I departed from Ginny's house close to the noon hour.
Just before my bittersweet takeoff, I lubed -- bit by bit -- the entire motorcycle chain. It made an absolute difference in the crackling sounds I was hearing emanating from my motorcycle.
My ride from Burlington into Davenport involved many beautiful valleys overlooking swaths and swaths of rich agricultural tracts.
Forest greens blending with lime greens blending with autumn browns.
Rows and rows of clouds above mimicked the rows and rows of corn below.
Sunrays played hide and seek with the clouskies.
I was cold.
Some might consider 82-degrees a perfect cycling day; however, traveling 50+ miles per hour under those conditions sent intermittent shivers down my spine.
The ride served as a reminder that my route north will only grow cooler as the days progress.
Note to self: thicker socks, long johns, and new riding boots.
Despite the chills, I soaked in the scenery.
Pockets of small towns.
Barns and tractors and farms.
Trucks for sale; mini-vans for sale; abandoned vehicles.
Then, I came upon Muscatine, Iowa (touted the Pearl of the Mississippi River). Large box stores, grocery stores, and gas stations littered 61. A drive-thru Starbucks was even under construction.
Strangely, I did not see large residential communities, nor did I notice any sprawl. People must inhabit the area; otherwise, why have so many shopping options?
A small stretch of 61 from Burlington teased me with a brief view of the Mississippi just before reaching Davenport.
I followed signs heading east towards the river, and I found myself upon Le Claire Park. I pulled into a large, tranquil and somewhat shaded rectangular parcel of grass. A band shell and ferris wheel could be seen on the right; an empty casino could be seen on the left; straight ahead could be seen the mighty river.
When I parked the motorcycle, a man approached, and I smiled.
Apparently, a smile is equivalent to an open invitation.
Only he will ever know.
I walked to the river and took quite a few pictures; afterwards, I contacted Ginny's daughter (who lives in Bettendorf) to let her know I was nearby. I received directions on how to get to her house via both her and her husband.
Exploring away from the river, I found myself facing an architecturally-gorgeous glass building: the Figge (pronounced Figgy) Art Museum.
I entered and discovered admission was free to all the exhibits; I was excited to examine all the mediums, hallways, stairwells, and corridors.
I left the Figge nearly two-hours later.
One of the most interesting facets about the museum was how child-friendly it was. Nearly every floor had a space for children (and for that matter adults) to experiment with and create art related to the exhibit.
Next, I walked back towards the bridge crossing the Mississippi and walked along what's called the "Government Bridge" from Davenport to the Rock Island Arsenal.
The bridge was allowing a barge to pass through, so I was able to take pictures of the action in progress (see photo on the right side).
When I returned to the motorcycle, I reviewed my route into Bettendorf.
Taking the scenic route, a 15-minute trip turned into a 25-minute drive.
Luckily, the town was so small that it was easy to backtrack and retrace the perfect directions given to me by Fred.
I found Fred and Deborah's two-story home. It reminded me of a house you might see in a 1980's movie like Sixteen Candles or Risky Business or Ferris Bueller's Day Off.
I nervously rang the doorbell.
Both Fred and Deborah opened the door and welcomed me with friendly eyes and smiles.
Relieved, I hugged the two of them as soon as I walked in their home.
Fred encouraged me to unload all of my gear. Later, I pulled in the motorcycle to their garage.
A tender roast dinner was in the midst of preparation along with melt in your mouth mashed potatoes, glazed carrots, fresh green beans, and tomatoes. Fred offered and poured the wine while Deborah prepared the appropriate dishware; meanwhile, I set the table.
Conversation with the two of them was fascinating and easy.
Topics ran the gamut from their sons to relationships to art to education to Iowa to politics to me to them to history to marriage to child-rearing to health to aging to pet ownership.
You could see the love and warmth towards each other even after 48-years together; you could also deduce how much of a nurturing environment they provided for their two boys to pursue artistic degrees and careers.
Fred, Deborah, and I shared conversation just until midnight.
We knew it was time to call it quits after enough yawns were passed back and forth.
I retired to my upstairs bedroom and fell into a deep slumber.
Just after 9 a.m. I awoke and walked downstairs into the kitchen. Fred had the coffee ready, and Deborah offered toast and jam.
I had the coffee first; then, I drank tea; then, I had some toast and jam.
We continued our conversation as if we had never left off from the previous evening's discourse. Later, Fred took their two adorable Bichons for a walk.
Nearing the lunch hour, Fred offered a short drive around the area and a historical tour of the Quad Cities.
We examined various lock and dam structures, Credit Island, and Mississippi River sloughs.
Spending time with Fred and Deborah provided me with in-depth historical insights on the Quad Cities region. (They have been in the area for about as long as I've been alive.)
I like it here; it's a place that surprises you.
On our return home, Fred drove me to Hy-Vee (an employee-owned grocery store) to compare it what I normally see in Florida.
It reminded me of an upscale Publix Fresh Market.
Hungry... we headed back to the homestead.
Deborah greeted us when we arrived; she was prepping our early evening meal of hamburgers and some left-overs. The highlight was definitely the local mustard around here called Boetje's (bo-cheez) Mustard.
This stuff is like heroin for mustard lovers: a hurt-so-good nasal passage heat-wave.
For dessert, we had a disastrous concoction: mine.
I purchased some angel food cake cubes which tasted like they were a few days old. They were so chewy; it was like I had microwaved them.
The melted dark chocolate could not save them... not even vanilla ice cream.
Luckily, Fred and Deborah had a good sense of humor.
Following dessert, I used Deborah's laptop to blog in the casual dining room while Fred and Deborah relaxed right next door in the living area. I also booked my next trip to Dubuque through airbnb (found a place for $27 a night -- nearly as much as camping in Hannibal).
I wrapped up around 10 p.m. in order to engage in more conversation with this memorable couple.
We ended the evening just after 11 p.m.
This morning (Monday), I awoke around 8:30 a.m.
Ernie (one of the Bichons) greeted me with a jump on the bed and several doggy licks to the face.
I walked downstairs made some chai and chatted more with Fred and Deborah.
Following some oatmeal for breakfast and a shower, I packed my bags for departure even though I have yet to actually depart.
Fred just dropped me off at the recently renovated Bettendorf Public Library where they allow you one hour of free internet.
It's nearly noon, and I am plotting my driving route to my next destination.
Dubuque will be my final stop in Iowa (at least for now).
I look forward to returning to this state soon; it's more progressive here than I would have ever imagined.
Until we meet again, my friend.