The Dinosaurs at Cabazon
As a child, our family never passed the Wheel Inn without stopping to eat. We were not far from Cabazon and had to pass it on trips to Palm Springs or on vacations heading east on Interstate 10. In 1958, Claude K Bell opened his restaurant. He started the brontosaurus in 1964 to draw in more business. When I had kids and we headed east on the 10 freeway, we also stopped at the Wheel Inn. Now that I am raising my grandson, we still stop at the Wheel Inn. It's just one of those things that families do as a tradition.
You used to be able to eat at the Wheel Inn or feed your child to the dinosaur. Both choices were available. See Major Bummer below. The Wheel Inn is closed.
The photos are mine and taken between 1995 and 2011.
We went to Laughlin, Nevada in July 2014. We had heard that the Wheel Inn was closed but had to see for ourselves. It was so sad. The dinosaurs were still there and the gift shop still open but we didn't get our favorite breakfast. Somehow, eating at the Denney's is just not worth it. Hopefully, someone with money will come along and reopen the restaurant. It is for sale. Until then, we may stop for pictures because we always have but it has lost some of its magic.
Rex and Dinny - New Years Eve 2011
Niles, 2 1/2 years old, at the foot (literally) of the dinosaur in 2003
Niles and Gary with Rex in 2003 - The little red dot is Niles
Niles, slightly bigger than the toe now - 2011
Cabazon in 1994 - The model is my son Scott at age 25. He's a lot older now!Click thumbnail to view full-size
Who is Claude K Bell?
He was much more than just a dinosaur builder.
The story is told that he went to South Atlantic City as a boy and was very impressed by a gigantic elephant named Lucy. It was actually a building shaped like an elephant. That is apparently what sparked his interest in sculpting and led him to create statuary for Knott's Berry Farm and Calico Ghost Town. When he opened the Wheel Inn in Cabazon, it gave him the opportunity to create the giant sculptures he fell in love with as a boy.
Here is the opportunity to meet Diney and Mr. Rex. Diney (Dine-y) is 150-feet-long and Mr. Rex is 65-feet-tall.
There is a gift shop inside Diney but the building inside Mr. Rex has never been open to the public. Before his death in 1988 at the age of 91, Mr. Bell had plans to add a saber-tooth tiger and a giant woolly mammoth. Both of them actually inhabited the area.
Claude Bell in his new "Artist's Studio" at Knott's Berry Farm, drawing Ed Strouse, Feb. 1954.
"Photo courtesy Orange County Archives"
Photo from the Los Angeles Times archives.
March 23, 1970: Sculptor Claude K. Bell with his 45-foot- tall, 150-foot-long brontosaur in Cabazon next to Interstate 10. Bell, a Knott's Berry Farm sculptor and portrait artist, opened the Wheel Inn cafe in 1958. To attract customers, he began building dinosaurs.
What does Claude K Bell have to do with Knott's Berry Farm and Calico Ghost Town?
Learned something new! Check out this link and look at the pictures of the similarities between the Knott's Berry Farm statues and those at Calico Ghost Town and the Wheel Inn. This blog is full of great information.
- Siblings of Soutern California - Check out the great pictures of Mr. Bell's sculptures at Knott's an
"One more Walter Knott connection that many people do not know about are the dinosaurs that sit along Interstate 10 in Cabazon, California. The creator of these magnificent structures was Claude Bell (1897-1988). Claude was a sculptor for Walter Knot
The Claude K. Bell miner and burro at the Wheel Inn
Knott's Berry Farm - A retrospective
- Knott's Berry Farm - A retrospective
In the Ghost Town at Knott's Berry Farm, an older gentleman approached the jail. Those who were in on the joke crowded around him as he learned forward to check out the display. From the figure seated in the back of the shack came the greeting,...
Who's eating breakfast at the Wheel Inn?
There is a theme here. When we park at the Wheel Inn, we always make sure that we get the dinosaur in the picture. The teardrop and the 1959 Dalton look good with Mr. Rex. The Wheel Inn was only a year old when the trailer was built.
Amazon does not sell my favorite poster of the dinosaurs on the 10 freeway eating the cars that go by. Many children have already given that scenario some thought.
Watch out for the Dinosaurs
In the old days, once you passed Banning, heading east on Hwy 10, the dinosaurs seem to rise out of the desert. Children were often startled to see them. Now, if you can get by the The Cabazon Outlet Mall and the Desert Hills Premium Outlets, you're almost there. You'll pass Hadley's where you might want to stop for a date shake but you still can't see the dinosaurs. The Morongo Casino, Resort & Spa is the new sight. It's hard to miss. But don't despair, the dinosaurs are just past the Casino.
The Wheel Inn - December 31, 2011
We wanted something different for breakfast. The Wheel Inn is 30 minutes from us so we headed out to visit the dinosaurs and enjoy our breakfast surrounded by mountains.
What are you hungry for?
Gary's breakfast minus the toast and homemade strawberry jam
The dinosaurs are featured in movies and videos
It's not just Pee Wee Herman who has made the dinosaurs famous. People come from all over the world to see them. They are featured in music videos.
FYI - It is always windy in Cabazon. It's either windy or gale-force winds. There is no in-between. Just down the road, before Hwy 111 heads into Palm Springs, the wind farms began. Those are the big wind turbines that create electricity which also can be seen in the Brad Paisley video.
Brad Paisley - Welcome to the future - Dinosaurs and wind turbines make it into this video.
Dinosaurs from Pee-Wee Big Adventure HD
More information on Claude K. Bell
- World's Biggest Dinosaurs
The world famous larger than life concrete Cabazon Dinosaurs Mr. Rex and Ms. Dinny are both open for visitors.
- Mr Bell's Obituary - September 21, 1988
ANAHEIM, Calif,, Sept. 20 - Claude K. Bell, whose dinosaur creations became a landmark to millions of travelers in the Southern California desert, died of pneumonia Monday at Humana Hospital in Anaheim. He was 91 years old, Mr. Bell and his dinosaur
- Los Angeles Times articles on the Wheel Inn and the dinosaurs
More editorial comments on how the area has been "has been severely compromised.(by) Allowing the construction of a garish Burger King"