Sunday, August 26, 2007


After visiting Craidarroch Castle in Victoria B.C. and learning it's history earlier this month, it got me thinking about some houses closer to home. I set out early in the evening on Sunday and snapped some pictures of a few locally historic homes in my hometown, Cedar Rapids, Iowa. After all it was a beautiful evening and perfect weather for a drive in the convertible.My first stop was in front of Brucemore. This home was built in 1884 by the Sinclair family as a summer home. In 1906, the Sinclaires negotiated a house trade with the Douglas family of Cedar Rapids. In 1924, the eldest Douglas daughter married Howard Hall, a local wealthy owner of two large businesses. During their ownership, Margaret and Howard Hall entertained several famous guests such as Presidents Herbert Hoover and Harry Truman. Howard actually kept a couple of pet lions that roamed the 26 acre property until 1971 when he died. I've actually spoken to residents of the neighborhood who grew up hearing the lion's roars daily. Howard died in 1971 and Margaret continued living at Brucemore until her death in 1981. At the time of her death Margaret bequeathed Brucemore to the National Trust For Historic Preservation for use as a historic site and community cultural center.My second stop was at the Armstong mansion, named for the original owners. I wasn't able to find much historic information on this home except that in was built sometime in the late 1800's and several years later was divided in half, right down the center and moved by horse and wagon about 2 miles to it's current location. I've been inside this house and there is absolutely no visible evidence that it was ever in two pieces except for the peak of the 3rd floor ballroom ceiling that has a small crack running the entire length. What an amazing feat that must have been to successfully move this enormous home without the use of modern motorized trucks and equipment! This is the only house out of the four I've featured here that still remains a private home.My third stop was Averill House. I have to admit, I know absolutely nothing about this house except it was built in the late 1800's and was placed on the National Historic Register in 1978. It is now used as offices for a local law firm.My last stop was just down the street from Averill House at what is now Turner Mortuary. This is the home that the Douglas family and the Sinclair family swapped for Brucemore. What I find most intriguing about this home is that famous artist, Grant Wood spent a good part of his life living in and around Cedar Rapids and lived in the second floor of the carriage house behind this home. He actually painted many of his famous pieces while living here.

Cedar Rapids once had many, many more beautiful, large mansions that were torn down in the 1950's and 60's in the name of "progress". Many of these were in areas that became undesirable to live in, were divided up into apartments, then eventually torn down. Cedar Rapids, Iowa may be a rather small Midwestern city of roughly 150,000, but it is certainly not without it's interesting history and notable places. I think I'll do a few more posts about Cedar Rapids in the near future.

Sunday, August 19, 2007


You learn something new everyday. Little did I know, until a few weeks ago, Washington State is the first state in the country to pass the dog driving law. K-9s all over the northwest are now taking advantage of this new privilege. As proof to my friends back here in the midwest, I snapped this picture while walking the streets of Bellingham, Washington a few weeks ago. I caught this pooch waiting at a stop light to make a left-hand turn. I must admit, as I watched him make his turn and continue down the street toward Petco, he actually seemed to be a better driver than...dare I say it...most of the women I know.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007


We got back home on Sunday evening from an absolutely fabulous vacation. What more could we ask for, a couple of great cities, the sea, fun family and friends and more than enough fantastic food.
The first several hours of our trip was spent in Las Vegas...just because it was sorta on the way. This time we stayed just one night and in the downtown area on Fremont street.
This was the view from our hotel room in Vegas.

We left Vegas on Saturday morning and headed to Bellingham, Washington.
I was more than a little worried about the runway being long enough for our plane as we were descending toward the Bellingham International Airport.

But, alas, we survived the landing and Andrew's Aunt Stacy and Uncle Joe were kind enough to pick us up and take us the short drive to Lummi Island to Andrew's parent's house.
Here we are on the ferry on our way to the island.

Here's Randy and Laura's beautiful home on Lummi Island.

And the view from their living room window during sunset one evening.

One of the highlights of our trip was the day cruise to Victoria, B.C. We left from the Bellingham harbor on Tuesday morning and set off on the three hour ferry ride, cruising through the San Juan Islands to Victoria. Our ferry is the one with the yellow roof.
Here's where we crossed the International boundary between the U.S. and Canada. If you look closely, you can actually see the dotted line they painted on top of the water that marks the boundary.

...And here's the view that met us as we entered the Port of Victoria. The beautiful Empress Hotel.
And this is a view of the harbor that we arrived at.

We had a great lunch at a nice little place right on the harbor then we made the several block trek to Craigdarroch Castle. (check out the link for a Flickr page of great photos)For some history on Craigdarroch click here.Here's a picture I took from the top floor of the touret looking out.

The 3 hour trip back to Bellingham seemed like minutes due to the wonderful buffet dinner that was prepared and served to us on the boat. Here's Andrew and his Mom, Laura in line at the buffet.

Shortly after dinner our captain spotted a pod of Orca whales in the distance. He slowed the boat and cut the engines and we all watched for about 20 minutes as the whales made their way past.The pictures never do justice to how awesome it is to whale-watch.(yeah, I know. the date is screwed up on my camera)

Andrew and I spent a few days hanging out in Seattle as well. We've always wanted to do the underground tour of Seattle so we took this opportunity to go.Here's a picture from underground, looking up through one of the many "skylights" that is actually cut into the sidewalks above. Kinda creepy, huh?
Since we were in Seattle, how could we pass up the opportunity to meet up with and have a relaxing Saturday brunch with Matt and his partner Scott? Two of our favorite blog friends! What a couple of great guys! They took us to a great little restaurant called The Five Spot in the Queen Anne Hill neighborhood of Seattle. We had such a great time visiting, we didn't want to leave. After we left the restaurant Scott and Matt showed us where to get some amazing pictures of Seattle from high up on the hill. Here are the four of us posing for our waiter.To prove we really were in Seattle, here we are with the Space Needle in the background.

As you can see, we really packed a lot into this vacation. The 10 days just seemed to fly by in an instant.
Now the planning starts for the next trip...anyone have any suggestions on where to go next?

Wednesday, August 08, 2007


So far what a great vacation! Andrew and I left Iowa on Friday evening Aug. 3rd and spent one night in Las Vegas. It was a quick little stay, but nice to finally see the older downtown area of Las Vegas. On Saturday morning we headed back to the airport for the second leg of our trip to Bellingham, Washington then on to Lummi Island.

On Tuesday morning we caught the Victoria Star ferry from Bellingham to Victoria, B.C. on Vancouver Island. It was a 3 hour tour, a three hour tour... sit right back and hear a tale, a tale of a frightful trip...
Ok, sorry the theme to Gilligan's Island had been running through my mind ever since I read about this cruise. Seriously, it was a really nice and relaxing day. Victoria is very beautiful with flowers blooming everywhere. I will follow up with lots of pictures of the trip as soon as I get home and can download all of my pictures onto my computer.
The return trip was a dinner cruise serving salmon and chicken. Full bar the entire trip! Yay! We even stopped at one point when the captain saw the dorsal fins of a pod of Orca whales. I took lots of pictures as they surfaced but the pictures never do justice to actually being there. It was only the second time I'd ever seen whales in their natural habitat. The first was in Maine in 1995. I was on a 45 foot whale watching boat out of Bar Harbor with 75 foot long fin whales surfacing right next to the boat. THAT was an amazing (and a little scary) experience!
So far our vacation has been wonderful. Tomorrow we head to Seattle to spend a couple of days sightseeing there and have a couple of dinners with Andrew's family on Thursday and Friday, then on Saturday, we get to meet fellow bloggers Matterdays and his partner Scootersville for brunch! That will be fun!
Signing off for now...more updates later!