Jan. 2: Thunderbird, Fort Lauderdale FL

It’s Day Two of my virtual Drive-In-a-Day Odyssey, and I arrived at Fort Lauderdale’s version of the Swap Shop, a south Florida institution. Since Google Maps called it that way, I have this place listed as the Thunderbird theaters. Do I need to fix that?

Fort Lauderdale’s Swap Shop is the drive-in theater heavyweight champ with up to 14 active screens. (When I checked today, there were “only” 9 unique movie start times, so perhaps they give some of them a rest on weeknights.) What’s just as impressive is the everyday swap meet, farmers market, video arcade, car museum, and optical center that runs during the day. It’s so big that there’s a second parking lot south of busy Sunrise Boulevard, connected by an overhead walkway, all just for the Swap Shop. Concentrated raw commerce and all-day entertainment!

As I mentioned, I had several movies from which to choose, but I need to catch up on the latest Star Wars story so I can stop worrying about spoilers.

Miles Today / Total: 32 / 32 (rounded to the nearest mile)

Movie Showing / Total Active Nights: Rouge One: A Star Wars Story / 1

Nearby Restaurant: Since I don’t count the KFC across the street or the many choices inside the Thunderbird / Swap Shop, I’ll go with some authentic Jamaican at The Dutch Pot two miles away in Plantation.

Where I Virtually Stayed: There are some frightening choices closest to the drive-in, so I’ll drive 10 minutes to the Hampton Inn that’s in neighboring Tamarac by the Florida Turnpike.

Only in Fort Lauderdale: In October, a 350-pound man was accused of stealing two televisions from the Fort Lauderdale Walmart, according to The Smoking Gun. He was identified because the perp’s pants, containing his ID, fell off as he ran away through the parking lot.

Next Stop: Swap Shop, Palm Springs FL

Jan. 1: Blue Starlite, Miami FL

On Day One of my virtual Drive-In-a-Day Odyssey, I chose the US’s southernmost drive-in, the Blue Starlite Mini Urban Drive-In, which recently declared that its Florida “full time location” is in Miami.

Since I want to catch as many drive-ins on nights when they’re showing movies, that means that I’ll start 2017 with a drive across the southern states. Since I don’t want a lot of wasted miles, I’m starting in south Florida and working my way north before I turn west.

Although the Blue Starlite was dark tonight (its next film is Jurassic Park on Jan. 14), I love its location – by the beach at David T. Kennedy Park in the Coconut Grove neighborhood.

Miles Today / Total: 0 / 0 (I just got here.)

Movie Showing / Total Active Nights: dark / 0

Nearby Restaurant: Berries, less than a mile away. The perfect place for a healthy, relaxing Sunday brunch.

Where I Virtually Stayed: Hampton Inn Coconut Grove. Rated one of the best hotels in Miami, yet one of the least expensive within two miles of the drive-in.

Only in Miami: In 2011, NPR ran a story about the invasion of house-eating giant African land snails. Four years later, the Miami Herald wrote that detector dog teams were making a dent in the problem, resulting in 156,253 snail casualties.

Next Stop: Thunderbird Drive-in Theatres, Fort Lauderdale FL

Fake news alert: My 2017 drive-in odyssey

2017 Odyssey: Week One

Earlier this year as I assembled the list of active drive-ins in North America, I noticed that there were 329 in the US and 36 in Canada. (Since then, three more opened or re-opened in the US for a current total of 332, but I digress.) Adding 329 and 36 gives you 365. Does that number remind you of anything?

At that moment, I knew I needed to visit every active drive-in theater, one per day. The 2017 Drive-In-a-Day Odyssey would be an epic journey through cities and small towns, with short hops across farmland and long, desperate treks across deserts. There were only two obstacles to this plan: Money and time.

There’s an obvious way to overcome these hurdles. I’m going to fake it. Every day, I’ll post a dispatch from another drive-in, typically in another town. (There are just a few with more than one drive-in; that’ll help in reaching 368 theaters in 365 days.) I’ll tell you where I stayed overnight, and I’ll mention the best nearby restaurant. There will be a running total of mileage. The places and highways will be real, but my experiences will be completely fake, or as I would prefer to call it, virtual.

My goal would be to catch every drive-in on a night when it’s active, but that’s not realistic. Most are closed for several months a year, and some schedules are just weekends. I’m shooting for at least 200 movie nights, and I’ll keep track of how close I get to that target.

My odyssey will begin in Florida, then across the southern US to California, in an attempt to catch as many active showings as I can in January. I’ll begin at the southernmost drive-in, which I already know won’t be showing anything Jan. 1. Ironic!

Check in with me daily as we discover what this road trip would be like, if we only had the time and money to take it for real.