Thursday, January 22, 2015

Photo Essay: A Treasure Trove of Roadside Dinosaurs



When you mention Southern California roadside dinosaurs, everybody talks about the giant ones in Cabazon, which have been clearly visible off the north side of the 10 freeway for over 30 years, and were famously featured in the movie Pee Wee's Big Adventure.

But for me, they're a bit too obvious, a bit too well-known. After all, they're not the only dinosaurs in the game.

I had fun photographing the prehistoric zoo in the back of Peggy Sue's 50s Diner in the almost ghost town of Yermo, so I was excited to discover yet another herd of extinct beasts off the side of another road: this time just north of the 60 freeway, and just west of Riverside in the Inland Empire. Not quite the desert, but close.



These dinos, however, play hard to get. The only thing visible from the road is a big sign advertising the Jurupa Mountains Discovery Center (whatever that is)...



...and a rusted iron mammoth, looming way up on the hillside.



Upon entering the center on Granite Hill Drive, we were greeted by a number of whimsical figures...



...and a couple of dinosaurs, few and far between...



...but where was the pack of them?



 I knew they were there somewhere, but all we could find were rocks for sale (presumably quarried locally), a nursery, and a cactus garden.



Feeling lost, I started to walk towards the mammoth, which I used as a beacon in the distance...



...when I happened upon a marked Dinosaur Trail...



...and lo and behold, our own private Jurassic Park.



Unlike the Cabazon dinosaurs, these extinct creatures seem to be handmade...



...with fragile materials (like burlap, styrofoam, and household glue)...



...evoking a feeling that's more folk art than your typical roadside big statue.



And they're very expressive.



They seem to have a lot of personality.



And they could just take off...



...or bite you...



...at any minute.



But as the sun sets...



...too early in the winter...



...these lumbering souls appear gentle...



...tired...



...perhaps curious.



Some of them have been hiding up there for over 50 years, waiting for you to find them.



Not everybody does.



Not everybody looks for them.



Not everybody knows to look for them.

That's what makes finding them so much more rewarding.

Related Posts:
Photo Essay: The Living Ghost of Yermo
Photo Essay: Old Trapper's Lodge Statues