Aug. 15: The Boonies Drive In Theatre, Tilbury ON

It’s Day 227 of my virtual Drive-In-a-Day Odyssey, and my second day in Ontario. I turned south again from the Starlite Drive-In Theatre, a few miles east of Grand Bend, to reach a drive-in that’s closed on Mondays. After about two hours, I arrived at The Boonies Drive In Theatre just west of Tilbury.

This drive-in began life in July 2012 as Stevie-Ray’s Southwestern Drive-In. Real-estate blogger Wayne Liddy wrote that year that  “(t)he project is a dream come true for Steve Impens, his wife Kelly and long time partner Rick Schiefer.” The Windsor Star ran a story with photos on opening day, which had been pushed forward by overwhelming demand. The article noted, “Kelly and Steve Impens are opening Stevie Rae’s South Western Drive-In Theatre on Richardson Sideroad in Tilbury today with the premiere of the new Batman movie, The Dark Knight Rises.” Schiefer was mentioned only in photo captions.

In June 2013, the Star ran a much sadder story, that the drive-in’s owners had announced on Facebook that it would not reopen. “I received very unsettling news this past Sat that is inevitably going to put a stop to this project,” the post said. “I cannot express how sorry we are that we are not able to re-open. … You all deserve an explanation, and it is unfortunate that I am not able to go into detail at this time regarding the internal company conflicts that have resulted in the closing of the operation.”

The drive-in surfaced in August 2015, as the Chatham Daily News reported that The Boonies had opened, owned by Richard “Ziggy” Schiefer and managed by his son Jarod. also noticed, writing that the site had been “sitting empty for a couple of years” and quoting Jarod as saying his family took over the facility when it closed. “We’ve been working on it for the past few years trying to get it back up and running and to get the interior all done up,” said the younger Schiefer.

And that leads us up to today. The Boonies had a camping day to celebrate Canada Day this year, and it’s still a mostly grassy field that accommodates about 200 cars. It’s got a single screen, FM radio sound, and its online concession stand menu lists coffee twice. I like coffee that much too.

At multi-screen drive-ins the past few days, I’ve been consistently choosing the movie Dunkirk over The Nut Job 2 in the belief that I’ll eventually be stuck with the latter on a single screen. That single screen arrived this night, and what it was showing was Dunkirk.

Miles Today / Total: 103 / 27344 (rounded to the nearest mile)

Movie Showing / Total Active Nights: Dunkirk / 141

Nearby Restaurant: At Rose’s Family Restaurant in Tilbury, they serve breakfast all day, which is a sure way to lure me in the door. I enjoyed some blueberry pancakes, and since I was in Canada, I added some peameal bacon on the side. It wasn’t exciting, but it fit the bill for solid comfort food.

Where I Virtually Stayed: There really aren’t any hotels in Tilbury, so I stayed in Chatham, which was on my way to my next stop on the odyssey. The Comfort Inn there had soup and cookies waiting when I checked in, a fine Comfort-standard breakfast in the morning, and a comfortable room with all the modern amenities in between.

Only in Tilbury: The section of Highway 401 that runs through Tilbury, on its way from Windsor to London, has often been referred to as Carnage Alley, according to Wikipedia, in reference to the numerous crashes that have occurred throughout its history. That includes the worst in Canadian history, an 87-vehicle pile-up in 1999 that left eight dead and 45 injured. Since then, “no significant highway improvements have been made to the stretch of road between Tilbury and London, due to its rural nature and long distance.” Which I find significant because …

Next stop: The Mustang Drive-in, London ON.