If you're on your way to Palm Springs, pull off at Cabazon to view the mighty dinosaur statues tucked in between a gas station and a truck stop. You won't miss them – just look for the T-Rex on the north side of the freeway.
Claude Bell started building these two dinos in the 1960's to help attract visitors to his Wheel Inn Café. The giant apatosaurus took eleven years and holds a gift shop in its belly. ell died in 1989 before he could complete his next sculpture, the T-Rex – it remains unfinished to this day.
Orange County developer, Gary Kanter, bought the property in 2005 and has transformed the dinosaur complex into a platform for his Creationist beliefs. He's added robotic dinosaurs and a "sand pit" where young paleontologists can dig up their own fossils. Whether you agree with his views or not, the dinosaurs are still a great attraction for kids of all ages.
Just outside of the stone walls and iron gates of the Folsom State Penitentiary is Historic House No. 8 –home to the Folsom Prison Museum. That name may ring a few bells for anyone over the age of 30 – this is where Johnny Cash held a concert in 1968 which was recorded and later distributed as his "prison" record. Of course, Johnny was never an inmate at Folsom but they still enjoy the notoriety.
This museum is not your typical tourist attraction. Staffed by retired guards, the displays of guard mementos, prisoner art, and prison equipment will tells the story of the prison and the many lives it touched. Outside are other interesting displays including an old guard tower and a combo-sink/toilet from an actual cell.
There is also a small gift shop on the grounds that sell some unique items. All admissions and proceeds go towards charity organizations and not the prison coffers.
If you're driving down Interstate 99 through the small town of Turlock and see a gigantic bulldozer by the side of the road, don't worry – the road isn't getting ripped up. That's just the offices of United Equipment Company, a local equipment rental company.
The two-story building, which has stopped many a traveler in their trip down the interstate, was built in 1976 and is modeled after a Cat D5 bulldozer who appears to be scooping up dirt and rock in the equipment yard.
Visitors are welcome to stop by and take pictures but the owners do ask that no one plays on the rocks, building, or blade – you can get hurt!
Located just ten minutes south of SFO, the Museum of Pez Memorabilia and Classic Toys feature a huge collection of pez dispensers and classic and banned toys.
The owners, Gary and Nancy Doss, have collected these little candy dispensers since the 1980's. They claim that their collection includes every Pez dispenser ever made – a distinction that not many can say.
As you tour the collection, Gary, Nancy, or one of their family members is available to answer any questions and tell you about the collection in detail. This place is an interesting stop for anyone into in toys and their history.
Just off of I-80, tucked in between a grocery store and a church, you will find a sight that amazes locals and travelers alike – the Great Statues of Auburn. These larger-than-life concrete statues are amazingly lifelike – you'd swear you could see sweat on the coolie pushing a wheelbarrow.
Their creator, local dentist Ken Fox, began to build these in the late 1960's as a political statement. As time passed, other works were commissioned. You can find them all over the small town, including a gold miner who stands in Old Town.
If you're interested in seeing all of his work, check with the local Chamber of Commerce. They can point you in the right direction.
Nike Missile Site SF88L
Get Directions Bunker Rd, Golden Gate National Recreation Area, Sausalito, CA, USA
Between the 1950's and 1980's, the US government built and operated 280 Nike missile stations around major cities. These were considered to be the "last line of defense" against Soviet invasion. Since the end of the Cold War, many of these sites have been decommissioned and either sold or abandoned in place.
The only Nike site to be restored and maintained is the SF-88 site, located in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. This "museum" is a great place for any Cold War enthusiast or anyone interested in exploring this turbulent time in our nation's history.
Free guided tours are given weekly – check their website for the latest schedule – and include a trip down the missile elevator and a chance to explore the underground area where the missiles were stored.
While visiting the Marina district of San Francisco, make sure to stop by and listen to the Wave Organ, located on a jetty just east of the Exploratorium.
The wave organ was designed by artist Peter Richards in 1986 to so that the public could hear the sounds of the bay without having to get their feet wet.
From the Exploratorium's website:
"The installation includes 25 organ pipes made of PVC and concrete located at various elevations within the site, allowing for the rise and fall of the tides. Sound is created by the impact of waves against the pipe ends and the subsequent movement of the water in and out of the pipes."
The best time to attend is at high tide, when the wave action is at its peak. Have a seat and put your ear near one of the listening ports to hear the bay wheezes, rumblings, and moan.