On the weekend of September 27th, my brother Max turned 21 and we all knew that something special had to be done in honor of this momentous occasion. What would that something turn out to be? Well after consulting our dear friend Lucas, who goes to the University of Florida, he told us that the downtown bar scene in Gainesville is unparalleled and better yet, he lives right there! This my friends led to the event I christened the 21 Pub Salute Crawl!
Attending the festivities were myself, Max, David, Jonathan, Josh, and Lucas. We were only taking one car and it was filled until David later back out (of the first night anyways) so we offered the final spot to Thor. The car was loaded and we began our trip on Saturday the 28th at approximately 9:00 PM.
The actual road trip is only two hours, which goes by rather briskly when you have a car full of five rather rambunctious friends. Heading north on the Turnpike there isn’t much to exactly stop and see between Orlando and Gainesville, but since it was a Saturday night and we were celebrating a 21st, there was one establishment we all highly anticipated- the infamous Cafe Risque.
Well known to Florida travelers on this stretch of Turnpike, the Cafe Risque is a strip club that paints the roadside with billboards advertising “We Bare All!”
Despite our excitement, however, we were filled the trepidation of outsiders. We wanted to walk into a roadside titty bar, sure to be filled with the toothless and most lonely of women and truckers? Bring it on.
How’d it turn out you ask?
Turns out that the billboards weren’t that effective in the dark for I completely blew passed the exit and we watched with a mix of disappointed and relief as the flashy pink neon lights faded in the rearview.
Better things were planned for the evening, however, and as we pulled into Gainesville just about fifteen minutes later we were greeted with sidewalks lines the beauties one only finds on a Greek Row. We were here! And we quickly find our way to Lucas’s apartment, which was smack dab in the middle of it all.
Quickly we unloaded our sleeping bags and backpacks and headed into the night. I couldn’t believe the atmosphere of the place, for Gainesville is a true college town where all the bars are within walking distance and the masses turn out to frequent them. I loved it! Back home at UCF there is nothing like that… Downtown Orlando is a fifteen minute drive and anything by the campus is sporadically placed.
Now technically we had planned the pub crawl for Sunday night, because the absent David was planning on joining us the next day, but we ended up basically starting early that night. We hit up a few joints, never having more than one drink in each place, and ended up finishing the night at a place called Amarillos (this will come into play a little later on). After last call we all made our way back to the apartment and crashed out drunk and content.
The next morning we all woke up surprisingly early and found a group favorite on TV- Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. After enjoying Mr. Wonka berate the fizzy-lifting drink stealing Charlie and Grandpa, we agreed that we did not want to waste the rest of the day loafing inside watching movies, so I looked up a state park in the area called Devil’s Millhopper.
The park is actually the location of a giant ancient sinkhole that you can walk down into. Of course there’s a hiking trail and stuff too, but we thought that would be a really cool way to spend the afternoon. Once we were there and walked down to the basin of the hole, we were impressed with the muddy bottom where all the water sinks into the
earth, feeding straight into the state’s aquifer system and the Gulf of Mexico. As cool as that was, however, it only managed to kill about an hour of our day so back to the apartment we went to plan our next move.
That next move was watching another movie, this time Anchorman, and waiting to go out to dinner which happened to be Tijuana Flats. While out, we stopped by a Best Buy and Max bought a GoPro camera in order to stealthily record the soon-to-come pub crawl. Finally, as it was getting dark and we were finishing Muppets Treasure Island, David arrived and we once again headed into the streets of downtown Gainesville.
Our spirits were high, but as we walked around we quickly realized that Sunday night was not the night to party in this town. The throngs that had recently been spilling out of doorways were absent and whenever this group of seven entered a bar, every eye in the joint would turn to look at us. Nonetheless, we began the evening in a place called Durty Nelly’s and toasted Max’s birthday with a round of delicious Irish Car Bombs. Then we left, in keeping with our one drink policy.
But we kept walking, actually being turned away from one place. Everywhere was either closed or closing so we found our way back to Amarillos where we were stopped by a mysterious girl… She asked us where we were going and if she could join. Of course we all replied yes and she walked in with us. As she found herself talking to Thor, Josh tried his best at being a wingman by saying that Thor had been a contestant on the old Nickelodeon game show, Double Dare. While we thought it was fool-proof, she had know idea what it was…
Despite the expectation of gaiety one would expect with a girl in our midst, things weren’t turning out well at all, even when she had a friend arrive. When together, they asked us if we wanted to play pool. An innocent question, sure, but I am really glad that Jonathan, seemingly joking, said that we were not playing for money. Fair enough. So Max and I joined forces to play these chicks, who claimed to be just as awful at the game as we are.
Well my friends, while Team Hannam did invariably stink, Team Strange Girls managed to sink shot after shot with seemingly expert precision. One of them claimed she had a boyfriend once who “taught her about angles.” Yeah, I’m sure, but it didn’t take us long to figure that had we played for money they would have wiped us clean Fast Eddie Felson style. This coupled with the fact that David noticed one of them having hairy armpits led to a very disappointing experience at Amarillos. Having no more interest in the game and being taken advantage of, I left the place in rather a sour mood and raged my way up to Midtown where Lucas promised a richer atmosphere.
The walk took about fifteen minutes and we all walked into a place where the atmosphere was indeed richer. All of a sudden the boring night had been transformed at it was like Saturday night again! I was very pleased and proceeded to indulge in libations with the gang. For Max’s part he was treated with essentially a fish bowl filled a beautiful blue elixir. ‘Twas a good night from there on out and with a couple of spews and my brother having to be carried out and driven home. As for me and several others, we drunkenly walked all the back to the apartment where I instantly fell asleep on the floor.
Morning of the second day found Josh and I waking up early and getting back to UCF by 12:30. Josh had a prior commitment that he had to get back for and fortunately for me, he was willing to drive while I continued to sleep. As for the rest of the guys, because David had driven up himself, this allowed them to stay just one more day.
Well that was alright with me but when I got back home all I could think about was how much I wanted to go back. I really had a great time and, I mean, what’s a two hour drive to a road warrior such as myself?