Feb. 4: Van Buren Drive-In Theatre, Riverside CA

It’s Day 35 of my virtual Drive-In-a-Day Odyssey, and today’s drive is one of the shortest. I visited the Riverside CA’s second drive-in, the Van Buren.

Why didn’t I cover two drive-ins in the same city in one day, the way I did with Tyler last month? Unlike that situation, neither of Riverside’s drive-ins specialize in adult movies. And considering my goal of watching 200 movies in 365 days, I need to take advantage of every active winter drive-in that I come across.

According to the official Van Buren web site, it opened in 1964 at the site of a former orange ranch with a single screen. The theatre was expanded to three screens in 1975, and was substantially remodeled in 2007. It converted to digital projection in 2015.

The Van Buren site also states a theory that I’ve been hearing more often: “Like most drive-ins, the Van Buren was not built to last more than a decade before it was redeveloped, for a higher value, in the booming Southern California real estate market.” I’m sure that some drive-in owners had that in mind, but many others really planned to hang around longer than a mere decade.

The Van Buren is owned by the same folks who own the Rubidoux across town, which accounts for a similar snack bar speciality: carne asada nachos.

I had seen two of the Van Buren’s early shows, so I chose the third, Rings.

Miles Today / Total:  10 / 4589 (rounded to the nearest mile)

Movie Showing / Total Active Nights: Rings / 25

Nearby Restaurant: After days of comfort food, it was time to try something challenging. There are several restaurants in a strip mall adjacent to the drive-in, and the one I chose was Morefire Thai Cuisine. I had the pineapple curry with spicy red chili paste partly extinguished by coconut milk. Yum!

Where I Virtually Stayed: After a few nights in a row away from my favorite chain hotels, I sought refuge in the familiarity of the Hampton Inn. It’s pretty close to the drive-in, and I knew what to expect in my room and for breakfast. I was glad to be back, knee-deep in the positive sameness of Hampton.

Only in Riverside: According to KABC, Riverside is home to perhaps the oldest navel orange tree in the world. It’s the Parent Navel Orange Tree, California Historical Landmark No. 20, one of the two original navel orange trees planted in 1873. Navel oranges have no seeds, so growers used cuttings to start navel orange groves throughout southern California. Every navel orange grown and eaten in California is a descendant of this tree. According to Roadside America, the tree lives in a tiny fenced-in park with a marker and its own parking area.

Next Stop: Santee Drive-In Theatre, Santee CA.

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