May 18: Sunset Auto Vue, Grangeville ID

Drive-in screen with a line of cars in front

photo from the Sunset Auto Vue Drive-In Facebook page

It’s Day 138 of my virtual Drive-In-a-Day Odyssey. Considering the places I’ve been this week, a drive that’s longer than anything I’ll probably have in July doesn’t seem out of the ordinary. I left Colville WA and drove four and a half hours down US 395 through Spokane, US 195 to the Idaho border, then US 95 to the Sunset Auto Vue in Grangeville ID.

According to Cinema Treasures, the Sunset Auto Vue opened in 1955, closed in 1986, and was reopened in the late 1990s. Its original screen blew down in a windstorm and had to be rebuilt before the 2008 season.

Boise State Public Radio ran a story in 2012 about the coming switch to digital projection. Owner Chris Wagner said, “Film is just on its way out. If you want to be in business, you’ll have to be digital.”

There’s no marquee or other signage on site. In downtown Grangeville, the historic Blue Fox Theatre uses one side of its marquee to list what’s at the Sunset Auto Vue. But it’s possible to take some great pictures at the drive-in, as you can see if you click over to the Rustic Lens blog. Sure wish I could use some of those photos!

Once again, I’m at a drive-in in season but in the middle of the week. The Sunset Auto Vue is showing movies on Fridays through Sundays this month. That gave me more time to rest from all that driving.

Miles Today / Total:  250 / 15981 (rounded to the nearest mile)

Movie Showing / Total Active Nights: dark / 61

Nearby Restaurant: After all the driving I’ve been doing this week, I wanted some comfort food, and that’s what they serve at the Hilltop Cafe. Huge portions of breakfast even at lunch, centered on plate-wide buckwheat pancakes. Just glad I drove here fast, because they close before dinner time.

Where I Virtually Stayed: This one is one of the better Super 8s, except for erratic wifi while I was there. I was greeted with snacks and a fireplace in the lobby. My room had a comfortable bed, a mini fridge and a microwave. Breakfast was better than the usual Super 8, with scrambled eggs and sausage, and the price was great as always.

Only in Grangeville: Just northwest of Grangeville is Dog Bark Park, home to Toby and Sweet Willy, the World’s Two Biggest Beagles. Toby, a 12-foot tall beagle statue, was built by Dog Bark Park’s husband and wife chainsaw artists Dennis Sullivan and Frances Conklin. Canine carvings are a specialty although visitors are apt to find fish, feline, bear, moose and Lewis & Clark themed carvings as well.

Next stop: Silver Bow Drive In, Butte MT.

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