by Freda Parker
Can an interest in Monolithic Domes lead to romance and marriage? It sure did for Lareda and Ken Hoback, owners of Autumn Leaf, a Monolithic Dome bed and breakfast in Burwell, Nebraska.
Lareda said, "My son gave me information and some Monolithic Dome plans because he knew I wanted to move to a rural area and build. I was widowed and living in Grand Island, Nebraska at the time.
"Well, I agonized over those plans, trying to decide where to put what room," Lareda continued. "A friend suggested I show them to her son Ken, who was a draftsman. He sat down with those plans and in five minutes had it all worked out, and I thought, 'This man is not too bad.' That's kind of how it got started."
The It that got started was a shared interest in Monolithic Domes, then romance and then a marriage that is now in its third happy year.
In 1998, the Hobacks sent Raymond Mostek, a conventional builder whose work Lareda knew, to one of MDI's five-day, hands-on workshops, so he could learn Monolithic Dome construction. When Raymond returned, work began on two domes, one with a 50-foot diameter and one with a 30-foot diameter, and a connecting arch.
Lareda and Ken designed the larger dome, built with a basement used mostly for storage, as a delightful bed and breakfast. It has three guest rooms with motifs appealing to hunting, fishing and outdoor enthusiasts: The Pleasant Pheasant and the Dear Deer rooms each have queen beds, while the Hook, Line and Sinker has twin beds.
Guests share a spacious, handicapped-accessible bathroom with an unusual theme. According to Lareda, the bathroom "became a real conversation piece," after she decked its walls with framed, Étude Music magazine covers from the 1920s.
"Every cover has a story to tell," Lareda said. "There's one with Beethoven when he discovered his deafness. Another shows a kid plunking on a piano while reading a comic book; an irritated Mom is standing behind him.
"Over the sink, I put two old ads," she continued. "One is for Colgate; it says, If your wisdom teeth could talk, they would say use Colgate. The other is for hair nets women used many years ago. Ken thought I was nuts when I asked him to hang all those pictures, but the guests love it."
In addition to the guest bedrooms, the large dome contains comfortable sitting, TV and game areas, a dining room for ten, a kitchen, a loft with an additional half-bath (the One-Holer), and the Hobacks' master bedroom with its adjoining, glass-walled bathroom.
Other decorative touches within the common rooms include antique, leaded-glass doors saved from a family farmhouse built in 1914 and an electric fireplace that "really looks real."
Lareda said that maintaining a comfortable temperature within their all-electric domes has not been a problem: "All we do in the morning is turn on the lights and the fireplace which is a 1500-watt heater. We have an extra, wall-heating-unit in the kitchen, but we've only used that twice, and we've had a heck of a winter with snow, hail and ice."
For air conditioning, the Hobacks use 110-watt window units in each bedroom, mainly to remove summer humidity, and ceiling fans in all the rooms to circulate the air continually.
The Hobacks' smaller dome has laundry facilities, an old fashioned cook stove for use in case of power failure, a shower and cleanup area, and additional sleeping accommodations.
In 1999, Autumn Leaf became officially approved as a bed and breakfast and accepted by the Nebraska Bed and Breakfast Association. An Open House followed. Lareda said, "We never expected the turnout we got. Three hundred people came the first day, and another 600 came the second day."
In September 1999, the Hobacks hosted their first guests, who were in Burwell for the Pitzer Horse Sale, a semiannual sale of quarter horses that draws people from all over the world.
Since then, activities at Autumn Leaf have not stopped. Groups often drive nearly a hundred miles to enjoy a lunch cooked by Chef Lareda and Assistant Chef Ken and then tour the dome facility.
Overnight guests can participate in a variety of activities. Lareda said, "We're seven miles from Lake Calamus that has nice, white sand beaches and very good fishing.
"We're literally inundated with deer," she added. "All they have to do is walk out the door and down to the river and wait for the deer to come. They often get a deer in ten minutes, and we have a meat processor here in town who can dress it for them."
"This area is a dream-come-true for photographers or just anyone who loves beautiful scenery," Lareda said. "This is God's country. We have spectacular sunrises and sunsets, beautiful lakes and rivers, a nine-hole golf course, and Fort Hartsuff - an 1870's restored, frontier settlement. They're all within ten miles."
Autumn Leaf is also headquarters for a Farm and Ranch Vacation Package, designed for guests who want to spend their days working at a nearby farm or ranch.
The Hobacks welcome children. The kids can enjoy Disney movies, video games and outdoor activities, such as farm tours, fishing trips, and horse and buggy rides.
Lareda said, "At a nearby ranch that does buggy rides, they have an Amish buggy and an Amish horse named Yoder. The owners found out that Yoder doesn't like bright colors. He's used to dark colored clothing like the Amish wear. So you don't wear bright colors if you want to ride with Yoder."
As a unique, Monolithic Dome bed and breakfast, Autumn Leaf attracts a lot of interest. Lareda said, "People visit and call from all over. They want to know all about the domes." Many also like hearing the romantic way in which those domes got built - a story both Lareda and Ken love retelling.
Autumn Leaf can be reached at (308) 346-4366 or www.nabb1.com\bur4366.htm.