An Encounter With Dinosaurs and an Old Buzzard

Putting our best feet forward

Day 1 of our epic cross country adventure- This trip we left from LA, heading East as I would eventually drop off Jenn in Chicago for a visit with her fam before I headed on to friends in Massachusetts. With previous trips that started out as a 4 day excursion but wound up with us still on the road 2 weeks later roaming and discovering where we might end up next, we were well prepped for these travels.

It’s so big

First up, the world’s tallest thermometer located in Baker, the Gateway to Death Valley, because if you can’t find a ball of string big enough in these parts a thermometer embodying all that is grand about Americana culture will do.

Next stop, Las Vegas. Leave it to us to treat Sin City as a pit stop and a place to “do lunch”, but we needed to refuel, which we did at The PBR Rockbar on the strip.

We took the bull by the horns at Rockbar




We didn’t need to dance ‘til dawn this time around- been there, done that a dozen times – although we did miss our usual poolside service with cocktails topped off with toasted coconut at The Cosmopolitan, but this day we dined outdoors, beneath its looming exterior, remembering its glistening chandeliers, at the appropriately named The Chandelier bar and morning-after recovery brunches at Wicked Spoon, which we were wickedly tempted to try again, but were more than satisfied by our bold bar food selections and our sidewalk patio setting, watching the variety of people Vegas has to offer on display passing by. We skipped drinking PBR’s and stuck with root beers as it was back on the road for us following our meal.

The next test for us was to pass through the Valley of Fire without being burned. No problem for these two pros as we safely entered Utah, but only temporarily were we secure, for next up was an unexpected encounter with dinosaurs!





Run, Sara, run!

The Dinosaur Discovery Site at Johnson Farm in St. George. Containing some of the best preserved tracks and fossils, which were discovered during a real estate project to level some land, and dating back more than 195 million years, this gem is a true Jurassic Park to treasure, and just as much fun for us to be let loose in.

That dinosaur sure is lucky it was protected from Jenn by that glass










Beaver would be where we would settle that first night, but not before we let off a little restless energy at Renegade Lounge.

What lies beyond the red door?

This one stoplight town, and one bar, thanks to some sort of grandfather clause, as told to us the last time we were there by the guy whose grandfather owned the place, is the local hot spot. That’s right, this wasn’t our first time in these parts and served as a familiar go-to drinking hole, as it did for the other patrons passing through or seasonal workers stationed there.  As soon as we arrived, Toto, we realized we weren’t in Los Angeles anymore. A group of friendly guys chatted us up, invited us to join them, bought us drinks and even offered up the delivery pizza they had at their table. (Those looking for a light bite can help themselves to the popcorn machine on the bar top.) Not one asked us if we were in the biz, or even what biz for that matter. There was simply actual human interaction and conversation taking place. And they were ever so much more interesting than any A-list celebs I’ve met.  These guys weren’t just delightfully social, turns out they were death defying. I’ve had my share of crappy day jobs, from working for a pent up office manager who wanted me to decorate all of her binders with pretty patterns of wallpaper cover sheets and stylish font styles when labeling them to a high powered portfolio manager with unmanaged anger, who couldn’t make eye contact but could scream at you from down the hall and an office away. His former assistant quit in tears. I stuck it out amused by his issues. But unlike our new acquaintances, I had never risked my life by going below ground, surrounded by deadly gas at a geothermal plant drilling for hot water. Cade, who had tempted us to their table with cheesy bread and dipping sauce accompanying the pizza, (yeah, we’re very high-end and hard-to-get when we’re on the road) showed us video of them on his camera phone suiting up in tactical gear and gas masks as they prepped for their next shift. And I thought my ill-fitting tuxedo pants I got at a thrift store for my uniform during my catering days were bad. I just had to make sure I had my comfortable shoes and a wine opener on hand versus hoping I didn’t inhale anything toxic in order to make it through a shift.

Old Buzzard and Funny Shit sharing a laugh

We shared tales of cheating death and our taste for adventure. The crew was as colorful as their job description. Hector and AJ restocked the rounds as I was introduced to their boss man they affectionately called “The Old Buzzard”. He in turn nicknamed me “Funny Shit” as I made him laugh. He then tried to make me dance. Boys on the road, especially in the West, sure do like and look for any opportunity to two-step.  We both soon learned I do not, and really can’t. The Old Buzzard who had suffered his share of challenges as a former bronco rider on the rodeo circuit, including a broken hip that caused him to limp, soon gave up on me declaring after a turn on the dance floor, “You keep leading. You don’t know how to follow!” Such is the curse, or benefit, depending on your dance partner, of being an independent woman. We returned to our stools and swapped stories of adrenaline rushing activities we enjoyed. I told him how I had jumped out of an airplane, he told me to top that I needed to ride a bull.

So you think you can dance?

He then took Jenn for a spin and got her to two-stepping after she had wrapped up a freestyle session blowing it out with Cade in a dance-off below the pulsating disco lights.






Swing your partner










Tired from the day’s long drive we took our bows for the night and trekked back to our hotel, the Best Western Butch Cassidy Inn, where we had comfortable beds waiting and a complimentary breakfast the next day before hitting the road, well rested and refreshed for the journey ahead.

Vroom, vroom!

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An Ode to BBQ

Along with the adventures we’ve embraced on the road, one of the mottos I live by is to “taste life” and there is no better time to do that than when meal time rolls around.  Pizza is a pretty perfect food item. Growing up on the East coast I tend to prefer the flat crust New York style pie whereas Jenn, a Chicago gal, goes for the deep dish.  But our explorations of the West together have increased our exposure to the cuisine of BBQ.  On a trip I once took to Texas I attended the BBQ Cook-Off at Rodeo Austin. My initial goal was to kiss a cowboy, which I accomplished, (just a little cheek action) but I then topped that by kissing a clown. Those actions were soon overshadowed by the Cook-Off and the assortment of barbecue available including dry rubbed cuts of beef, smoked sausage rolls wrapped in tortillas, and BBQ brisket Frito pie.  For a girl who grew up in New England with grilled chicken brushed with barbecue sauce from a bottle counting as BBQ I soon tasted what I had been missing out on and it created an appetite for more.

In California Jenn and I took off for a day in Pioneertown.  The town originated as an Old West set and even includes a mock gunfight by the local re-enactment performers. After taking in the gunslingers (Pew! Pew!) we popped into Pappy & Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace to get some grub.  On the way in we were greeted by the BBQ smokers out back and a cast of characters inside- a mix of locals, tourists, cowboys and bikers- who were even more entertaining than the shoot-out show on the street.We preferred to pose rather than draw our pistols A jukebox fills the air when a band’s not on stage, pool tables are available for a game to pass the time, although we didn’t play this time around, and drinks come served in mason jars. The friendly staff makes you feel at home as you indulge in an assortment of Tex-Mex tacos loaded with thinly sliced tri-tip, baby back ribs smothered in tangy sweet BBQ sauce, savory homemade chili poured over pinto beans and mesquite grilled chicken capturing the smoky spicy flavors of the Southwest.

Now if you want the true taste of mesquite then you have to go there, so we did. Mesquite, Nevada was a pit stop where we found a pig roast fresh off the spit. Jenn sticks with chicken and I’m partial to a slab of ribs slathered in sauce but at The Smoke Shack I opted for the pulled pork. The pig on the table might be enough to make most cringe, and I apologize to my PETA peeps and those of the vegetarian persuasion, but even Charlotte would have climbed down from her spider web and chowed on Wilbur too, if she knew he tasted this good. The Shack is focused on the food. You order up at the counter, grab a seat in the dining area to enjoy your BBQ which is simply served in a basket. After lunch if you’re feeling lucky head on in to the attached casino.

In a sea of strip malls in Phoenix, Arizona we discovered Bobby Q, offering up both tasty BBQ and an adjoining nightclub, the Q Lounge. After consuming some super creamy mac n’ cheese, pecan coleslaw, roasted corn or ranch beans among the side choices you can select to accompany one of their great big barbecue platters you can shake it all off as you dance next door. You’ll need to once the sugar rush hits from the fresh warm complimentary donut they serve you to complete this mega meal. And if dancing’s not your thing you can play some beer pong or get bottle service in their VIP section and be a voyeur as the smoke machine and laser lights create a pseudo-Vegas styled atmosphere as the patrons hit the floor.  We even made some fun new friends before finally succumbing to the food coma and calling it a night.

Other BBQ breaks we’ve enjoyed include The Smoking Apple, an unexpected Utah treat in Lindon, the Toll Road Restaurant in Death Valley where I got a rack of ribs and afterwards Jenn racked up the points playing me in pool at the Badwater Saloon next door and in case you think that BBQ can’t be classy well the Wild West Cowboy Steakhouse in Buckeye, Az serves up barbecue along with suggesting that you keep up the art of meal-time conversation thanks to their guide posted at each table.

This is just the beginning of what I sense to be a long-term love affair with true barbecue and there are so many regions yet to travel to and try. Bring it on and any suggestions for some future finger licking good places we should go to.  Mmmmmmmmm!


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Lounge time in Las Vegas

After escaping the Valley of Death and rising from the ashes it only seemed appropriate our next stop should be Sin City to celebrate. Off to Las Vegas we went. We checked into Luxor and scored a room with a jacuzzi tub with a view thanks to the off-season rates. The lure of its perks soon wore off later that night when we realized we could hear the romantic endeavors of our neighbors in the room above enjoying theirs until the wee hours as they splashed around overhead.

Once we checked in we grabbed a flight of tequilas at T&T to start off the night. To cool things off we made our way to minus5 Ice bar for some polar cocktails in the icy interior, adorned in faux fur of course. The thought crossed our minds to hit a club back at Luxor, thanks to the free VIP wristbands we were given in the lobby by an overzealous promoter but the post cocktailing munchies called instead and we found ourselves eating a mediocore meal in the all-night diner and catching a rerun episode of Sex and the City on TV as we passed out to the sounds of the rub-a-dub-tubbing going on in the room above.

The mild weather brought us out during the day to take in a little pool time, in jeans and sweaters as it was January, but the sun worshippers in us would not be denied. We found time for a walkabout on the Strip and some shopping of the local fashions before heading out for night 2. First stop The Cosmopolitan for a little glamour to go with our happy hour. Jenn had a Chicago friend now living in Vegas so back to Luxor we trekked for a mini-reunion and some more cocktails before topping our meal from the night before with some surf and turf at Tender. Don’t let the name fool you, we savagely attacked those entrees and a dessert, but managed to contain ourselves by simply making eyes at the yummy waiter.  A delicious way to end the night before heading back out on the road the next day. But not before a family reunion was had as Jenn’s brother flew in that morning for his own vacation and we met up over at Mandalay Bay for one last bite at Border Grill. Thankfully there was a gym at our hotel which we utilized each morning to balance out all the sins of this city. It’s all about balance after all.

Vroom vroom!


© 2012 Dart and Map All Rights Reserved — Copyright notice by Blog Copyright