Moline, Illinois was settled by morally upright migrants from New England, people whose families had been in America for several generations, God-fearing Protestants who appreciated the value of a good day’s work and railed against the evils of drink. Given the pleasures to be found in downtown Moline today, those founding Moliners must be ready for a stiff one themselves.

Moline is a medium sized city of 44,000 people, surrounded by other medium-sized cities in a region known as the Quad Cities. If you know me, you have already heard about the Quad Cities, ad nauseam. Even though I have been to the QC many times, most of my evenings out have been confined to Moline’s neighbors, Rock Island and Davenport. Ready to correct that oversight, my friend Mateo took me bar hopping in Moline, after loaning me a belt for the night. (Packing errors seem to be increasingly common for me.)

Christopher D’s is the kind of place you crave after a ten hour shift at John Deere, a tavern where you can have a cold beer while watching the Cubs game. The décor looks unchanged since the last makeover circa 1965, complete with fake wood paneling and drop ceilings. The only concession to the modern age is the digital jukebox, which has an impressive range of songs, from country standards to redneck rock. Friendly bartenders, lots of TVs, a grill open late (I love the Southwest Burger!), and a pool table – the kind of place one could get very comfortable. I imagine that I could find this kind of neighborhood bar in a hundred different places around the Quad Cities.

Just a block away, La Flama is a Mexican restaurant by day and salsa dance club by night, at least on Saturday nights. This is the new(ish) face of the Quad Cities – a mostly Hispanic crowd dancing to spirited and sensual salsa music and drinking strong margaritas. Mateo and I decided to put our best feet forward, which were a bit lighter than usual thanks to the tequila. As we danced we noticed a few chuckles, but it wasn’t clear if it was the novelty of two men dancing the salsa together or the shock of realizing that not all queers can dance.

Bent River Brewing Company is merely half a block from La Flama but a location on 5th Avenue is about the only thing they share. Bent River is a laid back place, so laid back that sometimes it takes a while to get a beer. The hippie vibe resounds, but classic rockers also land here. On weekends, live music is a draw, like the band we saw–Deadroots – “the most contagious band in the central Midwest.” On some nights, you might even see a full moon – inside the bar, like we did, though he was more attractive with his pants on.

I gotta hand it to downtown Moline. On a Saturday night, with its range of bar-going experiences at your feet – down home crowd, sexy Salsa, funky jam bands. Heck, we didn’t even get to the Bierstube, the German beer hall replica whose slogan is “Where everyone can get a little German in them.” (I think I saw that same slogan at a gay bar in Berlin.) From morally upright to revelry all night – if only those old New Englanders could see their city now.

By the way, who knew there would be so much traffic in Davenport at 4am on a Sunday morning??

Today’s Bad Decision: Not signaling a turn at least 100 feet in advance. Apparently. Of course, the Rock Island cop who pulled me over had no way of seeing whether my signal was on for 100 feet before I turned. What I did: turned right on red in front of a cop, legally, then took two lefts to park on the north side of the road in front of the house where I’m staying, in a car with out of state plates. At least I didn’t get a ticket. Johnny Law, Johnny Law…

**The Quad Cities are covered in Road Tripping Along the Great River Road, Vol. 1. Click the link above for more. Disclosure: This website may be compensated for linking to other sites or for sales of products we link to.

© Dean Klinkenberg, 2008

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