Mar 10, 2015

Wheel Inn Restaurant in Cabazon, CA

This truck stop along I-10 gained fame because of the Cabazon Dinosaurs that were constructed next to it in the 1960s. Claude Bell, a sculptor for Knott's Berry Farm, was looking for a way to attract passing travellers to his Wheel Inn Restaurant, and he decided that large dinosaurs were the way to go. First came Dinny the apatosaurus, and later Mr. Rex the tyrannosaurus. 

Motivated by our love of campy flicks like The Wizard and Pee Wee's Big Adventure (which both featured the location) my friend Dave and I stopped in to eat here in 2010. On my road trip in December 2014 I returned because I heard the location had since closed. 

The Wheel Inn was a place to go because you appreciated its novelty and originality. The interior hadn't been updated in so long that it had almost become a theme. Old arcade machines lined the entrance, which we thought were so cool at the time because it was like we were in that scene from The Wizard when they hustle customers in an old diner for a bit of change.

Today the location is closed up and abandoned. A few pieces remain inside, however the character has mostly been stripped away. The Wheel Inn looked like it had been in decline for years, however it's still sad to see it closed. Maybe it's a mixture of associating Dave with the location or the fact that an original place like this couldn't make it, but nostalgia is a powerful thing. Thankfully, the dinosaurs are still hanging out in the backyard.  

The empty interior today.

Entrance of the Wheel Inn in 2010.


Luke (me).

Entrance today.

Old arcade machines in the entrance in 2010.

The diner bar in 2010.

View from the booth in 2010.

Wheel Inn menu.

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