His photo greets you as you drive into the gas station at Blackwells Corner on State Highway 46 in Lost Hills.
Dean may have stopped there to fill the tank of his Porsche 550 Spyder and then gone inside the cavernous Blackwells shop, which some call the nut house, because it sells the pistachios and almonds that grow in this part of the San Joaquin Valley.
At the back is an oldtime soda fountain, where Dean sits at the counter, dressed for the road in a leather jacket.
The huge shop was eerily empty when I came in. Sitting next to Dean made it even eerier (you can see us in the photo above, which was taken by Mira Advani Honeycutt).
The figure is only a dummy, but it feels as if Dean is actually there, perhaps trying to recreate that day and change its fateful outcome.
I don't know what he ordered--someone else in the shop set the drink cup in front of him-- but I asked for a cone packed with butter pecan and dulce de leche ice creams, then left for a smooth drive back to Los Angeles.
Dean went in the opposite direction, to the end of his short life--he was only 24--near the meeting of State Highways 46 and 41, now known as the James Dean Memorial Junction.
It's a barren place, notable only for that tragic crash. The sign there keeps Dean's memory alive. No matter how hot it is outside, you can't help but shiver as you drive by and ease up a little on the gas pedal.
Blackwells Corner, 17191 Highway 46, Lost Hills, CA 93249. Tel: (661) 797-2905.