From the interstate highway the uncommon view of two giant dinosaurs, on an arid plain surrounded by mountains, is an irresistible magnet. But tourists are not the only ones compelled to stop. Well within L.A.'s convenient day-drive sphere, the Cabazon dinos became media darlings in the 1980s, appearing in everything from Coke commercials to MTV videos to the film Pee Wee's Big Adventure.
They were built by Claude Bell, who ran the adjacent Wheel Inn on I-10. Claude took eleven years to build Dinny, a giant apatosaurus and arguably the largest dinosaur in America. A small museum in Dinny's belly still sells souvenirs. Claude's admission sign promised speedier work on the rest of the dinosaur family he planned.
Claude's next project, a giant Tyrannosaurus with a slide down its tail, was nearing completion when Claude died, age 91, in 1988. More sculptures were on the drawing board, including a Woolly Mammoth. The Tyrannosaurus was never completed and, according to the museum manager in Dinny's belly, "it never will be."
Since 2005, Gary Kanter, an Orange County developer, has worked with Pastor Robert Darwin Chiles to use the dinosaurs of Cabazon as a platform for their Creationist views.
The Wheel Inn, owned by Karel and Marie Kothera since 1993, closed in September 2013.