Nov. 20: Sunset Drive In Theatre, Shelby NC

Sunset Drive-In marquee

Photo from the Sunset Drive-In Facebook page

It’s Day 324 of my virtual Drive-In-a-Day Odyssey. After catching a Sunday night movie, I was back on the road for another 3½ hours from the Raleigh Road Outdoor Theatre in Henderson NC to the Sunset Drive In Theatre just west of Shelby NC.

The Sunset opened around 1952 and was owned by the regional Colonial Theatres chain until the 1980s. Colonial was based in Valdese NC, and at the time it built or acquired the Sunset, it’s first drive-in, the chain was run by general manager G. D. Carpenter.

Rick Stinnett, whose family built and ran the Bessemer City Kings Mountain Drive-In until it closed after the 2014 season, bought the Sunset in 1984. He spent $100,000 to remodel and convert the projection room in early 2014.

“This is something I’ve done all my life,” Stinnett told The Charlotte Observer that year. “I don’t know what else I’d do.”

And I’m sad to say that’s about all I could find about the Sunset Drive-In. I’m glad it’s still alive, but it won’t be until next spring that it’ll be showing movies again. It’s just another dark night in November for me.

Miles Today / Total: 230 / 37067 (rounded to the nearest mile)

Movie Showing / Total Active Nights: dark / 194

Nearby Restaurant: The Shelby Cafe serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and after too many days of too long drives, I wanted some comfort food. The chicken pot pie with green beans and mashed potatoes was perfect for my mood, and glancing at the breakfast menu, I knew I’d be back soon.

Where I Virtually Stayed: I took a chance on something called WoodSpring Suites because it was well-regarded yet less than half the cost of the Hampton Inn. It’s one of those places designed for long-term stays, complete with full refrigerators in the rooms, but they’re willing to rent by the night. The rooms are uncomplicated, but mine had everything I needed. I was on my own for breakfast, but The Shelby Cafe had me covered.

Only in Shelby: Shelby is home to the Earl Scruggs Center, a museum and event space celebrating combines the life story of legendary five-string banjo master and Cleveland County native, Earl Scruggs. He learned to play in nearby Flint Hill and began his three-finger playing style best known for its use on the Beverly Hillbillies Theme.

Next stop: Stateline Drive-in, Elizabethton TN.