Touring aviation history with a passport

Dayton-Aero-NHS-33I knew the National Historic Site was there, but I had never visited. And, I can’t explain why. But, with a day available for motorcycling, I decided it was time. Armed with my National Parks Passport, I headed to Dayton, Ohio, to the Wright Brothers Visitor’s Center to see where aviation as we know it all started.

Officially, it is the Wright-Dunbar Interpretive Center, just one of five sites in the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historic Park. That’s how it is listed in the Passport and accompanying map of all parks and historic sites.

Most people know about Orville and Wilbur Wright and their efforts towards the first powered flight at Kitty Hawk in North Carolina. The Dunbar of the interpretive center is Paul Laurence Dunbar, an African American writer and poet known to the Wright Brothers. Dunbar and Orville Wright were in the same graduating class of Dayton Central High School, 1891, and the Wright Brothers published Dunbar’s newspaper in their print shop.



The complex is in the historic section of Dayton on 3rd Street at South Williams. A 30-minute film provides a lot of information as a docu-drama detailing the efforts to build an airplane and then learn how to fly it.

The Wright Brothers operated several businesses, including a printing business and the bicycle shop. A park ranger said the restored Wright Cycle Co. building is the actual location and building number four of five locations they occupied. The Wright family home was just down the street on South Williams. The ranger also verified that the Wright family home and bicycle shop #5 are at the Greenfield Village, Henry Ford Museum in Michigan. Ford bought the buildings and moved them to his museum for preservation.

After touring the bicycle shop, I motorcycled to the Wright Brothers National Memorial near the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. Also at the site is the Huffman Prairie interpretive site. The Wrights perfected their airplane using Huffman Prairie as their test site, and hence, it is officially the first airport.



It was a great day for motorcycling. Get your own NPS Passport and start planning your adventures and destinations. Passports can be ordered online, or you can buy one at the many National Parks and get it stamped while you’re there.

See you on the highway.


Abandoned playground

What happens to the playground when the small town school is abandoned for a newer facility or the school district is merged with another. All too often, the building is sold or even abandoned. The same is true for the playground.

Abandoned playground, Clarksville, OH

See you on the highway.


Remnants of a high river


The level of the Little Miami River is at a normal stage, but not too long ago, it was high with possible flood warnings. Usually, receding water leaves marks, but on this stretch of river front, debris hangs in the trees, deposited by fast high water approximately 10-12 feet above normal.


A story of love and companionship

While I was on the road, my wife, Lin, told me a story I could not get out of my head. It is a story of mating and companionship that some humans are fortunate enough to know and experience. After a little research, looking into a few details and visiting the site upon my return, here is the story. I hope you are as moved as I was when I heard this.

Lin has one of the best office space locations, a corner space on the fourth floor of a building with lots of glass. It is a window on the world, facing southwest. Lin is a hard worker and does not spend a lot of time window gazing—she’s too busy. But, when a pair of Canada Geese caught her eye, she would take a look and check on them.

If ever there is an animal that is a model of love and companionship for life, it is the Canada Goose. When a pair mates, it mates for life. They are monogamous creatures and Canada Geese live 10 to 24 years. The have a wing span of 4-6 feet—big birds.

It’s springtime. Canada Geese are mating and building nests, and they can be very protective. Sometimes the nest location is not necessarily the best for human convenience. This pair started a nest near the office parking.

Very little evidence remains where a pair of Canada Geese built their nest near the entrance and parking for the business complex. Wind, racoons or humans have removed the nest and eggs.

A woman with young kids, perhaps the family of one of the other employees, came to the office complex and spotted the geese. For some unknown reason, the kids thought the geese were tame, and mom should have known better. The kids approached the big birds as if they were at a petting zoo. The Canada Geese had other ideas about their nest and approaching humans, little or not. With hissing and a five-foot wingspan, charging goose, the kids got chased off, and mother was trying to hustle the kids back into the safety of the van like any mother protecting her brood. Immediately afterword, the “vicious animals” were reported to building security.

A day or two later, Lin reported there was only one Canada Goose, most likely the male. He kept walking to the nest and looking around. He would call out to his mate, but there was no answer. He would wander around the parking lot and along the street looking and calling out. But there was no answer. He would walk back to the nest, hoping she had returned, but it was empty. He was not leaving. He was waiting for his mate to return. He appeared to be in great distress for his mate was missing.

Lin saw something laying in the street and checked it out when she left work, but it was not the female, just some garbage. And yet, the male was out there looking, calling out and waiting for his mate to return.

A lone Canada Goose wanders along the roadway.

Did building security know anything?

Are animals any different than humans when it comes to mates and companions? Are humans any different than animals? After all, we humans are really just another species of the animal kingdom on this planet, although a species of a much higher intelligence … you would think. Do we mate for life? Are we monogamous? This Canada Goose story reminded me of another story about mates, love and companionship.

Brent at Lighthouse Church
D. Brent Miller, pastor of Lighthouse United Methodist Church, Oregon, IL, 1985-1989.

In the late 1980s, when I was the pastor at Lighthouse United Methodist Church, Oregon, Illinois, I also participated in the chaplain program at the Dixon Community Hospital. Because it was a small unit, the hospital partnered with local pastors to provide chaplain services once a month or to be on call in the case of an emergency. It was a wonderful time and meaningful ministry to be there for an individual or family in their time of need. There was one particular visit that has remained burned into my memory to this day.

I stepped into the semi-private room to visit an elderly man in his 80s. He was very upset. After talking for a few minutes, I had it sorted out. He had been married for more than 50 years, and was deeply in love with his wife. Because he was in the hospital, he was not able to visit his wife for she was also in an institution receiving proper care. He said he visited her every day until he was hospitalized. Why was she receiving her own care? She had Alzheimer’s disease for 20 years. Even though she didn’t know who he was, he visited every day for 20 years—every day—and with his hospitalization, he could not visit his mate. It was tearing him up. I visited a while longer. We prayed, and I left. There was nothing more I could do. I was as emotional as he was, visiting with a man who truly loved his wife, missed her profoundly, and wanted to be with her but couldn’t—even though she has not recognized him for 20 years. It’s like someone took away his mate, he was pining for her, and he was in distress.

Lin asked building security if they knew what happened to the goose. They said they called the appropriate authorities, they came and were only able to capture the one—the female. They took her away.

I don’t know how this story ends. At last check, Lin thinks the male is still hanging around, but there are now other geese in the vicinity. It’s hard to tell—they all look alike to us humans. I’d like to think that the authorities relocated the female and she will find her way back to him or he leaves and finds her. Perhaps there is only hope that the pair will find each other, that the heart-strings connecting soul mates will draw them together. That’s what you would hope for mates for life—animal or human, this life or the next.

See you on the highway.


Winter scenery after the snow

Fine Art Friday

Ball field in winter

The overnight snow creates images in black and white, and the camera further enhances it with B&W capture. During the summer, the South Lebanon ball fields would be teeming with kids and parents playing America’s game, baseball. But, the winter gives the fields time to rest and soak in the moisture from melting snow. The bleachers and bench seats wait for the crowds to return.