Sauerkraut and Innocence: Roadtripping with a Raindrop Moment #8

There’s something exhilarating about BIG skies – when I can stand in one place and see it from horizon to horizon, I think I can imagine how that hawk feels soaring above these Iowa cornfields. This morning’s sky is filled with pillowy clouds rolling in great waves across a background of October blue. Stretching in every direction is an endless sea of corn stalks swaying in the breeze, golden brown now, their work completed. At distant intervals, farmsteads dot the sea like emerald islands, with house, barn, sheds, and garden surrounded by trees, their tips showing the first tinge of fall. It seems to open up my chest, letting me stand taller and breathe deeper.


The charms of the Mississippi Great River Road are often subtle – instead of clamoring for your attention, these River towns often seem to wait for you to settle in and be quiet a bit. Then, in their own time and in their own way, they begin to lead you somewhere or tell you a story.

I know nothing about Burlington, Iowa, except that a few people have mentioned Snake Alley. I don’t quite get what that is, so I start there. It turns out to be a brick street, reminiscent of San Francisco’s Lombard Street, that squiggles its way down a very steep hill. It was built in 1894 to provide more secure footing for horses negotiating the hill during Iowa’s snowy winters. It did that, it seems, at least on the downhill trek, but after enough horses and riders took a tumble on the way up, the city fathers declared that it would become a one-way street and so it remains today.


As I’m getting my shots, there is a friendly “Good morning,” from a woman out walking her dog. In the unguarded, interested way of so many Iowans, she wants to know where I come from and what I am up to, so we stand on the sidewalk chatting. I’ve come on the perfect day, she tells me, to sample the German culture of the region and I absolutely must go to the Oktoberfest on the River. There will be a Polka band and dancing, German potato salad, brats, sauerkraut and plenty of beer. Now, truth be told, I’m not very fond of brats or sauerkraut (I think it helps to grow up with those things), but I love being where people are having fun, so I wouldn’t miss it.

Its early afternoon when I arrive, but the beer is flowing and the band is playing. People recognize me as being “not from here” and several immediately offer beer, food and conversation, so I join a table of revelers. There aren’t many grown-up dancers yet, so the floor is the domain of blonde, porcelain-skinned little girls twirling, stomping and giggling with full-out abandon.


A strolling, lederhosen-clad musician dubbed, “The Happy Bavarian” is teasing people and playing with the little ones.


He sings and plays his way into the food service area where he disrupts it all by flirting with the help. Peals of laughter follow him.


The band downshifts and starts a slow, melodic ballad. The girls on the dance floor snuggle close to one another, smiling serenely and swaying back and forth, much to the delight of their audience. I hurry out to photograph them and when I look up, I see tables full of beaming faces, everyone smiling as though they are the proud parents.


Much is said about separation, loneliness and alienation prevailing in today’s society. Here, surrounded by music and hearty laughter, watching innocence on the dance floor and warm openness everywhere, I wish that this moment could be shared with all who need it.


P.S. – Lots of new folks are joining the “raindrop journey” – welcome! If you haven’t done it yet, I hope you’ll sign up to be notified when new posts go up! There’s a box on every page where you can enter your email or sign up via RSS.  Thanks for traveling with us!

About Gayle Harper

Travel Photographer and Writer
This entry was posted in IA - Burlington, Mississippi Great River Road, Oktoberfest, Roadtripping With a Raindrop #8: Sauerkraut and Innocence, travel and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to Sauerkraut and Innocence: Roadtripping with a Raindrop Moment #8

  1. Marilyn Freyer says:

    Beautifully done. Makes me smile.

  2. Valeria T says:

    But, did you at least try the brats & kraut? So enjoy your adventures. Val T

    • Gayle Harper says:

      well….ummm….no But I am married to a guy who grew up in Wisconsin, so believe me – over the years, I have given them their fair chance with me! 🙂 Thanks for traveling with us!!

  3. Joanie Rogers says:

    Beautiful! So proud to call Burlington my hometown.

  4. Deb Bowen says:

    VERY NICE blog——I love that you took the time to enjoy and appreciate the moments here in Burlington, my hometown and for 5 generations back and convey our friendly and interested essence so well to your readers. (I’m of German ancestry and I don’t like brats and sauerkraut either!)

    • Gayle Harper says:

      Hi Deb! Thanks for visiting and for your kind comment! I had a GREAT time in Burlington (and I’m quite sure eating the brats and sauerkraut would not have made it better!) 🙂

      • Deb Bowen says:

        Please come back —you’ve only seen one event here. Believe there are many more. I can recommmend Steamboat Days which is the week in June that ends on Father’s Day each year—major acts all week from Tuesday through Saturday nights for a total cost for the week of $55; food vendors, carnival rides and thousands of people in lawn chairs and standing –enjoyinf the music, friends you haven’t seen since last Steamboat Days, the Mississippi River and the starlit night. Then on Sunday, Father’s Day, you can enjoy the Snake Alley Art Fair——-3 blocks of artisans in their booths up Snake Alley’s curves and for two blocks beyond that. It’s a tradition to stroll up and down the street and alley each year, shopping, greeting friends, buying art or jewelry, scupture, and many amazing things. There’s also our art deco style Capitol Theater, re-opened a year ago, and the really neat events it brings in. There’s HeritageFest in September all along Jefferson Street downtown. There’s the Living Windows event in early December, where everyone comes downtown to walk along Jefferson, admiring the living events going on in the store windows, sipping hot chocolate, taking horse-drawn trolley rides and wishing neighborsw merry christmas.
        If you come back, you will enjoy this event and more of the Iowa friendliness, guaranteed.

      • Gayle Harper says:

        Wow! You do know how to have fun there! Actually, once the book is off to be printed, I’ll be creating a slide show and then I plan to revisit as many of the river towns as possible. I’d love to come to Burlington again – and maybe even time it to coincide with one of your events! Thanks for all that great info!

  5. Deb Bowen says:

    We have a hometown book store here, right downtown on Jefferson Street, called “Burlington by the Book” —- . He loves to stock hometown authors and have book signings, etc. It’s a great little book shop and he’s very active in championing our downtown events. I’ll have to give him your name and contact info and I’d bet the paycheck that Chris Murphy will be asking you to come back to Burlington for a book-signing (and we can show off the rest of our city and hopefully whichever event you’d like to see next!)

  6. Another beautifully written and photographed stop on your journey. Thanks for sharing!

  7. Sandy Reese - Southwest Missouri Camera Club - Springfield, Missouri says:

    I love coming along with you, Gayle. Thanks for this adventure!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s