August 3, 2011 Springfield, IL to Dayton, OH and Dayton 1st day

John: We’re here in Dayton, OH. Nothing to report from yesterday. We leave Springfield, detour through the heart of Indianapolis to avoid massive construction on the beltway (but see the gigantic Speedway along the route), feel sorry for the drivers stuck in the massive westbound traffic jam just east of the city, lunch at a Subway, and barely avoid another jam on I-75 east of Dayton. We get to the Residence Inn in Beavercreek and, surprise, surprise, do our laundry. We cook dinner in the room and just relax after a long driving day.

Mary: Only excitement from yesterday is that Clark and Lewis are annoyed to get another vegetarian sandwich. Where’s the bugs?!

Disgruntled Clark and Lewis

John: Today we plan to play tennis in the early AM. We locate tennis courts just up the road. Unfortunately, it rained last night and the courts are not playable. But we have learned their location! We resolve to play tomorrow instead.

Mary: If I’m getting up again at 6 AM (5 AM Central time), it better not be raining again tomorrow.

John: We head into Dayton to the Art Institute. We (or more properly, our GPS, Missy) gets us there with no problem. We start with the Institute’s wing of European painting progressing from the 14th to the 20th century. I am intrigued by the focus on the Counter-Reformation, during which the Catholic Church made extensive use of art to make its case for souls against the forces of the Protestant Reformation. I found the explanations of the interplay of art and political geography very helpful.

Oddly enough, I find one of the high points of this wing to be a small 1903 Monet painting of water lilies. Astute followers will have noticed that we focus much more on pre-Renaissance and Renaissance art, but this one got my attention for two reasons: 1) it was in Dayton through an interesting donation, and 2) it dates to the same year that the Wright Brothers first flew at Kitty Hawk.

Mary: Really, Monet?

John: PS: We are freezing. Fortunately, we have brought our sweaters. We cannot fathom why Nebraskans, Illinoisans and Ohioans keep their establishments so cold! Maybe if you are cold most of the year, you need to keep it that way?

Mary: Brrrrrrrr….

John at the Art Institute of Dayton

John: After lunch in the museum cafe, we tackle the American painting wing. It covers Colonial through post-1970s (although we do it backwards). It’s a really excellent collection and narrative, explaining the various movements and influences throughout the centuries. The juxtaposition of Abstract Impressionism and American Realism (including a truly compelling Edward Hopper work) is eye-opening.

All in all, a very good (and just big enough) museum with a definite point of view.

Mary: I like this pre-Columbian funerary jug (and the Edward Hopper.)

Pre-Columbian funerary container

John: Next we head down to the riverfront for the Dayton Inventor’s River Walk. It’s not just the Wright Brothers, people! Charles Kettering of the automatic car starter, John Patterson of the cash register, Ermal Fraze of the pop-top can, and more.

Homage to the pop-top can

John: But the invention closest to my heart is the Search Engine. We now take it for granted in its Google-y incarnation for the internet as a whole, but the pioneers were names like LexisNexis (earlier Mead Data Central, before that Data Corporation, now part of Reed Elsevier). They took the state of the art from just searching for words to searching for words and phrases and combining them using AND, OR, NOT and especially NEAR. The first such offering was produced for the Ohio Bar Association to assist with legal search, and it continues as the field’s premier service today. We stop at the Search Engine Monument, explain the significance to our little buddies Clark and Lewis, and take pictures. I am really glad and proud that this has been recognized.

My own enormous information universe

John: We proceed along the very pretty riverfront, also seeing a display about the 1905 Wright Flyer, the first practical flying machine. Clark and Lewis soak it all in.

Orville looks up to Wilbur while posing with Mary, Clark and Lewis

John: Having some time on our hands, and being in the downtown area, we visit the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historic Park, where we learn a bunch more about the Wright Brothers, but also learn about Paul Laurence Dunbar, an African-American poet who lived from 1872 to 1906, and a classmate and friend of Wilbur Wright. We are motivated to read his works and to learn more about him. For example, we now know that the title of Maya Angelou’s autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, is taken directly from a Dunbar poem.

Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historic Park

Mary: It’s been a really interesting day. I am saddened by the apparent state of Dayton’s economy. Many storefronts are empty and there is a feeling of hopelessness as we see many residents on the streets in desperate shape.

Also, many thanks to John who wrote nearly all this entry today.

John and Mary: So the end of a very full day. Tomorrow, hopefully tennis, and definitely more aviation!

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