Friday, June 9, 2023 - Today we drove for five hours from the Raleigh, NC area to the coast of North Carolina and Elizabeth City. We are staying at the Coast Guard Air Station near Elizabeth City. This was just under 200 miles and the roads were great and the weather was great too.
This RV park has only ten spaces, but they are excellent spaces. We are right on the shore of Albemarle Bay and very near to Kitty Hawk and Kill Devil Hill where the Wright Brothers conducted their first flight of a heavier-than-air craft. Tomorrow, we will be driving to that area to check it out along with the entire "outer banks" islands to the south.
Saturday, June 10, 2023 - Today, Lisa and I drove to Kitty Hawk, NC to take a look at the Wright Brothers flying location. Back in 1903, the only small towns on the Outer Banks were Kitty Hawk and Nags Head. In between and about four miles south of Kitty Hawk is a place called Kill Devil Hills. This is a series of sand dunes with one pretty large dune and hill just to the south of an open, flat area of sand. This is where the actual flights took place and the notifications to the media and the outside world came from the town of Kitty Hawk. For this reason, you often hear that the brothers first flight took place at Kitty Hawk, but that is not true. It occurred four miles to the south at Kill Devil Hills.
There is a Visitor Center just as you cross the Albemarle Sound onto the Outer Banks in the town of Kitty Hawk. That was our first stop. The people working there were great and they loaded us up with all sorts of brochures on things to do in the area. We also learned the correct pronunciations of some of the towns nearby. For example, the town of Manteo is named after an Indian chief and the "T" is silent; it's called "Man-ee-oh." Also, the town of "Corolla" is pronounced "Co-raw-la." There are a few more unique ones to come shortly. In Kitty Hawk at the Visitor Center, we also visited the memorial to 100 years of aviation. I was comprised of a concrete area about 50 feet in diameter with vertical obelisks that represented about a decade of achievements in aviation. The best way to understand this exhibit is to look at the photos in the photo gallery. I have pictures of all the pillars there.
We then drove south four miles to Kill Devil Hills and into the Wright Brothers Memorial Monument. This is actually where the Wright Brothers came to test their gliders and powered craft. The tested gliders in 1901 and then brought a larger glider to the Hills in 1902. They did thousands of glides and found out that most of the international information on wing shapes was wrong. So, they made the first wind-tunnel and tested new airfoils. They were able to develop one that provided great lift. Control was also the big problem. How would they turn the craft. Owning a bicycle shop, they regularly received inner tubes in small boxes about 10 inches long and two inches square. Wilbur tried twisting the box and determined that they need to be able to "twist" their wings to control roll. They added a larger rudder and basically had a flyable craft. What they really needed was a lightweight motor and a good propeller. They hope for and engine under 200 pounds and at least eight horsepower. A friend built them and engine at 170 pounds and twelve horsepower. Using their wind-tunnel testing, the brothers cut and shaped their own propellers that ended up being about 85% efficient which is nearly as efficient as the propellers that we have today. Not it was time to test the craft and off to Kill Devil Hills they went. It was mid-December 1903 and the brothers had told their families that they would be home for Christmas. The winds need to be about 12 to 15 knots to help get the craft into the air, but the winds were light. In a hurry, they decided to take the craft part way up Kill Devil Hill and let gravity help them get started. Wilbur on the coin toss and would be the first to fly. The craft lifted up, but Wilbur over corrected on the controls and the plane came down pretty hard. Controlled flight had not been achieved. It also took them a couple days to repair the flyer. On December 17, 1903, it was Orville's turn to fly. They moved the flyer back to the flat ground and mounted it on the wooden rail that would keep the flyer off the sand. This time Orville was the pilot and the flyer rose into the air and travelled for 120 feet in 12 seconds before settling back down on the sand. The Wilbur flew a little farther with 12 seconds and 175 feet. Then Orville flew a little farther with 15 seconds and 200 feet. Then Wilbur flew the last flight of the day and traveled for 59 seconds and a whopping 852 feet. None of the flights got up to over 10 feet in altitude, but they did fly under control.
We toured the Visitor Center and the entire grounds. We hiked up to the top of Kill Devil Hill to the Memorial to the brothers that was built by congress. Be sure to check out the photo gallery to see what the Wright Brothers National Memorial is all about. I consider it "hallowed ground" and the birthplace of aviation. Two bicycle makers taught us how to fly and just 66 years later, we landed a person on the moon.
After leaving the Wright Brothers National Memorial, Lisa and I drove south to Nags Head and then over to Roanoke Island. Roanoke Island is famous for being the first English colony in the Americas and the location of "The Lost Colony." Abut 116 people came to Roanoke on the first trip to settle the area. They did not far well, but luckily, the Indians helped them survive. The colonists were really struggling and one of their leaders went back to England to get more supplies. When they returned, four years later, there was nothing to be found of the colonists. There were not really good clues about where they had gone, but they were gone and never heard of again. There were two pregnant women in the colony and the first female child that was born in the Americas was born there. Here name was Virginia Dare. The area around this site is Dare County. Later attempts to start a colony in the Americas took place a little farther north at Jamestown. It was really fun to see the history of this area come to life.
On the way to Roanoke, we stopped at Jockey's Dune State Park. We walked into the Kitty Hawk Kites shop there to buy a kite. I noticed that they gave tandem hand glider rides for $199. I signed up to be towed up to 2,000 feet the next morning at 10:00. I have wanted to give this a try and here was my chance. Lisa decided to pass up on the opportunity.
Sunday, June 11, 2023 - We loaded up our bikes for a bike ride on the north end of the Outer Banks and then drove to near Kitty Hawk where I would take the exciting hang glider experience. I would be towed up to 2,000 feet by a small airplane and then we would be cut loose to fly the wing back to the landing strip. It was a great experience. We took off and it was a smooth flight. The instructor, Andy, told me all about what was happening and he let me fly the glider. We did turns and climbs and descents and then Andy showed me was a stall and a spin was like with the glider. It was a lot of fun. We then came back for a nice, gentle landing right where we had been for launch. It was a great experience and I would recommend it to anyone.
After the hang glider experience, Lisa and I drove to the town of Corolla (Co-rah-a) where we went to the Visitor Center. We got some maps and then decided to continue to the north with our bikes. We ended up riding ten miles to the north and then another ten miles back top the Visitor Center (into the wind). We rode as far north as we could to a place where four-wheel drive vehicles are allowed to drive on the sandy beach. Nearly all of these vehicles take air out of their tires to make the ride better in the sand. I would have likely gotten stuck right away. From the Visitor Center, we rode another five miles to the south and into the wind before turning back to the Visitor Center. The wind pushing us on the way back made the return super easy. Lots of huge houses and rental properties line the roads in this area. Lots of access points to the beach and many people are walking to the beaches with their chairs and sunshades. Tons of wealthy people either living here or vacationing. Be sure to check out the photo gallery. After our bike ride, we headed back to the RV in Elizabeth City.
Monday, June 12, 2023 - Today is a "rest day" which means chores. We were awakened by pounding rain at 5:00 am and I realized that I had left Lisa's EBike outside. I jumped up, put on shoes (and proper clothing), and moved her bike into the garage. It only rained for about five minutes, but it was hard for the time period. We later decided to head to McDonalds for a quick breakfast before heading over to Starbucks to use their WiFi. I probably should have tried the WiFi at McDonalds because they usually have good service too. At Starbucks, I loaded some photos to the photo gallery and then tried to use our Camtasia software to take some photo clips from the video I paid for at the hang glider ride. I figured out how to create the photo clips and save them to files, but Camtasia is not working well at all. It is super-slow and often goes into "Not Responding" mode. I need to call Camtasia for technical IT support. We are also considering a new computer since our is about eight to ten years old and the technology has changed so much. We will see about that though; another $2,000 for a computer was not in the plans. Then, after lunch at Subway, we did our laundry and went shopping at WalMart for food and DEF for the truck. We then returned to our RV to rest which means typing this blog for me. Kind of an off-and-on rain day, so we are using the time to rest up for tomorrow's kayaking trip to Pea Island near Cape Hatteras.
Tuesday, June 13, 2023 - Today we got up early and drove to Cape Hatteras where we went kayaking around the Pea Island Nature Preserve. To get to Pea Island, we had to drive to Kitty Hawk and then south for another 30 miles or so past Nags Head. Since this is a preserve, there are no houses out in this area and the beach is pristine. This is a set of islands that are made up mostly of sea grasses and tulles. The water in this entire area is very shallow and there are occasional schools of fish that we spook causing them to jump out of the water. It was a nice day and not too windy, so we were able to cruise around with ease. After the kayaking, we drove back to the Pea Island Visitor Center to have lunch. Two young college students were giving a lesson on the travels of sea turtles and how we could protect them. It was a fun lesson. We bought diesel on the way home for $3.29 a gallon and then had some more food at a Wendy's. A fun day.
Wednesday, June 14, 2023 - We drove to Phelps Lake that is located about an hour southwest of Elizabeth City, NC. We planned to kayak the lake, but the winds were high and the circular lake was covered with whitecaps. The water is supposed to be very clear since it is a rain-fed lake, but the lake is very shallow and the waves churned up all the dirt on the bottom of the lake. We decided to drive around the lake to check out a couple of the places where we could launch the kayaks. They would be dock launches and we do not have much experience in this type of launch. On one trail to the water, we ran across a black snake that was about four feet long. Not sure of the type. On the drive away from the lake, we came across two turtles trying to get across the road. We stopped and assisted both turtles in making their journey safely. A short time later, we saw a fairly large black bear ambling across a field. We also saw several creatures that looked like ground hogs. It was a nice day for animals.
We then drove to the Somerset Place State Park that is just about a quarter of a mile from the Phelps Lake State Park. Somerset is a restored plantation that was one o fthe largest in the area. At one time, there were nearly 500 African American slaves working this plantation. We took a tour of the grounds with a state paid curator and he also showed us the facilities and the Somerset House. It was a good tour and we learned a lot about how slaves functioned at a plantation. We learned that one slave named "Old Sucky Davis" had a total of nearly 131 children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren born into slavery. We learned that this was a tremendous financial benefit to the slave owner as he ended up with more slaves for which he did not have to pay large sums of cash. One slave could cost the equivalent of $10,000 in today's dollars. Also, having a female slave could be a great financial benefit. We toured the house and were able to see how elite plantation owners functioned in the antebellum south. A large fence cut the plantation in half from east to west and the slaves were required to remain on their side of the fence unless they were servants working in the house. We learned a lot about slavery in the southern states.