June 21: Sky-Vu Drive-In, Monroe WI

It’s Day 172 of my virtual Drive-In-a-Day Odyssey. It took me less than an hour and a half to drive an assortment of two-lane highways from Jefferson WI to the Sky-Vu Drive-In just south of Monroe WI.

According to Isthmus.com, the Sky-Vu opened in 1954 and has been operating ever since. It boasts “The Largest High Reflective screen” in the Midwest since it was replaced in 1976. The Sky-Vu installed FM stereo sound in 1986, although the folks at Cinema Treasures say that any claims that it was the first drive-in to switch to FM are exaggerated. The Sky-Vu installed digital projectors in time to start the 2012 season.

Isthmus wrote that the Sky-Vu brings in a lot of drive-in faithful from neighboring Iowa and Illinois. “We’ve had people come in motorcycles,” sais owner Duke Goetz. “I’ve had the highest-quality Mercedes-Benz and Lexus roll in there. I’ve had other cars that should have been part of the cash-for-clunkers program. I’ve had the semi tractor-trailer guys come in. It’s everybody.”

I was sure to save room for the famous Sky-Vu pizza, and if I brought in any cold water in my car, I was discreet about drinking it. This night, I had my fourth viewing of Cars 3, including my third night in a row. The more I watch, the more I wonder why there would be a school bus in the Cars universe.

Miles Today / Total:  70 / 22163 (rounded to the nearest mile)

Movie Showing / Total Active Nights: Cars 3 / 88

Nearby Restaurant: For a great little restaurant facing the courthouse, Pancho & Lefty’s Outlaw Grill is a great choice. Since I ate healthy the day before, I had the Pig on Pig sandwich with pulled port and two thick slices of bacon. A seriously large margarita might not have been necessary to accompany the meal, but I enjoyed it anyway.

Where I Virtually Stayed: All right! After a few nights of hobnobbing with more upscale lodging, I returned to another familar face, the Super 8. I was fortunate that this is another of those really good “Pride of Super 8” locations with a fridge and good wifi in the room and the standard “Superstart” continental breakfast with hot entrees if you count the waffle iron and the toaster. It was all I needed at a great price.

Only in Monroe: According to the Insiders’ Guide to Madison WI, Monroe has hosted Green County Cheese Days every September of even-numbered years since 1914. The festival can draw over 100,000 visitors and includes “a parade, tractor pull, arts and crafts fair, polka music, yodeling, and absurd amounts of cheese and beer.”

Next stop: 61 Drive In Theatre, Delmar IA.

June 20: Highway 18 Outdoor Theatre, Jefferson WI

It’s Day 171 of my virtual Drive-In-a-Day Odyssey. Thanks to well-placed interstates, it took me less than an hour and a half to drive from Wisconsin Dells to the Highway 18 Outdoor Theatre in Jefferson WI.

The Highway 18 opened in 1953 and operated until 1994. Lee Burgess bought it, refurbished it, and reopened in 2000. “It was pretty much on a whim that I bought it,” he told Isthmus.com in 2012. “Then I spent about a year restoring it. Everything’s pretty much the same as it was when it was built.” Except for that gorgeous little neon sign; he added that in 2005.

There are seesaws and jungle gyms for the kids in front of the screen, and in back of the screen there’s a bar for the grown-ups. But you can’t take the alcohol back to the viewing area (except, existentially, in your bloodstream) and you can’t watch the movie from the bar. Oh well!

I was happy to see some in-car speakers still on their poles. I understand that maintaining them can be a pain, but they’re a great selling point for nostalgia.

The Highway 18 has its own YouTube channel, but I thought the best video for showing off what the place looks like these days was Urbex’s crawl around the grounds posted just a couple of weeks ago, so that’s what I embedded above.

This night, I had my third viewing of Cars 3, a movie that makes me feel old. Then again, driving over 20,000 miles in six months would also make me feel old.

Miles Today / Total:  74 / 22093 (rounded to the nearest mile)

Movie Showing / Total Active Nights: Cars 3 / 87

Nearby Restaurant: I was happy to get to Jefferson in time for an early lunch at the Brickhaus Cafe. First of all, there’s coffee, and that’s very important. I also enjoyed a hummus plate before getting full on an apple walnut salad. For all my talk about eating healthy, every now and then I actually do it.

Where I Virtually Stayed: The review of the few hotels in Jefferson were a little scary, so I drove just a little farther to the Holiday Inn Express in Fort Atkinson. The room had all the standard niceties, but it’s the HIE breakfast that really stands out to me. I love the pancake machines that HIEs have. The cinnamon rolls are great, but I remember when they were absolutely irresistible. Have they changed, or have I?

Only in Jefferson: Actually down in nearby Fort Atkinson, you’ll find the National Dairy Shrine Museum, part of the Hoard Historical Museum. It’s a great place to discover and honor “the rich heritage of the dairy industry.” For a feel for what it’s like, you should check out the Roadside America report, especially what was in the displayed parachute package.

Next stop: Sky-Vu Drive-In, Monroe WI.

June 19: Big Sky Twin Drive-In Theatres, Wisconsin Dells WI

It’s Day 170 of my virtual Drive-In-a-Day Odyssey. It took an hour of driving two-lane highways through Wisconsin hills and small towns to get from Chilton to the Big Sky Twin Drive-In Theatres in Wisconsin Dells.

According to a 2008 article in the Wisconsin Dells Events, the Big Sky began its life as the single-screen Winnebago Drive-In in 1953. “Owned by Don Deakin, the theater screened a newsreel, two cartoons and the feature film ‘Raiders of the Seven Seas,’ and gave patrons a souvenir ashtray,” wrote the Events.

Don LeGros and his family bought the place in 1980. “When we took it on, it was mostly showing motorcycle pictures and now we’ve brought it up as a family destination,” LeGros said. About that time, the drive-in’s name changed to the Dells. LeGros changed the name again in 1993 to the Big Sky and added a second screen a year later.

It’s great that we get so many opportunities for aerial views of drive-ins these days. Thanks to drones and YouTube, there are many overhead portraits of these great old places. The video I embedded above was posted last year by Ricky7RC.

The Big Sky’s marquee promises that it’s the home of the Mamaburger, made famous by Dorothy “Ma” LeGros. It’s great to be able to rely on dinner at the drive-in.

My choices for the early shows were Wonder Woman, which I’ve seen five times so far, or my second viewing of Cars 3. To be, the best thing about Cars 3 is that it pretends that Cars 2 simply never happened.

Miles Today / Total:  49 / 22019 (rounded to the nearest mile)

Movie Showing / Total Active Nights: Cars 3 / 86

Nearby Restaurant: I don’t have many days left in Wisconsin, so I had to search out a good cheese restaurant. Macs Macaroni and Cheese Shop definitely fits that description. They serve great mac and cheese in a skillet, and you get to choose what else you want in there. Hot dogs? Bacon? BBQ sauce? Taco fixin’s? Whatever it is, there will be plenty of cheese with it, and be sure to save room for cheesecake for dessert.

Where I Virtually Stayed: There are so many tourists filling Wisconsin Dells that it rates a Hilton Garden Inn. I feel a little spoiled to wonder whether I should mention the refrigerator, microwave, and coffee maker in my room. Should we all consider them standard like a TV? Anyway, this HGI was as clean and nice as most other HGIs, and I was really happy that it was so close by.

Only in Wisconsin Dells: In this classically kitschy tourist town, there are any number of tourist traps, of which a great example is the upside-down White House at Top Secret. Recent reviews on TripAdvisor include “Worst attraction ever” and “I don’t know why this place exists”, but the folks at Roadside America seem to have had a great time there. Their guide told them, “We’re part of an archaeological dig team sponsored by the government. We just happened to run across an upside down White House in Wisconsin Dells. We have no idea why.” Fun, right?

Next stop: Highway 18 Outdoor Theatre, Jefferson WI.