The Great American Road Trip 2019, Day Four

(Soooooo… when I wrote the first 3 of these, for some reason I was full of energy and the world held promise and I knocked them out and scheduled them to drop every other day, but then suddenly I had no time at all [oh hai there, responsibilities and after-school activities] so here I am, trying to get this out in time, squeezing it in after a workout and before I have to run kids to dance class, and then clean the litter box and take the garbage out and pack lunches and do dishes and check homework and take showers and hustle children to bed…). Anyway. I am resolved to finish this up with a post every other day, but uh. Might get a bit hairy.


Day Four: Casper, Wyoming >>
Dinosaur National Monument
>> Vernal, Utah
 (400 miles)

Back to happy vacation times, back to beautiful Wyoming. Bye bye, Casper! Oh man I loved that airbnb.


Post check out, we hit up some random coffeeshop downtown for some brew for the road AND YOU WILL NEVER BELIEVE WHAT IT WAS CALLED.



You guys, it was called the Bourgeois Pig! Just like one of our favorite coffee spot back in the LFK! What are the chances we find another coffee shop named the same as a far-away and longtime favorite?


While Scott got coffee I organized the trunk, and then off we went with some good coffee.


Loaf ‘n Jug, forever a favorite.


The intersections in Casper are no joke and I assume all this reinforced metal structure just for traffic lights is all due to the crazy nightmare winters they get so I don’t even judge. Do what you have to do, folks.


And away we go. Colorado, here we come. Six hours for the first leg, thankfully it was a beautiful (and desolate) first leg.


Devil’s Gate, a pretty iconic mountain pass:


If we happened to come across a gas station, no matter how run-down looking, we stopped. Because you never knew when you’d find another.









Drive drive drive. We popped through Colorado for just a hot minute…






And then there she was: Utah.

You guys: we all know of those Instagrammable spots in Utah, the salt flats and Zion and Canyonlands and Arches and Monument Valley and the gorgeous mountainous Salt Lake City area…

Well, we went nowhere near those spots. We were, in fact, in what could be considered the most un-Instagrammable spot in all of Utah. I mean, hey: we came for the dinosaurs not the ‘Gram Likes, sorry. It’s bare, there are a few tiny towns spotted here and there and some ranching, but not a lot else.

Anyway I expected it to be kinda dusty and brown and boring, landscape-wise. Boy, was I wrong. It’s beautiful. You guys! All parts of Utah are beautiful! It’s amazing. I wish more states were like Utah.




Just a quickie as to how we even wound up here: we knew we wanted to go to Utah, but we also knew driving down to the “pretty” areas would mean a hell of a lot more driving, and we knew we’d need more time to just relax and, you know, ENJOY OURSELVES.

So when researching, I came across a ton of dinosaur related stuff in the northern areas of Utah. This is part of a wide swath where dinosaurs once roamed and lots of fossils are found, and there are many monuments, parks, and museums dedicated to this part of the area’s history. I figured it would be a good place to park our butts because kids love dinosaurs. And hey, it appealed to Scott and I as well. Dinosaurs are cool.

So all hail, our first stop, after almost seven long hours on the road! Ladies and gentlemen: Dinosaur National Monument.



Even though we had spent all day in the car Peter somehow developed a blister on his foot, so we did some blister repair before heading in. I am proud to say I packed not one but TWO fully stocked First Aid kits in the car and at the ready for just such an occasion. Mommin’ hard over here.


Utah! Why you so pretty!



I realized after taking those pictures that he was standing uncomfortably close to a massive harvester ant nest. Whoops.



Here’s the story on Dinosaur National Monument, should you ever happen to visit the area yourself: the monument is actually a park that is over 300 miles in size, and spans across Colorado and Utah. The park itself is known not just its numerous fossils but also the many petroglyphs of the Fremont people, and buildings and outposts from the early homesteaders that reached this area.

There is a ton to do here, not only the educational Visitor Centers (there are two, one in each state) but also hiking trails, river rafting, camping, guided driving tours, and ranger-led events. We hit up the Utah side, because it includes a Quarry Hall where you can see actual work being done and touch real fossils (yessssssss fosssil touching).

Also I am sad to say that while we had experienced perfect weather thus far, our time in Utah was hot as balls. Somewhere in the 90s when we got to the park that afternoon. But you know what? It was a dry heat (hahahahahaha, just had to say that because that’s what EVERYONE says, but no it was, it really was, and I’ll take that over humidity any day).

So we chilled in the climate controlled interior of the Visitor’s Center, and checked out the information they had there before taking the shuttle to the Quarry Exhibit Hall.




Quarry Exhibit Hall, where the magic lives! And where Moose throws his first dab!


They literally built this building around one of the rock faces so that the public could enjoy it. This particular rock face contains around 1,500 dinosaur bones, LAWDY. There are four specific types of dinosaurs stuck in that wall, and there are many educational pieces inside to help you locate and identify them.






Rando side note but right before this trip we went to the Milwaukee Public Museum with my sister and she asked me to take her picture in front of a scene of Bison stampeding through the Plains, where she pretended she was running away from the Bison? It sounds dumb but it was indeed QUITE HILARIOUS (to us anyway).

Long story short, now my kids ask me to do the same when they find a museum scene they are particularly fond of. Thanks, Aimbot. Thanks for the legacy you left my children.


Linus almost always drops to the floor and poses with legs in the air, for some unexplained reason.






After getting our fill of BONEZ, we took the shuttle back to the Visitors Center and read up on the homesteaders. Friends, here is proof that giving your kids awful names is not just a modern-day phenomenon #Bus #Potch #Queeda


We also bought a map to take a self-guided car tour (sorry, but it was much too hot for a hike). We chose the Tour of the Tilted Rocks, it was about an hour of driving with several pull-off spots so you can check things out. And then get back in the air-conditioned comfort of your vehicle. YES PLEASE.

The Tilted Rocks tour included stops to see pictographs and petroglyphs, tilted rock layers, the Green River, various rock formations, and the chance to check out early homesteader farm sites.

Away we go, gimme those petroglyphs.



Just a primer for those of you out there: picographs are painted drawings, petroglyphs are carved. I’d say 95% of what we came across on our trip were petroglyphs. This area was populated by the Fremont people, a semi-nomadic culture who lived in the area 1,000-2,000 years ago.



Dab Worthy.




Also a reason we didn’t hike: there were some gloomy clouds a’hovering.


Behold, the Green River.


The next few photos I would like to lovingly title, That One Time I Tried To Get Them To Pose For a Photo But Instead I Got a Boy Fight Over Who Got To Hold The Water Bottle. 



I actually got a whole series, like 8 in total. I’m only sharing two just in the interest of time but spoiler alert: Scott ended up with the water bottle in the end.

I mean, the view is pretty though.


(I only took this picture of the layers of rock because someone named one Doughnut and another one Humbug.)


The tilted rocks in this area are known as the Morrison Formation, and that fancy tilt exposes several layers of rock, making it ripe for fossil collecting.


The formation below is aptly named Turtle Rock.



More petroglyphs! Petroglyphs are my favorite.




After our tour we said good-bye to Dinosaur National Monument and hit the road towards our final destination, the wonderful little town of Vernal, Utah.


This, my friends, is what greets you as you drive into town:


Her name is Dinah, naturally, and lemme tell you something about Vernal: this town is dinosaur-crazy. It’s tiny, maybe 10,000 people tops, but we still stayed there for two nights and honestly could have stayed several more, so much to do and see.

Everywhere you look it’s dinosaurs Dinosaurs DINOSAURS. They are etched on planters, painted onto buildings, in the street names, and are the names of businesses. There are dinosaur sculptures galore, everywhere. So when I looked for accomodations in Vernal, how could I not book a stay at the Dino Inn?

I know I’m talking about a small town in middle-of-nowhere Utah but you guys, should you ever find yourself in Utah you need to at least stop here and if you are staying the night, I can’t recommend the Dino Inn enough. They clearly cater to families, and the rooms are newly remodeled, clean as a whistle, and huge. The outside, meanwhile, still has that nice kitschy old-fashioned motel look that I adore so much.


Well we made it to Vernal a bit late in the day, so by the time we got unpacked and settled in our room (two whole nights at one motel, heaven!), we busted out the picnic blanket and had a dinner picnic in our room.

The motel grounds are nice, there are several picnic tables outside, but as it turns out, our room neighbors were having a big get-together and took up all the tables so we were indoors for our meal this go around.


After dinner it was getting dark and we were just going to settle in for the night, but dammit: the pool looked so refreshing and it was still full of kids so we figured why not join ’em. So we got a nice long swim in before tucking in for the night.




::Dreamy sigh::, I miss you Vernal.


Day Four Stats:
Lunch: I cannot even recall, but I’d put my money on in-car fluffernutters with chips and carrots. Our go-to car meal on this trip. Except not so much for me, I was SICK of fluffernutters after the first one, so likely my meal was just a few of those individual-sized bags of chips rounded out with some trail mix or Twizzlers. So much more healthy.
Museum Count: 0
Roadside Attractions Count: 1, Dinosaur National Monument
Peter’s Penny Count: 1 (Dinosaur National Monument)
Moose’s Dab Count: just 2, what is this world coming to
Dwellings: Dinosaur Inn and Suites – highly recommended. We booked a two-queen room and never felt cramped. Rooms are huge, bathrooms are even bigger (seriously the size of the bathroom was shocking). Microwave/fridge in room so we could heat up our own meals in the comfort of our room, and a fantastic free breakfast with a ton of offerings (and cooks standing by the buffet, ready to make omelets/eggs to order). There’s a pool, a sandbox area, picnic tables, and dinosaur toys/drinks/snacks for sale in the lobby. Upon check-in, kids are each gifted a little dinosaur and handed a very official looking “dinosaur hunting permit”. Super duper kid friendly place.
Motel Dinner Madness: Pete had a ramen bowl with a SPAM single, Moose had a Chef Boyardee cup, and Scott had this Barilla Heat and Eat bowl (poured hot sauce all over it and called it good). I kinda had a weird meal of cup noodles that was kicking around the trunk and in bad shape (but hey, still edible) plus a packet of Buffalo chicken meat. I mean, it was food, whatever. Not the most exciting meal I’ve ever had.

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