The day started out with some housekeeping, logistics, and the boiling of a dozen eggs to take on the road as sustenance.

We had given ourselves a later start this morning, so we thankfully had a moment to take a breath and assess. 10AM did at last roll around, however, and we were due back at the riverside gazebo where I had ended my run two days before. Tom would be heading out on foot along with local dentist and runner Jim Osterhaus. There to see him off was Mandy Ludovissy and three of her boys along with “voice” of Guttenberg, Iowa, Morgan Tujetsch. Everyone was a little consumed with the kids’ pet rabbit named Hasenpfeffer (namesake being the traditional German stew made from marinated rabbit!)—so much so that we almost missed Tom and Jim’s departure!

Off they went, though, and there I lingered talking with Mandy and Morgan for at least fifteen minutes more. Mandy wondered whether I had ever done anything quite like this project before, specifically with the running component. I tried to explain that I don’t see Relay as a running project at its core, rather I see it as a community engagement project. The running gets us where we need to be, gets us there in an embodied way, the migratory dance on the river. However, it’s the dance of interaction between people, one on one or in small groups, that’s the work that I’ve truly done before and is growing and evolving with every voice and landscape we gather on this great river. Several meandering thoughts later, I had to get on my way to catch up with Tom and find the exchange point. Mandy handed me a tub full of watermelon to add to our cooler of sustenance—the loaves and fishes abound—and I drove off toward North Buena Vista, Iowa (or Buenie as the locals call it).

We had decided to run the whole way there, about 15 miles, so Tom would be covering the first 7.5 miles and I the last. I found a spot to pull over and waited. Eventually he runs up the hill—did I mention the hills? Right, well, Tom had some hills, and some unexpected miles, slowing him down quite a bit. Then it was my turn to face the hills, and let’s just say the hills won. I barely made it half way, stupidly trying to keep up my regular pace, so Tom took over and added another 4+ miles to his already racked up 9. Long day, and it was just beginning.

As Tom was making the last leg into Buenie, he stopped to chat with Tim and Brenda Greenwood driving in the opposite direction toward Guttenberg. This wasn’t a random conversation with just any motorist, however—Tim and Brenda were our hosts for the day in Buenie, and my mom had alerted them that we’d be running the road into town, arriving around noon. Tim gave Tom some instructions, and then they each went on their way. I arrived at the Greenwood’s house on the riverfront, followed almost immediately by Tim and Brenda who must have turned around to catch me, then followed not long after by Tom running in. Tim and Brenda were still heading back into Guttenberg for some supplies, but they directed us to the two bars up the hill as well as Pirate’s Pit Stop just across the way. In these spots we would find local color and local history, as well as a complementary meal provided by Bob Ludovissy at the Some Place Else Bar and Cafe.

We drove up the hill and parked between the two bars, separated by just three or four houses. Later as the day progressed, we would realize that parking the van up the hill rather than just walking would lead to some notoriety—clearly not a known vehicle in this town of 116 people. Our first stop was the Some Place Else Bar to get a beer and a bite to eat. It didn’t take long for Bob Ludovissy to figure out we were the “travelers” and set in on telling us some stories about his life, his experience in Korea, his travels after, his time at Fort Polk in Louisiana and meeting his wife down near Luling, bringing her back up north, and making a life together in Iowa. We looked at family photos and briefly caught sight of one of his sons and two grandsons who popped into the bar for a snack.

Bob didn’t monopolize our entire time at Some Place Else, however, as word of us travelers coming to town had also reached the ears of Sherri Moser Errthum who was spending her afternoon drinking diet cokes at the bar. She spotted us and came over to introduce herself, ask some questions, and share some stories of her own. Sherri was decked out in pink hiking boots, a pink dress, and a pink baseball cap—pink obviously her favorite color. Later in the evening she actually popped in on us at Tim and Brenda’s house on the river bearing gifts and additional stories. There she explained the reason for the hiking boots was a torn tendon in her ankle that couldn’t be operated on due to her diabetes. The doctor’s prescription was hiking boots from then on out, so she’s accumulated quite a collection, teal and red velvet, the pink ones for breast cancer awareness, amongst others. Sherri turns 71 on New Year’s eve and drives a black Jeep Wrangler, brand new after an accident in her last one, and she’s dreaming of going mudding if only she could convince someone to hose out the bottom of it when she’s done.

Before this extended interview with Sherri, though, we visited Hank’s Place—the other bar in Buenie, and there met up with Angie, Sheila and Brett, as well as owners of Hank’s, Don and Mary Ludovissy. Turns out Don and Mary are the parents of Mandy Ludovissy’s husband—it’s a small world down here. The have ten kids, including Mandy’s husband, and most of them have stayed near or around Buenie. Their son Henry tended bar in the morning and daughter Arlus drove in from Bettendorf to tend bar in the evening. Don and Mary sat with us outside the bar and talked for some time, joining in the evening meal provided by our hosts Tim and Brenda. They only live a stone’s throw away, quite literally, in the house next to the bar, but when it came time to leave, they drove the few feet from curbside into driveway. After 60 years of marriage and untold years of living, these two elders of the community deserve easy transport at the end of the day.

Throughout the afternoon I spent a great deal of time getting to know Angie and Sheila, two sisters from Marion, Iowa, near Cedar Rapids, both nurses, and with a family history around the county and state fair making tenderloin sandwiches and lemonade shake-ups. It was all I could do to keep from promising Sheila that we’d join her in DeMoines at the Fair this coming Thursday for a lemonade shakeup party! These two gals spend their weekends in Buenie, loving the lifestyle and landscape, and even though they hope to retire in Porta Vallarta some day, Angie says they’ll still weekend in Buenie even then.

Tom and I were invited to borrow Angie’s 1956 electric golf cart in order to ride down the hill to the Pirates Pit Stop, a floating gas dock for passing boat traffic. Linda and Whitey were on board, servicing a watercraft, when we walked up—all of us a little curious of the others. It ended up a nice conversation about Linda’s life growing up on the dock and how things have changed. While boaters are still making regular stops at the Pit Stop, supporting Linda and Whitey and truly cultivating a community on the water, the organizations like the DNR, Fisheries, Army Corps, and Coast Guard have focused their energies on the wildlife and the navigation channel rather than on enhancing economic growth for those trying to make a living off the water.

After the two bars, the pit stop, the community meal, and the dissertation with Sherri, we were finally tucked in at the house on the river. Not only had Sherri brought us a Buenie Cookbook, but Brenda also brought by a gift basket with local wine, Pirate’s Pit Stop T-Shirts and other sundry items. Some folks had warned we might have trouble in Buenie, but it looks like we found our way.