doctor Bakker, and a “Sue” Tyrannosaur hat to complete his uniform.
We bonded quickly over old Dinosaur books being (his words) “Horrifyingly inaccurate.” Two other points made him particularly effective. One was that he would often say, “I tell the kids on the tour…” and then give fantastic and funny examples. They work just as well for adults, but with that preface he didn’t seem like he was talking down to us. He would punctuate that with non-children tour moments like, kids being so conditioned by “no touching” rules he’s reduced to yelling, “Touch the damn fossils!!”
The other was he focused on the way I learned so many Dinosaurs as a kid, by telling us what the literal translation of each Dinosaur name was.
They moved things around, Stan the Tyrannosaur was no longer at the entrance. Instead the Mosasaur skull was in its place as an example of one of the three eras in the museum. The rest of the first floor was all Jurassic.
I feel like should have known the Apatosaurus bones there were the first ones found.  That’s not something I would normally forget, but there’s usually so much learning going on when we stop in this museum it is possible I was distracted and missed it.
He pointed out the first Stegosaur bones (that I remembered, along with the smallest footprints in the ever of everness), how they were the state fossil and referenced those of a couple other states. He offered to look up what New Jersey’s was, but we already knew it was a Hadrosaurus. I think that, coupled with Anabelle’s favorite being the non-standard choice of Parasourolophus (also a Hadrosaur) convinced him to break the rules a little.
Normally they are only allowed to talk about Dinosaurs from the local area but he told us about a recent discoveries of an ENORMOUS Hadrosaur found in China. It was half the size of the big Sauropods. That’s still small in comparison to them, but easily large enough to stomp on an attacking Tyrannosaur.  He brought up that plant eating animals could be plenty dangerous a few times, and we compared that idea with Dinosaurs to modern day Hippos.
Up on the second floor were the most changes since our last visit. There were two new full scale castings of skeletons. One was an Utahraptor. (Real Velociraptors were turkey sized, this monstrosity was a bit larger than the ones shown in the Jurassic Park films. They're discovery was the inspiration for making the raptors larger in Jurassic Park, and they are the stars of the Raptor Red book which is LONG overdue to be a movie.) 
Sorry, got excited. Anyway, the other was a Nannotyrannus.
The rotating Triceratops skull was impressive as always, but he added value to that as well. He pointed out the different parts of the brain in the casting, and commented that the smell section was much larger in the Tyrannosaur. He also mentioned that our round human brains are quite the anomaly in nature. We learned that the size of the head and frill meant Triceratops needed MASSIVE neck muscles to control that head. Therefore they were often found with the skulls torn completely off by Tyrannosauruses trying to get at all that muscle meat.  On the skull he showed us damage points that matched up with the horn shape of other Triceratops, indicating they’d battle like modern sheep and goats. The eye placement behind large ridges protected their vision in such fights. Finally (still looking at one exhibit) Arlo referenced a recently discovered Ceratopsian with a twenty foot frill. (He seemed impressed I guessed it was hollow, not solid like Triceratops.)
Education continued in this room at the Utahraptor. They were not fast runners like the movie shows, but instead had hugely powerful legs allowing a deadly pounce with their gigantic toe claws. As a reference to modern hunting birds he mentioned the Australian Wedge Tailed Eagle, which swoops down and grabs kangaroos. This has taken the place of the Harpy Eagle who soars through South American forests eating Monkeys as the coolest bird of prey on my list.
(Don't you have a list? Why not?)
At this point he pulled out the Raptor puppet he uses “for kids.” We’re kids at heart so it was a welcome addition.
Next to the Utahraptor was the other new full scale edition, the Nannotyrannus, and also Stan the Tyrannosaur skull. I feel like he Arlo was happy to have a Dinosaur savvy group because he could get deeper into the information in his talk. I had known there was a debate whether Nannotyrannus was its own species or a young Tyrannosaur. This allowed him to dovetail off into a discussion of the tooth size and shape, indicating different methods of hunting and killing prey. He likened the debate to people in the future discovering housecat skeletons and deciding humans kept baby tigers and lions as pets.
He went over extinction theories, and about the presence of elements only found in asteroids being in a crater solidifying the idea that the impact had something to do with it. However, he also described new disease vectors as the seas dried up, which I recognized from Dr. Bakker’s Dinosaur Heresies as being a large contributor. We talked about the book, comparisons to the current unpleasantness, and had a grand time.
With the new editions, the Mammoth skull was in a smaller room, along with other mammal bones. In yet another “New thing learned” the huge holes in the Smilodon skull proved they had enormously long whiskers. He showed us the skull of a “Medium Ground Sloth.” It was still massive by modern standards but much smaller than the Giant one. Dr. Bakker told him they could easily lift an attacking Smilodon and hurl it a great distance away. Fun!
The living reptiles shared the room with the prehistoric mammals in the new configuration. With the Mosasaur head moved, there was no monitor lizard. (Alas.) The Turtles were still there, and making distracting noises as they walked around. Pandemics being what they are, the Snakes stayed in their tank.
The tour finished in the working Paleontology room, where Anabelle did her traditional cleaning of Kevin the Apatosaurus skull. I did a little too. Woo! 

Using small plastic model as a visual aid, Arlo showed us a long Sauropod tail and said while older ideas theorized it was a weapon, more recent ideas think of it as a huge whisker, used to check what was behind the enormous animals.
Since the topic returned to the Jurassic, I noted that on the shelf with various Sauropod heads downstairs, “Brontosaurus” was in quotes. I asked him about it, thinking I heard Brontosaurus was back. He gave us a brief history of the egos clashing in the Cope and Marsh bone wars. It turns out that while Apatosaurus was named first, there are enough differences that Brontosaurus was a unique species. I told him about the Camarasaur head on the AMNH Apatosaurus for years due to the same egos, yielding a face palm from him. He was very appreciative of the new sign they have that basically says, “We think this is right based on current evidence but it could change.” He explained paleontology is  like buying incomplete puzzles at multiple yard sales and hoping to figure out what the picture is, or even if they are part of the same puzzle.
I added a new Ceratopsian and a spiky Nodosaur to my Carnegie collection. Arlo passed on one final tale of a friend who stepped on that plastic Nodosaur, and had to go to the ER for the big hole in his foot.
With Pigeon the stuffed Red River Hog resuming his choreographic duties, we drove the Ugly Monkey over to the mall containing Fogó, the Brazilian Barbecue we were meeting the rest of the group at for the (Day before) Mother’s Day lunch. We drove completely around the mall, trying to figure out how to both park relatively close by, yet avoid the valet parking.

Rosa and I knew how these worked, with the green (BRING ME ALL THE MEAT!) and red (STOP BEFORE I BURST!) indicators. However, we realized it had been over twenty years since either of us had been to one.
I went with friends on Long Island when Rosa and I had first started dating, but she was home. This meant they all accused me of having an “Imaginary Girlfriend in Peru.” Rosa had gone to an actual “In Brazil” barbecue before she met me.  We had planned to all go again to prove Rosa existed, but having one of our group learn his spare tire was stolen after our visit to the Valet Parking Only place on Long Island prevented a return.
There was MUCH MEAT!  
It was GOOD!
Sweet and Meaty!)
Upon reviewing the staff, Anabelle concluded that no one who worked there was really a human being. We mostly doubted what she was saying…until we took a long hard look at the guy running the omelet station. It is possible that preventing her from spreading this information outside of the restaurant is why the server poured some of his ice water down the back of her chair onto her butt.
Everyone has different tactics for pacing at an all you can eat place. My plan worked well. Outside of the delivered skewers, I only used the salad bar out of all the buffet options to lay a spinach and tomato base on my plate with a small bit of dressing.
Oh, and some garlic mashed potatoes and little yucca rolls they brought to the table because…Good Lord!
The rolls were good enough to inspire the Spanish speakers to sing a little “pan-cito” song.
(Including Rosa as they were Gluten Free.)
The potatoes were good enough that no one said a word while eating them.
There were a large variety of meats delivered to us on those giant skewers. Titi raved about the sausages and requested them multiple times. By the time the server brought them, she asked for a mere three sausage molecules. We had a little to cheer the guy up, but the only sadder server we saw was the Parmesan crusted pork man. No one at the table wanted to try his wares, and his skewers were full every time we saw him wandering unhappily about the place.
 Anabelle and I also paced ourselves better than the rest of the gang for two reasons.
1) We don’t eat lamb.
2) We passed on the well done beef that came by to wait on “as rare as you have it” pieces.
Therefore, we were still going when everyone else stopped.
This was fantastic as the guys with bordering on raw New York strip and Top Sirloin (which Anabelle had a religious experience with) came by twice at the end.
Full and happy, we exited to our two vehicles, and accompanied by renewed "full and happy" Pigeon dances, we drove the Ugly Monkey to Walmart (again) for yet more supplies.
At home we rested a little, and Anabelle started a painting. Then we took a post carnivore walk around the lake. The wind was at ridiculous levels, battering a Mama Mallard and her ten little Ducklings as they tried to battle the waves on the shoreline. They followed us a good way around, stayed on some rocks as we continued to the playground and swam alongside us again as we returned. Nothing like fearfully watching tiny, helpless baby animals almost get dashed to bits to make the de-stressing part of the walk less effective.

Titi went to bed before the movie ended the night before (and MANY other times.) She finished Fantastic Four II while we rested up, then we continued the Rock movies tradition while watching Rampage. It was fun, I’m always up for kaiju variations, and like most Rock movies it mixed excitement with comedy. Malin Ackerman (Silk Specter II from Watchmen) appearing in it would be important later.
Anabelle mocked me heavily when I showed her the screen of the “old people game” the film was based on, sarcastically stating how fun it looked. Once all three creatures reached Chicago at the climax, I made a comment that they were “rampaging.”
Anabelle’s eyes widened and she said:
We chatted a bit downstairs about life in general, Disney Trivia and what we THOUGHT we were doing the next day before turning in.


Dina Roberts said...

I'm glad I'm vegetarian, because I'd probably end up feeling sorry for the rejected meat-bringers and eat a bunch of stuff I didn't want.

Beautiful scenery photo with the clouds (one above the ducks). The ducks picture is nice too. The ducks...and also the rocks are beautiful.

I'm glad you had wonderful dinosaur conversations with a fellow expert.

VERY exciting foreshadowing at the end there.

Jeff McGinley said...

Thank you, that's an advantage to Colorado. Even a shmoe like me can get a good picture almost anywhere.

The first rule of surviving a Brazilian Barbecue is you have to not be afraid to say, "No thanx."

That museum is tiny but always extremely informative.