Kitty Hawk, NC Felix Wong

Did you know that there is a whole chain of islands off the coast of North Carolina? I did not, but apparently, one of these islands included Kitty Hawk, the famed site of the Wright Brothers’ first flights. For thiese reasons alone, I had to go check out the area while I was in North Carolina, even if it meant driving almost 250 miles from Durham.

The drive, while pretty, could have been almost anywhere in the states that are reasonably green yet sunny. And the closer one gets to the coast, the more “minor” the highways get and the more they resemble back country roads. I took US-64 almost all the way to Kitty Hawk, and US-17 & 64 back.

Kitty Hawk did not disappoint. Or rather, the Wright Brothers Memorial on Kill Devil Hill (the name of a hill that used to be a sand dune), which I think technically is part of Kill Devil Hills (the name of the town directly south and right next to Kitty Hawk). Why Kitty Hawk and not Kill Devil Hills is frequently cited as the site of the Wright Brothers’ first flights is beyond me, except that “Kitty Hawk” sounds infinitely more romantic and less satanic than the alternative. Anyhow, to see a life-size replica of Wilbur & Orville’s first airplane (and one of their gliders), and to see exactly where they held their test flights was all-inspiring. So was reading about these two brothers who, by any measure, were true renaissance men. They changed the world and it is amazing just thinking about how our ability to easily travel almost anywhere afar was predicated off of their crazy obsession about humans flying aloft like the birds.

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Did you know that there are a whole chain of islands off the coast off of North Carolina?  Kitty Hawk is on one of them.Just outside of Kitty Hawk, in Kill Devil Hills, is the Wright Brothers Memorial.  Currently in the main entrance of the visitor's center, there is a tribute to African-American pilots, esp. those of WWII.Wilbur and Orville Wright were true renaissance men: newspaper writers, bicycle shope owners, inventors, scientists, etc.  They used funds from their bicycle business to finance all of their flight experiments with no outside sponsors.The Wright brothers, upon realizing that airflow data and formulas were wrong, created one of the first windtunnels in order to conduct their own experiments.This is a full-size replica of the plane the Wright Brothers successfully flew on Dec. 17, 1903 four times.  Supposedly, this replica is exacting in detail and is capable of its own flight.This is a replica of the one of the gliders the Wright brothers created years before creating their self-powered airplanes.  The gliders enabled them to master flight control.In the same room as the airplane and the glider were portraits of people who achieved "firsts" in aviation.  This is Amelia Earhart, the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean.This is Charles Lindbergh, the first person to fly solo from New York to Paris.This monument sits across the hill the Wright brothers jumped off of hundreds of times with their hanggliders.Down below and to the north of the monument are boulders demarking the beginning point of their first flights.  The boulders in the distance demark where they landed after successful Flight #1, 2, 3, and 4.To the east were the crashing waves of the Atlantic Ocean and a surfer reader to go on inThese type of bungalow-style homes dominate this area and cost a lot of $!  Seems like eastern coastal real estate is almost as expensive as Californian coastal real estate.

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