Beating the Blahs

Cinematic staycations

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

I’ve been in denial for a minute, but early last week I finally had to admit to myself that I’ve got a case of the COVID-19 blues. I’d been able to dodge low-grade depression brought on by prolonged isolation, a vacuum of national leadership and trepidation about what the future holds mostly by reminding myself that I still have much to be grateful for—not least of which is my continued good health during a global pandemic.

However, nearly five months of never traveling more than a couple of miles from my house—save for that one time that I made it all the way to Mount Vernon for Thai food—have taken their toll. And while I’ve paid a lot of lip service to the idea of staycations, an overabundance of caution has kept me effectively homebound.

No more, I say!

There are not a lot of activities that feel safe to me—personal safety being a paramount concern, along with not wanting to increase risk for others—but one outing that checks boxes for both safety and entertainment is seeing movies at any of the drive-ins that have cropped up.

Perhaps that is why I’ve written about them so often.

So far, with a single, one-off exception (the magical weekend when WWU Alumni and Pickford Film Center transformed Bellingham’s Lincoln Creek Park and Ride back into the drive-in of yore), all of the drive-ins of which I am aware involve a bit of travel, making them a cure for my cabin fever as well as a source of cinema. And since drive-ins have a tendency to show movies that hearken back to simpler times, they have a quality of feel-good nostalgia to them as well.

The only regular, dedicated drive-in of which I am aware in this area is Oak Harbor’s Blue Fox—and it is doing an excellent job in its role of ensuring that summer 2020 is both fun and safe—which is showing Storks and Twister the week of Aug. 10-16 (find out more at It only books a week or two at a time and I’m unsure what movies they’ve got in store for the remainder of the warm months, but who really cares? Half the fun of going to the drive-in is, well, going to the drive-in. The other half of the fun of the Blue Fox comes in the form of the snack bar, go-karts and the feeling that comes from throwing it back to yesteryear—watching the movies is in there somewhere as well.

Should you want to flesh out your Oak Harbor staycation—a person does not live by movies alone—you can explore the wonders of Deception Pass State Park, suss out Flintstone Park, and take the 20-minute drive to Fort Casey, where you can easily pass several socially distant hours scampering in and around the bunkers and batteries.

I don’t know at what point the folks who run Birch Bay Waterslides came to the sickening realization that they were going to be yet another in the very long list of 2020 COVID closures, but I am certain that was an incredibly hard day—not just for them, but also for the thousands of people who rely on the summer staple to do a little thrill-seeking in the name of a sun- and water-soaked good time.

Although it is not nearly the same thing, the waterslide facility has been repurposed as a temporary drive-in, thanks to the efforts of the Birch Bay Chamber of Commerce. Their first drive-in event took place at the end of July, and they’ve got two more on the calendar before the end of August. The first of those happens Fri., Aug. 14, and will feature the movie billed as “fun for the whole family,” The Great Outdoors. Get your ticket and watch Dan Aykroyd and John Candy get up to all kinds of shenanigans in this 1988 John Hughes comedy classic. Of course, the true star of the movie is Bart the Bear, an Alaskan Kodiak so famous he has his own Wikipedia entry.

Two weeks later, on Fri., Aug. 28, Harrison Ford will light up the big screen in the sequel to Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Having rewatched this movie recently, I’d forgotten how darkly funny the George Lucas/Steven Spielberg story is—but I never forgot my love of Short Round, who pretty much saves the day all the way through and is the true hero of the action-adventure flick. Incidentally, Temple of Doom is one of the movies that led to the creation of the PG-13 rating, although Red Dawn was the first film to officially receive the designation.

Tickets to the two drive-in events at the Birch Bay Waterslides can be purchased via the Birch Bay Chamber at In the way of drive-ins, they’re sold per vehicle ($25 for cars/trucks/SUVs, see for all the pertinent info) rather than per person like regular movies (what even are movie theaters? I barely remember)—and in a nod to Birch Bay’s particular population, golf carts get in for just $15. If anyone wants to lend me their golf cart so I can see my main man Indy bring down the evil Thuggee, I am all about it.

In terms of the other activities that can be found in Birch Bay, under normal circumstances, I’d say the waterslides are the coolest attraction around. Under COVID circumstances the small northern city has long stretches of lovely beaches to wander and friendly folks who are only too happy to make you feel at home—from six feet or more away. It’s also just a short jaunt to Blaine, where you can hit up Drayton Harbor Oyster Company for fresh bivalves and otherwise do your bit to help the economy of a border town when the border is closed.

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