June 3:  Burlington to Muscatine, IA  60.4 miles

As we pulled out of the parking lot this morning the sky looked ominous and bleak, but no one wanted to layer on the rain gear.  The air temperature was cool, but only enough for a light jacket or long sleeves and the thought of "sweating" under the Gore-Tex was vetoed immediately.  We were going to test Mother Nature!!  Anyway, we were in Iowa and headed back to Illinois -- it doesn't rain in Illinois!!

Back over yesterday's bridge and onto the east side of the river we went.  We have crossed this mighty Mississippi so many times, we have no idea which state we are in or how many times we will re-enter any one of them again.  The WomanTours tradition is to drink a marguerita after every state line crossing.  We have given up that routine, because it would mean "sipping" several times a day and still try to manage to navigate the bike.  Safety is prevailing!!!

Once on the Illinois side the terrain flatten out and the preverbal cornfields immerged from all sides.  Illinois, while having one of the biggest cities in the US based at its  northern edge, is a land of very little civilization to be seen.  Large farm "estates"  (thousands and thousands of acres owned by one family and tenant farmed by a whole community) consume the landscape.  Corn being the main crop for this rich soil can be seen growing at different stages of development.  "Knee high by the 4th of July" is a standard theme in this territory.

Out of nowhere suddenly came Big River State Forest.  Pine trees, oaks, maples, dogwood in bloom, woodland flowers -- the route twisted and turned through the forest allowing for the smells after a rain to permeate the air and tease the senses.  It is amazing how one minute the countryside can be wide open and flat, then the next heavily wooded and rolling pathways.  Nature's at work all the time.

Upon leaving the Big River State Forest the route followed the Great River Road northward.  Leaving the woodland behind the corn fields returned as did the huge grain silos peppering the horizon.  The wind was picking up now and the skies were developing huge thunder clouds, but they seemed to hang to the east just beyond our way.  A couple of puddles appeared on the road surface to remind us that those clouds do open once in awhile, so an eye cocked to the skies would be smart.

Sixteen miles of straight, flat roadway and there in the distance on the other side of the river the town of Muscatine began to appear.  Muscatine is called the "Button Capital of the World".  Apparently in the 1800 a German, by the name of Boepple arrived to find mussel shells covering the shoreline and knew that he could profit by making pearl buttons for the community.  Prior to this buttons needed to be imported from Europe so the wait for new ones was a long one!

He started the process, but was robbed of a huge profit, because everyone and his brother joined the campaign driving the competition to extreme.  With no demand and an over supply, the business started to fail.  But, alas, along came two gentleman that figured a way to mass produce the buttons (rather than by hand as it was being done by Boepple) and the "new" button makers took over.  Today the old factory has been converted into a restaurant overlooking the river.  It served as a great resting place for lunch after such a long, flat ride!!

Today, Muscatine calls itself the "Pearl of the Mississippi"!

Two days before we arrived a tornado touched down in this town and did some damage to a few homes and several businesses.  Our hotel sits next door to a Wendy's which was damaged by the storm.  Fortunately the damage throughout the area is missing roofs, blown down trees and rubbish strewn about.  Everyone is safe.

Vicki and Georgia:  "Here They Come!"

Kathy in Purple!!!!

Kleinsburg, IL

The Kleinsburg Train

Grain Silo

Mississippi River View

Sue & Kathy at Muscatine Monument

Kathy & Frankie at Muscatine Monument!

Downtown Muscatine

The Button Factory

Actual Original Button Machine