My husband and I still enjoy “date night.”

Admittedly date night has evolved a bit after 25 years of wedded bliss. Now instead of dinner and a movie, a night out typically involves a trip to Menards. Seriously… what part of a large home improvement center does not scream “I love you?” Romance surely lives on in the aisles of paint supplies and power tools. In fact, I am convinced that without Menards, there would be no “date night.” We would instead be relegated to evenings at home eating frozen pizza and watching “Impractical Jokers” with the dogs.

(I realize that some of you may PREFER an evening watching four lifelong friends embarrass one another at the expense of innocent onlookers. Or you believe that cardboard carbs deserve the distinction of its own food group. I, however, enjoy the experience of shopping somewhere I can purchase both drywall AND bacon in one location. Not to mention the mail-in 11% rebate I can get on carefully timed DIY projects.)

Therefore our Saturday “date night” began at Menards where we purchased supplies enabling us to run electricity to our newly cleaned out chicken coop. (The Iowa Roadie is getting chickens that lay BLUE EGGS!) And while Menards is not currently hosting their 11% rebate event, we did purchase some LED lights offering a $5 rebate. (Hopefully LED lights encourage robust blue egg laying.) And for those of you who scoff that romance is dead…there is MORE. We also purchased softener salt and dog food! Cupid was working overtime on this one.

And when love is in the air, where else does one go to cultivate that loving feeling? A little dive bar, of course! Fortunately the Iowa Roadie had recently been to the Verizon store (not nearly at romantic as Menards), and the salesman had recommended a little place in Rock Falls. I must confess that I am geographically challenged and did not realize that Iowa even had a Rock Falls. But, per google maps, it was only 14 miles from Menards. Practically next door!

So with Siri directing us, we navigated to Rock Falls, population 155, where we discovered The Rock Falls Lounge with its sign proclaiming it to be “a super fun spot.” What could be more enticing than that bold claim? A Super. Fun. Spot.

Note…One of the reasons I believe it to be a “super fun spot” is because the Shell Rock River winds right by the Rock Falls Lounge, bringing with it super fun people floating by on inner tubes. My husband pointed out that even if the inner tubers were not super fun themselves, there is a good chance that some of them might be wearing bikinis… which might be super fun to look at. (Did I mention…25 years of wedded bliss?)

As it was only 30-some degrees, we did not see anyone wearing a super fun bikini. Instead the dress code seemed to consist of blue jeans and a Carhartt sweatshirt. (A much better fashion choice for a middle-aged frumpy couple such as ourselves.) My husband and I found a spot at the bar where we were greeted by bartender Nicky. (This was Nicky’s first night at the Rock Falls Lounge as she normally works at another bar in Mason City. She was filling in for the owner who had a family commitment.) We were also warmly welcomed by PK, a gentleman who worked for the Iowa DOT as an appraiser, and by two very nice young men named Joel and Cole. (Two of the three men were wearing the obligatory Carhartt outerwear.)

Cole, it seems, had just had his appendix removed, and had been dealing with some wound complications…namely an infection that caused gross pus to ooze out and made trouser waistbands his Evil Nemesis. (Dear readers…I understand that learning of repulsive medical conditions such as this may not be what you signed up for. But there is no topic off limits when sitting at a bar with Carhartt Men.)

In addition to having survived a Very Scary Appendix Infection, Cole is married and has a son named Lane, after legendary bull rider Lane Frost. I asked Cole if he was a rodeo fan or rode bulls himself. Surprisingly Cole does not ride bulls, but aspired in his younger days to be a rodeo clown. And while Cole now works in the HVAC industry, he keeps his dream alive as a “cowboy poker” champion. Cowboy Poker involves sitting around a table in the middle of a rodeo arena where a rank bull is set loose. The last man still sitting in his chair is the winner. (It was at this point that I began to question Cowboy Cole’s sanity…and the REAL reason for his abdomen wound.)

While regaling the tale of his appendix, Cole was joined in conversation by another Rock Falls Lounge patron who is a wound nurse.  She could describe with gruesome detail all aspects of Cole’s medical condition with the clarity previously attributed only to WebMD and Grey’s Anatomy. (As I failed to catch Wound Nurse’s name, I will further refer to her as Meredith Grey from the aforementioned television show.)

Besides her career in the medical field, Meredith is an arbonne consultant. She was meeting a couple of friends who had purchased some arbonne energy fizz sticks. (Available in two flavors: citrus and pomegranate. Strawberry coming this summer!) According to the arbonne website, these fizz sticks are a “replacement for your morning coffee or for when you start to feel the afternoon sleepies.” One simply stirs in a fizz stick to create a “refreshing bubbly drink” which temporarily helps promote alertness.

While meeting Meredith to pick up her fizz stick purchase, one of the gals told me that she hoped the fizz sticks would help her “give up pop.” (I noticed that they did not curb her craving for alcohol, however, as she ordered a blueberry-flavored alcoholic beverage.) One vice at a time, I guess.

The Rock Falls Lounge offers a nice menu featuring traditional bar food. Thank you to Nicky for making us a custom-order hodge podge with cheddar cheese balls and jalapeno poppers. My husband also purchased a bag of peanuts and a bag of bar nuts. (It is with great disappointment that I admit this began a conversation between the Carhartt Men that quickly went downhill. The discussion spiraled even further when joined by Lawnmower Man with his “big deck.”)

As I was enjoying my G-Rated jalapeno poppers, another long-time Rock Falls Lounge regular entered the bar. However this was no ordinary customer. Butch is a fat yellow lab who frequently comes in and makes his way behind the bar where he is rewarded with three pieces of cheese. Following his treat, Butch winds his way amongst other bar clientele where he receives his fair share of attention before sauntering back out. I thought of my own dogs lounging on the couch watching Netflix, and decided that the life of Butch the Bar Dog is something they–and all dogs– might aspire to. In fact, the Iowa Roadie’s husband thought a life of cheese and beer is something HE could aspire to, as well.

Rock Falls Lounge truly was a “super fun spot,” and we did not want to leave. In fact, for awhile we COULDN’T leave because we were locked in. It seems that there is one key to lock the bar, and a different key to open it. So first time bartender Nicky had gone outside to test her key and insure that she could lock the bar at closing. The good news is she COULD lock the bar. The bad news is… she didn’t have the other key to get back in. And we, in the bar, did not have the key to get out. It was like we were in Bar Prison, if being locked in a building full of alcohol, cheese and beer nuts is a bad thing. We were forced to ponder a fate of being eternally trapped in the Rock Falls Lounge. (It is with great relief that I report no one seemed too traumatized by this possibility. I can only wonder if the attitude would have been as festive if the Busch Light were gone.)

It is quite fortunate that former Rock Falls Lounge employee Brittany happened to be buying some energy fizz sticks from Meredith when we got locked in. After several minutes of being trapped in the bar with the Carhartt Men, a cheese-eating dog and the Iowa Roadie & husband, Brittany located the key to get out and unlocked the door to our sweet freedom.

A freedom that is sure to include more date nights at Menards… the original “super fun spot.”

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