Roadside Attractions!

I'm a total sucker for roadside attractions and all the weird stuff you can stumble upon during a trip.  I know stopping at everything is unrealistic but I do plan on researching things that will be along my way.  Today I discovered  An amazing website that I can map my trip out on.  It lets me plug in dates, pick my route, and give me time and gas cost estimates which am sure are way better than what I was attempting to do in my head.

Here is my first rough trip outline.  This will be changing as I find more locations over the next few months. I am currently at 9,656 miles and an estimated 152 hrs 23 min trip.  I better start working on some awesome mix CDs to listen to.

Here is my first rough trip outline.  This will be changing as I find more locations over the next few months. I am currently at 9,656 miles and an estimated 152 hrs 23 min trip.  I better start working on some awesome mix CDs to listen to.

It also allows me to look up roadside attractions that are on my route already.  So far I am pretty excited about going to see the Evil Dead Cabin located in Morristown, Tennessee.  It burnt down several years ago but it says there are still sights to be seen and if it's on the way then I might as well make a pit stop!  I also plan on stopping at the Overbrook Asylum in Cedar Grove, New Jersey where most of Choke was filmed since I am a sucker for abandoned creepy things.

Plotting My Adventure

iMac selfie, hard at work.

iMac selfie, hard at work.

I spent a good chunk of the last few weeks with my eyes glued to the computer searching for drive-in theaters around the country.  It isn't as simple of a task as it may seem.  While there are tons of amazing sites that list all the drive-in theaters all over the country, they don't always have the most up to date information on weather the structures are still standing.  Once I find a place, my search goes something like this:

1)  Google image the drive-in and hopefully find pictures to see if it has the aesthetic appeal I am looking for. 

2)  Start Google search for the most current information about the location (recent photos, articles, property ownership information)

3)  Hopefully find the address or a general close cross street on websites such as or

4)  If I think it is still there I pin it on the map, log it on my spreadsheet with all the info I have about the location.

So far, I have 26 pins on the map and will be hitting up California, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, Iowa, Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts, and Minnesota.


As you can see in the photo, the locations are starting to form little clusters all over the country.  Likely, due to weather conditions in these areas since drive-in rely heavily upon mother natures kindness to operate.  I've said it before, but I will say it again.  If you know of an awesome abandoned drive-in that is still standing please let me know!


Welcome to Drive-Ins:  Capturing America's Past, a new photography project that will be taking me on a photographic tour across the country this summer to create new narratives for the forgotten drive-in theaters of our past.

Below are some test shots from a recent trip to Hilltop Drive-In located in Joliet, IL

I have fond memories of going to the drive-in theater in my home town of Des Moines, Iowa as a child.  Playing tag under the big screen, eating way to much popcorn, and falling asleep midway through the double feature in a pile of blankets in the backseat of our car.  I also have a distinct memory from that same time period of an abandoned screen nestled back into the tree line.  It took me years of thinking it was merely a badly placed billboard that never had any advertisements on it before I came to understand what it really was, a forgotten relic of another time.

The idea for this project came to me shortly after I assisted local Portland photographer (and my former mentor) Holly Andres on a shoot for NY Times magazine at 99W Drive-In located in Newberg, OR.  It was the first time in years I had been to the drive-in and all those feelings of nostalgia started flooding back, followed by a stab of sorrow as I realized that the drive-in for many people isn't the staple of growing up that it was for me.  Faced with increasing costs of converting to new digital projectors which cost upwards of $75,000, the few drive-ins that are still operating face the risk of going dark.

Shortly after returning to the drive-in, I embarked on a road trip back to Iowa for a wedding.  Along the way we passed an abandoned screen which sparked the memory of the abandoned screen from my childhood.  I called a friend to see if the screen was still hidden in the tree line in Iowa and she informed me it was.  Sadly, I didn't get to photograph it as we were packing in far to much in a short amount of time already but it dawned on me what I had to do and the beginning idea of Drive-Ins:  Capturing America's Past  was born.

A few months later, I was heading to Chicago to visit my best friend who had just moved there.  I started doing some research and found the Hilltop Drive-In located in Joliet, IL, a short 40 min drive from Chicago.  We rented a car, I traveled with a small portion of my photography gear, and we set out to find this abandoned treasure so I could experiment with a few ideas.  I didn't bring in models as I will be in my upcoming adventure, instead I tested out a few lighting ideas to help me better understand what will be possible and what I will need for my big adventure this summer.  What Hilltop Drive-In did for me was show me that maybe this crazy idea isn't as far fetched as I had thought.  It set the fire for me to really make this happen.

So here we are.  I am in the process of mapping out locations right now, working on sponsorships, and putting together a Kickstarter to help fund my project.  Traveling the country chasing a dream won't be cheap and won't be easy but most things worth doing aren't.  It is my hopes in the long run to have the resulting images become a coffee table book, but first things first, I have to get myself in the car and on the open road.  This blog will be a tracker of this project from beginning to end and I hope you will all join me for the ride!