A chance encounter with a 150-foot pink dinosaur familiar to many in the Coachella Valley led two Palm Springs transplants to take more than 130 adventures. The adventures are chronicled on a website that serves as a guidebook to all things kitschy and kooky in the desert and beyond.
If you don’t know, the dinosaur is one of a pair that stands out in Cabazon. They serve as the unofficial mascots of the website, Roadside Wonderland, created by Jane and Grant Guy.
“We are big fans of the movie ‘Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, which features the dinosaurs’” the couple explains on the website, “so our minds were blown into tiny pieces when we first spotted them unexpectedly in the wild.
“It rose up in front of me,” Jane said recently, recalling her first glimpse of the 150-foot-long, pink apatosaurus. “It used to be in front of a diner. The diner disappeared. The dino stayed.” Next to the dinos, if you’re willing to pay, is a gate leading to the world’s biggest dinosaur museum, where there are 50 dinosaurs, including robotic ones.
While most of the valley attractions featured on Roadside Wonderland don’t make quite the same impression as the dinosaurs, you can still dive into the history of roughly two dozen things here that may have given you pause while out and about. Wondering where you can find a life-size Volkswagen Beetle tarantula or a miniature model of Palm Springs? The Guys have you covered.
A love of the actual Palm Springs kicked the whole project off. “We love vintage architecture, fashion, designs, everything,” says Jane, who hails originally from Australia. And Grant’s favorites? “I love vintage cars.”
The couple passed through the city on vacation 10 years ago, fell in love with it, and bought a 1959 vintage home. Two years ago, they moved here permanently and started taking road trips, seeking out the odd and unusual throughout Southern California and posting their finds on social media.
Heavy interest in those posts led to the launch of their interactive website two months ago.
Even some longtime locals are amazed by the couple’s discoveries. “Our American friends said, ‘Where did you find these places?’” Jane remarks.
Ready for some weekend adventures of your own? You might want to peruse the 100+ sites to see what the couple has found so far in the Los Angeles area. Among Jane’s suggestions is the Giant Chicken Boy in Los Angeles.
“It’s a big body of a man with a chicken’s head on top of it,” Jane says. “Who would have thought of putting a chicken’s head on a giant man’s body?” Then Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger recognized the 22-foot fiberglass statue with the Governor’s Historic Preservation Award in 2010.
As for Grant, his favorite is the International Banana Museum at the Salton Sea.
“When I first walked in, I was stunned,” he says. “The whole place was packed with bananas from all over the world, even Australia, and the place was in the middle of nowhere.”
There are more than 20,000 items related to bananas, including banana salt and pepper shakers, a surfing banana, a banana mobile, banana cars, and Carmen Miranda banana hats. Want a strange world record? In 1999 the International Banana Museum was recognized as a Guinness World Record holder – the largest museum devoted to a single fruit.
The couple’s other favorites include Gummy and his orange-talking sidekick Pokey in the city of Norco. “I’m so thrilled that someone decided to put up a giant rubber man with his orange horse pal in his front yard,” Jane says.
Be prepared to be transported back to a different time wherever you go.
“The vintage items and places we feature on our site are from a very happy and optimistic time in America where the smallest thing was celebrated in the biggest way,” Jane says. “We wanted to recapture that optimism by visiting these crazy places. It makes us happy.”
More information: “It’s still a work in progress,” Janes says of the website, but it’s open for business here.