Bicycle Camping at the Parma Motor-Vu Drive-In, Idaho

I am worried about falling asleep close to the large truck parked next to my sleeping bag. Usually I don’t close my eyes and lay my head next to vehicle tires, because of vivid stories I've heard about sleepy pets getting squashed beneath the tread.

Four hours of pedaling in 90-degree summer heat from Boise to Parma, Idaho, followed by several mugs of wine, has turned a double feature (Kung Fu Panda and Indiana Jones) into barely a single feature. My eyelids grow heavy. I fear I’m making the same mistake as Shirley, the dead family pet.

The 45-mile bicycle route from downtown Boise to the Parma Motor-Vu parallels the convenience store-laden, commonly driven I-84. Fill four water bottles in Boise and pack a lunch.

The only snacks for sale along the route are local vegetables. The pleasures of rural living are abundant, from chicken art to local vegetables sold out of a garage. Also, a person gets to check out firsthand the poisons sprayed on our food. In some areas, “Beware of Pesticides” signs are as common as stop signs.

On a Friday night, Parma doesn’t have much to offer in terms of restaurants. I recommend going to the grocery store for food and beverage and having a picnic at the theater. The grocery store is located on the main street of town. Continue north on Highway 95 to the Parma Motor-Vu. The movie starts playing at sundown. It is best to get there early, as you can see from the line of idling vehicles.

After paying the eight-dollar admission fee, pedal as fast as you can into the gravel parking lot to pick out prime real estate, then go browse the concession building. Besides the usual theater staples, the drive-in offers the bonus of Tony’s Pizza and popcorn made from the original hot-air popper. Stylish T-shirts are also for sale.

The engines come to life at around 1 a.m. I quickly jerk awake and verify all my limbs are intact. I suppose the reflective material on the bicycles and panniers helped save me. The exhaust, dust, and stop-and-go vehicles turn the parking lot into a mini freeway rush-hour traffic jam.

After the dust settles and the last car burns its tires out of the parking lot, it’s time to lie back, stare at the stars, and dream about a beautiful Saturday morning pedal back to Boise.

Photographs by Brandon Follett and Jenn Siegel

Get more information about bike overnights.

Tip for this adventure: Call the Parma Motor-Vu before arriving to let them know what you're up to.

Favorite local bike shop: George's Cycles.

6 responses so far ↓

Julian - Jun 17, 2013 at 7:25 AM

Beautifully written narrative and chocked full of useful tips. How long have you wanted to do a ride of this sort?

Brandon Follett - Jun 17, 2013 at 8:35 AM

Thank you Julian. I had wanted to do this ride after I decided to pedal down highway 1. I like bicycle trips with amazing rewards like a drive in theater or a ghost town along the Boise River. These short weekend trips allowed me to tweak the bike and equipment that resulted in a 4 month adventure on highway 1. Since you enjoy the writing style here's a link to one of my favorite bicycle stories. Thanks for the comment.

Don - Jun 18, 2013 at 10:32 AM

Nice report! Thanks for the inspiration!

Tom - Jun 25, 2013 at 1:33 PM

Great post! You have me inspired. My friends and I always have tried to combine our multi-day kayak trips with drive-in theater shows, but sadly our favorites have slowly all disappeared. What a great idea to do by bike! I'll be sure to try it - once I can find a theater that's still in business. It looks like a website called does have some information on where to find one.

Bike Hermit - Jul 1, 2013 at 5:36 PM

That's hilarious. Did the owner of the theater hassle you? Always looking for S24O's out of Boise.

Tucker - Jul 11, 2013 at 11:34 AM

What route did you take? We are thinking of this is a great S240 opportunity. We would like to avoid busty roads as much as possible and think this may be an okay route, Thoughts on it vs. the route you took?


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