Howard and I took a little road trip out to SoCal's desert communities yesterday. On our way back we stopped for pie at the Wheel Inn, a great old diner located on famous Route 66. Howard read about the place in Jane and Michael Stern's Roadfood and has been wanting to visit for over a year. It's a great place to buy fake antlers (at least I think they're fake) and toy dinosaurs. The pie's not bad, and the coffee is terrific.
Howard had chocolate cream pie and I enjoyed the peanut butter cream pie. Our waitress, who was a very pleasant, middle-aged Latina woman, wore a sort of cheap, non-sexy One Million Years B.C. outfit. Actually, it looked more like an off-the-rack Flintstones costume. Kind of a weird look for a roadside diner unless you know that Cabazon and the Wheel Inn are home to...
... these crazy dinosaurs you may recognize from Pee-Wee's Big Adventure. There's a T. Rex and an apatosaurus, and together they make up an educational exhibit. The weird thing is, they were purchased some years ago by an outfit that uses them to promote the concept of "intelligent design."
This sign is at the base of the tail of the apatosaurus, who is known as "Dinny." You enter here and walk up a steep staircase into Dinny's stomach, where there is a good-sized gift shop selling all kinds of dino-themed paraphernalia. The book racks feature titles such as The Young Earth, Darwin's Demise, Is the Big Bang Biblical?, and Dinosaurs of Eden. Many of the toys, all of which seem to be standard-issue, made-in-China crap, have had a home computer-printed sticker attached to them that reads, in part, "Is evolution true? The fossil record does not support evolution," then directs purchasers to a website that no doubt completely refutes Darwin's theory. The shop is filled with signs and merchandise displays "debunking" evolution and promoting "intelligent design." A TV mounted on the wall was playing a DVD of a televangelist denouncing "that evolution junk." The shop also stocks a startling number and variety of toy guns.
Howard and I decided to go into the T. Rex, which costs two dollars and is totally worth it.
You enter through the T. Rex's side and start climbing up, up, up a very steep staircase that is surrounded by more homemade displays that simultaneously shout "Aren't dinosaurs neat?" and "Evolution is a lot of hooey!" There is no air conditioning inside the T. Rex and it had to be something like 120 degrees in there. Finally, at the top of a tiny, scary spiral staircase, is the dinosaur's mouth. You can look out and see for days.
I couldn't understand why the inside of T. Rex's mouth had been lined with this heavy chickenwire. Was there really that big a problem with people throwing stuff from the dinosaur's head? Then I looked around and noticed all the bird shit, and I realized it was more a matter of keeping the avian element out.
Cabazon is pretty remote, but I absolutely recommend a visit, especially if you like peanut butter cream pie and want to learn more about "intelligent design."