June 27: Cascade Drive-in, West Chicago IL

It’s Day 178 of my virtual Drive-In-a-Day Odyssey. Ah, Chicagoland! Even though the fastest route was only 38 miles, it took a little over an hour to drive the suburban highways from McHenry to the Cascade Drive-in in West Chicago IL.

The McHenry opened in 1961, and it’s huge. The lot can hold over 1200 cars, all pointed at its single screen.

Cascade owner Jeff Kohlberg told the suburban Chicago Daily Herald in 2013 that as a kid “he regularly went to work with his dad, who operated drive-ins in Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana and Michigan.” (One of those was the drive-in I visited the night before, then called the Skyline.) Jeff was able to buy a digital projector for the Cascade. “I’ve been doing this since I was 8 years old, so this is worth it to me,” he said.

Like too many other drive-ins, the Cascade doesn’t own the land it’s on. It dodged a bullet last year when West Chicago denied the landowner’s request to redevelop the site as a truck terminal facility. “The Cascade is one of the busiest movie theaters in the country,” Kohlberg told the Daily Herald in January 2016. “It’s not like it’s a dilapidated drive-in.”

With all that room and being so close to a huge metro area, the Cascade attracts classic car shows. In July 2015, it was Classic Car Appreciation Day. This coming August, it’ll be Volkswagen Night. You get the idea.

This was my 26th consecutive active movie night. (Hooray!) And the eighth time in 12 nights that I watched Cars 3. (Oh no!) Really, it’s a good family movie, but Cars 3 starts losing its appeal after four or five viewings.

Miles Today / Total:  38 / 22707 (rounded to the nearest mile)

Movie Showing / Total Active Nights: Cars 3 / 94

Nearby Restaurant: Before heading to the Cascade, the Volkswagen club said they’d meet at Augustino’s Rock & Roll Deli. Good choice for staying with a retro theme. With all the vintage memorabilia on the walls, it’s easy to overlook the excellent Chicago-style Italian sub sandwiches. Yummy!

Where I Virtually Stayed: There really aren’t any hotels in West Chicago, but it was only about four miles to get to the Hampton Inn in Carol Stream. It’s a pet-friendly hotel, so if you brought your dog, you’ll want the sixth floor. I didn’t, so I didn’t. My room was clean, full of the standard amenities, and the breakfast was standard Hampton, which is pretty darned good.

Only in West Chicago: If the retro feel of the Augustino’s in West Chicago wasn’t enough, check out its Carol Stream location just up the road. As described by Roadside America, the entrance is a giant replica of a Wurlitzer jukebox, complete with animated bubble tubes, a nostalgic playlist, and stacks of “records” just waiting to be played.

Next stop: 49er Drive-in Theatre, Valparaiso IN.

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