PCH: Roadside Stops and Detours

The invasion began in 1962. Through the mid 1960’s until 1974 many areas of the U.S.A became the land of giants. Enormous fiberglass men, some twenty feet tall, stood over muffler shops, miniature golf courses, tire stores, and other venues. This population explosion of big men occurred because businesses with them became hugely successful immediately after installation. Back in the 1960’s you could order one for as little as $1,800. With added features and accessories–maybe a hamburger, golf club, or lumberjack ax, and other ad-ons including various garments, hats or facial hair–the price could be as much as $2,800. The basic big man ordered in quantity by a franchise chain could be purchased for a mere $1,000 a unit.

There was a female version produced as well. She was rendered with features resembling Jackie Kennedy. The tall figure had a removable dress and wore a bikini bathing suit underneath.

The giant in the above photo was called Malibu Man. He was a hamburger chef towering over a burger joint on Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) in Malibu. Steve Dashew the entrepreneur behind these big men took special satisfaction with this particular model. It was coincidentally built next to where his ex girlfriend lived. “I thought she’d appreciate the remembrance.”

The figure still stands, but perhaps in a most revealing sign of the times, he is now called Salsa Man. He sports a mustache, wears a sombrero, and has a serape over his shoulder. The hamburger has been replaced by a tray of Mexican food. [1]

This is a detailed replica of Villa dei Papiri, a Roman villa in the town of Herculaneum, which was buried by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D. Much of the ancient sight was visible only by camera inserted through shafts drilled in the solidified volcanic flow. The man that could afford such a venture was J. Paul Getty. His Museum overlooks the Pacific Ocean in Malibu, just off of PCH.

The gardens, the beauty of the architecture, the gorgeous bluff overlooking the Pacific makes the J. Paul Getty Museum (Now simply called The Villa) a soul soothing place on earth. It reopened in February of 2006 after nearly 12 years and $275 million dollars of remodeling. The museum previously housed both ancient and modern art. Then a second Getty Museum was built in Brentwood to house the modern collection. The Malibu museum closed to reconfigure for the ancient collection and to install teaching/educational facilities.

The original version of the museum was completed in 1974. Getty was living in England at the time and died before he could make the trip back to view his creation. The sorting out of his estate took until 1982 when the J. Paul Getty Museum became the world’s most richly endowed exhibition. Getty bequest 1.2 billion dollars for his art house. [2]

Another monument achieved by extreme wealth is Hearst Castle. This is the magnificent Neptune swimming pool, an architectural masterpiece surrounded by fourth-century Roman columns, Italian bas-reliefs, and contemporary statues from Paris.

The pool is lined with marble quarried in Vermont. The pool was enlarged twice after the original was completed in 1924. The pool as it is today was completed in 1936. As big as it appears, it is some 60 feet shorter than an Olympic size pool.

Hearst Castle in San Simeon is exactly half way between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Either city is two hundred miles away.

This being a “house” with 165 bedrooms and 41 bathrooms, there are 5 different tours offered. Ticket prices range from $20 to $30 for adults. Well worth every penny. Well worth repeat visits to experience all five tours–which I haven’t done yet. But it is on the agenda. [3]

There’s something enchanting about the mix of scents from the ocean and the red woods of Big Sur. The calming peace and quiet found here attracted the likes of Henry Miller, Jack Kerouac, Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, Orson Welles and Rita Hayworth, just to mention a few. And a few of them stayed here at Deetjen’s Big Sur Inn. I had noticed the sign on many a trip through Big Sur. When I finally gave it a try, I found myself a new favorite place to stay.

Helmuth Deetjen, a Scandinavian, settled in the quiet secluded Castro Canyon of Big Sur in the 1930’s and built this barn. Today it is the reception office and dining room of the Inn.

The rustic guest cabins were built by Helmuth in the manner he learned in Norway. The cabins trail up and are tucked into the pastoral canyon.

The rooms are quaint and cozy. There are no televisions, stereos or phones in the rooms. Cell phones do not have reception at Deetjens. Children under 12 are only allowed if the occupants rent all the shared rooms and walls of a freestanding cabin. You get peace and quiet here.

Wood burning stove, copper kettle and ornate chair. Deetjen’s has a time travel feel. It is easy to imagine the atmosphere of the 1930’s here.

A garden paradise is one step out the door. [4]
References and links

1. http://www.roadsideamerica.com/muffler/index.html

2. http://www.csmonitor.com/2006/0203/p15s02-alar.html


3. http://www.grandtimes.com/hearst.html


4. http://www.deetjens.com/home.htm

I am Dan Soderberg, award winning documentary film maker and phototgrapher specializing in architecture, historic preservation and nature.
  • Anita

    Dear Daniel,
    It always delights me when someone deeply appreciates
    Helmuth and Helen Deetjen’s labor of love. The Inn keeps getting
    rediscovered, and that adds to the enchantment and wonder of
    its complex simplicity. They made it look so easy, as though
    anyone could build it; but to create it, you’d need to breathe
    your life’s breath and pour your love into it every day for years.
    Thanks for caring about this exceptional place.
    Anita Alan
    Author, Big Sur Inn:The Deetjen Legacy

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  • gretchen secrist

    Dan I loved this. It has inspired me to plan trips to go see these places, seriously Tnanks,

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