A drive-in surprise


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It’s a Saturday evening in April and the rain is pelting the windshield of our ancient VW camper van. Michael is riding shotgun, leaning forward to get a clearer view through the foggy glass and the thin sheets of water that are winning the battle with the swish-swish, swish-swish of the worn-out wiper blades.

Michael is spotting expensive vehicles with all the energy and enthusiasm of a 13-year-old car nut. A BMW M5 sure would be nice. Or a Bugatti Veyron. Aw, there goes another Prius. He’s not impressed.

“For our next car, dad, do you know what I want kind of badly? Michael says. “A Porsche 911 GT3.”

My answer comes straight out of the boring-old-dad manual: “How about a newer camper with a working defroster and working windshield wipers?”

What is up with the rain? And these wipers? I didn’t realize they were so bad, since I hardly ever drive the van in the rain. It was the rain that chased us out of Seattle this weekend and sent us looking for sunshine and blue patches. We found both on Whidbey Island at Fort Ebey State Park, where we slept last night in the camper, high up on the bluff and tucked under a canopy of evergreens.

But our dry luck ran out late his afternoon. First came the dark clouds. And then the drizzle. We broke out the tarp and tied it off above the Coleman stove and picnic table just ahead of the heavy stuff. It’s been a downpour ever since.

So here we are on a mission to find ice cream before heading back to the campground and trying to start a fire in the rain with soggy wood and damp matches.

“Look, dad, a Tesla Model S,” Michael says. And then he shifts gears. “What’s that?”

I see it, too. A dim neon-lit arrow pointing to the right just ahead on the highway. As we get closer we see a second neon sign: Blue Fox Drive-in.

There was a time when thousands of drive-in movie theaters dotted the landscape across America. Along city boulevards. In small towns. On the edge of cornfields. Today, they are reduced to a novelty. But a few in the Northwest are still hanging on. The Rodeo Drive-in Theatre is open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays near Bremerton. Port Townsend’s Wheel-In-Motor Drive-in boasts Dolby digital sound and classic drive-in speakers.

On Whidbey, just south of Oak Harbor, the Blue Fox Drive-In Theater can still draw a crowd, even on a chilly, rainy night. Shows start at dusk. Admission: $6.50 Cash, $7 Card.

We read the marquee. It’s a double feature. “Ready Player One” was directed by Steven Spielberg. Michael has read the book written by Ernest Cline. It is set in the future. It’s about a virtual reality game called Oasis that everyone escapes to because the real world in 2045 really sucks.

The main feature is new release called “Rampage,” staring Dwayne Johnson.


“Isn’t he The Rock?” I ask Michael.

“Jeeze, dad. Dwayne Johnson. He doesn’t like to be called The Rock anymore. Seriously, you are embarrassing yourself.”

In the move his best friend is an endangered gorilla named George. With an ape and a name like rampage, I bet we’ll see a lot of action, I say.

Our family has watched a few Dwayne Johnson movies together. In “Central­ Intelligence,” he plays a meek underdog accountant who tangles with international terrorists. “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” is about another video game. Dwayne Johnson plays an avatar that reminded me more than a little of Indian Jones.

I love The Rock … I mean Dwayne Johnson … Whatever. He’s such a badass. He’s always smiling, even when he’s kicking butt. That smile is like a wink to the audience no matter the peril. It’s like he’s saying, “Don’t worry. I’m cool. I’ve got this. Strap in and enjoy.” He wants to make his audience feel good. I read that he threatened to quit during the filming of “Rampage” because the script originally called for George the gorilla to be killed off at the end.

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson likes his happy endings.

It’s more than an hour before the first movie starts, and we have our choice of muddy ruts between the poles that define the parking spaces that fan out in rows in front of the giant outdoor screen.

We have forgotten all about the ice cream. We settle in and wait for the first feature. It’s still raining, but we don’t care.

Blue Fox Drive-In Google map

Click here for Google map.