Day 4


We're off to see the lizards!

Mile 961; 11:30 AM
We hit the road to Drumheller, home of the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology, after a hearty breakfast featuring "back bacon," which seems to be remarkably similar to pig bacon.

The drive out to Drumheller takes us across many miles (more than 10 grams per meter) of absolutely straight road through open rolling prairie covered with snow. According to the guidebook, the growing season here (i.e., summer) is about eight weeks long. We see a lot of fresh hay bales covered in snow, so this seems to be true. Robert has decided that farming wouldn't be a bad job, work eight weeks, hang out 44 weeks waiting for the new growing season. He abandons this dream when Laura points out that he'd have to live in Canada to do this.


Welcome to hole in the ground

Rock or bone?!

Finally, our quest is ended!

Mile 1060; 1:45 PM
We pull into Drumheller, and promptly stop to take a picture of the Tyrannosaurus Rex sign outside of town. We debate whether or not to visit Reptile World ("Make Your Drumheller Experience Complete"), but decide that because dinosaurs aren't reptiles, we'll pass. (Dinosaurs are most closely related to chickens, which, fortunately, did not inherit the teeth or size from their forebears. Otherwise, chicken farming would be a lot more exciting.)

Robert gets run out of town

We see several other statues of dinosaurs scattered throughout town, most of them in the wrong posture. (That huge tail that dinosaurs have is used for balance, not for dragging around on the ground--which would get it dirty and they'd get yelled at by their dino-moms.)

Godzilla meets T. Rex


Dental nightmage

Would you like fries with that?

Finally we reach the museum and right off the bat, we know we've hit pay dirt! Outside the museum is a fine life-size sculpture of a therapod chasing a couple of dino-McNuggets. (A therapod is a meat-eating dinosaur. We're still arguing about what kind of therapod the sculpture represents. Robert thinks it's a raptor--such as Velociraptor or Utahraptor. Laura thinks it's too big for a raptor [it's about eight feet tall], but kind of lean for an Albertosaurus [which is a pint-size T. Rex]. If we ever get divorced, we'll probably end up telling the judge something like, "That chowderhead doesn't know the difference between a Stegosaurus and an Edmontonia!")

It's lunch time!

Ceratopsian nuclear family


Inside, the museum is beyond cool!

The first thing you see is a skeleton of an almost complete T. Rex! (Believe it or not, there are only 11 T. Rex skeletons discovered. One ["Sue"] is in federal custody, and most of the other 10 are partials--so an almost complete T Rex is definitely Woody City!) The sign next to this one says that the T. Rex "had a bite the size of a bathtub." We wonder if there's any connection between the T. Rex and the Chief Joseph Dam, which, as some of you may recall from last year's trip report, has a throughput of 29,000 bathtubs of water per second.


The museum also has a joint venture going with the Chinese, where they all troop out to the Mongolian desert and look around for dinosaur bones. And hoo-boy, did they find some!

Roast Pterodactyl

Getting a head

Herein lies a tail

They uncovered a new type of allosaur (the really big dinosaurs like Apatosaurus [aka Brontosaurus]) called Mamenchisaurus. They had a video of the guy who helped dig it up--Dr. Dale Russell, who looks and talks like an accountant. He says, "Well, it took patience. A lot of patience. Also dynamite. A LOT of dynamite." (Robert has a new career choice!)


Last year we went to Montana and dug up dinosaur bones, so we have some appreciation for the amount of work involved. Where we, however, spent most of an afternoon carefully excavating a couple of eggshell fragments, these guys are hauling around complete (or nearly complete) 10- to 50-foot skeletons!


Knock knock!

Field preparation usually involves cutting out a big chunk of dirt around the bone(s) and then covering the whole thing in burlap and plaster to make a jacket that preserves the position of the bones. Every time we saw some huge head or 10-foot skeleton, we thought about the poor schmucks who had to haul that thing down the side of some hill (it's a rule in paleontology that the best bones are never found in flat, convenient places).


The actual preparation is done in a lab at the museum, which had a big glass wall so we could watch them work. A recorded voice tells us that this prep lab is the best in the world! Even better than that scuzzy work room they call a prep lab in the Smithsonian (they didn't actually use the phrase "stone knives and bear claws," but they sure implied it).

He followed me home

They found about a half-dozen new types of dinosaurs out in the middle of the Gobi desert. When you find a new type of dinosaur, it's called a "type specimen," because it defines that species of dinosaur. If somebody thinks they've found another one, they compare their bones to your type specimen.


Pterrible Pterodon

Most of us mortals never get to see type specimens--they're kept locked in a basement someplace, guarded by Marines with automatic weapons. Usually, you see a cast made of the original bone, which has the same shape, but not the same color.

My, what big teeth you have!


The Royal Tyrrell, however, displayed almost exclusively type specimens! Whole, huge hulking therapods and triceratops and allosaurs. It was neat. And the exhibits all carefully explained how this stuff got to be here (and they usually had a 3-minute video about it as well).



Phil Currie is the man around here, and has been for some 20 years. He's out traipsing through the desert, or the badlands, or whatever, finding new and cool dinosaur bones. He likes it so much, he couldn't be bothered to get a degree in it, because then he couldn't be out in the field finding dinosaur bones.


Therapod lunch counter

So we geeked for most of the afternoon, reading all the signs and watching all the videos. This is definitely a mondo way-cool maximum mojo museum. We would probably still be there, except they threw us out when the museum closed.


Panoramic view

Rolling dark prairie

Horseshoe canyon

Back to reality

Mile 1163; 6:30 PM
Well, we made it back to Calgary after driving over the same straight road through pretty much the same rolling plains--which roll along much faster at 95 MPH (18 degrees Celsius) when Robert drives. About the only interesting thing that happened after we got back was that Robert went skiing in Calgary, and it only cost $2 (Canadian) on the video machine. He wiped out spectacularly several times (Robert says that only means three broken bones, but Laura is pretty sure he ended up in the hospital).


We read our mail

The day we left, there was a fire that burned up two of the units in the apartment complex where our office is. Then yesterday we got this message from our friend Guy.

This is not a joke. Well, I didn't make it up, anyway. We had just a wee little bit of a fire-alarm here at Casa Wiztext, today. The cool news is the fire was in another part of the building, it was small, and nobody was hurt, except for the fella who went ass-over-teakettle down the stairs with his TV set, trying to save it from the fire.

I assume he was going to hurt himself somehow, eventually, anyway.

Other than that, you can assume that the home fires are... Let me rephrase that. Everything here is okay. Have a beer, eh?


Important e-mail tip

We love to get mail, but if you send some, make sure it's going only to us. Don't hit the "Reply All" button, or your message will go to everyone on the mailing list--most of whom will be wondering who the heck you are.


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