Cholame, California: James Dean Memorial

The actor met his untimely end by auto accident here.
CA Hwy 41, Cholame, CA
CA Highway 41, between Fresno and Paso Robles, east of Shandon. Opposite the post office on the north side of the highway, east of Maggie's Cafe.
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James Dean Memorial.

James Dean Memorial

Besides the main James Dean memorial, look for the metal dead bird that is part of the frame surrounding the large plaques in front of the main memorial. Look between the two plaques on the side furthest from the memorial.

[Kim Wheeler, 04/28/2013]

Jack Ranch Cafe.

James Dean Memorial

Drove up from Los Angeles going to San Francisco and had to stop and see the Crash Site memorial. The Jack Rabbit Cafe was actually very nice, both the people and the food. Had lots of James Dean memorabilia and a few souvenirs available for purchase.

The cafe is a few more miles down the road from the memorial. There's a sign on the side of the road. The actual James Dean junction can be busy, but definitely no so bad as to make it impossible to get out and take a photo. Really is in the middle of nowhere, but is an experience that is definitely worthwhile.

[Pat, 01/27/2010]
James Dean Memorial

Alas, but Mr. Raskin is incorrect about California State Route 41 beginning at SR 46. California SR 41 begins in Morrow Bay and ends in Yosemite. State route 46 begins in Cambria and ends at Famoso. Between Cholame and Shandon both routes share the same road.

[Greg Lewis, 12/31/2009]
James Dean Memorial

Many folks, and interestingly, some pretty knowledgeable authors and writers included, refer to the James Dean accident scene on CA Route 46 and 41 (formerly known as CA 466 when the accident took place on 9-30-55), as the James Dean Memorial Intersection. This is totally incorrect. Rt. 41 does not intersect with Rt. 46. Rt. 41 starts at Rt. 46 (which is an East-West road) heading North-east toward Fresno.

The official dedication, by the State of California, of the James Dean Memorial Junction took place on the 50th Anniversary of James Dean's death during the 9-30-2005 weekend. I had the privilege of attending this commemorative event with Marcus Winslow, James Dean's cousin from Fairmount, IN, along with State of California dignitaries and invited guests.

[Lee Raskin, 12/24/2009]

Lee Raskin tells us he's a James Dean historian and author of the book "James Dean At Speed."

James Dean Memorial

The restaurant at the memorial is still there and is in active service. It's called the Jack Ranch Cafe, and is a classic diner with a friendly staff and a classic menu. The Jack Ranch has just a few souvenir items, as they've minimized the gift shop to just a shelf or two. Lots of classic photos of James Dean adorn the walls however.

This is still the same restaurant that used to have the attached garage where the ambulance was kept that took James Dean to the hospital in Paso Robles and where both cars were initially stored after the accident. It seems the memorial has fewer visitors these days and the numbers "55" from "1955" have either fallen off or been taken away from the memorial lettering. The intersection down the hill where the accident occurred ("The James Dean Memorial Intersection") can be quite busy at times since the highway is the only major route from the Western San Joaquin Valley to the Central Coast. Be careful and alert with the traffic if you stop there. The original layout of the highway to the East of the intersection (What Dean actually drove on as he descended his last hill) is easily visible just alongside and to the South of the intersection as you look East up the grade (The intersection is in the original location but set up a little different to make if safer then it was in '55).

[Matt, 07/17/2009]

Nearby Offbeat Places

James Dean Car Crash SiteJames Dean Car Crash Site, Shandon, CA - < 1 mi.
Shandon ChapelShandon Chapel, Shandon, CA - 7 mi.
Wine FountainWine Fountain, Shandon, CA - 8 mi.
In the region:
Earthquake Capital of the World, Parkfield, CA - 14 mi.

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