The Wheel Inn, seen through the legs of the roadside dinosaur, shuttered in September. The Cabazon diner cited financial reasons. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
DINOSAUR-ADJACENT DINING: There aren't a lot of places in California, much less the world, where you can describe something as being "dinosaur-adjacent." Maybe a bathroom in a natural history museum or a roller coaster at a kid-fun park. But say "dinosaur-adjacent" to any SoCaler and they know exactly where you mean: Cabazon. Throw in the word "dining" and, again, they know exactly what you mean: The Wheel Inn. But word comes from the Press-Enterprise that the classic grill-and-counter shuttered in September over financial reasons, among other issues.
FAREWELL, WHEEL INN: The old-school, Western art-filled diner, long a place where the road-bleary traveler could pull over for a big plate of fried eggs, buttered toast, and hash, had been a savory staple of the desert for over a half century. That's not as far back as when the dinosaurs roamed the planet, but it is longer than its famous dinosaur neighbors have been there. We're talking about the Claude Bell dinosaurs, of course, which are just as commonly, or perhaps more frequently, called "The Pee-wee Herman Dinosaurs" or "the dinos from 'Pee-wee's Big Adventure.'" Any driver who's made the zoom between Palm Springs and coastal Southern California along the 10 Freeway knows the T. Rex and Apatosaurus, and many have stopped for a club sandwich, burger, or eggs at the dinos' immediate neighbor to the west.
WHAT COMES NEXT: Here's hoping some entrepreneurial diner honcho can keep the eggs a-sizzlin'. You can still visit the dinosaurs that Mr. Bell, an artist for Knott's Berry Farm, built back in the '60s. They're Americana, yes, but, more than that, they're Californiaiana. People won't let them go, well. Extinct. Plus? "THE DINOSAURS ARE HERE TO STAY" is writ large on the official site. Good news. We adore those dang dinos so much and best at dusk, just about the time when the wind is whipping down off San Jacinto and the headlights are coming on along the freeway. Desert gothic, indeed.