It’s Day 112 of my virtual Drive-In-a-Day Odyssey. It took 2 1/2 hours of mostly mountain driving (good thing I’m used to it by now) to journey from Pueblo to the Comanche Drive In Theatre just west of Buena Vista CO.
I often think of the Comanche as a “stealth” drive-in. The Comanche was built in 1966 by John and Pearl Groy, and had its first full season in 1967, but it wasn’t in the 1969 edition of the International Motion Picture Almanac. When I first cataloged active Colorado drive-ins over 20 years ago, none of the other primitive online lists included the Comanche. At my day job, a coworker asked me if I had mentioned the drive-in near his parents’ house in Buena Vista. Long story short, I added the Comanche, bringing the number of active drive-ins in Colorado in 1998 to an even dozen.
Five from that list have closed since then (Durango’s Rocket, Sterling’s Starlite, Englewood’s Cinderella, Springfield’s Kar Vu, and Fort Morgan’s Valley). For a while the Comanche looked like it was gone too. Never the model of high-tech efficiency, it operated erratically in 2007 then closed in 2008. But by 2013 it had reopened, and it has continued an eclectic mix of first-run and classic films every summer since.
At almost 8000 feet, the Comanche is probably the highest drive-in in the US. It’s about 100 feet higher than Minturn, home of the Blue Starlite Mini Urban Drive In. I’ll visit Minturn just a few days from now.
The Comanche is scheduled to open for the 2017 season in May (usually late May), so even though it was a Saturday night, I was left to watching TV in my hotel room.
Miles Today / Total: 131 / 12307 (rounded to the nearest mile)
Movie Showing / Total Active Nights: dark / 52
Nearby Restaurant: There are a surprising number of restaurants in little Buena Vista, testament to the hordes of Arkansas River rafters who visit every summer. For a healthy meal, the best choice might be the House Rock Kitchen. It features plenty of adventurous options, and I liked the house bowl with greens, slaw, and pumpkin seeds supporting tender pulled pork.
Where I Virtually Stayed: Once again, the Super 8 in town makes a great choice. The room was clean and comfortable, and the breakfast included waffles and hard-boiled eggs, giving me a better start than some other Super 8s. I also felt kind of lucky; during the summer, it’s almost impossible to get a Saturday reservation here.
Only in Buena Vista: The Comanche may be the highest drive-in, but just up the road is Leadville, the certified highest city in the US. It’s over 10,000 feet high, or what would be over half of the way up Pikes Peak. There’s a fine little mining museum in town as well as what’s left of Baby Doe Tabor’s Matchless Mine. And a lot of pauses to catch your breath.
Next stop: Denver Mart Drive In, Denver CO.