Dinosaurs Invade Cabazon near Palm Springs

Filed in Gather Travel Essential by on May 12, 2008 0 Comments

Each year over 12 million people pass by concrete dinosaurs on Interstate 10 near the Palm Springs turnoff in Cabazon.  I know that we always notice this fun landmark.  Even if you have never stepped foot in California, you may recognize these dinosaurs from many 1980s television commercials to music videos to even the movie "Pee Wee's Big Adventure".  This Easter Sunday, we decided to photograph the Dinosaurs on our way home from the Salton Sea and learn more this quirky rest area.

From the freeway, I always thought that the dinosaurs were solid concrete structures.

However, the Apatosauras, affectionately known as Dinny, boasts the World's Biggest Gift Shop which is inside a dinosaur.

 

The entrance to the giftshop is hidden on the tail.

 

As you would expect, inside you can buy dinosaur toys and T-shirts, and children's books.

What surprised me about the dinosaur store is that it also doubles as a museum for the Institute of Creation Science.  For example, the plaque next to this Cro-Magmon Man statue argues strongly against Darwin's Theory of Evolution.

 

The answer to the question "is evolution true?" is a resounding "no" to Gary Kanter, Orange County developer and the current owner of the life-size dinosaur replicas and the Wagon Wheel restaurant.  Intelligent design and a strict literal translation of the book of Genesis including a six-day creation period and dinosaurs co-existing with early humans and being part of Noah's Art are some of the core beliefs that define the Institute of Creation Science's theology.

As you can see here, Dinny is an absolutely huge creature.  It was started in 1964 by artist Claude Bell, who wanted to attract attention to his Wagon Wheel Restaurant.  It took Mr. Bell eleven years to complete the Apatosaurus.  He lived in a cabin next to his life's work and spent all his spare time scounging for materials, like the steel from a washed out bridge and surplus concrete from road builders, to create this 150-foot long dinosaur, which is likely the world's largest dinosaur replica.

He started the T-Rex in 1981 which stands 55 feet tall, was working on it until his death in 1989.

On Saturdays and Sundays, you can climb to the mouth of the four-story high T-Rex for an outstanding view of the San Gorgonio Mountain.  Mr. Bell's plans for the Tyrannosauras included a slide down its tail.  He ran out of time, however, and now the T-Rex has stairs winding on the outside up to the mouth.

This snake was the last prehistoric creature Mr. Bell created at this site: he was 91 years old when he was putting the finishing touches on his vision of a prehistoric park in the middle of the Coachella Desert.

Claude Bell's Wagon Wheel Restaurant is still in operation and a wonderful place to get a homestyle meal.

Until cell phones became so ubiquitous, each booth at this popular truck stop had a pay phone making it a nice way for truckers to keep in touch with family while catching a meal.

We were not hungry when we stopped here, but next time, I am most definitely trying the peanut butter cream pie.

For those in a hurry, Burger King, seen behind Dinny, is also in this parking area.

Many people eat their Whoppers or homemade sandwiches from their coolers in the shade of the Apatosaurus.

Another place that we always stop at when passing through Cabazon is Hadley's Fruit Orchards.

The speciality of the house are their Date Shakes.  We wanted to order some, but the line was out the door.  The vegetarian sandwiches made with their fresh produce are also incredible.

So, we browsed around the isles upon isles of fresh produce and dried fruits and admired the fresh ostrich and emu eggs.

An ostrich egg costs $20!

My daughter is always begging for me to buy her an emu, so I let her hold the egg.  It looks like a giant avacado.

My son poses with the ostrich egg, which looks like it is glowing because of the flash bounce. 

In the background, you can see the wide bounty of natural foods that have made Hadley's famous since 1931.

Today, Cabazon is home to the Morongo Casino and Resort Spa and the Desert Hills Outlet Mall, making this part of the Coachella Desert a destination in itself.  However, I still enjoy the two original stops, the Dinosaurs and Hadley's Fruit Orchards, the most.

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