Mar. 14: Sand Mountain Twin Drive-In Theater, Boaz AL

It’s Day 73 of my virtual Drive-In-a-Day Odyssey. I returned to Alabama for the first time for the first time in almost two months, driving two hours from Estill Springs TN to the Sand Mountain Twin Drive-In Theater in Boaz AL.

The Sand Mountain Twin opened in 1996. It was purchased by Frank’s Entertainment a decade later. Digital conversion came in around January 2015. Unlike most drive-ins, the Sand Mountain always charges admission by the carload. According to Tieka’s Blog, it offered a free meal ticket to every customer for its all-night Halloween bash in October 2015.

In a 2010 article on AL.com, manager Michael Morrison said that little towns have the lower land prices that make drive-ins possible. “Alabama has a lot of rural areas that aren’t gobbled up by the cities, and (drive-in owners) can afford to buy land,” Morrison said. “If this land here were in the middle of Huntsville, they couldn’t afford this property.”

The Sand Mountain is only open Friday through Sunday at this time of year, so after two nights in a row of getting to see a movie, I had to retire early.

Miles Today / Total:  101 / 9197 (rounded to the nearest mile)

Movie Showing / Total Active Nights: dark / 41

Nearby Restaurant: Good thing I got here in time for lunch, because that’s about the only time that The Mill Street Deli is open. Everyone raves about their sandwiches, but I was contrary enough to order a chef’s salad with buffalo chicken strips instead. Part of me thought I was eating healthy, but another part knew I was saving room for dessert.

Where I Virtually Stayed: The Econo Lodge in Boaz has the chain’s usual low price, but it happens to be one of the best Econo Lodges anywhere. It certainly felt like one of the newest. My room was clean and comfortable, and I got just enough breakfast to get started in the morning.

Only in Boaz: Just up the road is Albertville, home of the Mueller Company, which makes fire hydrants. As documented by the Encyclopedia of Alabama, Mueller’s one-millionth hydrant has been nickel-plated and is on display near the Albertville Chamber of Commerce, celebrating the city’s reputation as the “Fire Hydrant Capital of the World.”

Next Stop: 411 Twin Drive In, Centre AL.

Jan. 13: Blue Moon, Guin AL

It’s Day 13 of my virtual Drive-In-a-Day Odyssey, Friday the 13th. and once again my drive was a little over an hour. This time the trip was from Russellville to Guin AL, home of the Blue Moon Drive-In Theater.

The Blue Moon is still closed for the season, although its Facebook page says it will reopen in “early 2017.” Just not quite this early, I guess.

According to CinemaTreasures, the Blue Moon opened in 1956 as the single screen Gu-Win Drive-In. (It’s between the cities of Winfield and Guin in the very small town of Gu-Win.) The 1955 drive-in census listed over 100 Alabama theaters, but nothing in any of those three municipalities.

Miles Today / Total:  53 / 1131 (rounded to the nearest mile)

Movie Showing / Total Active Nights: dark / 9

Nearby Restaurant: Should I go to Winfield or Guin? That was my question, because there isn’t that much of anything in Gu-Win. Turns out that the closest restaurant was La Casa Fiesta in Guin. Fresh Mexican food beats the chain restaurants, at least most of them.

Where I Virtually Stayed: Since I had picked Guin for dinner, I figured I might as well stay in town, at the Holiday Inn Guin. That sounds like the name of a small-town motel from the 1960s when Holiday Inn ruled the roads of America, but this place looks like it was built recently.

Only in Guin, or is it Gu-Win: According to Wikipedia, the Gu-Win area had been known as Ear Gap. When it incorporated in 1956, it named itself after its drive-in, which must have been just opening. Less than three miles west, in July 2010, Guin voted to become the first city in Marion County to allow the sale of alcohol since Prohibition. Yet another reason to stay there.

Next Stop: Iula Drive-In, Iula MS.

Jan. 12: King, Russellville AL

It’s Day 12 of my virtual Drive-In-a-Day Odyssey, and the drive was pretty short again today. It took less than an hour and a half to get from Athens to the King Drive-In north of Russellville AL.

The King is closed for the season. Its Facebook page suggests that patrons check back in mid-February for details on when it will reopen for spring.

People tell me that the speakers still work at the King, which has been around since 1949. (There’s also FM radio sound, but what’s the fun in that?) The King was listed in the 1950 Theatre Catalog as one of 31 active Alabama drive-ins, open seven days a week for nine months a year and operated by Lee King. Sorry I missed seeing a show here.

Miles Today / Total:  65 / 1078 (rounded to the nearest mile)

Movie Showing / Total Active Nights: dark / 9

Nearby Restaurant: With the drive-in closed, I didn’t mind driving 3.5 miles back to the middle of Russellville to the 43 Grill (as in US Highway 43) for the best steak and salad bar I’ve had so far on this trip.

Where I Virtually Stayed: There weren’t a lot of choices in Russellville, but fortunately one of them was the Best Western Plus. Very reasonable prices, friendly staff, guest laundry, and breakfast to get me on the road again.

Only in Russellville: According to Wikipedia, after the War of 1812, the U.S. government wanted a better road from Nashville to New Orleans. That road, named Jackson’s Military Road after Andrew Jackson, passed through what became Russellville. One of the road’s builders, Major William Russell, gave the city its name. Today, US Highway 43 follows portions of that original road.

Next Stop: Blue Moon Drive-In, Guin AL.