Feb. 2: Smith’s Ranch Drive-In Theater, Twentynine Palms CA

Smith's Ranch marquee eerily lit at night

photo by v snow from the Carload Flickr pool

It’s Day 33 of my virtual Drive-In-a-Day Odyssey, and I finally made it to California. It took a four hour ride from the Phoenix area to reach the Smith’s Ranch Drive-In Theater of Twentynine Palms, in the shadow of Joshua Tree National Park.

This is your basic ancient, small-town, single screen drive-in. The Smith’s Ranch opened in 1954, and thanks in part to traffic from park visitors and a marine base, it’s still going strong.

Smith’s Ranch wins the low cost competition so far – admission for the double feature was just $5. The concession stand was basic, with hot dogs and popcorn, but the prices were good.

My timing worked out great tonight. I arrived in Twentynine Palms on a Thursday, and the Smith’s Ranch is one of the few drive-ins with a Thursday to Sunday schedule. The early movie was one I’d already seen, but that beats the heck out of a dark screen.

Miles Today / Total:  275 / 4484 (rounded to the nearest mile)

Movie Showing / Total Active Nights: Split / 23

Nearby Restaurant: Not only does it have great atmosphere, looking out over Joshua Tree National Park, the 29 Palms Inn has some great food. Butternut squash hummus, other vegetarian dishes, or steak and lobster if that’s what I wanted for dinner. Add some live music and those great views, and I’ll try not to feel guilty about how much I paid.

Where I Virtually Stayed: The restaurant experience was so nice that I wanted to stay all night, so I also got a room at the 29 Palms Inn. After the cookie-cutter efficiency of the nice chain hotels, I was glad to have another night where the rooms don’t all look the same. I slept in an adobe bungalow with a fireplace, then enjoyed homemade sourdough bread in the morning. There aren’t any chains that can give me an experience like that.

Tiny World Famous Crochet Museum

photo by Kathy Drasky

Only in Twentynine Palms: Just up the Twentynine Palms Highway in the town of Joshua Tree, you’ll find the World Famous Crochet Museum. Artist Shari Elf took an old one-hour photo booth, painted it lime green, filled it with little crochet pieces, and gave it this name. According to its web site, HSBC is using a photo of the museum in a “favours the unorthodox” ad campaign in airports around the world. Which matches that whole World Famous part, of course.

Next Stop: Rubidoux Drive-In Theatre, Riverside CA.

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