Sunset Tavern

The ad caught my eye in the local paper. It was a large ad announcing live music and gorgeous sunsets overlooking the lake. And drink specials. Sounded to me like a perfect way to spend a few Sunday afternoon hours.

We decided to go. It was too hot to go for a bike ride or hike with Molly. 29C and sunny; perfect weather for a Sunday outing on the lake. We hop in the car for a 20 minute drive to Haines City. Very much like Davenport, it seems Haines City is more like an area than a city as we think of cities. Traffic lights. Downtown. Homes and businesses. The gps leads us to a remote road where various signs declare dead end. We shrug our shoulders and continue on. You can see by the digital map in my car’s navigation system that we are driving out to a peninsula surrounded by water. Also typical of this area.

As we reach our destination on Shady Cove road we notice more modular homes and cottage (rustic shacks) types packed into dense lots. There’s a large hand painted sign declaring “bikers welcome”. There’s also a traffic jam. Dozens of cars, motorcycles and golf carts (the transportation of choice for locals it seems). We are in line to enter the parking lot of the tavern. It’s packed. There’s a burly biker type guy that’s semi directing traffic. When we pull up front I ask him where we can park. He creates a spot for me and says “your ass end is sticking out but people can still get by”. Then he adds “there’s a paper inside for you to sign … to bad about Frank E”.

It suddenly occurs to us. We are crashing a wake for Frank E. whoever that is. He’s got a lot of friends.

There’s people everywhere. All shapes and sizes. All white. Bikers. Beach bums. Older folks with mobility aids. We look at each other and wordlessly know what we’re thinking: WTF. We squeeze into the bar area (it’s a double wide with a lanai and a large outdoor covered patio) there are three (very sweaty) ladies tending bar and it’s jammed with people buying buckets of beer and shots to salute Frank E. There’s a small shrine set up at the end of the bar with a floral wreath and done photos and the paper to sign. Someone in charge of the guest book blew it ..the paper was not surviving the traffic.

Armed with our Buds we head out to the patio. We wind our way to the perimeter dodging the dance floor where very robust ladies in tanks and shorts are twerking to Def Leopard and Lynard Skinner. Tables are packed with people and overflowing ashtrays. The DJ (a scraggly scrawny hippie type) has set up a stereo system surrounded by plastic containers of cds. Thousands of them. I guess the live music was cancelled for Frank E.

I whisper to Rudy that we are in the twilight zone. I wish we could take pictures. Worth more than a thousand words for sure. No one would believe this!

As we sipped our light beers we examined the crowd. The more we looked around the more we decided that it was like a house league baseball event in Rockwood or Acton. We even started to nickname some of the clientele. At this point I really wished my friend Cathie was there; she’s my partner in crime in these situations. Meanwhile my sister is texting about the NFL score. I send her a cryptic reply “you won’t believe where we are … I’ll get back to you”. Rudy goes for more beers.

There’s a few dew rags, some skull rings, a KC Chiefs top and matching purse and sneakers, a few Trump 2020 ball caps, goatees and handlebar mustachios, tank tops and flip flops, and sweat. Everyone is hot.

The sounds are also interesting: rumbling and banging Harleys, loud music, people shouting. And then the arrival of the “Swamp Wagon”. An Everglades airboat pulls up to the dock and unloads it’s passengers and two crew (wearing their identifying bright orange Swamp Wagon tees). They head into the bar and join the fray. After a while (and a couple of quick beers) they announce “free boat rides” and few partiers grab their brewskies and head to the dock to board the Swamp Wagon. They pull gently away and as soon as feasible the captain drops the hammer and they blast off leaving a fanning spray of Lake in their wake.

Rudy goes for a final beer. No more for me. I’m driving. He comes back after a while empty handed. Apparently there was an issue at the bar. The three sweaty ladies serving lost track of inventory and they suspended service (amid a very frustrated and sweaty mob of customers) in order to figure things out. Chaos. The score of the game is 24-0 for the visiting team. More chaos for Chiefs fans.

I offer Rudy the rest of my beer and we head out. Back to the burbs for a beer and wings at the local sports bar. We leave the twilight zone thinking we may give it another try without Frank E.

We’ll see.

And the Chiefs end up winning.

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