Rediscovering Your Own Backyard

Some people travel the world to learn or experience new cultures. Some travel to find themselves. Some never leave home. But like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz said, “There’s no place like home.”

There is nothing wrong with expanding one’s horizons. It is good for the soul and personal growth, but what about exploring one’s own backyard? For me, it started with a presentation at a fly fishing club dinner meeting with a topic that renewed my interest of “rediscovering” the Little Miami River near my home.

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The Little Miami Wild & Scenic River “has the distinction of being the first river in Ohio to be included in the National Wild & Scenic River System (1974), and the first to be added to the Ohio Scenic Rivers Program (1969).” Little Miami Conservancy.

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Alongside the river is the Little Miami Scenic Trail, a Rails-to-Trail route that is 78 miles long and connects with other recreational trails.

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I am sure that I am not alone in overlooking what is in my own backyard. We dream of places far away. Adventures into the unknown. Testing our limits. And yet, here is this incredible, river in my own backyard, and I want to know more about it. To enjoy its stream and the communities that it flows through. This is not a tall order, for it is truly in my backyard, just a hike down a hillside path through a nature preserve, or a quick drive down the road.

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One of my favorite motorcycling roads follows the river, and I am always on the lookout for river access to wet a line with one of my fly rods. This year, I am going to spend more time fishing the river, and visiting the communities along its banks. Places like Clifton, Ohio, where the river passes through a spectacular gorge, and one can visit the Historic Clifton Mill for a meal and to step back in time.  And then there is Yellow Springs, Xenia, Loveland and Milford, and others all ripe for exploration.

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Maybe, just maybe, I will finally use one of the river canoe and kayak companies to canoe down the river. To see the wildlife and the river from a different perspective.

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An incredible site to behold, even from the convenience of your home, is the Little Miami Conservancy Eagle Nest Cam. It is mesmerizing to see a pair of eagles build the nest, lay an egg or two and watch the chicks grow into maturity and then leave the nest after testing their wings. January is when it all begins.

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This nest can be seen from the road along the river where I wander. It’s huge and most visible when the trees are barren of their leaves, but you have to know where to look.

Even though I have lived near this river for nearly 16 years, there is so much more I want to learn and experience. It’s going to be a rediscovery of my own backyard.

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What’s in your backyard?

See you on the highway.

Brent

Donut Appreciation

Who doesn’t like a good donut or two, pastries included? In my opinion, there are two uses for donuts. First, they are a delightful treat often bringing joy as that doughy delight hits the tongue for a little self-satisfaction. Second, donuts and pastries can be a valuable relationship-building tool for the benefit of friendships. Stay with me on this one.

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I occasionally buy a coffee and donut for friends. It is a simple gesture to show appreciation for the friendship. I have also been known to show up with donuts at places of business that I frequent—mostly motorcycle shops. Also, very much appreciated. To me, it is appreciation for their friendship and for the work they do. The apple fritters seem to go over the best. My wife calls this act schmoozing, something she claims I do very well.

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We have contracted to build two homes during our 37-year marriage, and both times, I went the extra mile with showing appreciation to the builders. I would show up with a box of donuts while the house was being framed. Then the plumbers and electricians. The drywallers too. In all, I think I invested about $100 of donuts each for both houses, and I still claim those investments resulted in a better built house. Why? Because the craftsmen felt appreciated. They weren’t building just another house, they were building a home for the guy that shows up with donuts! The builder of our home in northern Indiana became my best friend, and I mean best friend that lasted until he passed several years ago, and I still miss him.

I am not the only one that thinks donuts have more capability than just a doughy delight. Donuts, like other food and beverage items, can be the focus for tourism. For example, take a look at what the shops in Butler County, Ohio did.

Want a donut? You have to have a coffee or tea with that, and that’s why Butler County in Southwest Ohio county created the Donut Trail. Visit all the shops, get them stamped on your “Donut Trail Passport” and you get a free t-shirt. Makes you want to wander through Ohio, doesn’t it.

So, the next time you think you want a donut, maybe you should think about buying a donut for a friend. Show a little appreciation. Don’t forget to use the tissues.

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See you on the highway … or maybe at a donut shop.

Brent

Learning about Our Highways

I have been somewhat of a history buff when it comes to motorcycling, travel and highways. I love to ride historic highways and trails, to see the history. So, it makes plenty of sense to me that I would love to read about the history of highways. I find it fascinating.

Americas First HighwaysWhen I found a book recently published, I had to have it. America’s First Highways, by Stephen H. Provost, is a great read for understanding how our country arrived at our highway system.

I understood how many of our roads were originally Native American Trails, and one can see that from early 1700 and 1800 maps, but I discovered a few things about how our highways were developed.

In the late 1800s, as towns and cities began to grow, it was the bicycle industry that called for better roads, although mainly in urban settings. By 1900, there were “321 bicycle companies churning out an astonishing 1.2 million a year.”

City streets began to improve, but the roads between cities were still primarily dirt, and as automobile manufacturing began and started to grow, the need for better roads between towns grew with it. That gave rise to the automobile and highway associations, and efforts to improve the rural roads. Building better roads gave rise to the real idea of “If you build it, they will come.” Tourism and commerce demanded better roads with the rise of automobile manufacturing.

Early on, the Federal government had no part in the development of highways. It was all local and regional. But there was a need for major roads from border to border and coast to coast. Hence, the idea of national highways like the Lincoln Highway, Yellowstone Trail, Dixie Highway, Old Spanish Trail, and the Lee Highway, just to name a few, grew in popularity but not without easy consensus. Which towns would these highways go through? What would be the final route?

Finally, in 1917, the Federal government created the Bureau of Public Roads, but its efforts were minimal. It was not until 1926 when the Feds designed a numbered highway system to replace all the named highways. For interstate highways, there were to be 10 east-west routes ending in zero (10, 20, 30, 40, etc.) and 11 north-south highways ending in the number 1 (1, 11, etc. to 101). The numbering system brought an end to the named highways, but many of those names still exist, and a few are marked, like the Lincoln Highway and the National Road.

I have touched on a few key points of this book, but there is so much more detail. If you are interested, read the book.

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That’s what is exciting about finding a book like this. The richness of these early highways, and the development of towns and the road are all waiting to be discovered.

See you on the highway.

Brent

Motorcycling and abandoned airports

I’m a map guy. I love to study maps. Paper maps mostly, but the digital versions can be just as intriguing. There was an older BMW ad that I loved, even though I don’t own that brand of motorcycle it read: “My favorite author? Rand McNally.” That about says it right there.

Some time ago, I noticed on a paper map an airport that I had never seen. There it was on the map, and I have been past that location many times, but have never seen it. It even shows up on my Gaia GPS. The San Mar Gale Airport.

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Of course, the airport is closed now, and this is what it looks like from Waynesville Road nearest the end of what was the airstrip. The strip is just over the back end of my V-Strom.

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I had to do a little searching to find out that the airport was closed in the 1990s. It was probably a grass strip, which made it easy to convert to agriculture. It had an official airport designation, but I could not find a record of that.

There are a couple of other private, abandoned airfields in Warren County, and they most likely were on farms, much like this one. It is exploration like this, and detailed maps like the DeLorme Gazeteers and Gaia GPS that reveal opportunities for a motorcycle adventure.

See you on the highway.

Brent

A quick ride on the V-Strom

We have had an incredible warm up. The temps reached 65+ and I have been lusting for a motorcycle ride. So, I aired up the tires, checked the chain, and fired up the V-Strom for a ride around the block. Okay, it was a long block, but much needed.

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And of course, I found a church for a photo in Goshen.

See you on the highway.

Brent