US-52 crosses the Mississippi at Sabula, Iowa and Savanna, Illinois. Sabula is Iowa’s only island city, located on an Island in the Mississippi between the two states. We stopped for dinner at the Island City Café, a somewhat-dingy little diner. It was operated by only two people when we arrived: a woman cooking in the back and a younger woman doing everything else.
It took her some time to get to us, though there weren’t many other patrons. As we entered the dining room, an older man greeted the boys with, “Hello there, young fellows.” We sat at a table near the window and watched the dinner “rush” start.
The dining room seemed to be run on a fairly casual basis. As locals entered, they thought nothing of ducking behind the counter to pour themselves a cup of coffee or rummage in the refrigerated case for the pitcher of iced tea. It was just as well, since the waitress seemed to be working—as Corner Gas would have put it—“like a rented donkey.”
It was one of the few places where we didn’t attract stares, despite the fact that we stuck out like a lighthouse on a rocky point. Everyone knew everyone, and we listened to health complaints, the recap of a failed driving test, a story about someone taking out his dentures, and missed connections (“You walked right by me yesterday. I was sitting over there…”). Many people sat at the long table in the middle of the room, different parties right next to each other.