June 7: Valle Drive in, Newton IA

It’s Day 158 of my virtual Drive-In-a-Day Odyssey. I drove from Spirit Lake near Iowa’s northern border to the center of the state. The trip to the Valle Drive in in Newton, just east of Des Moines, took about three and a half hours.

The Valle is the oldest drive-in in Iowa. It opened in 1948 (says its web site) or 1949 (says its Facebook page), and still uses its original concession stand, popcorn machine, and in-car speakers. (There’s also a radio broadcast.)

As shown by the above 2014 YouTube video from KCCI, Des Moines’ News Leader, Jim Mertz, who bought the place from the original owners in 1976, was happy about successfully changing over to digital projection.

The summer before, Valle manager Katie Pletcher had told USA Today that the movie studios were getting serious about cutting off film to theaters. “They keep pushing back the deadline, but we think they might actually mean it this time,” she said.

“The drive-in will always be there. It’s going to last longer than I do,” Mertz said.

Wonder Woman is a fine drive-in movie, so I didn’t mind seeing it two nights in a row. Heck, it’s great to be able to see anything on a Wednesday night. The concession stand at the Valle had something close to one of my favorite treats from the drive-ins of my youth – frozen chocolate malts. The weather was perfect, starting in the low 70s and descending during the show. What a great night to be outside!

Miles Today / Total:  217 / 20464 (rounded to the nearest mile)

Movie Showing / Total Active Nights: Wonder Woman / 74

Nearby Restaurant: Another small town, another diner. I’m really glad that the Midtown Cafe in Newton was still open for lunch when I arrived. Since it was Wednesday, I had the Wednesday lunch special – meat loaf. Great comfort food, served up by a true downtown diner, topped off with a slice of great diner pie!

Where I Virtually Stayed: Once again, I was back at a Super 8 motel, and this one’s a Pride of Super 8 award winner. Once again, I got a remodeled room with a mini-fridge, a microwave, and solid wifi. Breakfast included waffles, yogurt, and all the carbs and coffee I wanted.

Only in Newton: Just a few miles southeast of Newton, there’s a 60-foot high statue created from over 200 steel wagon wheels. It was built over 20 years ago by Leonard J. Maasdam when he was 90 years old.

Next stop: Falconwood, Bellevue NE.

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