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July 3, 2009

News & Features

Summer Driving Series Part 1: For the love of cars

Special to NWautos


The Valley in Auburn is one of only two drive-in theaters left in the area. (Photo by Cody Ellerd)

Summer means road trips. And while our cars are, by definition, the indispensable means of said trips, seldom do we make the car an end unto itself. Celebrate your four-wheeled friend with short jaunts to automobile-themed destinations or open it up and hit the road.

Do the drive-in
Dozens of drive-in theaters used to dot the Seattle-area landscape. Today, only two remain: The Valley (401 49th St. N.E.) in Auburn and Everett's Puget Park (13020 Meridian Ave. S.). The screen and sound quality might seem stuck in a bygone era, but the fun of watching a movie from the privacy of your own car, complete with homemade popcorn and a cooler of refreshments on a warm summer night, can't be found anywhere else.

Race go-karts or bumper cars
If you've got a competitive need for speed and just don't seem to be quenching it in I-5 traffic, head to Tukwila and trade in your car for a racing kart. Sykart Indoor Racing Center (17450 West Valley Highway, Tukwila) welcomes walk-ins every day of the week. Each 10-minute session is $16. Or blow off some of that pent-up road rage in the bumper cars at the Seattle Center's Fun Forest. For just $2 a ride, you'll be surprised at how little it takes to de-stress.

Cruise into XXX
Weekends come alive in the parking lot of Issaquah's XXX Root Beer Drive-In (98 N.E. Gilman Blvd.), the last link left in a fast-food chain that once boasted 79 restaurants throughout the Northwest. Its Saturday "Cruz-Ins" are open to anyone with a car to show off, and attract everything from Harleys and hot rods to hearses and fire trucks. Sundays are devoted to specific types of automobiles. Check out shows featuring discontinued cars on Aug. 2 and muscle cars on Aug. 9. And don't forget the other main attraction: the restaurant's famously monstrous burgers.

Just enjoy the ride
Those ideas not enough to satisfy your road lust? Then fill up the gas tank, pack the cooler with snacks, load the iPod and hit the road for one of our state's many jaw-dropping scenic drives.

The North Cascades Highway, part of the Cascade Loop scenic highway, winds through North Cascades National Park. Take in the rugged mountains, sparkling emerald lakes, and sleepy mountain towns.

To the north, Chuckanut Drive is a bucolic alternative to the I-5 route to Bellingham. The drive offers historic towns with quaint restaurants; views of the Puget Sound and San Juan Islands; and plenty of hikes and picnic spots if you need to stretch your legs.

For some eastern exposure, try The Palouse Scenic Byway -- 208 miles of rolling hills and wheat fields. The byway traces former Native American trails, wagon roads and railroads. Stop at Steptoe Butte and Kamiak Butte for panoramic views, and check out the nearly 200-foot waterfall at Palouse Falls State Park.


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