I’m in La Crosse for an hour or so to catch up on some notes before driving another hour to meet up with friends. This being the first weekend of OktoberFest, the streets are packed with people walking from the Fest grounds to the downtown bars (and back). Amazingly, I haven’t seen anyone fall down or throw up, yet. As much as I’d like to stick around and watch the crowds become increasingly drunk and rowdy, I’m saving myself for CranberryFest tomorrow.

I spent the past two days at the RiverAction-sponsored Upper Mississippi River Conference. The Quad Cities-based organization threw a big party last night to celebrate 25 years worth of work that has dramatically transformed the riverfront in the Quad Cities into one of the best waterfronts in the country. I nearly skipped the dinner because I was tired, but my brother convinced me to go back and listen to the keynote speaker, Charleston (SC) Mayor Jim Riley. It was a good decision. Not only was he a dynamic speaker with an encouraging message (built beautiful public waterfront spaces and private development will follow; fight hard for public access to the water; keep pushing and pushing and pushing to make it happen), but I lucked into sharing a table with the mayors of East Moline and Rock Island. I didn’t get much of a chance to chat with them, but I gave them copies of my Quad Cities Travel Guide, then had a brief moment of anxiety worrying about whether I said anything about their cities that might piss them off.  Not wanting to create more rivalry and envy among the cities, I spent about an hour this morning driving around the Quad Cities to deliver copies of the guide to the mayors of the other towns in the book.

On the way up to Wisconsin, I stopped for lunch in Clinton (Iowa) at Espresso, Cigars, and More, one of my favorite places anywhere along the Mississippi River. While I was there, a couple arrived who had heard my radio interview on WVIK, saw the guidebook next to the cash register, and decided to buy a copy. Regina pointed out that the author–me–just happened to be sitting at a table stuffing himself with picadillo, red beans and rice, and fried plantains. I chatted with them for a few minutes, signed their book, and, for the first time in my life, felt like a star.

© Dean Klinkenberg, 2009