The drive along the 5 freeway between L.A. and Orange County is not the most scenic. Throw freeway construction and rush-hour traffic into the mix and it's not just dull, it's infuriating.
But during the holidays, there's an unlikely bright spot along the way. That's because the folks at the Dunkel Brothers Machinery Moving company alongside the freeway really go all out with their holiday display.
Peter Dunkel is one of the owners of the company. The decorations have been his pet project for the last ten years or so.
"They say you start off believing in Santa Claus, then you don't believe in Santa Claus, then you believe you are Santa Claus," Dunkel says. "And basically you know [we] remember what made us feel special as little kids... and of course Hot Wheels was the big hit so we basically try to design it up like a Hot Wheels display."
The "Hot Wheels" display is made of a row of trailers cut open with real vintage cars in them. There's a white 1951 Nash-Healy roadster, and if you're heading south you can see a massive hole cut out of the side of the building to reveal a 1949 GMC car-hauler outfitted with multi-colored lights.
Then there's the giant "Merry Christmas" sign, nativity scene, huge gingerbread house, and the real attention grabber: Santa Claus riding a spaceship on skis.
Dunkel says he gets daily letters and phone calls about the decorations: "Most of them just say it's a boring drive to work every day and thank you for breaking it up."
And there's also the occasional complaint that "lookie lous" are slowing down traffic. That's why Dunkel says he's turned off the smoke and hydraulic action on the Santa spaceship to tone it down a little.
But with or without the hydraulics, it's still an impressive display. Even before the sun comes up, passersby pull off the road to get a better look and take pictures.
Ralph Maya from Oceanside says, "I see it every morning, so I had to record it. It's awesome, you never see anything like this down south where I live, on the side of the freeway. It's awesome! It's the best thing ever!"
But for Peter Dunkel, it's about more than just the decorations. "The biggest thing I enjoy is like sometimes I'm here doing paperwork at 10, 11 o'clock at night and I'll see three or four families pull off to the side, walking their kids up and down the sidewalk looking at each of those figurines and letting their kids enjoy it and you know then off they go."
Dunkel says the lights will be up until New Year's day, but this could be the last year to see them. The building is going to be demolished, and they'll have to move to a new location in a few months to make way for an expansion of the freeway.
That will hopefully make the drive along the 5 more pleasant. Around Christmas though, it definitely won't be quite as bright.
Let us know about your favorite wacky Christmas displays in the comments below!