I was fortunate enough to go on a series of road trips this season, all of which featured jam-packed itineraries. One unfortunate side effect of a busy schedule is that I found it difficult to explore the areas I was visiting outside of the confines of the ballpark.
Difficult, but not entirely impossible. On Sunday, September 5th, I was was able to make a brief stop at “Snake Alley” in Burlington, IA (home of the Bees, of course).
Located in Burlington’s idyllic, sprawling, and somewhat ramshackle “Heritage Hill” neighborhood, Snake Alley is billed as nothing less than “the Crookedest Street in the World”.
A brief history, from the official Snake Alley website:
Snake Alley was constructed in 1894 as an experimental street design. The intention was to provide a more direct link between the downtown business district and the neighborhood shopping area located on North Sixth Street.
Working together, three public-spirited German immigrants conceived and carried out the idea of a winding hillside street, reminiscent of vineyard paths in France and Germany.
But unlike most vineyard paths, you are allowed to drive down this one. So, I did. The view from the top:
People actually live on this road. One of the houses:
The view, upon reaching the bottom:
And, really, that’s about all I had time for. But that’s what’s great about Minor League Baseball — it can bring you to small towns, such as Burlington, that might otherwise be overlooked. And an afternoon at Heritage Hill combined with a Bees game at Community Field that evening would make for a truly excellent day of leisure.
A long-term goal of mine is to be able to combine the ballpark experience with additional content from the town where said ballpark resides. I still have a ways to go toward truly accomplishing this, but Snake Alley was a start.
And I truly appreciate that a pair of readers took the time to email me with suggestions regarding things to check out while I was in the Midwest. In addition to recommending Snake Alley, former Bees employee Adam Small mentioned that the Old Thresher’s Reunion was well worth checking out. Over 100,000 people flood the town of Mount Pleasant, IA (population 10,000) over Labor Day weekend as part of an extensive tribute to vintage agricultural equipment, and country music shows and live theater take place nightly. Here’s a shot from the official Midwest Old Threshers web page, which conveys what a truly American experience this must be:
Small also suggested stopping at Ross’ Restaurant in Bettendorf, IA (one of the Quad Cities). A 24-hour diner, the restaurant is best known as the home of the Magic Mountain. According to a local newspaper article, the Magic Mountain “starts off with grilled Texas toast covered with Ross’ special hamburger meat, then is piled high with a choice of either French fries or hash browns and smothered with cheese sauce. A diner can request his or her mountain be capped with snow — an option of chopped onion.”
Unfortunately, I cannot find images of this mammoth concoction online. Use your imagination, or, better yet, visit the restaurant and send me a picture.
Also providing some Midwestern food recommendations was Iowa native Shaun Northrup (now VP of tickets for the Fresno Grizzlies). He wrote:
If you stop at any restaurant/gas station and you see a “tenderloin” on the menu — ORDER IT!! It is a fried pork sandwich.
As you may recall, I did get a chance to order a Tenderloin while taking in at the game at Burlington’s Community Field.
I was a bit intimidated by the Tenderloin, and didn’t quite know how to approach it from a condiment perspective, so I contacted Northrup for advice. His reply:
“‘With Everything’ — ketchup, mustard, pickles, onion, salt, and pepper.”
Another food recommendation I was able to enjoy was Sterzing’s Potato Chips, a company based out of Burlington. They were crisp, tasty, and refreshingly simple: potatoes, oil, and salt. Native Iowans who go on to live elsewhere are known to suffer Sterzing’s withdrawal, or so I’ve heard.
A final recommendation, and one I passed the exit for but did not have time to check out, was the Bob Feller Museum in Van Meter, IA. I’ll definitely work it into my plans the next time I’m in the area. A visit there would almost certainly have resulted in an interesting experience, perhaps along the lines of Greenville’s Shoeless Joe Jackson Museum.
Well, that’ll most likely do it for my 2010 “On the Road” content. Thanks for reading, and feel free to get in touch anytime regarding anything in this blog post, anything in Minor League Baseball, anything in America, or anything at all.