May 28: Pheasant Drive-In, Mobridge SD

Drive-in screen at sunset

photo from the Pheasant Drive-In Facebook page

It’s Day 148 of my virtual Drive-In-a-Day Odyssey. I spent most of my day in North Dakota, a state with no active drive-ins, as I drove for six hours between Warren on the northwest edge of Minnesota to the Pheasant Drive-In in the northern South Dakotan town on Mobridge.

The story goes that, in the 1950s, the original Pheasant Drive-In was built close to the Missouri River. So close that when the Oahe Dam formed Lake Oahe, the drive-in was rebuilt at its current location in 1960. But construction on the dam started in 1948, so why would anyone build a new drive-in where they knew it was going to washed away? Anyway, it’s still very close to the Missouri River; you can see it from the lot.

Ron Maier bought the place in 1976. In the middle of the 2012 season, a storm knocked down the screen, and the Pheasant was closed for six weeks until it was repaired.

According to a September 2015 article in Cooperative Connections (pdf), Maier said business happened to pick up after he converted to digital projection. “This past year has been excellent, just phenomenal,’’ he said. “We’re seeing a lot of repeat customers, a lot of people bringing their grandchildren. It’s maybe some nostalgia. They kind of remember the good old days.’’

At the end of last season, the Pheasant had a smart, interesting promotion. Patrons could bring any size container up to a gallon (!) and get it filled with almost any fountain soda for $1 “while supplies last.” What a great way to expend your syrup before it goes out of date over the winter break!

I was lucky that the Pheasant had just opened for the season this weekend. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 became my most-watched movie so far this year with my fifth viewing on this night.

Miles Today / Total:  387 / 18903 (rounded to the nearest mile)

Movie Showing / Total Active Nights: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 / 67

Nearby Restaurant: What could be better than a pizza buffet? Maybe a pizza buffet with fried chicken. That’s what they’re known for at Pizza Ranch. Sure, the buffet also has salad and veggies and other healthy stuff like that, but after another long day of driving, I just wanted easy, tasty food. This worked.

Where I Virtually Stayed: I went across the bridge to the Grand River Casino & Resort for the night. My room wasn’t as fancy as some casino resorts, but it had a fridge, a microwave, and a coffee maker. The rate was also better than a lot of resorts.

Only in Mobridge: According to Roadside America, residents of Mobridge claim that the bones of Native American leader Sitting Bull were stolen from his original grave in Fort Yates ND on April 8, 1953. They encased the bones in a steel vault embedded in a 20-ton block of concrete, then buried the whole thing on top of a very visible bluff overlooking Mobridge from across the Missouri River, and built billboards to direct tourists to the site.

Next stop: Roy’s Black Hills Twin Drive-In, Hermosa SD.