May 9: 99W Drive-in, Newberg OR

99W Drive-In marquee at night

photo from the 99W Drive-In web site

It’s Day 129 of my virtual Drive-In-a-Day Odyssey. Oregon’s another one of those states that look smaller on a map. Sure, I needed to travel almost from border to border heading from Milton-Freewater to Newberg, but it takes driving it to appreciate the four and a half hours it took to get to the 99W Drive-in.

The 99W opened in 1953, and it’s been operated by the Francis family ever since. It’s listed in the National Register of Historic Places “as a rare, remaining, intact example of a drive-in theater.” Owner Brian Francis told KOIN, “People will come in and call it ‘retro,’ which is a little incorrect. It’s actually original. It’s not recreated 50s, it is from 1953.”

The 99W caught a break in 2013 when it was one of the first five winners of a digital projector in Honda’s Project Drive-In contest. Last year, USA Today readers voted it the Best Drive-In in the USA.

A March 2016 article in The Newberg Graphic said that 2015 was was the highest-grossing season that Francis had ever seen. Despite similar weather, he said that crowds before Memorial Day tend to be better than after Labor Day. “There’s a gene in people and the idea of going to a drive-in switches off with them.”

The folks who run the 99W have a nice sense of humor. Check out their rules page, which tells patrons not to start barbecue fires and also addresses the questions that so many FAQs overlook, such as “Are you conveniently located from the Las Vegas Strip?” and “I think the moon is staring at me.” (The answer: “The moon IS staring at you. And it is JUDGING you.”)

Too bad such an historic, top-notch place was closed on a Tuesday night. The 99W is open Fridays through Sundays this time of year.

Miles Today / Total:  263 / 14314 (rounded to the nearest mile)

Movie Showing / Total Active Nights: dark / 59

Nearby Restaurant: There are a lot of excellent, upscale, expensive restaurants in Newberg. Then there’s Burgerville USA, which is a lot easier on the wallet and with food that’s a much better match to the 99W’s retro 50s-original vibe. Burgerville is part of a regional chain boasting great cheeseburgers using nearby Tillimook cheese. Great milkshakes too.

Where I Virtually Stayed: My choice for the night was the Best Western Newberg Inn for a good combination of nice and not too expensive. My king bed room had a coffee maker and a fridge. The wifi worked fine, and breakfast included biscuits and gravy and hard-boiled eggs. This place was just what I needed.

Only in Newberg: Just a few miles northwest of Newberg, Bruce Campbell has been converting a 727 airplane into his place to live.since 1999. What’s more remarkable is that the plane is on a forested hill far from any tarmac. To read about it from an outsider’s perspective, check Roadside America. To read Campbell’s perspective, along with updates, check AirplaneHome.com.

Next stop: Skyline Drive-In Theater, Shelton WA.

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