It’s Day 111 of my virtual Drive-In-a-Day Odyssey. It was a long drive, about 4 1/2 hours, all along US 50 from the South Drive-In Theatre in Dodge City KS to the Mesa Drive-In in Pueblo CO.
The Mesa opened as a single-screen drive-in in 1951. Chuck and Marianne James bought it in 1994, then added two screens to celebrate its 50th year.
When the Mesa added two screens in 2000, it took the unusual tactic of buying them used. Two other Colorado drive-ins had recently closed, the Lake Estes in Estes Park and the Pines in Loveland, but their screens live on in Pueblo.
The Pueblo Chieftain ran a fine article on the Mesa just a few weeks ago, focusing largely on manager Mark Lovato and the nuts and bolts of operating the place. Important, mundane stuff like the dozens of cases of food needed every weekend. “We went through 20 cases of hamburgers and I had to buy 48 extra (burgers) for (Sunday),” Lovato said. “We went through 250 pounds of popcorn in two days.”
There’s a reason they go through so many hamburgers – they’re that good, and a lot of repeat customers (like me) know about them. I was so glad to be back here to enjoy one with a choice of movies even though I’d seen all three already. At least it was only my second dance with Beauty and the Beast.
Miles Today / Total: 270 / 12176 (rounded to the nearest mile)
Movie Showing / Total Active Nights: Beauty and the Beast / 52
Nearby Restaurant: There used to be a hole-in-the-wall pizza joint in the little strip mall adjacent to the Mesa marquee. Now there’s a hole-in-the-wall Chinese food joint, the Pueblo Dragon. If you’re sick of superb hamburgers, or if the Mesa’s closed, the Dragon’s a decent enough place for take out.
Where I Virtually Stayed: More than most chains, Quality Inns have a wide range of quality in my experience. Fortunately, the Quality Inn & Suites Pueblo is one of the good ones. Fresh cookies and coffee in the lobby, a clean, comfortable room, and enough breakfast to continue through Colorado.
Only in Pueblo: Pueblo recently had what the Guinness Book of World Records recognized as the world’s longest painting. The levee mural project stretched three miles along the Arkansas River. It started as basic flood control, got tagged by graffiti, then was painted at night by Colorado State-Pueblo students. But by 2014, the levee was starting to buckle, and in 2016 it was rebuilt without the mural.
Next stop: Comanche Drive In Theatre, Buena Vista CO.