Karen Cali (KC) has a knack for finding Orlando's true dive bars. She invited me to come out on a mini SketchCrawl at a biker bar located in a Howard Johnson's , Crossroads Bar and Grill (2801 East New York Avenue, Deland). The music was blazing as we walked in. We walked from table to table trying to find a good vantage point from which to sketch. Tables at the back of the place were so dark that it was impossible to see the sketchbook. We tried sitting at about 4 different spots before finally deciding to sit at the bar itself to sketch the band and patrons. The bar had bras hanging from the ceiling along with an American flag and then a confederate flag proudly displayed behind the stage. We both ordered a beer and got to work.
There were free wings that night and the guy next to me was enjoying a drum stick. His frayed denim jacket announced that he had been at Bike Week in Daytona. The band was all high energy singing rock and roll cover songs and I later found out the lead singer was exactly my age. Between sets the bass guitarist with the long black hair came over to KC to see what she was working on. They talked for a while and she put in a song request which was the first song they performed when they started playing again.
A competition was announced and a call for volunteers went out. I was surprised when KC got up and walked to the stage to participate. The competition involved holding two buckets filled with beers and ice above your head. The one who held them up the longest would win. KC competed against two other women in the women's round. As they struggled everyone in the bar started shouting out encouragement. KC won. When she sat back down, she said her arms were shaking, which might make it difficult to draw. The men's round which I refused to volunteer for went on for a long time. They guy who won had huge biceps. KC had to compete against him in the final round. She put up a good fight but he won.
Several friends of KC greeted us and started admiring our work. Other bar patrons asked to see the sketchbooks and there was much appreciation. When the first sketch was done, I wanted to with another sketch of the huge bikers hidden in the shadows with long gray beards and gorgeous tattoos. That sketch will have to wait for another night since we both agreed we had sketched enough. The place was a gritty down to earth blast. When I got home I realized my sketchbook smelled like cigarette smoke.