June 20: Highway 18 Outdoor Theatre, Jefferson WI

It’s Day 171 of my virtual Drive-In-a-Day Odyssey. Thanks to well-placed interstates, it took me less than an hour and a half to drive from Wisconsin Dells to the Highway 18 Outdoor Theatre in Jefferson WI.

The Highway 18 opened in 1953 and operated until 1994. Lee Burgess bought it, refurbished it, and reopened in 2000. “It was pretty much on a whim that I bought it,” he told Isthmus.com in 2012. “Then I spent about a year restoring it. Everything’s pretty much the same as it was when it was built.” Except for that gorgeous little neon sign; he added that in 2005.

There are seesaws and jungle gyms for the kids in front of the screen, and in back of the screen there’s a bar for the grown-ups. But you can’t take the alcohol back to the viewing area (except, existentially, in your bloodstream) and you can’t watch the movie from the bar. Oh well!

I was happy to see some in-car speakers still on their poles. I understand that maintaining them can be a pain, but they’re a great selling point for nostalgia.

The Highway 18 has its own YouTube channel, but I thought the best video for showing off what the place looks like these days was Urbex’s crawl around the grounds posted just a couple of weeks ago, so that’s what I embedded above.

This night, I had my third viewing of Cars 3, a movie that makes me feel old. Then again, driving over 20,000 miles in six months would also make me feel old.

Miles Today / Total:  74 / 22093 (rounded to the nearest mile)

Movie Showing / Total Active Nights: Cars 3 / 87

Nearby Restaurant: I was happy to get to Jefferson in time for an early lunch at the Brickhaus Cafe. First of all, there’s coffee, and that’s very important. I also enjoyed a hummus plate before getting full on an apple walnut salad. For all my talk about eating healthy, every now and then I actually do it.

Where I Virtually Stayed: The review of the few hotels in Jefferson were a little scary, so I drove just a little farther to the Holiday Inn Express in Fort Atkinson. The room had all the standard niceties, but it’s the HIE breakfast that really stands out to me. I love the pancake machines that HIEs have. The cinnamon rolls are great, but I remember when they were absolutely irresistible. Have they changed, or have I?

Only in Jefferson: Actually down in nearby Fort Atkinson, you’ll find the National Dairy Shrine Museum, part of the Hoard Historical Museum. It’s a great place to discover and honor “the rich heritage of the dairy industry.” For a feel for what it’s like, you should check out the Roadside America report, especially what was in the displayed parachute package.

Next stop: Sky-Vu Drive-In, Monroe WI.

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