Feb. 16: Solano Theater, Concord CA

Solano Drive-In screen at twilight

photo by Thomas Hawk, from the Carload Flickr pool

It’s Day 47 of my virtual Drive-In-a-Day Odyssey, and it took me almost an hour and a half to skirt the east side of the San Francisco Bay area from San Jose to the Solano Theater in Concord CA.

It was a rainy day, but it cleared up pretty well by the time the evening hit. The drive-in wasn’t as packed and the sky wasn’t as cloudless, but I’m glad I finally got a chance to run Thomas Hawk’s amazing photo of the place with its twilight colors and evergreens lit by the street behind the screen.

Concord was first served by the Contra Costa Motor-In, which opened some time before 1949. That theater persevered into the 1970s. By 1984, the Motor-In was gone and the Solano Twin had taken its place. The Solano closed after the 2004 season, but reopened in May 2007.

One of the distant echoes of the original drive-in boom was the idea of an attendant bringing food to the car. Just a few months ago, I wrote about an earlier proposed system of two-way speakers for “phoning in” a concession stand order. The Solano brought that up to date. The ticket booth folks supply a menu so you can text an order to be delivered from the snack bar.

Even though it was just Thursday, the Solano had a new release for me. I was very grateful for that.

Miles Today / Total:  62 / 5467 (rounded to the nearest mile)

Movie Showing / Total Active Nights: Fist Fight / 35

Nearby Restaurant: There’s nothing all that close in the mostly industrial area surrounding the Solano. Four miles away in the Sunvalley Shopping Center, I was drawn to an unassuming little place called the Tomi Japanese Seafood Buffet. They had me at the word ‘buffet,’ but when I found out that it was partly an excuse for dim sum, I was happy I made the trip.

Where I Virtually Stayed: I’m a Hilton Honors Gold member. That gives me a free breakfast at Hilton Garden Inns, which are more common, but the best perk comes when I can find a true Hilton with an Executive Lounge with a light dinner and drinks in the evening and a really nice breakfast in the morning. So it might not be worth it for you, but staying at the Hilton Concord was definitely worth it for me.

Only in Concord: In Martinez, just northwest of Concord, at the corner of Alhambra and Masonic/Thompson, there’s a small rock with a small plaque. It commemorates the first martini. The plaque reads, “On this site in 1874, Julio Richelieu, Bartender, served up the first Martini when a miner came into his saloon with a fistful of nuggets and asked for something special. He was served a ‘Martinez Special.’ After three or four drinks, however, the ‘Z’ would get very much in the way. The drink consisted of 2/3 gin, 1/3 vermouth, a dash or orange bitters, poured over crushed ice and served with an olive.”

Next Stop: Lakeport Auto Movies Drive In, Lakeport CA.