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Bike-riding dinosaur gives lift to Santa Rosa families at home with cabin fever

Animals have recaptured parkland in the absence of people who once littered natural landscapes before the coronavirus pandemic last month forced everyone indoors for most of the day. Now, a prehistoric creature has emerged on the empty streets of east Santa Rosa.

A Tyrannosaurus on a bicycle has been circling neighborhoods around the city, providing levity for families that may be facing an array of hardships as Sonoma County and much of the country remains cooped up in their homes.

Dan Sartin, 36, of Santa Rosa, known to a growing number of fans as “Dino Dan,” is the man inside the inflatable costume. He was spotted Tuesday riding down Russell Avenue with his 4-year-old son, Leo, who was a few feet ahead sporting a dinosaur helmet and turtle shell backpack, earning the occasional wave or car honk.

“I’m just happy to be there,” Sartin said. “Happy I can provide some smiles for people.”

The inspiration for the cycling predator came from a recent birthday celebration for Leo, who is in the midst of a dinosaur phase, his father said.

Sartin bought the costume for his son’s party, but when social distancing rules to prevent spread of the virus squashed any notion of a traditional gathering, he was left with a costume that suddenly had little use.

So he decided to test it out on a bike ride in his Bennett Valley neighborhood. The response? An unexpected outpouring of laughter and gratitude from parents and children that live nearby.

“I get cars honking; I get people waving and saying ‘Thank you, you made my day’ or ‘I needed this today,’?” Sartin said. “It’s shocking. You never expect to see a dinosaur on a bike driving by.”

Over the past few weeks, people from as far away as Sebastopol have been requesting a visit from Dino Dan. The Sartin family created a Facebook group to post photos and videos, and provide a way for other families to make a request.

Sartin, who does marketing for a health care analytics company, said he has tried to take his cycling king dinosaur out for a ride at least once a week. However, it’s not easy to ride with the costume on.

“I can’t see anything, and then the window starts to get fogged up,” Sartin said. “So you’ve got to be comfortable on a bike.”

Sonoma County residents have invented numerous ways to come together during stay-home public health emergency orders, like play concerts in the driveway or howl every night at 8 p.m. to help take their mind off the global pandemic.

For Sartin, Dino Dan is another way to do that for his community. Although, the pet population hasn’t warmed to his antics.

“The dogs, they don’t like it when they see this giant costume,” Sartin said. “I can hear their frustration through the window when they’re barking at me.”

You can reach Staff Writer Yousef Baig at 707-521-5390 or yousef.baig@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @YousefBaig.

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