It's Wednesday morning, not unlike any other Wednesday morning in the beautiful state of Iowa. I make sure my little boy has his bottle, gets dressed and off to daycare with my lovely wife. As I kiss both of them goodbye, I climb into my car to head to the office, downtown Cedar Rapids by way of Marion, Iowa.
As I fumble through the radio dials on my car, I come across my favorite talk radio station, AM 600, WMT, which has served Eastern Iowa for over 75 years. I've tuned in just in time for the farm report. Soybeans are down, corn is up on speculation of a new ethanol plant being built in Eastern Iowa (Iowa is one of the leading states in the nation in ethanol production). Hogs and cattle are holding steady. A notice is given out on all radio stations to watch out for slow moving farm vehicles on all highways in the state of Iowa. It's harvest time and chances are you'll see a tractor or two while on your way to the next town for coffee with your Uncle Bob. Also the radio announcer says, "And don't be alarmed if you see lights in the cornfields at night for the next few weeks. It's not an alien invasion, nor have the children of the corn returned to wreak havoc on us Iowans. Farmers are working well into the night to harvest the corn and "clean the fields" before winter."
As I continue my commute towards downtown Cedar Rapids on 1st Avenue, I drift away for a moment to when I was a teenager, growing up in the seventies. You see, 1st Avenue was the 'main drag.' All of a sudden, "The Boys are Back in Town" by Thin Lizzy pops into my head. We used to blare that song out of my friend's 65 Ford Mustang. The nights are getting warmer, it won't be long. Won't be long till summer comes. Now that the boys are here again. The boys are back in town...
As I get closer and closer to down Cedar Rapids, a very prominent smell enters my car, even though the windows are rolled up on this cool, fall day. Ahhhh yes, it's the smell of Captain Crunch cereal. Then, I remember, every Wednesday morning, Captain Crunch cereal is made at the Quaker Oats Manufacturing plant. You can smell Captain Crunch cereal for a five mile radius around downtown Cedar Rapids, it's intoxicating aroma beckoning those who skipped breakfast, back to the table for a bowl or two.
After several minutes of waiting at stop lights with two, maybe three cars ahead of you, the white-knuckle, grinding rush hour traffic is about to cease. I am in downtown Cedar Rapids. As I go across the bridge on 1st Avenue, crossing the Cedar river, I turn and see our beloved city hall.
Cedar Rapids, Iowa is one of only two places on Earth that has their city hall located on an island! If you haven't picked up on the vibe yet, Cedar Rapids has a slightly slower pace of life than most cities you might be accustomed to. You would either love this slow pace of life, or it would drive you crazy.
Fast forwarding through my work day at Skogman Realty, I drive back across the 1st Avenue bridge and see one of the statues that defines Cedar Rapids, and puts it on the map. It's the statue of the "City of Five Seasons."
Quite simply defined, Cedar Rapids is called "The City of Five Seasons" because of the four, very distinct changes in weather, which we have come to know as spring, summer, fall, and winter. The fifth season is the time to enjoy and reflect on the beauty of the other four seasons. Taking time to breathe in each season and its beauty is very important to your local Cedar Rapidian.
I am driving to my mom and dad's house to pick up my father. We're going to drive out to the ballpark to drop some papers off for a charity event. He lives on the Southeast side of Cedar Rapids, one of the older sections of town. There is a neighborhood that I always drive by before arriving at my parent's house. It's called 'The Drives' and has some of the most beautiful homes in all of Iowa.
Ah, someday, says this poor, Cedar Rapids Realtor. Someday, I'll rise above the painful, steep learning curve of my first year as a Realtor, and start cultivating my SOI, and then, maybe then, will I entertain the idea of owning one of these majestic beauties!
As I turn off of 19th Street SE, and onto 7th Avenue, my dad is waiting at the front steps and comes out to the car. Cedar Rapids would not be where it is today without my father, Al Smith. Al faithfully served the children of Cedar Rapids for forty plus years as Director of Sports for the Recreation Commission. Thousands upon thousands of youngsters went through my father's "Goal Shooting" and "Punt, Pass, and Kick" contests at the local elementary schools. He is known for his above and beyond volunteerism efforts in the city, and recently received the Presidential Award by President Bush for his volunteer efforts in the city of Cedar Rapids. As we arrive at the ballpark, the parking lot is empty. It should be; it's October. We walk through the doors of this recently built "Field of Dreams" that is now known as one of the finest Minor League Ballparks in the country.
This ballpark is home to the Cedar Rapids Kernels. They are the Class A affiliate to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim major league ball team. At one point and time, the Kernels had one of the most recognized logos in the United States by Advertising Weekly.
That baseball peering out of the corn leaf can only mean one thing; you are in the heartland of America, Cedar Rapids, Iowa. My father and I complete our errands and we drive back home as it is now dark and the city has rolled up its streets and put itself to bed. As I drive home and look out across the Cedar river at the beautiful Cedar Rapids skyline, I sometimes wonder, is Cedar Rapids a little city wanting to become a big city, or a big city wanting to scale down to a smaller city. My father and I both look at each other. Nothing needs to be said because we both know what the other is thinking. We live in a beautiful city that has grown and nurtured our family. I will continue to plant my seeds here as well, so that another generation of Smith's can continue to appreciate the bounty of what this great city has to offer. An award winning school district with above average ACT test scores consistently, a vibrant economy with a heavy focus on the family, and a continual focus by its city leaders to preserve what has made Cedar Rapids stand out among all other cities of its size in the country; quality of life!
Having dropped off my father, and now on my way home, I turn the radio back on. It's playing Bruce Springsteen's "My Hometown." The song talks about a couple growing up in their hometown, struggling with the town's growing pains or lack thereof, and contemplating moving south. The words I have heard a thousand times echo in my mind: "Last night me and Kate, we laid in bed, talking about getting out, Packing up our bags maybe heading south, I'm thirty five we got a boy of our own now, Last night I sat him up behind the wheel, and said son take a good look around..............this is your hometown.
Almost home, I can only think of one thing, missing my family dearly and wanting to squeeze my little baby boy and reassure him that his daddy is here and will always be. Will this town provide my son the comfort that it provided for me while growing up? Will my family and others like it continue to strive and work hard to preserve something that is sacred to the very fiber of our beings? Community, family, Cedar Rapids, Iowa.