Posts Tagged ‘national parks’

The Theft of the Wright Brothers Home and Bicycle Shop…

Apr 19

… by that coward Henry Ford.

Being beaten out by Kitty Hawk for the first ever flight is hard enough to take. But, compound that with the actions of industrialist Henry Ford (yeah, he just made cars. Cars don’t fly) and the good people of Dayton, Ohio might just want to give up.

You see, Ford started a museum in Dearborn, Michigan, (creatively called “The Henry Ford”) dedicated to the preservation of all things of historical significance; particularly those dealing with the Industrial Revolution. What does this mean in context to Dayton and the Wright Brothers? This.

Wright Brothers Bicycle Shop, Wright Brothers House, Henry Ford Museum

All That Remains

One morning in the early 1930s, Ford took both the house the Wright Brothers lived in, and their bicycle shop back with him to his Dearborn museum, leaving Dayton with only a half-replica of a bicycle shop that was closed long before the Wright Brothers started building airplanes.

Wright Brothers Bicycle Shop, National Park

Wright Bros Cycle Co: Sort of

The Ranger in charge of this site was quite sad and apologetic, as if somehow she could have gone back in time, using her special Ranger Powers (slightly different than Power Rangers), and stopped Ford in his tracks. I do absolutely believe that Rangers are magical, but only in the sense that they really do not get enough credit for how much they enhance the National Park experience for all of us.

So, is this site still worth the look? Of course. Old Ford may have the building, but Dayton’s still got the history.

Wright Makes Flight

Apr 19

Birds do it. Bees do it. Even scientific chimpanzees do it. And why? Because back in 1900, Orville and Wilbur Wright decided it was time somebody took to the skies. And those beautiful skies that were so inviting to them were right here in Dayton, Ohio.

Getting their start running a successful bicycle company, the brothers knew that many a man before them dreamed of a machine that could break the oppressive bonds of gravity; which Isaac Newton so thoughtlessly “discovered” nearly 400 years earlier. While the English were clearly content to rest on the laurels of discovering why we were bound to the Earth, American will and resolve made strides to break that bond. And in order to do it, Orville and Wilbur learned from their experience with bicycles what any of us who has learned to ride a bike can attest: balance, and patience, is key.

Sadly for Dayton, there is just not enough regular wind or sand. The Wright brothers chose Kitty Hawk, NC, as the place where they would conduct their experiments with flight. Regular ocean breezes, and plenty of sand for soft crashing was what Kitty Hawk had over Dayton. And, in 1903, the Brothers were successful in getting their Wright Flyer off the ground. The rest, as they say, is history.

Wright Brothers Museum

Wright Brothers Museum

To Dayton, it’s a bit more. The city is proud of its most famous citizens. A visit to the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historic Park – free admission – proves that the lasting impression made by these two pioneers of flight is not only above us in the clouds, but also here, in their beginnings, when they were just two men with the same dream others had held for centuries before. But, with some innovation and patience, this dream became a reality.

First Airplane, Wright Flyer III, Dayton Historical Places, History of Flight

Huffman Field

It is here in Huffman Prairiewhere they perfected their (air)craft. Between 1904-1905, over 150 flights were conducted in this field. It is also where the Wright Flyer III, considered the world’s first practical airplane, was tested and perfected.

It is an awe-inspiring experience, to walk in a field where dreams literally took flight.

From Supernatural to Science: It’s Not So Bad.

Aug 26

Badlands National Park in South Dakota doesn’t live up to its name at all. I’m sure it’s ‘bad’ in the sense of “I wouldn’t want to live here”, but not so much in a “I wouldn’t want to drive through and take some pictures, especially at sunset when the scenery is just breathtaking” sort of way. 

Scientists believe that the badlands began to form during the late Cretaceous Period, 67 to 75 million years ago, through the geological process called deposition.  It continued for the next 30 million years or so, with different woodland rivers, seas, and tropical lands depositing (deposition-depositing, get it?) various amounts of sediments over these vast periods of time. 

The process of erosion (where sediment begins to be removed) began around 500,000 years ago, when the Cheyenne River began to take in the smaller surrounding rivers as they receded.  According to my previous paragraph, these river had previously been depositing the sediment.  Erosion now dominated the landscape, and the Badlands started to take the shape we know now.

Sadly, the Earth doesn’t know when to stop. It is predicted that the badlands and all its natural wonder and beauty will erode into nothingness within another 500,000 years.  My advice: we’re lucky enough to live in the million year period where this exists.  Go see it while you can.

Sometimes, we need to learn on this blog.  I hope my vast knowledge of ripping off information from other sites/sources* helped us all grow a little as individuals, and as science-loving rock people.

*In school, this process is known as Essay Writing.

Sacre Bleu!

Aug 21

The French are really rude.  There were a number of French tourists around today (not Quebecois, which is a whole other story), and they were all obnoxious and rude and one of them touched me to get me out of the way of his photo opportunity while I was clearly in the middle of having my photograph taken here:

Meet Me in St. Louis

Apr 29

The Arch in St. Louis is gigantic.

The last time I was in Italy, I finally went to the Tower of Pisa.  I expected it to be impressive, if not huge; a symbol of Italian craftsmanship and beauty, while simultaneously acting as a living monument to the fragility of existence.  What a crock of merda that was.

By my own admission, I should have known that a building cannot lean and be huge at the same time.  In my defence, I am a graduate of philosophy; engineering is supposed to be my natural enemy in the wild.  Nonetheless, it was an old building in the middle of a field and being there, seeing it up close, made me realize that the pictures gave it a largess that reality just could not sustain.

I return to my opening remark:  the Arch in St. Louis is gigantic.  You can see it as you drive into the city, and not because the city is small or it’s close to the highway.  I return to my opening remark: the Arch in St. Louis is gigantic.

Ok, that’s not the Arch. But that’s what I expected it to be.

The Gateway to the West, (hopefully the topic of a future blog soon (check local listings)) construction of the Arch began early 1963 and finished in the Fall of 1965.  It is a monument to America and its expansion to the West.  Resting close to the banks of the mighty* Mississippi river, it stands 630 feet off the ground.  And that, my friends, is 630 feet higher than I was willing to go. 

Rob has gone to the top, as there is an observation deck where one can see the entire city, and probably a few other things that are really high up.  I thought it was possible to persuade me.  Indeed, it would have been had I been blinding drunk or drugged or blindfolded or beaten about the head repeatedly with a blunt instrument or, most importantly, I hadn’t seen the Arch.  When I thought it was just a nice, benign landmark like our friend the leaning tower, it was possible to envision a world where I wasn’t deathly afraid of heights and could tell everyone that I had, in some measure, no matter how small, conquered my fear.  But, reality being as it is, I defer to my opening statement: the Arch of St. Louis is gigantic. 

I am still a better person for having seen it.  And I vow, one day, to go inside and get to the top.  Sigh…I’d go to the top of Pisa in a heartbeat, leaning and all.

*yeah, I wrote ‘mighty’ when referring to the Mississippi.  I know it’s cliche.  It’s hard coming up with adjectives all the time.  You try it.


Apr 25

“Vicksburg is the key.  The war can never be brought to a close until that key is in our pocket.” Abraham Lincoln. 

And he was right.  Rob and I knew it.  Which was why, disguised as harmless Canadian tourists, we found ourselves in Vicksburg, Mississippi this fine, sunny day:  to win, for ourselves, the key to America.  To fulfill all of Rob’s childhood hopes and dreams. 

Stealthily, we made our way to the battleground, now known as the Vicksburg National Military Park.  Lucky break: the park admission was free this week, as were all National Parks in America!  Our plan was exceeding beyond expectations. 

Inside the visitor’s cent(r)er, the park ranger was playing a tin whistle, spinning a yarn about Guinness beer and his youth spent in Ireland.  Sigh.  Guinness. I love you, Guinness.  But I digress…

With the ranger being so distracted, how could we fail?  Purchasing the interactive CD for the car, we set out to bring our plan to fruition: tour the park and learn more about the siege of Vicksburg during the Civil War! What.  We’re Canadian.  What kind of plan did you think we would have??

This site was far more interesting a tour than Gettsyberg. Sure, I was in High School when we (history class) went to Gettsyberg, but even Rob agreed. 

By the way, if you don’t know your history (it’s U.S. history for my non-American readers), the siege of Vicksburg was won by the Union lead by General Grant’s army.   Not by either me or my faithful companion.  Now, it’s time for a Guinness.  Sigh…