May 30: Sandhills Drive In, Alliance NE

It’s Day 150 of my virtual Drive-In-a-Day Odyssey. I drove two and a half hours almost due south from Roy’s Black Hills Twin Drive-In in Hermosa SD to the Sandhills Drive In southeast of Alliance NE.

According to Cinema Treasures, the Sandhills opened in 1994. It’s a single screen and can hold about 250 cars. A commenter there said in 2014 that the drive-in had made the conversion to digital projection, but said it didn’t reopen for the 2016 season until June 24 and was still using film.

A 2007 article in the Scottsbluff Star-Herald, said that owner Gerald Bullard opened the Sandhills and had stayed with it since. “When we opened this drive-in, it was extremely successful,” said Bullard. “It used to be on a night like this we would fill to capacity, of 250.”

In that article, Sandhills manager Reva Hewgley said they average between 30 and 50 cars each night. Bullard said that reports of the mosquito-transmitted West Nile virus encouraged some patrons to stay home. But he increased the size of the screen in 2006 and hoped to keep the drive-in going for at least “a few more years.”

Some reports say that the Sandhills shows movies on Saturdays and Sundays starting in June. Then there were those other notes about still using film. The official web site and Facebook page offer no clues, but the easiest conclusion was that I wasn’t going to watch a movie here on a Tuesday night in May.

Miles Today / Total:  143 / 19293 (rounded to the nearest mile)

Movie Showing / Total Active Nights: dark / 68

Nearby Restaurant: Steak. Drinks. Big-screen sports. Old-school atmosphere. It all comes together at Ken and Dale’s Restaurant in downtown Alliance. The service was friendly and efficient, and the ribeye steak came out just the way I wanted it.

Where I Virtually Stayed: The Quality Inn here had everything I needed. My room had a fridge and microwave, and the continental breakfast was enough to get me back on the road.

Only in Alliance: In a word, Carhenge. Just north of town, a collection of vintage cars were formed by Jim Reinders into a replica of Stonehenge and painted gray. Carhenge was dedicated at the June 1987 summer solstice, and it’s directly in the path of the August 21, 2017 total solar eclipse.

Next stop: Winner Drive-In Theatre, Winner SD.