Nov. 5: Goochland Drive-In Theater, Hadensville VA

It’s Day 309 of my virtual Drive-In-a-Day Odyssey. There aren’t that many drive-ins still showing movies on Sunday nights at this time of year, so I needed another fairly long drive. It took me about 3½ hours to drive from Middle River MD, around Washington DC, then on to the Goochland Drive-In Theater in Hadensville VA.

Although it’s next to an exit on I-64, the Goochland is tucked away in the middle of a forest, which must have been cleared away by John Heidel. He’s the guy who bought this piece of land and built the drive-in, which had its grand opening on Aug. 28, 2009. By all accounts, it’s been hugely popular ever since.

Heidel tells the story that he built the Goochland because he wanted to take his kids to a drive-in. He told the Virginia Credit Union, “I have always loved movies, but when we had small kids, and wanted to take a 1½-year-old and a three-year-old to the movies, we knew that going to a conventional theater just wouldn’t work.”

Since Day One, the signature dish of the open-air Goochland concession stand has been the Gooch dog, a beef hot dog topped with macaroni and cheese. Which reminds me of the drive-in’s only small misstep. In early 2014, the drive-in had become so popular, particularly at the concession stand, that Heidel launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise money to expand the facility to shorten the lines of patrons buying Gooch dogs and other snacks.

Heidel wrote, “The Goochland Drive-In Theater is a truly unique entity that offers more than just the act of watching a movie…it brings family and friends together. And for a few hours, people can escape to a simpler time of old-fashioned fun…without spending a fortune. That was our mission from the start – and it is quite rewarding to see it happen every time we open.” But the Kickstarter campaign raised less than a third of its goal, and he asked contributors to back a local muscular dystrophy patient instead.

Most recently, the drive-in saw overflow crowds wanting to watch the latest Stephen King thriller It. Heidel told WWBT, Richmond’s News Leader, “If we would’ve had 2,000, 3,000 car spaces, we wouldn’t have been able to fit everybody in. We had folks lined up at 2 to 2:30 for a 5:45 p.m. gate opening.”

On this night, the Goochland was finishing a long weekend of showing Thor: Ragnarok. I didn’t mind watching it a second time, because it really is a fun, humorous, often dazzling movie.

Miles Today / Total: 172 / 34959 (rounded to the nearest mile)

Movie Showing / Total Active Nights: Thor: Ragnarok / 188

Nearby Restaurant: The closest restaurant that wasn’t a Dairy Queen or closed on Sunday appeared to be Satterwhite’s Restaurant in Manakin VA. It was still open for lunch by the time I arrived, which was good, and it was still serving breakfast, which is even better. I love great biscuits, and the small biscuits that came with my omelette tasted homemade. Nothing like comfort food after a long drive.

Where I Virtually Stayed: Google Maps says that there are no hotels anywhere near the Goochland. The best-looking alternatives looked to be along I-64 in the northwest suburbs of Richmond, and I picked the Hilton Richmond Hotel near Short Pump. This one had an executive lounge for dinner snacks, drinks, and breakfast for certain guests. My executive floor king room had everything, including a price tag that reminded me why I don’t do this every night.

Only in Hadensville: Little Hadensville is in Goochland County, the source of the drive-in’s name. In turn, the county was named for Sir William Gooch, the Royal Lieutenant Governor (and de facto governor in place of its England-based nominal governor) of Virginia from 1727 through 1749. Gooch honored himself with the naming of Goochland County in 1727.

Next stop: Hull’s Drive In, Lexington VA.

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