From all my childhood memories, fishing happens early in the morning—or at least that’s when you get started.

And today was no different. By early, I mean 7am—not the 4am that the alarm rang off at when I was growing up on the Gulf Coast, but 7am was early enough today for two folks who haven’t slept in for over a month. We had an appointment to meet with Rich Sadewasser near the Shantytown below the Marina Visitors Center area. Rich is a commercial fisherman, and while in the end we didn’t get out on the water, he did show us his nets and share with us his story. 

The Sadwassers are a family name around Guttenberg, Iowa, and both Rich and his brother Matt worked at the factory in Dubuque, Iowa until their early 50’s when they retired and took up new, more independent work—for Rich that meant commercial fishing, and for Matt that meant starting up a liquor store and restaurant and driving a truck at night. For both of them, Guttenberg is home, and Rich knows the river better than most around these parts—just having a sense for where he’s laid his nets in when he goes in to retrieve them.

Mandy Ludovissy of the local Guttenberg Chamber of Commerce met us as we spoke with Rich out on the water’s edge. While she’s the organizer of our visit, she’s also an inadvertent “voice” of the river here in Guttenberg as well. We found some time later in the day to talk at length with Mandy about the role of the Chamber in economic development in Guttenberg. However, this perhaps bureaucratic conversation led into a passionate testimony from Mandy about how education and ecotourism along the river are perhaps more needed than places to buy more souvenirs. If I could look into a crystal ball and see the future of Guttenberg and/or Mandy Ludovissy, I would see her at the helm of a great center for wildlife and environmental education that taps into all the great resources and facets of the community waiting to be further explored.

We also explored the local Farmer’s Market and Sidewalk Sale this Saturday morning, making a few purchases to bring along the road with us—some farm fresh eggs from a woman who keeps upwards of 50 chickens on her farm. We’ll boil them up and take them with us in the Yeti for shots of protein in the morning or whenever. The next booth over was a mother-daughter pottery team, and we knew we’d been needing a little wasabi soy sauce dish. They had just the perfect thing. We bought the dish and listened to their story. 

After the market we walked down to the Youth Fishing Tournament to see the weigh off and prizes be awarded. A young boy 10 years-old from Clinton, Iowa had the biggest fish and a very young boy 2 years-old from Guttenberg had the most interesting fish I think it was.

Regardless, there were a lot of young boys doing a lot of fishing, bringing a lot of buckets of fish to the table. But by the by, no girls were in the competition it seems.

Tom and I walked back to Walt Webster’s apartment where we are staying to log a few hours of work. We had a backlog of posts to work up and get out, especially after several days without internet. We also took a tour through the inside of town, off the The Great River Road, finding ourselves on some residential streets where the Catholic Church is and a bank, and then further up past the train tracks a sort of bypass highway with a Kwik Trip and Ford dealership, Anytime Fitness, two other banks, amongst other things. This part of town wasn’t on our programed agenda, but it’s good to know about it. The Kwik Star was the most bustling establishment we’d been into.

We finally made our way to Sodes Green Acre Country Market and Caféfor our complementary catfish dinner—caught by Rich Sadewasser and prepared by brother Matt Sadewasser. He and wife Beth are a delight, but the catfish and hand cut French fries were even more delightful to this hungry athlete. Even on a day of rest, no running or biking at all this day, I still got in over 12,000 steps according to Garmin Fitness, so when two plates of catfish—one whole and one small filet nuggets—came out to me AND Tom said he wasn’t hungry, well I dove in for all of it.

After Sode’s we met up with Mandy once again on Walt Webster’s balcony overlooking the Great River Road and the Great River. We planned to walk down to the Marina to meet up with her 14 year-old son Jaimie, designated as one of the “voices” of Guttenberg. Jaimie and his friend Nick were more than eager to take us out on the water in the metal fishing boat that Jaimie had recently procured by earning enough money through his lawn mowing business to buy the motor for.

While this kid isn’t old enough to drive a stick shift, he sure knows how to handle a watercraft. He’s out on the water—fishing, swimming, something—almost every day, unless he’s “working” (mowing lawns, that is). He showed us one of his favorite fishing spots along the spillway, and shared with us some of the risks of the river that he knows how to avoid.

Jaimie got us back to dry land just in time for the evening festivities to begin at the Marina Visitors Center. Jon Stravers and his awesome band Big Blue Sky were already at work providing stories through music for the crowd assembled. Not long after, Tom and I shared our story, what we were doing on the river and in Guttenberg in particular. I read a couple of stories from our journey upriver, and then our “voices” spoke out about their place in the community and connection to the river. Becky Hefel, Jaimie Ludovissy, Kevin Hanson, Joe Ihm, Morgan Tujetsch, Dean Shultz, and Mandy Ludovissy as well. Many more people had things to say, both to the group or just one on one to us afterwards—it was hard to break away. 

33 days traveled. 87 days to go.
690 miles traveled. 1710 to go.
Countless voices heard. Accumulating. Multiplying. Continuing to listen, as we go.