I woke up around 8:30 (as we'd planned) very tired. I could hear some movement upstairs, and Nathan wasn't up anyways so I waited. Eventually the other occupants of the house must've left, and Nathan got up. I was so tired that I said he could shower before I did (I'd been doing it first); I wanted a bit of rest for a few minutes. As is usual when I plan to "rest for a few minutes" I fell asleep, and didn't wake up until like 9:45. AAAGGHHH!!! Incredibly frustrating. Apparently Nathan had had some stuff to do anyways, and hadn't had the heart to wake me up. When I sleep in like this it makes me grouchy, but it wore off soon.
Our next stop? The North American Museum of Ancient Life. And if you know me, you know that to me this equals awesome. ^_^ (Ancient life? What does that mean, peeps? ...fossils! :-DDDD)
Since we'd gone through most of the music I had to show Nathan, he brought along some of his. He showed me a bit of Pirates of the Caribbean (I'm a Hans Zimmer fan), but also a band I've had an interest in for a while now: Bond. He's totally hooked me. (Alegretto! Aahh!!)
We soon arrived at the museum (it's at Thanksgiving Point, south of Salt Lake City) and took these shots of the colorful character of the outside of the building.
Before you even have to pay, you're greeted with a fantastic display of a theropod (Argh, why can't I remember the genus??) surrounded by several Othniela scurrying around its feet. I should mention now that all the displays in this museum were spectacularly beautiful, with landscaping and everything; the mounts themselves were in the most lifelike poses, and it was nothing short of a wonderous experience for a paleo fan.
I mistook the theropod for an Allosaurus (they look amazingly similar), but there was no disappointment, only surprise. Since I can't seem to remember its name I think it was one I'm unfamiliar with.
Above us stretched a massive model of what could only be a full-sized Quetzalcoatlus I think (it didn't say anywhere). What else could it be? Quetzalcoatlus is the largest pterosaur of them all, with a wingspan spanning forty feet if I remember correctly? (Note: I forewarn all that I'm only human and moreover am an amateur; do not take what I'm bound to say in euphoric detail as fact, please! Not that you would, anyways. ;-P)
Take a close lateral look at the chest region; you see that large bump of sorts? That's called the cristopina; it was a ridge on the sternum that served as an anchor for all those strong wing muscles.
On to the "real" stuff! (This was gettin' good. 8-D) We paid for admission, but I was sidetracked by the look of the gift shop, so we went there first. Right outside of the shop visitors are greeted by a Triceratops skull, but inside? May I say that Utah must have spectacular gift shops? Both here and the Clark Planetarium were places in which I could have gone bankrupt, but especially here! Safari LTD models, books, paleo memorabilia of all kinds and colors, and even some real fossils! I was going to purchase some things but no employee could be found, so I hid my stash in a corner (quipping to Nathan that I'd done this before ;-P), planning on coming back for it. (I ended up walking away with a treasured book by Martin Lockley--boy that was cheap!--a yellow diamond-shaped sign with a Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton on it that reads "T-REX CROSSING", a, Orthoceras fossil, a small pair of real shark jaws, and a Safari LTD model of the in-egg embryo called Louie, based off of the National Geographic-commissioned Brian Cooley model. Way cool!!!)
I can't even begin to describe the interior in even a small measure of justice; there was enough to overwhelm the senses of a person such as me, and there was so much that I'm sure I missed quite a bit. First off, of course we get the Evolutionary propaganda so we get the time "before the dinosaurs" but some of these exhibits were the highlight of the museum as they had dioramas of a forest filled with giant insects and two centipede-like arthropods possibly longer than I am tall, seabeds populated by Orthocone-like squid relatives, ammonites, etc.
This view of an overhead Dunkleosteus model does it no justice!
Soon we encountered a window laboratory that was beautifully reminiscent of where I spend my Saturdays. ^_^ I made Nathan take these pictures:
I wonder if any top-level researchers work here? I was really surprised I'd never heard of this museum before Nathan mentioned it; I'm familiar with paleo stuff across the world for crying out loud! When Nate brought this one up I liked the idea, but when I visited their website I quickly backpedaled and told him:
Wait wait wait, I just went to their website!!! Come HELL OR HIGH WATER we are goin', and we are goin' if we have to run over a herd of...goats, sheep, or whatever you guys have in Utah (pigeons?). I only took a quick peek at their exhibits and I about died. THESCELOSAURUS!??! I need see no more. Nathan, we are going to a museum.
I'm friggin' EXCIIIIIIITED!!!!!!!!!
When I turned around I was confronted with a sauropod leg erected right there in the middle of the floor, and as it was right next to a "hands-on" children's table, still in this strain of though I began to touch/stroke/feel the massive leg bones. Nathan spoke up a second later, "Spencer...." as he pointed to a little placard that said "Do not touch." Oops. :-O
Dimetrodon and three Eryops.
Herrerrasaurus ischigualastensis and Eoraptor lunensis! Paul Sereno! ^_^
Tanycolagreus and Othniela models. The adornment on the Othniela looks, ahem, added.
The "main" hall, filled with dinosaurs, was to die for. Pterosaurs hung from the roof, a Supersaurus and a Brachiosarus (!) greeted all who passed, and many other dinosaurs populated the ground beneath them. The Brachiosaurus was great enough, but the Supersaurus was downright euphoric! It was so big, I couldn't even fit it in one shot!
Supersaurus trunk and limbs.
Supersaurus skull and neck vertebrae.
There was so much here that I will not endeavor to contort my brain and get it all out of my memory. Instead, I will show you pictures (not necessarily in order)!
Anterior view of Brachiosaurus body cavity.
Brachiosaurus skull and neck (Note those long postzygapophyses!).
Pterosaurs hanging from the roof! This is a bad shot; they were much more convincing in person.
Ceratosaurus over a sauropod "carcass".
Hesperisaurus (Asian stegosaurid).
Utahraptor in a dynamic pose (Just before a leap?).
Just me and Utahraptor. I stare him down with a mixture of fearlessness and awed admiration, and he stares right back.
Pachycephalosaurus (background) and Psittacosaurus (foreground).
Chasmosaurus with a dromaeosaurid (Dromaeosaurus?).
Edmonotosaurus, adult and juvenile.
Thescelosaurus (One famous specimen contains a fossilized mass found in the chest region that may actually be a fossilized heart.)
Protoceratops (As I mentioned to Nathan, I'm guessing this was a male, though the sexual dimorphism theory for these animals isn't, and likely won't/can't ever be proven.).
Fantastic skull display!
Tupuxuara skull (pterosaur).
Pterosaur skeleton (Anhanguera? Can't remember.) Note the beautiful folded-wing walking pose.
Now, the marine and mammal hall. (Unfortunately I didn't get good pictures of two of the most impressive specimens, Elasmosaurus and Tylosaurus. I mentioned to Nathan that I've actually thought over studying extinct marine reptiles, such as pliosaurs and mosasaurs, instead of dinosaurs. Maybe both?)
Giant turtle Archelon, and I mean giant. The museum's website states the flipper-span to be 16 feet!
Basilosaurus skull. (Believe it or not, that's a whale!)
This was one of the museum highlights. Perhaps a bit on the larger size (But that's just my opinion; the fun thing is, no one knows...!) and not the greatest representation ever, but it's still amazingly impressive.
La da da dee da....
Carcharodon megalodon mural. For scale, that medium-sized shark is a Great White. Yes, I just said that the medium-sized shark is a Great White. :-O
One of my childhood favorites, the giant terror bird Diatryma.
See the crouching Smilodon? :-D
Whoa. Big sloth!
Mammoth in impressive pose.
...and, that's just about it. ^_^
We left the museum (After I'd made my $50+ run to the gift shop!), at least one of us very happy. :-D We listened to some more of Bond, and, having dropped our plans (on my suggestion) to go bug some bats that apparently live in some abandoned auditorium or something (What was it, Nate?) and to the famous (I guess?) outdoor store, Cabela's.
And what a time we had there! It had been Dave's idea as I'd desperately wanted to try the rattlesnake they served in their restaurant, but alas I had to settle for an elk sandwich. Still was dang good. ^_^
Now, by this point you may be asking yourself, "Restaurant? Inside a store?" Yup. :-D The store is as big as a Wal-Mart practically, and has a restaurant to boot! The "departments" aren't Electronics, Toys, Home, Clothing...no, it was camping gear, guns, knives, camouflaged clothing, and anything else guys like us might have wanted. We had a great, fun meal, then bounced around the store a little bit.
One of the highlights was the giant mountain display in the middle of the store, with real stuffed animals everywhere! Another great part was the room with stuffed Utahn wildlife.
Oh yeah! And check out this gun room! I had to jerk a cart out of the way for the picture, but it was way worth it, if for nothing else than that gatling gun, or at least the tusks!
Nathan introduced me to a fun shooting game, and we played that for a few minutes. It was a good warm-up to what we'd be doing later in the day with Dave: shooting. :-D
After a bit more browsing we were off then, but I kept on stopping with an "Ooh!' or an "Aah!" Poor Nathan. :-P
We headed back to his house at this point to play some video games. I'd brought a bunch of mine, but first we sampled Matt's Wii, playing some strange fighting game filled with every video game character you can imagine. It was fun to actually beat Nathan on one and get trashed in all the other rounds, but it was the kind of game that pretty much bores me usually though.
We then played my games on a PS1. Heheheh! :-D Army Men: World War: Final Front and Jurassic Park: Warpath. I totally trashed him in both, and Matt had a great time watching his brother get kicked around with a brutal something he called "skill." Take that, Utahn! ;-P
Then we took on an old Nintendo 64 game, Goldeneye (Yes, that Goldeneye!). I had absolutely no idea how to play this game let alone even work a N64 controller, it had super cheesy graphics and was horrifically dated, but with a good opponent, it was loaded with play value. ^_^ We had a grand old time doing this, until it was time for us to leave. After all, we didn't need to continue to play with toy or virtual guns, for we were meeting Dave: to use real ones. *evil grin*
We met Dave at a shooting range around 5:30, paid and got all ready, tried not to be annoyed at those running the place (or at least Dave and me, haha), and soon we were a-shootin'!
This had been a must when the idea had come up as Nathan, me and Dave planned our little excursions. I'd never, ever shot a gun before (Long story; short answer would be inaccessability--where I live--No duh, California?--and upbringing.) This was quite the experience for such a gun buff as me. ;-D
Dave gave me a quick but good safety briefing, then I tried his small little .32 Tomcat, a Beretta. The first shot.... That was something. I don't think I'm ever forgetting that day.
Next I got to try his bolt-action hunting rifle, an heirloom from his father. This is what we had been cleaning Monday night before playing hide-and-seek in Castle park, and what a beauty she was! Besides being a gun, and then a rifle, I found her wooden stock to be very attractive. ^_^
This baby, a thirty-odd six (.3006) had quite the kick. The first shot kicked my shoulder fairly hard (though Dave had showed me the correct way to pack it in my shoulder) and the scope smacked me in the forehead!
Soon I got to try his High Point 9 millimeter handgun, the one my friend carries. I liked this gun a lot and thought my shots were fairly on-target, but when we got to the target evidently they weren't. ;-D
We'd had we would have a total of three 15-minute shooting sessions, and after the whole thing was over I was sure I'd done poorly with the rifle (which I'd used last), but when we got the target, my two shots were almost on bullseyes! Okay, a bit off, but for my first time? Dave told me that I was above average! For the 9-mil. I was still only about average, but, needless to say, I was very pleased. ^_^
Due to what Dave described as "Nazi" rules at the range, the semi-automatic assault rifle that he had borrowed from his father wasn't allowed there (being a class 2 firearm). So, as we'd initially planned to shoot everything out in the middle of nowhere, we went out to the middle of nowhere to shoot the AR. ;-)
We were going to go stargazing that night, and this trip was also something of a reconnaissance mission to locate a good spot to do this. We ended up driving for over an hour and leaving the valley, but we found a nice spot to deliver some lead to...um, the dirt.
As I'd hoped, it was just me, Dave and Nathan. We weren't far from a road, but to me, a city-choked California guy, this was almost wilderness! I was amazed to experience something I'd never ever experienced in my entire life. I hadn't even really thought about it before. No sound. No cars. No wind. Not even any audible animal sounds. Just us.
I want more of that! The constant filth of city is killing me alive.
Dave's amazing senses identified a car in the distance (where we'd turned off the road). Nathan could see it, but even though I thought I could I had trouble identifying much. Cursed cataracts.
The fact that this vehicle seemed to linger made Dave slightly nervous (We were doing nothing wrong, but you know how guns are viewed by them "sheeple." :-/). So he made it quick; one full mag each; that would give us five shots.
Dave unzipped the case to the AR-15 (a .233), and we took these shots. Some of my favorites from the whole trip. :-D
Dave fired first; in fact the fun was a virgin, having never been fired by anyone ever before. He selected some abandoned boxes to use as targets; apparently we hadn't been the only ones to use this spot for such a purpose. Shotgun shells and what looked like broken skeet plates littered the ground.
Then came my turn. I had Nathan watch where the shells went (I collected a bunch that I myself fired, ;-) ), and blasted away. The first shot misfired (my fault, I didn't operate the gun right), so I got to keep the bullet. ^_^
This was my favorite gun of all; not very powerful, but being a semi, it was quite a blast to shoot! (Ahem, pun unintended.) With this we left the area, not seeing the vehicle again however.
We spent a lot of time driving at this point. Dave took Nathan back to his car at the range parking lot, but I stayed on with Dave. We'd soon be gathering people for stargazing, and, long story short, it wasn't until late at night that we got this underway. The time with the two of them was dang fun, though. I had a blast. I will not divulge to anyone what we discussed in all that time. (Smilies, Nathan. :-P)
Sometime in all this I spent a few minutes at Steph's parent's house (having waited for Dave outside, only to have Steph let me in and laugh when I thought it was chilly out, :-/). Stephanie decided she wouldn't go another step soon after leaving the door, and Dave made his way back to her as I followed, quipping to me, "You want the arms, or the legs?" "Huh, I guess I'll take the arms," I replied. When Dave got to her she embraced him, said all she really had needed was a kiss, and I, um, ambled about a bit as I left them to their...ahem, business. ;-P
Dave bought us a late dinner at Arby's (Refusing to accept payment! The nerve!!!), and Nathan picked up Stephanie Udell, the only one able to come stargazing besides the original three and Stephanie Higham, Dave's wife. Amy had not been able to come; we would have to say goodbye one last time at lunch the next day. Earlier I'd told Nathan that we wouldn't be running on what Dave later told me was "MST" (Mormon Standard Time); no, we would be EARLY to lunch, and if I had to kill 1,000 commies to be able to eat lunch with her, I'd do it. He said, "I'll line 'em up!" to which I replied, "All right, just give me samurai swords, and I'll do it!"
Nathan parked his car again, and the five of us piled into Dave's very nice car. It was dark and late by this time, but we still headed off for an hour drive to the spot and an hour drive back. I sat behind Stephanie Higham in the passenger's seat, Nathan sat behind Dave, who was driving, and Stephanie Udell was between us. We had a fun ride up there (Ask Nathan, Stephanie Udell had been on my list of must-meets!), and we all talked a ton. (Nathan, don't even go there! *water cup on roof*)
When we arrived, it was cold, almost silent, it was darker than I was ever used to, and I could see more stars than I'd seen in my entire 20 years. I finally realized what people were talking about when they spoke of looking for the constellations; all I can ever see is Orion's belt, and that's if I'm really really lucky. When I got back I took only a quick look at the stars and could see about three in the sky. Yeah...this was...just...wow!
We talked and had a bit of fun there. You know...I've always thought I was made for cold, never being even touched by "cold" that almost killed people back home. But I guess Californian cold isn't cold at all. :-/ I'd left my jacket in Nathan's car, and was downright cold. I roughed it though. ;-)
We soon heard coyote's in the distance, and as I'd been trying to get anyone (Ideally everyone!) to howl anyways, I threw my head back and gave what I thought to be a very convincing howl. Stephanie (Udell) protested, "Don't make them come over here!" and the general request was echoed. ;-D I hadn't planned on doing it too much anyways, and was quite confidant I'd never attract an animal I tried to imitate. A while later Dave did fetch his 9-mil., but just to be safe. After all, we had two ladies with us. :-D
Around this time Nathan pulled a prank on me, whispering "Come here! Spencer, come over here!" and when I obliged he snapped his camera right in my face, flash and all. Gar! That prompted some slugs. :-P
I made everyone take pictures, but apparently Steph (H.) had her back turned in the dark. :-P
Soon we were off, it being very late, and we had quite a fun car ride back to civilization; we talked, joked, Stephanie (H.) tried to figure out what religion I was... :-D I'd realized that my hands smelled very nice; I kept on sniffing them as I sat right next to Stephanie (U.), insisting on calling the smell "GSR" as Dave protested that it was merely gunpowder. Never mind, I thought, GSR sound so much cooler. ^_^
Oh, and curse the Utahns! They all pulled another prank on me, propagated by Nathan. Jackalope! Rabbits with antlers. Darn you people. :-! I didn't believe it, and then Dave and Stephanie (U.) chimed in. I was too immersed in everything else to think about it much, but they almost had me (which is embarassingly shameful, what being such a bioliogy nut and all), but I make a conscious decision not to believe it, and challenged Nathan to back his claim up with a skull. ^_^
When the drive was over and we were back in suburbia, we split up. This would be the last time I would ever see Dave Higham, so we gave each other a hug, said our goodbyes, I shook his wife's hand, said goodbye to her, then we headed for Nathan's car. I waved one last time and called a goodbye as quietly as I could manage, and then he that was it.
Nathan and I were to take Stephanie home, but before that I insisted on pictures. ^_^
Nathan's squinting. :-D
Did I mention how much fun this girl is? :-P
We each got a hug, took her home, each got another hug, and that was it. :-D
And so ends Day 3. What a day; what a night!
Spencer's 1, 2, and 3