We left Moab, Utah on the morning of Friday June 17th and began the long, seven hour drive back to Colorado. Fortunately, I discovered a dinosaur museum that was en route called The Museum of Western Colorado’s Dinosaur Journey. Actually, it could have been The Museum of Barney the Purple Dinosaur and we’d of still stopped there just to break up the monotony. Fortunately, this was a lot better than that.
On the last leg of our road trip, we stayed a couple of days in Moab, Utah where we could finally relax and get a vacation from our vacation. Naturally we still enjoyed many of the things this fun, tourist town had to offer but without having to adhere to any tight schedules or long drives. Consequently, our first afternoon there was spent lounging around the hotel, catching up on emails, going through photos, and watching AMC’s presentation of JAWS which was an exercise in futility thanks to all the commercials they smothered it with. Later we stopped in the heart of Moab for dinner at an Italian place that served the best ravioli I’d ever tasted. Up until that point, I found southwest cuisine to be rather lacking so this truly hit the spot. With renewed vigor, we drove to Arches National Park which was just ten minutes away. Next to Saguaro, this would be our favorite national treasure and we loved the fact that it was open 24 hours. We spent the evening checking out all the lookout points before watching the sunset.
I had a couple of big epiphanies during this road trip but the biggest was that I really want to live in Utah. I honestly never thought much about the State before arriving there but was immediately captivated by its natural beauty and geological wonders. Or perhaps it simply stirred a semi-dormant aspect of my childhood.
Utah is a time capsule with a direct link to a group of animals that I absolutely adored as a kid and am still fascinated with today. Although it wasn’t the primary theme of this trip, there was never any doubt once we got there that we were firmly in the land of the dinosaurs…and neither of us were complaining. Seriously, how many of us Godzilla fans can’t tie our love of Japan’s most famous export to the real giants that once roamed the Earth? And how can we call ourselves animal lovers while completely ignoring the ones from our planet’s past?
The drive from The Grand Canyon to Las Vegas was just over four hours, not taking into consideration rest stops. Places to refuel, however, were pretty sparse though Dolan Springs, Arizona sure offered a colorful one.
Just before crossing the Nevada State Line was Uranus Gas; offering travelers air-brushed photo-ops, snacks, and southwest souvenirs. They also took full advantage of their moniker by posting subtle taglines such as, “Got Gas? Uranus is Always Open.” At $4.69 a gallon, however, their prices were decisively less amusing and I couldn’t help but wonder if the name wasn’t also a reference to where they planned on sticking it to us long-distance drivers.
My fellow Terror Dave, David Albaugh, celebrated his birthday just a week shy of our road trip. Since we’re rarely within nine hundred miles of each other during special occasions, I offered to treat him to dinner while we were on the road. My plan was to find something fun and unique; ideally in Roswell, New Mexico. Unfortunately, while the UFO capital of the world was chock full of gift shops they came up decisively short in terms of gimmicky food places. Not to worry because, as fate should have it, there was an alien themed restaurant right down the street from a hotel we were already booked at. And so, just two weeks after David’s special day, we’d celebrate at the E.T. Encounter Diner in Sedona!
Of all the National Parks we’d visit during the course of this trip, Saguaro was by far our favorite. Despite the image of immense cacti standing over a desolate expanse, the region is actually teeming with plants and animals perfectly adapted for its harsh conditions. It would also grant us a glimpse of one of our favorite creatures but, for the first time, in its own world instead of ours. And, as with the fulfillment of any quest, it began with a journey.
We arrived in Tucson on Friday June 10th and spent the earlier portion of the day visiting the Sonora Desert Museum. This accredited zoo highlights the region’s hidden wonders while supplying plenty of friendly volunteers and educational signage to help grant outsiders like us an appreciation for it. We intended to take full advantage of this and asked one of the docents what our chances were for finding wild tarantulas at Saguaro. He had just given us a private presentation on scorpions so it was the perfect segue.
There are few things we Daves love to see more during our travels than weird roadside attractions. And I mean the goofier the better! For example, during this trip we got to see “The World’s Biggest Pistachio” near Alamogordo.
A gargantuan nut, however, would pale in comparison to what we’d encounter just a couple of days later during our drive to Tucson. It actually started the night before when we hopped on Interstate 10 towards Deming and saw the first of many big yellow billboards advertising “THE THING?”