Iowa – Part 2: Waterloo

I’ve driven through Waterloo more times than I’ve driven through Dubuque, yet Thursday was the first time I actually explored the city. Needless to say, the adventure was about 3 years overdue. At first, Waterloo reminded me quite a bit of Wausau, WI. The downtown is literally split in two by the Cedar River, with plenty to see and do on both sides. Before I tell you about my adventure yesterday, let’s begin with a little backstory.

This isn’t the first time I’ve stopped in Waterloo. In January of 2013, I found myself stuck here for a few days when my car broke down. I remember parking my car in a ramp and being offered a discounted room on the top floor of the Ramada. I ended up snapping this next photo from my hotel room the next morning. This was when I first got into photo editing, so naturally, it’s over-edited to the point of looking like a painting. 

That sunrise  through the clouds, though.

Since then I’ve contemplated returning, but didn’t make a serious plan of it until less than two weeks ago when I decided to take last week off of work and to leave home a couple days early. I figured after Dubuque, I could swing down to Waterloo and stay with a friend while I explored the city. So, that’s what I did.

My first impression while wandering around downtown was that Waterloo reminds me of Wausau, WI. Though not as pretty as Wausau (it must be a Wisconsin thing), Waterloo certainly has its own fair share of beauty. The riverfront on both sides is primarily concrete with walkways permitting access down to the water below the dam. Since it looked slippery and I wasn’t ready to risk losing a second GoPro, I decided not to venture a closer look.

Waterloo has a lot of bridges. I mean, Eau Claire has a lot of bridges too, but four consecutive streets of downtown Waterloo bridge across the water: and that’s just part of downtown. There’s also what appears to be an outdoor concert venue on the north side of the river (kind of like downtown Wausau). Though Waterloo has a larger population than Dubuque, there seem to be fewer downtown parking ramps, fewer tall buildings, and I did not see any downtown gas stations either.

Also unlike Dubuque, my favorite part of Waterloo was not the rooftops or the scenery. Actually, I found myself frustrated that the one rooftop I really wanted to get onto, and seemed so obviously accessible, I couldn’t get onto. If I had maybe eight more inches of vertical wall running ability, I could have gotten access to the obscenely long fire escape that goes up a rooftop that would have offered me a fantastic 360 panorama of the city. Alas, the woes of being short. 

My favorite part of Waterloo lies downtown on the north side of the river. It’s called Volks Haus, and it’s more than just a German pub that serves delicious brats and German beer: it’s a place I’ll never forget. The bar top was polished brass and the mugs were frosty.The bartenders happened to be some of the kindest folks I’ve met, and the people there were very lively for conversation. I don’t think I’ll forget talking in particular with two people: Mike, and Taylor. 

Mike is a kind-spoken man who works at the Salvation Army. He admits his frustration of working with a Christian-based organization while he struggles to reconcile his desire to believe in a singular deity with his nagging doubts . Curious, I probed around a bit and discovered that his doubt, which seems to primarily lie in the probable implications of there only being one way, is fed greatly by seeing many other world religions claiming to have “the” way. How is he to believe one over the other? He seemed more content to believe that all deities are the same.

Taylor is an environmental science major who enjoys singing, cave exploration, travel, cooking, and bartending. Our conversation branched off from my conversation with Mike and I discovered that this lively woman is quite a bit like me: she prefers to base her judgments regarding belief and worldview on facts. It was interesting to share information back and forth with her. Eventually, more people came in and it got too busy for our conversation to continue. Alas, I was really getting into it too.

Anyway, now that it’s Friday, it’s time for me to be on my way again. Literally, as soon as I publish this, I have to shower and hit the road for my next stop, where I’ll be all weekend. Today I’m grateful for the fact that reality isn’t based on how I feel.

“I realize my identity is not in what I’ve seen but in what I believe to be true.” -August Burns Red

Regardless of what I believe to be true, this statement holds weight and credence. I’m reminded that it’s crucial to know what I believe. 


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