Feb. 19: El Rancho Drive-In 4, Sparks NV

It’s Day 50 of my virtual Drive-In-a-Day Odyssey, and it took me almost two and a half hours and a half to drive east from Sacramento to the El Rancho Drive-In 4, Sparks NV.

I was disappointed to find the El Rancho closed for the season. Sure, the temperature never broke 55 all day, but it was an increasingly rare day and night without rain. I just need to remember that the Reno area isn’t warm desert like most of Nevada.

At least I could visit the public market (aka flea market) on the grounds of the El Rancho. They run that every Saturday and Sunday even during the drive-in’s off season. They charge 75 cents to get in Sunday, as opposed to 50 cents on Saturdays. I really wonder why they bother to have different prices on different days.

As documented on Cinema Treasures, the El Rancho opened in August 1950 as a single-screen theater. It added two screens in 1973 and a fourth in 1974.

Miles Today / Total:  142 / 5848 (rounded to the nearest mile)

Movie Showing / Total Active Nights: dark / 36

Nearby Restaurant: The closest restaurant is actually across the border in Reno at a place known as simply The Wok. It’s just a converted Wendy’s in a little shopping center, but the combos are a lot like those at my favorite Chinese restaurant at home – surprisingly complex and flavorful yet not too expensive.

Where I Virtually Stayed: Never mind how close it is (just 10 minutes, actually), if I’m here and the drive-in is closed, I’d like to stay at a place where I can gamble and have a good time. That place was the Atlantis Casino Resort in Reno. Great rooms, a huge buffet for dinner and breakfast, and free drinks while I play. Casinos like this are always fun as long as you don’t lose too much at the slots or the tables.

Only in Sparks: According to the Reno Gazette-Journal, the new permanent (until it changes again) home for a 36-foot-high prospector statue is in front of the Sparks Heritage Museum. “Last Chance Joe” was originally installed in 1958 at what is now The Nugget in downtown Sparks. The casino was sold in 2013, and in late 2014, its remodeling prompted Joe to find a new home. Now that it’s away from the shelter of a casino building, the chicken wire and “paper-maché-type material” statue needs significant restoration, so city leaders started the Last Chance Joe Fund.

Next Stop: Skyline Drive-in Theater, Barstow CA.