RAGBRAI 2019, day 6: Fairfield to Burlington

I survived my night at The Rakmapura Park Hotel in Vedic City, just north of Fairfield. My over-active imagination had me on edge, but I was worried for nothing. In fact, I had a very pleasant night and slept much later than I expected.

After I checked out of the hotel (still nobody at the front reception desk), I grabbed a latte and a currant scone (warm from the oven!) at the inviting coffee shop Café Paradiso in downtown Fairfield (top and below).

Before I say goodbye to Fairfield, have I convinced you to visit this town in southeast Iowa? Besides the First Friday Art Walks, you can take in FAIRfest (Labor Day weekend), municipal band concerts (Tuesday nights in July and August), a Live on the Square Summer Concert Series, Farmers Market (Saturday mornings May through October), Oktoberfest (first Friday in October), and a holiday tree lighting (the Friday after Thanksgiving). Or just go for dinner and a stroll any time!

Once I figured out how to get out of Fairfield on county road H46, I drove toward Stockport, with its bright red depot and Stockport Freedom Rock, featuring the oldest courthouse in Iowa.

Back on the road, I enjoyed seeing the healthy-looking farm fields of southeast Iowa. I didn’t see much farming activity going on, but occasionally I got stuck behind a slow-moving farm implement. I sort of enjoyed those times because I could just drive really slowly and listen to NPR on Iowa Public Radio.

I’m pretty geeky when it comes to NPR. All day Friday I listened to about a million different reports and memories and behind-the-scenes stories about the 50-year anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. I will admit I’d heard enough of that, so I was really excited when “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me” came on the radio Saturday morning. Not only is this one of my favorite shows (for those who are not familiar, it’s a news quiz, and it’s hilarious) but this morning was especially entertaining because the “Bluff the Listener” game featured the story of Iowa’s own Jerry Foxhoven, the recently ousted director of the Iowa Department of Human Services. These two-lies-and-a-truth stories are generally based on quirky national or international news, so to have an Iowa story featured was pretty awesome. And then Mo Rocca started rapping Meredith Willson’s “The Music Man” and I could just not stop laughing. (The “true” story featured Foxhoven’s love of Tupac Shakur; he did not, in fact, hate corn.) And then Piper Kerman, author of “Orange is the New Black,” talked about how to make prison cheesecake. I was over the moon. Thank you, NPR. I heart you so much.

By the time I got to Salem, Iowa, at 9:50 a.m. it was so hot and humid that I started using my long lens exclusively, just so I didn’t have to move around as much.

I did stop and walk around the Lewelling Quaker Museum, which seemed really nice.

At Houghton, I encountered a big-ass grain elevator and a baseball game.

And then I saw a group of cyclists! Were they following the RAGBRAI route, as I was? Or just out for a morning ride? They were moving very fast, headed toward Geode State Park. I photographed them from behind, passed them, and then photographed them coming toward me. I’m sure they wondered who the hell I was.

I didn’t see any namesake geodes in Geode State Park, but I drove as far as the lake.

This lake was created in 1950 and is known for its bluegill, largemouth bass, and channel catfish. The park is popular for swimmers and hikers as well.

I was amused by this sign. It’s the little things, really.

I wasn’t aware that there was an Army ammunition plant in Middleton, but there it was, surrounded by razor wire, right across the road from a peaceful welcome sign featuring butterflies.

The town of West Burlington (population 2945) is, of course, located just west of Burlington, the next overnight town.

I’ve visited Burlington (population 25,663) a few times, so I pretty much knew what I wanted to see and do there. I started at the community field, home to the Class A baseball team, the Burlington Bees.

From there, I headed toward the Mississippi River to a scenic overlook:

According to Burlington’s website, “Ripley’s Believe It or Not has designated Snake Alley as ‘Unbelievably Crooked’ and the #1 Odd Spot in Ripley’s Guide to the Curious Corners of America.” It continues, “Perhaps Burlington’s most famous landmark, Snake Alley … consists of five half-curves and two quarter-curves.”


It doesn’t look like much in two dimensions, does it? You really need a drone to do this street justice.

I was hoping to find lunch in Burlington, but the hills and the traffic patterns deterred me. I moved on toward my final “day” of driving.



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