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.

Jan. 11: Cinemagic, Athens AL

Cinemagic Theatre marquee

photo by Brad Smith, from the Carload Flickr pool

It’s Day 11 of my virtual Drive-In-a-Day Odyssey, and my easy drive was mostly a straight shot up I-65 from Leeds (by way of Birmingham) to Athens AL, home of the Cinemagic Drive-In Theater.

The Cinemagic’s steup is such a good idea that I often wonder why more drive-ins don’t try it. There’s an indoor theater (with five screens) along the back wall. It includes the projection window for the single drive-in screen. It seems like such an obvious way to hedge a theater owner’s bets on weather and to share facilities with more screens.

The concession stand was pretty basic but not expensive, and the rest rooms were clean. Nice to have management that cares about the moviegoing experience.

I didn’t expect to find the movie Fences, with its serious Oscar buzz, available anywhere along my odyssey, but that’s what was showing here. Decades ago, I saw the play, so I knew it’s not an action-packed story, nor a comedy, nor a box-office smash, and maybe not even a feel-good movie, but it’s a fine character study.

Miles Today / Total: 109 / 1013 (rounded to the nearest mile)

Movie Showing / Total Active Nights: Fences / 9

Nearby Restaurant: The two closest restaurants were the Samurai Steakhouse (half a mile northwest) and the Ninja Japanese Steakhouse (less than a mile northeast). Is this a neighborhood trend? I picked the Samurai, which doesn’t look like much but serves some tender steak in between all of its sushi dishes.

Where I Virtually Stayed: All the closest hotels are 2.5 miles east by the interstate. The best combination of low price and good accommodations was the Best Western Athens Inn. I especially enjoyed the pancake machine at breakfast.

Only in Athens: According to Wikipedia, Athens is the home of Browns Ferry Nuclear Power Plant, a Tennessee Valley Authority installation first operated in 1974, that was once the world’s largest nuclear plant. On March 22, 1975, the plant was the scene of the second-most (after Three Mile Island) serious nuclear accident in United States history after a worker using a candle to check for air leaks started a fire among the control wires.

Next Stop: King Drive-In, Russellville AL.

Jan. 10: Coyote, Leeds AL

drive-in screen with foreground car

screenshot from the Coyote Drive-In YouTube channel

It’s Day 10 of my virtual Drive-In-a-Day Odyssey, and my travel distance was a nice round 200 miles. (I only count it from drive-in to drive-in, not including restaurants or hotels.) After the previous day’s drive-in that sat between small towns near a highway interchange, it was a huge difference to pull into the Coyote Drive In Theater and Canteen at The Outlet Shops of Grand River in Leeds AL.

This place is one of the newest drive-ins, opened in May 2016. The company’s first new-wave drive-in opened in Fort Worth TX in 2013; this was the second. This Coyote has a full-service indoor/outdoor restaurant, bar, and mini golf.

The restaurant serves a chicken caesar salad. I was so grateful to eat something green after a week and a half of drive-in fare. They even had hummus available as a side dish. The only slight disappointment: I had to finish my beer within the bar area instead of bringing it back to my car.

The Coyote has four screens, and one of them had an early movie I hadn’t seen. There are reasons why Underworld: Blood Wars ranks so low on the Tomatometer, but at least it was new to me.

Miles Today / Total: 200 / 904 (rounded to the nearest mile)

Movie Showing / Total Active Nights: Underworld: Blood Wars / 8

Nearby Restaurant: One interstate exit east, on a street full of chain restaurants, I was glad to see the El-Cazador Mexican Grill. Local flavor and even a few vegetarian options? Who would have guessed that Mexican food could be so healthy!

Where I Virtually Stayed: The Hampton Inn Birmingham / Leeds was right across I-20 from the Coyote, though the highway layout made that just a little tricky. Quiet, moderately priced, and with a nice free breakfast. No brainer.

Only in Leeds: According to AL.com, last February, a Jefferson County sheriff’s deputy arrested a 51-year-old man for DUI around 8:30 on a Saturday evening. The man, who also had an outstanding felony theft warrant, was in full clown costume. The sheriff’s office said he told the deputy that he had just had a few drinks at a local restaurant, but offered no explanation for his attire.

Next Stop: Cinemagic Drive In Theatre, Athens AL.