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 LA's convenient day-drive sphere, the Cabazon dinos became media darlings in the 1980s, appearing in everything from Coke commercials to rock videos to the film Pee Wee's Big Adventure.
They were built by Claude Bell, who ran the 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 in '89. 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, new owner Gary Kanter, an Orange County developer, has been using the dinosaurs of Cabazon as a platform for a Creationist viewpoint. Working with Pastor Robert Darwin Chiles, they have transformed the Cabazon Dinosaurs "from tourist stop to place of worship," according to a story by Ashley Powers in the Los Angeles Times.