The Dinosaurs of Cabazon

This weekend finds me in San Antonio, Texas at the seventy-first annual World Science Fiction Convention. For better or for worse, it’s hard for me to think of San Antonio without thinking of Tim Burton’s first film, Pee-wee’s Big Adventure.

For those who have never seen it, Pee-wee Herman’s bike is stolen. He visits a phony psychic who tells him the bicycle is in the basement of the Alamo. Pee-wee then makes a cross-county trek only to find that the Alamo has no basement. To be honest, I’ve always been curious to find out whether or not the Alamo has a basement, or an underground cellar of some kind. I’ll be sure to let you know!

Along the way, Pee-wee stops off a diner in Cabazon, California where he finds giant sculptures of dinosaurs. Thing is, Cabazon is not too far from San Bernardino, where I grew up. I used to see these dinosaurs just off the freeway as I passed through. During a recent trip back to California, I had the opportunity to stop off and actually see the dinosaurs up close.

Cabazon Dinosaurs

I found it the dinosaurs a fun stop. I particularly enjoyed the fact that you can climb up into them, just like they showed in the movie Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure. Inside the apatosaurus is a gift shop and you can visit it for free. There is an admission to climb into the tyrannosaurus and walk through the museum and dinosaur garden.

The museum and garden mostly consist of robotic dinosaurs in displays with modern animals. I gather the owners are creationists who would like to convince visitors that dinosaurs and humans lived on Earth at the same time. Depending on your viewpoint, this could be entertaining, inspiring or off-putting. As a person of faith who recognizes the evidence of evolution, I was in the first category.

View from TRex

Here we see my daughters sitting in the mouth of the Cabazon Tyrannosaurus Rex, much as Pee-wee and Simone did in Pee-wee’s Big Adventure. Of course, the version of the mouth in the movie was a Hollywood Set, but it is fun to see the “Eat” sign atop the Wheel Inn through the mouth of the T-Rex. All in all it was an entertaining little roadside attraction that reminded me of a movie that brought me a smile during my college years. And who knows, these little attractions often have a way of turning up in stories down the road.

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