The nine of us piled into our two vans, and took off down the island.
Duck was just a few miles from Kitty Hawk and Kill Devil Hills, the site
of the Wright Brothers first manned flight. The Wright Brothers were very
big on the Outer Banks, with lots of business and streets named after them.
I used my National Parks Service card to get us in for free. The place
was really nice. There was a museum as well as a special exhibit set up
by the Air Force. Out on the big field, there were markers to show where
the first flights started and how far they got. Donna, the guys and I climbed
the big hill to the Wright Brothers memorial. I found out later the biggest
problem in building the memorial was stopping the hill from moving
it was originally a big honking dune that moved about 60
feet a year. Thousands of truckloads of dirt had to be hauled to the island
and used to cover up the dune. Then, they had to plant grass all over it
to keep it from moving. Once that was done, the monument could be built.
|That's me at Kill Devil Hill, the site of the Wright Brothers first flight. It was a little windy that day because a front was moving in. It was an easy hike to the top, except the last few yards got a little steep. The view from the up there was tremendous. It must have been exhilarating for the Wrights to leap off that hill in their gliders, experimenting with wing design and lift. The Wrights were clever innovators, inventing new technologies to overcome the problems of heaver-than-air vehicles.
|The base of the Wright Brothers monument atop Kill Devil Hill. The inscription reads, "In commemoration of the conquest of the air by the brothers Wilbur and Orville Wright. Conceived by genius and achieved by dauntless resolution and unconquerable faith." The inscription is arranged so that the words "genius" and "faith" are on the corners, set off by themselves.
|The landing points of the Wright Brothers' first flights are marked
with granite stones set across the big field where the historic event took
place. The first flight, which went 120 feet, doesn't seem very far, but
by the fourth flight they reached 852 feet, marked by the tiny granite
dot way off in the distance.
The brothers were so excited after that last flight they sort of, uh, well, forgot to tie the airplane down... a sudden gust of wind caught the plane and sent it rolling down the field. A friend, Charlie Daniels (yeah, that was his name), tried to stop the plane but was dragged along with it. The Wrights were horrified, and were sure their friend had been killed. The plane ended up in a big ball at the end of the field. Charlie survived, and for years bragged that he made the "fifth flight" that day.
|Donna's folks decided to climb to the top of the lighthouse, so I decided
I'd go, too. I wasn't looking forward to it. But, I said I'd do it, so
See, the thing is, I don't do heights very well.
There were 257 steps inside the lighthouse, winding around to the top, 14 stories above the beach. The steps were metal, and only about 2 feet wide. As I started up, I counted the steps as I went, but then I stopped when I realized I was calculating how high I was at each step. I just concentrated on one step at a time. I couldn't look up, or down, because that told me how high I was, so I looked straight ahead ...except, that's where the butt of the guy ahead of me was. So, I watched the wall as I went up.
There were several landings, which gave people a chance to catch their breath. As I neared the top, my heart was beating so fast I couldn't make out individual beats-- it was just one long, continuous hum.
Donna's mom wanted to ride the ferry down the coast at Ocracoke, but it was getting late, and besides, there looked to be a big storm front moving in. So we headed back. I took the lead this time, because I was determined to get a Dr. Pepper for the ride back. Down the road, we found a convenience store, so I pulled into the parking lot, but not far. In fact, I parked as close to the road without being in it as possible, so that Dianne would see the van when she followed. Instead, she drove right on past without even slowing down. I got everybody treats and started back to Duck. Right before the Oregon Inlet, the storm rolled in, and it looked like a great grey curtain was being drawn across the width of the island ahead. We drove into it, with huge raindrops pelting the windshield and winds pushing the van back and forth. In no time at all, however, we were past it, and the rest of the ride back to the rent house was uneventful.
I couldn't see another meal of ham, so after we freshened up, Donna,
Kim and I headed out to find some seafood. We found a likely contender
at a place called Jimmy's Seafood Buffet. ("Jimmy's Buffet.") It
was a raucous, lively joint, full of talking, happy people. Lots of families
were eating there. They had all kinds of seafood: shrimp, fish, scallops,
clams and three kinds of crabs on an all-you-can-eat buffet. It was heaven.
I tried fish I'd never tried before, like mahi mahi, and I had my fill
of crab legs. It was a fun, happy meal, and we were soooo stuffed by the
time we left. (I got a t-shirt.) Back at the house, everyone lied around
digesting the amazing meal. I watched a little TV and then went on to bed.
|A little over a month after we visited Cape Hatteras, Hurricane Alex hit the Outer Banks with winds over 100 miles per hour. The lighthouse stood, tall and proud.
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