These days my life reads like a country song.

  • I am currently unemployed.
  • My dog recently woke up a paraplegic.
  • And I am living in a house with no walls.

These are all Very Traumatic Events, and I’m sure if set to music with Johnny Cash or Blake Shelton crooning the lyrics, it would be at the top of the country billboard charts. Unfortunately an imaginary #1 is pretty much useless in real life. (One has to wonder if this fantasy could transition into reality if Thomas Rhett were involved…)

Regardless, these are the sad facts of my life. And while I am confident that I will find a new job and (semi-confident) that one day I will no longer live in Remodeling Hell, I am not as optimistic that our dog will regain the ability to walk.

In case you are wondering, we do not know why our dog suddenly became paralyzed. We even took him to the Vet ER for a prognosis. They assured us that there was a chance of recovery…if only we would spend $6000 on surgery and other medical miracles. (Did I mention that I am unemployed?) So we brought him home and instead are employing the natural “medical management” technique.

What this means is that our dog now wears diapers. Think underoos for canines (minus the cool Superman or Wonder Woman motif). Fun fact #1…dog diapers are more expensive than baby diapers. Fun fact #2…dog diapers are also more difficult to change than baby diapers. The very feat of doing so is exhausting and requires an inordinate amount of coordination and patience, as one of us has to hold up our 50-pound pet, while the other attempts to maneuver a doggie diaper over his tail and torso. Most sudoku puzzles are less challenging than this!

So like other country song protagonists, the Iowa Roadie and her husband decided to drown our sorrows with a few drinks. (Quick side note…Unlike other country song characters, we did not drive an old truck, break any hearts or consume whiskey on this excursion.)

Instead we ended up at Fuel, a popular corner bar & grill in Clarion, that had the street roped off where a REAL country singer named Royce Johns was performing.  It turns out that Fuel was celebrating its sixth year anniversary with music, food and drink samples.

Before I proceed, I must confess that I am a sucker for free samples. We used to have a Sam’s Club membership, and I would strategically time my visits for when samples were being served. My husband likes to point out that samples are not free if I come home with a cart full of items I didn’t need. However I have amended that statement to say…”items I didn’t THINK I needed.” Because really…what is wrong with a five-pound bag of mini tacos?!

The freebies at Fuel, however, were not of the deep-fried variety. Instead they were drink samples offered by Single Speed Brewery, Deschutes Brewery, and Johnson Brothers of Des Moines. (It was at this point that the Iowa Roadie’s husband decided that samples were no longer evil.) So while my husband was taste-testing beer, I was quite content to lurk around the Johnson Brothers booth because they were serving my favorite… Firefly Sweet Tea Vodka.

For those of you unfamiliar with Firefly Sweet Tea Vodka, it is the Nectar of the Gods. I first tried it when we visited Charleston, South Carolina a few years ago as it is made in a nearby distillery. Firefly vodka is the South Carolina equivalent to Iowa’s Busch Light. Meaning…It Is Very Popular. And mixed with lemonade, it is like an Arnold Palmer with a kick. (Important distinction: I am referring to the Arnold Palmer sweet tea/lemonade beverage rather than the deceased golf champion.) Finding Firefly Sweet Tea Vodka in Iowa is a little like the quest for the Holy Grail or those elusive morel mushrooms. Extremely difficult but worth the effort.

What’s more is that Fuel was actually serving the Firefly/lemonade mixture in a cocktail they named “McFly.” I must admit that I was a bit perplexed as to this name’s origination. It was a cross between “Back to the Future” and the Golden Arches which, to my knowledge, has yet to serve alcohol. (However a super-sized vodka would definitely give new meaning to the “happy meal” concept.) Anyway once situated with my McFly, and my husband with his Busch Light, we were perfectly content to enjoy the evening breeze and listen to Royce Johns sing his little country heart out.

While seated, we were approached by an old high school buddy of my husband’s named Steve. Steve was at Fuel alone because his wife had a summer job in Okoboji, and he was left home to dog sit. Steve was wearing a funky Jimmy Buffet-style Hawaiian shirt, but informed us that the Hawaiian shirt he really wanted to wear had cats all over it. I informed Steve that no grown man should ever appear in public wearing a cat shirt…unless the attire is part of a “truth or dare” game or an episode of “Impractical Jokers.”

Fashion statement aside, we were pleasantly surprised to discover that Steve is friends with the owners of Fuel, who assigned us our own private server for the evening. This made us feel Very Important. Steve also knew several other Fuel patrons enjoying the evening’s block party festivities. One of these gentlemen was named Greg. Greg is single, but shared with us several of his pick up lines. After listening to these pick up lines, the reason for Greg’s relationship status became a bit clearer. (Question…What do you call a hippie’s wife? Answer…Mrs. Hippie!) However I am sure there is a nice young lady out there somewhere who will one day appreciate Greg’s clever charm and wit.

If you recall, one of the Iowa Roadie rules is to “not be scared by appearances.” I am disheartened to admit that my husband failed this self-appointed rule when a man wearing a leather vest bearing the emblem of an outlaw motorcycle club approached. According to Wikipedia, this particular motorcycle club is on the FBI’s “top five” scariest groups. Thus my husband began sending me secret signals, indicating that we “should not make eye contact” as we did not want to end up missing and featured on Dateline.

Fortunately Steve was not frightened by appearances, as he already knew the biker and introduced him to us by name. (However, as he wishes to remain anonymous, I will further refer to him as Joe.) By day, Joe has a regular job in an important skilled trades industry. But at night, he turns into a scary biker dude. (This is actually not true. Joe remained very pleasant throughout our visit, and was not the least bit terrifying.) And despite my husband’s warnings to “lay low,” I boldly informed Joe that I had googled his motorcycle gang, and proceeded to ask him if he had ever killed anyone. Joe clarified that they are not a gang, but a Motorcycle Club (MC), and assured me that homicide was frowned upon in the MC. He also said that drugs and alcohol abuse were not acceptable. (Personally I thought they sounded less like an outlaw motorcycle gang and more like a church choir.)

Joe was also quite sympathetic to my unemployment situation. In fact, he was kind enough to offer me a job as the treasurer of the MC. I was quite excited about this, because that meant I could get a cool leather vest like Joe’s. (The real reason I wanted Joe’s vest is because it seemed to emit some sort of magnetic super power, seducing complete strangers into buying drinks for him.) I noticed that Joe did not pay for a beverage all night. On the other hand, my middle-age mom outfit consisting of khakis and a practical cotton-blend shirt had yet to have that hypnotizing effect on others. The only person who bought me a drink was my husband…and even that was somewhat begrudgingly.

Unfortunately my new career attending to the MC’s finances was short-lived. Within minutes of offering me a job, Joe rescinded his offer because I was a girl. (The actual reason included some terminology involving anatomy that I did not feel appropriate to share.) When I threatened to call the ACLU, Joe just looked at me blankly and asked, What is the ACLU? (I find it extremely difficult to remain angry with someone so politically incorrect, and actually fought the urge to give him a big Will Ferrell Elf-like hug.)

Quick interjection… unlike previous Iowa Roadie adventures that are contained to my husband and myself, this one included our youngest daughter who is also a Royce Johns fan. But unlike her dad who was intimidated by outlaw motorcycle riders, my daughter immediately began telling “Uncle Joe” about a date she had the next evening. In response, Uncle Joe told her if she would return to Fuel, he would do his best to intimidate her date a bit. Turns out her date had never heard of the motorcycle club and (unlike the Iowa Roadie) failed to use his google powers to do his research, therefore assuming the MC was a music band. (Quick side note…there was no second date.)

Some parting words about Fuel…They serve the most amazing spinach artichoke dip as well as coal-fired pizza in creative flavors such as Seafood Pesto, Meatball and “The Big Bad Wolf” (bbq pork and coleslaw).

As our Iowa Roadie adventure at Fuel wrapped up, I was a bit sorry that we weren’t riding off into the sunset on a motorcycle like our cool new friend Joe. BUT we were leaving with a “pick up” courtesy of our single buddy Greg…

“If you were a library book, I’d check you out.”

Make sure to “check out” all the other Iowa Roadie adventures…past and future. Because just like Uncle Joe’s motorcycle, they can be a wild ride.

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