If there’s a North Buena Vista, Iowa, there must be a plain old regular Buena Vista.

We never found it as we ran south out of town. Maybe it was lost in the fog that enveloped the Mississippi River bluffs on a beautiful August morning.

We covered the miles uneventfully and the rain started just as Victoria ended her run at the Port of Dubuque. Jared McGovern welcomed us into the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium for a tour and a good conversation about his life and connection to the water. He’s the Curator of Conservation Programs and passionate about environmental education and much more. 

Jared embodies the personality of this place; resilient and hopeful. He returned to his home county of Dubuque, Iowa after many travels and says that this place is home. Home with a capital H. Learn more about the good work that he and his colleagues are doing and stop by the museum when you’re in the area – it’s a gem!

The rain continued, coming down much heavier as we pulled up to John Anderson-Bricker’s home and studio. He’s a sculptor, painter (and fellow runner). He and his wife, Kristin, are originally from Grand Rapids, Michigan. They came here by way of Syracuse, New York and consider Dubuque to be home, in large part because of the Mississippi River. 

John says that his lifelong connection to water began with Lake Michigan – finding it most beautiful but also most dangerous. John explained to us that he and Kristin “exist on the Mississippi corridor”. They get centered by hiking and paddling and being outdoors. While not explicitly trying to send an ecological message, John’s art is imbued with respect and appreciation of the natural world around us. 

We landed at the Smokestack in the afternoon and were welcomed by Scott Cornwell and Susan Price, our generous hosts for the evening. Gretchen was working the bar and made sure we were fed and rehydrated. Susan also arranged for Alanda Gregory to join us for some conversation, and Victoria sat down with her to dive deep into her story of migration from Chicago to Dubuque some years ago. A friend lived out here and they thought they’d check it out, feeling the city oversaturated with producers of House Music—which is her husband’s industry. Upon discovering the river, the people, the sheer expanse of economic opportunity in Dubuque, they were sold. Now you can barely get them back to Chicago, this place is so much their home. Alandra even feels and welcomes the challenge in growing the diversity quotient around Dubuque versus the built in diversity back in Chicago. She feels things are not as segregated despite there still needing to be a growth in numbers in the minority population. And yet, it is a growth she sees happening.

While speaking with Alandra, Michaela Freiburger of the Dubuque Main Street program walked in and sat with us—she and Alandra obviously knowing each other, friendly conversation ensuing. Alandra had to get on to a play practice, though, so then it was Victoria and Michaela one on one. She’s a hometown girl, never left, and has really found her niche in this job with Main Street.

Finally the clock turned to 7 PM and it was time for the performance. A few folks had gathered, and Victoria shared stories from up river as well as heard the voices gathered there, the voices of Dubuque.

Before the night was over, Scott gave us a tour of the building. So much going on on so many levels, a hidden recording studio, home to many events, salsa night, etc. We finally collapsed at the home of Scott and Susan – just next door to the Smokestack. And we met Sparky, our very excited companion for another much needed night’s rest.