News from the spot where coastal Southern California morphs into the desert: the Wheel Inn truck stop beside Interstate 10 in Cabazon has abruptly closed. The giant dinosaurs that have been a visual landmark along the freeway for more than three decades remain, but this column in the Riverside Press-Enterprise isn't clear on the fate of the dinosaur statues, which are operated as a little amusement park. From columnist Bob Pratte:
I received sad news from Tina Lopez, who became the former manager of the Wheel Inn when the landmark Cabazon diner closed Monday, Sept. 23.
The Wheel Inn, which is more than a half century old, is the truck-stop diner famous for its peanut butter cream pie, dinosaur sculptures created by the late Claude Bell and an art gallery where John Wayne and Elvis velvet paintings were big sellers.
The roadside attraction is so quirky that it was used in a scene of “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure.”
“I’ve worked there 20 years this November and was shocked when the bosses without any notice came and told us he was locking the doors. We were out of business,” Lopez wrote. “I’m very sad for all the faithful customers. Not even a good bye could we give them. A world tourist attraction gone, puff, just like that.”
Restaurant operator Jesse Lanter of Claremont said he was asked to take the restaurant over a year ago to see if he could make it work following the departure of Karel and Marie Kothera, who bought the Wheel Inn in 1993.
LA Observed file photo