Last week I heard about a place up in Campbell, CA called Psycho Donuts. Psycho? Donuts? Two of my favorite words/concepts! I jokingly proposed a road trip to Lucy and Norman, and to my surprise, they were totally up for a 12 hour round trip to the Bay Area to procure donuts. Over dinner on Thursday, we discussed the outing in greater detail, and it turns out that we've all been itching for a road trip since our little jaunt up to the Donner Pass back in 2006; the destination seems far less important to us than the need to get out on the open highway. While we agreed that a visit to Psycho Donuts must figure into our plans someday, in the short term we could all make do with a briefer journey, one that would both whet our appetites for future road trips and build up our stamina. We decided to drive to Cabazon for pie at the Wheel Inn.
Longtime readers of this blog might recall that Norman and I visited the Wheel Inn a couple of months before the Donner Pass trip. Lucy, however, had never been there, and she was delighted by the notion of a dinosaur/"intelligent design" mashup at Cabazon Dinosaurs. So our day-long outing was set for this past Sunday: pie and dinos. My mother-in-law Heidi lives in Banning, which is very close to Cabazon, and she invited us to drop in and pay her a visit, too. Heidi also suggested, upon hearing of our aborted donut run, that we stop in Glendora at The Donut Man. I told Lucy about The Donut Man, but we decided to surprise Norman with our visit. His sharp intake of breath as he espied the shop's sign told us we had done the right thing.
This is their fresh strawberry donut, which is a glazed donut sliced in half and filled with half a basket's worth of glazed strawberries. Lucy thought it was wonderful but wished she'd had a knife as well as a fork. She also ordered a Tiger Tail, which is a long, thin donut with a chocolate twist. She pulled a face as she drew it out of the wax bag, exclaiming, "Tiger tail? More like tiger dong!" She said it was "twice the donut" she'd thought it would be; Norman thought it was "intimidating." It must have tasted pretty good, because I never even got to ask for a bite before it was gone.
These are my donuts. On the top is a classic glazed buttermilk bar, which I ordered because even the fanciest donut emporia must be judged on how well they do the standard-issue stuff, and because I love me a good buttermilk bar. It did not disappoint. On the bottom is a raspberry and cream cheese stuffed extravaganza. All I can say is, damn. Damn you, Donut Man! You don't play fair. Lucy, Norman and I all laughed and laughed at the fact that there is a gym next door to The Donut Man. We thought about standing in front of their windows, tormenting some poor slob on a treadmill, as we chowed down on our confections, but it was too hot so we stayed in the car.
As we drove on down the 210, we had a spirited discussion about donuts and cupcakes and whatnot, and I suggested trying to establish a hierarchy of pastries. Norman and Lucy seemed to have completely different ideas than I about the ranking of various baked goods, though, so I concluded that a spectrum of sugary goodness was probably the way to go and let the matter drop.
We only missed our freeway turns a few times (overshooting the 15 and later the 10, having to turn around both times), but eventually we ended up in Yucaipa where we ate lunch at the Oak House Restaurant, which I'd found highly recommended online. Someone had praised its "campy Wild West theme," which I thought would appeal to Norman in particular.
Norman and Lucy both ordered burgers. I went for the open-face hot meatloaf sandwich with gravy and a side of fried zucchini. It was perfect.
After lunch we looked around a little outside. This old stove is on the front porch near the restaurant's front door, near a small koi pond. While I was standing there taking pictures, a guy opened up the oven door and pulled out a handful of fish food, which he threw into the pond. Turns out he's the owner. He and his brother bought the place a few years ago, but recently they'd had an unspecified "falling out," and now he was running it on his own. He was the one who'd come up with the campy Wild West idea, and I told him I liked it very much. He gave me some photos that a professional photographer had recently taken of the place -- why, I'm not sure, but it was a friendly gesture.
This is Heidi's house in Banning. I love my mother-in-law dearly, but I think she's crazy to have bought a place in the middle of -- sorry, but I must say it -- fucking nowhere. If she were retired, that would be one thing; but she works full-time in Pasadena and that commute is a killer. She rents Sean's and my guest house and stays with us most nights, but once or twice a week she drives out to Banning and back. Like I said, it's crazy.
Heidi gave Lucy and Norman the nickel tour. Lucy said she liked the idea of moving into a retirement community like Heidi's because the idea of no kids running around is very appealing. Heidi seems to really like her house, which is a great little place just big enough for one person, but she described Banning as an "armpit" full of "old fogeys and meth addicts." Guess she won't be running for town council anytime soon.
Cabazon, ahoy! Here's Norman outside the Wheel Inn, trying to set an old prospector straight.
Inside, we all opted for the Inn's famous peanut butter pie, which I ordered the last time I was out this way. I think they must cut each pie into only five or six pieces, because my wedge was ginormous. I enjoyed two cups of superb coffee with my pie; the coffee, in fact, may have been better than the pie. Shockingly, none of us could finish our desserts. It feels criminal to let good pie go to waste.
Here's the T. Rex, affectionately known as Mr. Rex, at the Cabazon Dinosaurs. This attraction is next door to the Wheel Inn.
Inside the gift shop, science and religion continue to co-exist uneasily in the "intelligent design"-themed displays. The picture above kind of sums up what this place is all about.
Here's a fellow near the entrance to the new and improved dinosaur attraction. His neck has split so someone bungee-corded it together. His little head was bobbing in the breeze and it seemed safest not to linger beneath him for long.
Another big guy near the entrance. The banner around his neck says KEEPER and we wondered if it was some sort of chastity ring. Saving himself for that lucky lady dino.
Here's a strange diorama in the other gift shop at Cabazon Dinosaurs (the one you have to pay to get into). It's a knight fighting a bevy of prehistoric creatures. At the left you can see Lucy's arm -- she's pointing out the fact that the diorama's backdrop has a painting of another knight fighting another dinosaur. You can see a turret on the castle behind him at the far right of the photo.
Here's a soldier giving hell to some dinosaurs. "Is he supposed to be from Vietnam or World War Two?" Lucy wondered. "Does it really matter?" I replied. The "intelligent design" folks seem hellbent on promoting the idea that humans and dinosaurs existed at the same time, though that window may have been very brief: all the humans depicted in their dioramas seem intent on killing any dinosaur within reach.
Lucy and Norman take a break in the storytime area in the oh so comfortable hatching egg chairs. Nice gams, Norman.
Norman rides the animatronic dinosaur! Lucy whispered to me, "I'll bet that's fun for about 30 seconds and then he'll start wondering how to get down from there." And that's exactly what happened.
There's a new sort of dinosaur garden out in back of the old T. Rex. It's full of dinos of varying sizes (though they seem to have placed the biggest, most deluxe ones up near the front) and very nicely landscaped. This picture doesn't do justice to the sky, which was a lovely, deep blue.
And what Bible-themed dinosaur attraction would be complete without a lion lying down by a lamb? At least I think that's what this display was depicting; the shrubs could have used a trim.
Here's another knight poised to assault some poor, unassuming prehistoric monster. I don't understand Cabazon Dinosaurs' fixation on medieval knights. Why were they hating on the dinosaurs so much?
Lucy and I opted to sit at a picnic table and fight off stinging red ants while Norman climbed the non-air conditioned T. Rex. He snapped this shot of the Wheel Inn's famous sign through the chicken wire in Mr. Rex's mouth.
I liked the bird's nest inside this dinosaur's mouth. It somehow made him, and the whole concept of "intelligent design," seem less fearsome.
I could continue with an account of the creep in the men's room at the Wheel Inn, but I think Lucy should tell that story.