Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Roadside Saurians

A month or so ago, Jennie and I departed the great American Midwest for the much greater American West, in an exploration of a landscape that has been etched on my memory ever since I first glimpsed it as a kid. I've only passed through or flown over since then, so this two-week ramble around the Great Basin was long overdue. In planning the trip, we were a bit overambitious, and though we had trimmed it back once already, by the time we hit the road and got a feel for how long things actually take, we rearranged things again to lessen the amount of time driving. Hint: arriving at the gates of a national park usually entails another couple hours of driving.

Along the way, I took gigabyte upon gigabyte of photographs, which I'm only about a third of the way through sorting and processing to share at Flickr. These photos naturally included the dinosaurs we saw along the road. I'll start my short series of posts inspired by the trip with some of these charismatic creatures of the Mesozoic.

My favorite was a Spinosaurus perched outside a rock and fossil shop in Orderville, UT, a small town sitting between Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks. As we rounded the bend in Rt. 89 into town, this guy came into view, and it was impossible not to stop.

Roadside Spinosaurus

Not the most accurate by-the-book spinosaurid you'll ever see, but refreshingly depicted in a posture that's kind of right.

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Roadside Spinosaurus

For sheer volume of roadside dinosaurs, it's hard to beat Vernal, UT, a short drive from Dinosaur National Monument. Some have seen better days, such as this dopey pink sauropodosomething.

Roadside Dinosaur

Outside of a hotel, there's a green, spiky-backed sauropodosomething with a rather uncomfortable electronic sign on its neck.

Roadside Dinosaur

There's also a T. rex, naturally depicted in classic man-in-suit posture, as any red-blooded American tyrant dinosaur should be. He's also a bit of an angler, it would seem.

Roadside Dinosaur

The best Vernal has to offer is a Morrison tableau featuring Ceratosaurus, Stegosaurus, and Camarasaurus.

Morrison Formation sculpture

In what must be a show of Jurassic herbivore solidarity, the young Camarasaurus has found a savior in Stegosaurus, which ably deploys its thagomizer in its defense...

Morrison Formation sculpture

... by bashing him in the tender underparts.

Morrison Formation sculpture

You want a close-up of that, don't you?

Morrison Formation sculpture

As you approach the Utah entrance of Dinosaur National Monument, a gift shop boasts a big green sauropod of its own. Like most sauropods you see on the side of the road, the sculptor likely had no specific taxon in mind. Just a long neck, long tail, and some pillar legs, and you've got what springs to 90% of folks' minds when they hear the word "dinosaur."

Roadside Sauropod

Roadside Sauropod

Now that we've come to the gate of DNM, we'll be entering the park to check out the new quarry visitor center. Before that, I'll share some vintage dinosaur art photographed in a surprising place. Stay tuned!

9 comments:

  1. Absolutely wonderful. I do like that tableau most of all.

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  2. I totally remember some of these (the pink sauropodomorph and the Morrison threesome) when my family visited the region in 1973 (when I was 7). Glad that they are still around.

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  3. Love the final saurasomething. Totally exemplifies the Monty Python theory about dinosaurs.

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  4. I wish MY town was full of roadside dinosaurs . . . sigh!

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  5. these are absolutely wonderful. I need to make a trip to see as many roadside dinos as I can before many of them crumble away.

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  7. I've been in pics with that pink Vernal dinosaur on two separate occasions. Classic. Did you go to the Vernal Field House museum of Nat. History? They have some great dinos outside, including an ahead-of-its-time Allosaur by Dave Thomas.

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  8. "Like most sauropods you see on the side of the road, the sculptor likely had no specific taxon in mind."

    I wouldn't say that. The sculptor seemed to be going for some kind of diplodocid.

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    1. It does resemble Diplodocus as seen in a lot of old palaeoart. It was always grey, too...

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