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    Burlington, Iowa

    August 5, 2016

    When I arrived to this city, I had no idea where I would be staying.  However, thanks to one of my old graduate school friends, I secured housing with "Ginny" -- short for Virginia.


    She's the second woman with that name I have met in the last week.  Both are gracious, warm, and kind.  


    Maybe there's something to that name?  


    Ginny gave me straight shot directions to her house which made it easy to navigate despite not knowing where I was going. 


    I rang her doorbell:  an elderly woman with a walker opened it. Betsy (my grad school amiga) did mention to me that she was in her 80s.


    Later, "Ginny" admitted that she was surprised to see a "petite little thing."


    Apparently, she expected the ultimate biker mamma (brutish and bulky).  I was happy to shatter that stereotype she had of female motorcycle riders.  


    I drove the bike into her empty garage (she no longer drives due to her ailing health), and she accepted me into her home.


    We got along like a couple of sisters if you don't count the amount of years between us (she turns 88 on February 2nd).  


    It was like being with Anita (from Plant City) all over again.


    A proud Democrat, and devout Lutheran -- despite having a Republican upbringing in a conservative town -- we discussed everything from the DNC to the New Yorker article (on Trump) to Colbert.  


    Let me be clear about "Ginnie" (sometimes called "Gin"):  she does not look her age; she has an engaging intellect; and she has a sophisticated art background, too.


    Conversing with this woman is a joyful experience.  


    Her only drawback:  she worries about people.  


    In fact, she mentioned that she did not want to know anyone on a motorcycle because she doesn't like to worry about others.  (I'm now on her prayer list.)  


    We swapped stories back and forth about her family and herself -- her past, her present, and even her future.  She'd like to live just a few more years to watch her youngest great-granddaughter speak.


    Six hours passed.  


    She offered me something to drink (I chose tea); she offered me her delicious strawberry cake (made with coconuts and pecans); she offered me preferential laundry time.


    I love this woman:  wife (now widowed), mother, grandmother, former Ethan Allen designer, seamstress...


    The list goes on and on...  


    Following our marathon chat, I began a load of laundry; later, I showered.


    I fell fast asleep on the pull-out couch.  


    The thunderous lightening storm failed to keep me awake.  

    When I awoke, it was close to 9 a.m.


    Ginny had made coffee, so we had that for breakfast along with "Fred Bread" (you'll have to get the story from her).  We drank coffee together and shared even more.  


    I asked her about Hy-Vee (an employee-owned grocery store), and she raved about it.  The expanding chain delivers her medicines and groceries to her home for a small fee.  She loves being able to support it rather than the other competitor (you know -- the big W).    


    Later, she drew me a map of what I should see in town.



    I have been to Burlington once before (in 2004 to visit Betsy); it was wonderful to explore the city through the eyes of a native.

    Now for the run down...


    Capitol Theatre (1937); Snake Alley (circa 1894); Cobblestone Alley



    Burlington's downtown area is being revitalized; construction was taking place in many areas, yet the city still has structures needing a face-lift.


    At least, the city has been open to selling historic structures for minimum cost in exchange for restoration.  


    I had read an article about how the live music venue and bar The Washington was originally purchased for $1.  Of course, a young entrepreneur grabbed it and made it a successful business venture.


    Why is this not happening in other parts of our country?  

    Following my jaunt around the steeple view area, I stopped for a quick bite at the Uptown Ivy Bakery and Cafe.


    Later, I jumped back on the motorcycle to blog at the library.  


    The Burlington Public Library was constructed with love.  


    Not only does it have an outstanding window view overlooking the bridge into Illinois and the Mississippi River, it also has a children's area where books are stacked like record albums (just below adult waist level).


    Did I mention it houses the Stories Cafe (a light food and coffee shoe) run by Hope Haven (a group dedicated to serving mentally and physically-challenged persons).  


    Based on my experience more than a decade ago, Burlington, Iowa continues to grow in positive ways.  


    Seeing progress taking place along Mississippi River towns gives me hope.

    Until we meet again, my friend!  




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