Jan. 6: Silver Moon, Lakeland FL

It’s Day Six of my virtual Drive-In-a-Day Odyssey, and it starts with another 35-minute short hop. This time it’s from Tampa to the Silver Moon Drive-In Theatre in Lakeland FL.

It seems appropriate that the Silver Moon, starting its 70th year, is surrounded on two sides by active retirement communities. As you can tell by this Google Street View, the main screen (the only screen for its first three decades) is backed by a three-story apartment or storage area. I just love those. You can read the full history of the Silver Moon on its About Us page.

Then there’s the snack bar. Not only does it feature corn dogs, soft pretzels and the usual suspects, it also sells Budweiser and breakfast.

The Silver Moon has two screens, and Friday is the day for new releases, but I had to choose between movies I’d already seen. I picked a second viewing of Rogue One over Sing.

Miles Today / Total: 27 / 314 (rounded to the nearest mile)

Movie Showing / Total Active Nights: Rogue One / 5

Nearby Restaurant: The closest restaurant, and one of the best in Lakeland, is Smokin’ Aces BBQ just a mile west on New Tampa Highway. The yummy pulled pork might not be health food, but there are grilled green beans and a vegetable medley to keep me regular.

Where I Virtually Stayed: The closest hotel was three miles west in Plant City, so for the second straight night I stayed at a Fairfield Inn & Suites. The room was clean, and the breakfast included some fruit as I faced a rainy Saturday the next morning.

Only in Lakeland: The Lakeland Ledger reported in October 2008 that Webber International University’s president H. Keith Wade sold at auction on eBay the naming rights for the school’s then-under-construction sewage treatment plant. T. Wayne Hill Trucking won, paying $6100. “I don’t think many people have much experience with a ceremony naming a sewage treatment plant,” Wade said, promising to whip up something.

Next Stop: Joy-Lan Drive-In, Dade City FL.

Jan. 5: Fun-Lan, Tampa FL

Fun-Lan flea market.
Photo by marianne muegenburg cothern

It’s Day Five of my virtual Drive-In-a-Day Odyssey, and it’s back to short hops. Starting from Ruskin, it took only about 35 minutes to reach the Fun-Lan Drive-In Theatre in Tampa.

I had seen metal roofs at a couple other warm-weather drive-ins. I couldn’t figure out what they were for, and I was too embarrassed to ask. Could cars still see the screen if they parked under them? Visiting the Fun-Lan during a Thursday afternoon provided the answer – it’s to shelter the flea market during brutal summers. Even with today’s high in the low 80s, it was easy to imagine more uncomfortable days.

Tougher to figure is the hyphen. The official web site and Google Maps both leave it out, but it’s very obvious on the marquee. I think it looks better with the hyphen

The Fun-Lan has three screens, but there aren’t many new movies out this week. Good thing that one of those screens has Sing at the beginning of its double feature, because I usually want to go to sleep before the nightcap.

Miles Today / Total: 21 / 287 (rounded to the nearest mile)

Movie Showing / Total Active Nights: Sing / 4

Nearby Restaurant: Oh, how I love dim sum, so I was very happy that Yummy House China Bistro was within walking distance, maybe two blocks away. If you’ve never had authentic dim sum, you need to experience it.

Where I Virtually Stayed: There aren’t any hotels that close to the Fun-Lan, so I drove five miles southeast to the Fairfield Inn & Suites by I-4. It’s even got a shuttle to the Seminole Hard Rock Casino nearby.

Only in Tampa: In 2014, Tampa resident Doris Carvalho, a veterinarian from Brazil, started a Kickstarter project to raise $15,000 to fund production of 30 “high-end” purses crafted from yarn spun from sterilized, clipped dog hair. In closed with only $1850 in pledges.

Next Stop: Silver Moon Drive-In Theatre, Lakeland FL

Jan. 4: Ruskin Family, Ruskin FL

It’s Day Four of my virtual Drive-In-a-Day Odyssey, and it’s the first day with any serious driving time. Starting from Palm Springs, it took almost four hours to reach the Ruskin Family Drive-In Theatre in Ruskin on the other side of Florida.

The Ruskin is just … nice. The snack bar prices are reasonable, they put an emphasis on good behavior, and they take pride in their history. According to the Ruskin web site, its first movie when it opened on April 16, 1952 was Singin’ In The Rain, a fact that makes me a little sad to think of the recent passing of Debbie Reynolds. IMDB says that film release date was just five days earlier; it’s surprising that in those days any drive-in could get a big first-run release so quickly.

With only one screen, I got lucky this time. The Ruskin had a great family-oriented double feature, Moana followed by Sing. Trivia: nine characters is only three more than the shortest double bill I’ve ever seen.

Miles Today / Total: 195 / 266 (rounded to the nearest mile)

Movie Showing / Total Active Nights: Moana / 3

Nearby Restaurant: I passed a McDonalds and a few others in just a mile and a half to reach a place with solid eats – The Dog House and More. I couldn’t bring any fresh catches for its “hook and cook” special, but the homemade chili and amazing cheesecakes made up for my lack of fishing.

Where I Virtually Stayed: There aren’t a lot of choices in Ruskin, so I picked the Comfort Inn almost six miles away on I-75. It’s a standard Comfort Inn, decent price and an acceptable place for a night.

Only in Ruskin: According to Wikipedia, Ruskin was founded in 1908 as a utopian socialist colony inspired by 19th century English art critic and social thinker John Ruskin. It remains an unincorporated place in Hillsborough County and is home to the Cockroach Bay Aquatic Preserve.

Next Stop: Fun-Lan Drive-In Theatre, Tampa FL