30. Apr, 2016

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FRIDAY 17-10-08 

We had a lie-in this morning, it was raining, and we hadn’t planned to travel too far. After showering and breakfast we left our Wal-Mart car park, one of the quietest we’d stayed at, and headed for Kitty Hawk, North Carolina  www.townofkittyhawk.org , where the Wright Brothers made their first ever powered flight. 

The journey wasn’t much fun; there was heavy rain all the way to Norfolk, which required a higher degree of concentration due to the volume of traffic, wet roads and navigation issues, even with the Satnav. We had to pull over at one point because we were carrying LPG and there was a long tunnel ahead. All we were asked to do whilst the security staff stood there was turn off our LPG supply at the tank, which seemed an infinitely more sensible approach to the problem than the one we had endured in New York. The final leg of the journey was pleasant, it had stopped raining, fuel prices were getting cheaper, and the journey down Hwy168 was as it should be - travelling at a nice comfortable speed along a dual carriageway with homes, shops and businesses on either side which can be easily turned in to. The Chef bought a couple of large tomatoes from a roadside farm market; they were by no means cheap so they’d better be good. 

We passed our intended campground for tonight on the way to the Wright Brothers National Memorial, www.nps.gov/wrbr  (GPS: N36.019764 W75.666021) erected on the site where on the 17th December 1903 the brothers successfully flew the first powered heavier than air machine. They made four flights that day, each a little longer than the other, the final one of 852ft lasting 59 seconds. The brothers knew that it was only practice that was needed to enable them to fly much further, and decided that after a well earned lunch they would fly the aircraft four miles to the Kitty Hawk Weather Station to send telegrams to their families telling them they would be home for Christmas and then fly the four miles back again. This never happened because after the fourth flight they’d forgotten to secure the plane down and a gust of wind caught it, flipping it over and over, causing damage to the frame. The aircraft was subsequently repaired but the brothers never flew it again. 

The site was not quite what we were expecting as these flights took place on sand dunes, however sand dunes move, and between 1903 and 1928 when the Park was established, Kill Devil Hill had already moved 450 feet to the southwest, and so the whole park was planted with grasses to prevent further erosion and movement. Everything on the site is reproduction but their locations are accurate, having been personally identified onsite by Wilbur Wright. There was the hangar, workshop and accommodation shed, a track along which the aircraft launched, a stone commemorating the take off point and four white markers identifying the distance of each flight. On the top of Kill Devil Hill is their memorial, and beyond it a wonderful life sized bronze sculpture capturing that famous moment in history. Amongst the many displays in the Visitor Centre is a reproduction of the original Wright Flyer, the original being in the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum, Washington DC, and a mounted piece of wood and cloth from the original flyer which had been taken on to the moon’s surface by Neil Armstrong on Apollo 11. 

Time was against us as we hadn’t arrived until 15:00 and it closed at 17:00 – we were the last visitors to leave. Though it was a fairly brisk visit we managed to see all we wanted. We went back down the road to the Kitty Hawk RV Park www.kittyhawkrv.com and booked ourselves in for the night. Our pitch is just across a narrow road separating us from the beach and sea; we can sit in the RV and listen to the Atlantic Ocean crashing on to the beach. Whilst I got the RV hooked up Rosina had a look around the campground trying to locate the bathroom block but with no success. It looks as if we just get the hookups at the pitch and that’s it, not much for $45 a night. Location is about all this campground has going for it, and a very windy location at that, so much so that tents are banned from the campground, but it was the reliability of wind here which attracted the Wright Brothers in the first place. 

We did go for a short walk along the beach before having a barbecue this evening, though we ate indoors due to the draughty weather. Tonight we’re watching some TV whilst listening to the rain and wind on the RV, though we can’t complain as it had been forecast. 

LOCATION TONIGHT: Kitty Hawk RV Park, 3945N Croatan Hwy, Kitty Hawk, NC 27949 (GPS: N36.069993 W75.692562)