July 3: Route 66 Twin Drive-In, Springfield IL


It’s Day 184 of my virtual Drive-In-a-Day Odyssey. Now that it was Monday, it was time to head back to a drive-in that’s open on Mondays, so I drove back three and a half hours from Spencer IN to the Route 66 Twin Drive-In in Springfield IL.

According to Cinema Treasures, the 66 opened as the two-screen Green Meadows Drive-In in 1974, but closed in 1982. (A 2009 article in the Illinois Times claims the Green Meadows opened in 1976 and closed in 1980, but I believe the CT’s timeline.) The Knight Family, owners of an adjacent amusement park, bought the site in the early 1990s with an eye toward expansion. They renovated and reopened the drive-in as the Route 66 in 2002 on one screen, then lit the second two years later.

In that Times article, Doug Knight mentioned the challenge of restarting a drive-in with leftover equipment that had been sitting idle for a couple of decades. “We got online and went to a bunch of drive-in sites and started looking around,” he said. The company rebuilt the concession and projection buildings and switched the FM radio sound.

The video embedded above comes from the Route 66 Ambassador blog of his visit in 2010. You don’t get to see very many nighttime drive-in glimpse like that.

Normally I would not be so eager to see the latest Transformers installment a second time. But the other choice would have been Despicable Me 3, a better movie but one I’ve seen three times so far with who knows how many more viewings to come over the next couple of weeks.

Miles Today / Total:  187 / 23564 (rounded to the nearest mile)

Movie Showing / Total Active Nights: Transformers: The Last Knight / 100!

Nearby Restaurant: Just because of the name, I had to have breakfast for lunch at Charlie Parker’s Diner. With vinyl records hanging on the walls and the traditional black and white and red diner decor, this place does a great job with the retro vibe. I just had a hard time deciding between its “breakfast shoe” of meat covered in gravy and hash browns vs. the giant plate-sized pancakes. All it missed was a jazz virtuoso playing the saxophone.

Where I Virtually Stayed: According to TripAdvisor, the best hotel in Springfield is also the closest to the Route 66 Drive-In. And since it’s another Hampton Inn, I had no reason not to stay there. The Hampton’s web site mentions the drive-in, so that’s a plus. There were goodies in the lobby in the evening, my comfortable room had the full set of amenities, and the fine standard Hampton breakfast got me started. It’s an easy choice.

Only in Springfield: For some Route 66 nostalgia, or maybe state fair nostalgia, you must visit the Cozy Dog Drive In restaurant, which was started by the restaurateurs who came up with the idea of battered hot dogs on a stick, what we now call corn dogs. Its Wikipedia entry says the inventor started selling its “cozy dogs,” at the Illinois State Fair in 1946 where they gained popularity, and the rest is history.

Next stop: Harvest Moon Twin Drive-In Movie Theatre, Gibson City IL.

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