Sunday, July 25, 2010

Idyllic Iowa

I spent a week traversing the highways of Iowa, watching 7 games in that time in 5 cities. I didn't spend much time in any one place, but did enjoy the relaxed nature of the state, and its rolling hills as I tried to find some back roads to get from town to town.

I normally like to write about a city after I have visited it, but in this case, I'll just briefly mention one thing about 3 of the places where I actually spent some time. I didn't see anything in Cedar Rapids or Clinton, simply driving in and out around a baseball game, but did manage to see a few things in Des Moines, Davenport, and Burlington.

Des Moines

The largest city and capital of Iowa, Des Moines is located at the junction of the I-80 and I-35, in the middle of the state. It has a small downtown area with Court Avenue serving as an entertainment district that is within walking distance of the ballpark.

The tourism highlight is the State Capitol (above), just east of downtown. It is open for guided tours or you can just walk around yourself. The dome is gilded in pure gold and the rotunda has several works of art. Below is the skyline from the Capitol on a hot and hazy day.


Davenport is one of the Quad Cities that lie on the Mississippi on the eastern border of Iowa. It is the third largest city in the state but the entire Quad Cities area (including Bettendorf and the Illinois cities of Moline, East Moline, and Rock Island) is much larger than Des Moines.

The river is the highlight of the town and you can spend time at parks next to the river, such as Centennial Park just next to the ballpark. There is also the Rock Island Arsenal, a U.S. military installation that has several tourist attractions, such as the Mississippi River Visitors Center. You need an ID to get on the island and if you are not American, you will need to contact them in advance to get clearance.

Near the Rhythm City Casino is the Davenport Skybridge which has a small observation deck (above) that looks over the Mississippi. Below is a picture of the Centennial Bridge from the observation deck, as well as a shot of train passing beneath.


Just 80 miles south of Davenport is the small town of Burlington. The downtown area is next to the river and has been flooded , but the highlight is Snake Alley, a twisted road much like Lombard Street in San Francisco. It was once named "Crookedest Street in the World" by Ripley's believe it or not.

There is also a Heritage Center run by the Des Moines County Historical Society and housed in the building below, just a couple of blocks from Snake Alley.

Perhaps the most disturbing thing about Burlington is the crazy fines for parking violations. A $5 fine for parking more than two hours? That's ridiculous. It's not even worth writing a ticket for that.

Seriously, Burlington is one of the smallest communities with an affiliated minor league team, with around 27,000 residents. But it is a good place to visit for a day and check out a game.

In fact, Iowa is a great spot for baseball road trippers. With the Field of Dreams movie site located in Dyersville, the 5 minor league teams, and an independent league team in Sioux City, there is plenty to see. But the backroad drives between the towns are beautiful and relaxing. If you've yet to see the Hawkeye State, plan a visit for next summer, you won't be disappointed.



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