DAY 43 – TUESDAY, AUGUST 20

OAKVILLE TO BURLINGTON

We woke on the shores of Lake Odessa and Bev served us a delicious breakfast with plenty of coffee. We enjoyed a beautiful orange sky that colored the lake. After breakfast, the Columbus Junction cross-country team would join the run out of Oakville, Iowa – an awesome day was ahead of us. Except for the storms . . .

We made our way back to the launch point in a heavy rain. Kathy and Bev met us there and it was clear that we wouldn’t be able cover the distance to Burlington this morning. Heavy thunderstorms and frequent lightning strikes kept us in the van. The radar didn’t look encouraging. We’d need to drive the Relay van to Burlington to keep our appointments. No worries, though. We have two days in Burlington, Iowa ahead of us. We can circle back and cover these miles tomorrow. 

The storms continued as we made our first stop in Burlington at the Bean Counter coffee shop to catch up on some work. We enjoyed several rounds of coffee (and free WiFi) as we worked on our notes. It was a welcome opportunity, but the fact that we didn’t arrive here by foot or bike was a bit unsettling.

Down to the visitor’s center for a quick review of the day’s events. Met Chelsea LeRud with Greater Burlington Partnership and Nancy with the Welcome Center. Connie Gugeler, a family friend was also there to greet us. From there we went up to West Burlington, Iowa to Bickel’s Cycling & Fitness, meeting Tyler Bickel the owner as we walked in. His dad owned it before him, starting out as a diesel repair shop then adding in bikes and chainsaws then also the fitness equipment. Tyler took over 10 years ago, and they service a wide geographic range of customers. We saw some vintage Schwinn bikes on display, and visited for a bit, but ultimately our goal was to drop off our bikes for maintenance. Super quick turnaround, the mechanic Mike would have them done later that day or first thing in the morning for us!

Our first appointment of the day was to meet Charlie and Lisa Walsh, brother and sister of a longtime Burlington family, at Drake’s for lunch. We learned a great deal about Lisa’s passion for restoring the Cascade Bridge at Crapo Park, and Charlie’s work in cleaning up the river and developing the riverfront committee in Burlington. He’s not afraid to butt heads with the city, well neither of them are, all for the better of Burlington. 

Over to the Bean Counter again for meeting with David Kroll and Mike O’Neil. David is from Burlington, but spent ten years in Nashville before returning home. Mike is from Montana, and moved to Burlington in childhood. They are partners in running a venue in town and bring in many events here – from ballet to bull riding. They both feel like everyone supports each other here in a “small” town—much different than Nashville and other larger cities… we are finding that the designation of “small town” seems to cover populations of 200 to 60,000 even. 

Both David and Mike make their home here because of the people (social networks), the landscape (river and ravines), and a community culture of support. They both love and hate the fact that everyone knows everyone else around here. A blessing and a curse, getting caught up in the grocery store aisles for an hour. While the winters are a bit tough, the rest of the seasons make up for it. While both have come and gone from Burlington at least once, it looks like David and Mike will be making this Iowa town home for a good while.

Up to Lisa’s home on the bluff where we met her friend Bob. We sat out by her pool, soaking in the sun, learning a bit more about each of our hosts through a meandering conversation. Tom took a quick walk on the sloping lawn, stretching his neck out to see the railroad that runs a 90 degree drop below — he couldn’t get a glimpse, too steep! 

We couldn’t stay long so we absorbed the view as best we could and headed downtown again to the Drake to join my parents for dinner with the Gugeler clan. The Gugelers are a farm family, well established in Burlington, and connected to my own family for some years through my mom’s 4H exchange experience during her childhood. The four Gugeler sisters, their husbands and some of their children met us for dinner, along with Barb and Aaron Huffman, another farming couple and friend of the family, in from Illinois. It was a raucous “family reunion” of sorts here on the river, and afterwards, Tom and I were ready to climb in bed and turn the lights out until morning.