Sunday, June 21, 2015

Winosaur Adventures

A couple of posts ago, I discussed my desire to reclaim summer after discovering that I've been doing summer wrong for years. This weekend was a step in the reclaiming process: bringing back the fun of summers past.

It begins with a visit to Dinosaur Land. If I want to reclaim summer it's best to start with dinosaurs.
I first visited Dinosaur Land in 2014 when I took an Instagram road trip and photographed roadside attractions in Maryland and Virginia. During the #misfittoysroadtrip2014, it sleeted and was rather unpleasant weather-wise but my visit was fun and worth the trip. As I drove to my final destination of that road trip (Richmond), I realized how close Dinosaur land is to one of my favorite wineries, Rappahannock Cellars. I vowed to return to Dinosaur Land and visit Rappahannock and this weekend I did just that. Joining me on this for this adventure are Megan and Matt, who are possibly the most photo ready people I know. Who better to take to a place like Dinosaur Land than them?

The trip idea came about like this: Megan and Matt were at my house for dinner one evening and I happened to serve some Rappahannock wine while telling them about Dinosaur Land. I shared my plan to go back and experience both in the same day and invited them along. We picked a date, decided on snacks (very important in winery visit planning), and even selected a hashtag for Instagram (because we're those people apparently).

If you're not familiar with Dinosaur Land it's a Virginia institution (probably). Inspired by a trip to Orlando, FL, Joseph Geraci added the attraction to his corner store in 1963. What started with five dinosaurs has now grown to around 40 with three new displays added in the last two year. The Washington Post magazine did a feature on Dinosaur Land last weekend just in time for our adventure. I love places like Dinosaur Land; they remind me of road trips around Alabama, Florida, and Louisiana when I was younger. Brightly colored statues of animals and prehistoric creatures, amazing gift shops (more on this in a moment), and admission fees that are super friendly (seriously, best $6 you can spend).

We arrived at Dinosaur Land just after noon on a gorgeous summer Saturday. It was warm but not too hot (at least not yet) and there was a slight breeze. I drove and had a decent enough idea of where I was going. White Post, VA is about an hour drive from Fairfax (where Megan and Matt live). The drive down was uneventful but filled with fun road trip conversation and a return to discussing my choice of having CDs in my car. Matt also outlined his three (made up on the spot) goals for the day:
  1. Pronounce Rappahannock correctly. (Accomplished especially after seeing it spelled out on the sign.)
  2. Take a dino selfie. (Done and done.)
  3. Birthday meal for Erin. (Not accomplished because of bad weather on the return home - more on this later.)
Dinosaur Land appears on the road just as you think you might have passed it. There is no billboard announcing its location a mile down the road or even just reminding you it's there. All of the sudden you see the tentacle of an octopus and the fin of a shark and there it is. Geraci's original store is still there, now serving as a huge gift soap for the attraction. His daughters still run the place along with a dedicated staff. I spoke with one lady who told me a bit about the new dinosaurs and what it takes to maintain the older ones. I could tell she loves the attraction and enjoys the visitors questions.

We began our visit by getting distracted in the gift shop: lots of weird animals for sale; not sure if they're taxidermy items or not, moccasins, t-shirts, dinosaur figures and stuffed animals, and fake weapons. If I were 8 or 9 I could have found a dozen ways to spend my money (I settled on a more grown-up approach by buying a mug and t-shirt). We bought our tickets and entered into Dinosaur Land.

Our adventure began at the sign with a large shark, octopus, and other random prehistoric creatures. Matt doesn't like sharks but Megan and I jumped at the change to take photos inside the mouth of the shark (why not?) and we marveled at what the creatures were made out of. I'll let the following photos explain our journey around the park.

No trip to Dinosaur Land would be complete without a photo op with King Kong. Yes, there is a King Kong statue at the end. It's designed in such a way that you can go up a ramp and sit on Kong's hand. This was the one thing I didn't do when I visited the first time; I was alone and it was sleeting on that visit. I had visions of slipping and breaking a leg so I just stood below and snapped a picture or two. This time we made a point of all of us taking our Kong photos. Even T-Rex Manning, my desk dinosaur got in one.

If you haven't visited Dinosaur Land make it a destination this summer. It's fun, a little silly, family friendly, and probably the least expensive way to spend 30 minutes. I finally have my Dinosaur Land t-shirt and have a photo with King Kong. We made Chris Pratt jokes (you all know how much I love him) and had more fun (probably) than most of the small children roaming around the park with their parents.

We could have stopped there, had a late lunch, and headed back to NOVA but what fun would that be? Our next destination was Rappahannock Cellars, one of my favorite Virginia wineries (I'm also a member). I know a lot of people are super snobby when it comes to wine and don't want to hear about how good Virginia wine actually is. Those people are horrible and clearly have not spent an afternoon enjoying the wine, beautiful views, and cheese at Rappahannock. I joined Rappahannock's wine club in January (my dad has been a member over a decade) so not only did I need to pick up my wine but we got to enjoy the lovely members' only tasting room. Our server asked about my parents (which I thought was very nice) and Megan and Matt got to experience some of Rappahannock's best wines (the tasting menu right now is awesome). Check out the emoji rating system Megan employed:

T-Rex Manning even enjoyed a glass or two.


One thing that can be dangerous during a #winosauradventure is that you don't necessarily realize how much time has passed. All of the sudden it was 4 pm and we had to decide our next move. We settled on visiting one more winery, Narmada Winery, another favorite of mine. T-Rex Manning enjoyed a glass of Midnight (their best wine) as the skies got noticeably darker and more ominous.

Driving home was an adventure of its own. Massive thunderstorms started as we made our way out of Front Royal and onto 66 heading back to Fairfax. Visibility was awful; people were driving with their hazards on because we were driving so slowly. They were also still driving like morons because people in Virginia can't help themselves when it comes to driving poorly in any weather condition. By the time we got back to their apartment, we had driven through hurricane like rains and apparently, several areas that were under tornado warnings. I decided to head back to Arlington rather than stay for dinner. The rain tapered off as I drove home but the second I was less than a mile away from home, the skies opened again and I could barely see the turn for my apartment building. I sat in my car for 10 minutes hoping the rain would slow down (it did not). I abandoned my wine to the trunk of my car and ran inside. It wouldn't be summer without some kind of weather event; I'm hoping this one is it for me.

Despite the stressful drive home, the day was exactly as I hoped it would be: fun, silly, and summery. Megan and Matt are hilarious; if Megan asks me "Do I look like a velociraptor when I do this?" (imagine what she might do here) ever again I will probably not be able to speak because I will be laughing too hard. Driving just an hour away from NOVA makes all the difference in the world; a little nature, a little wine, and some dinosaurs. What more does summer need?

All photos by Megan, Matt and me
Washington Post Article
Dinosaurs and Wine

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