Despite the deplorable conditions of U.S. air travel these days, we still give daily thanks to Orville and Wilbur Wright, inventors of the airplane. They have certainly made our dreams of experiencing the world a reality. To pay our proper respects, we journeyed out to Kill Devil Hills (dubbed by heavily soused pirates who rowdily victimized these gorgeous coastlines) in North Carolina to see where it all happened for the first time.
The giant sand dunes that seem to float atop the expanse of the Atlantic Ocean were used by the brothers for four years, prized for its ideal wind conditions when experimenting with early gliders and small flyers. In 1903, these great American inventors introduced the powered Wright Flyer which relied on steering more than muscle to achieve the world’s first aircraft flight, witnessed by just five people, and soon transforming the world itself. Unfortunately, the world’s second flight that day was later followed by the world’s first plane crash as a massive torrent of wind swept the parked plane away to its destruction, ending any future take-offs for the Wright Flyer, which is reproduced along with other early Wright inventions and on exhibit.
In 1932 a large granite monument to the Wright Brothers was erected on site where the spartan wooden shed that the two shared on site has been reproduced along with their early plane hangar. We explored the marked flight path of the first flight and learned through film and exhibits in the Centennial Pavilion the complete story which details the bravery, optimism and struggles of these idealistic Americans bent on achieving what most thought impossible.
Maybe most fun was climbing up Big Kill Devil Hill for captivating views of the eye-pleasing area which is steeped in historical markers indicating where different steps occurred on the way to aviation history. If you really want to feel the “Wright stuff,” you can even land at the first-flight airstrip.
Kill Devil Hills was established on this slim finger of a peninsula in the early 1950’s and the wonderful, relaxing town of Kitty Hawk is just a few miles away, along with beautiful Cape Hatteras, our nation’s first national seashore. In Kitty Hawk, we like to grab a bite at romantic Elizabeth’s café for a glass of wine with delicate seafood and land preparations and we had a great stay at The Sanderling Resort in nearby Duck which kept us busy but calm on five miles of pristine beach and a first-rate spa that overlooks the sound. Its traditional buildings hold a spell on you that does not stop as soon as you arrive. It is perfect for couples who want a little enchantment.
This sliver of North Carolina’s unspoiled coast is a true American treasure still untrammeled by the masses. It is sure to take your breath away. A fascinating visit to the Wright Brothers Memorial Park is guaranteed you won’t take air travel for granted again, even when the flight attendant is hitting you with the beverage cart.
Visit the following on the web:
Kitty Hawk, www.townofkittyhawk.org
Wright Brothers National Memorial Park, www.nps.gov/wrbr/index.htm
Sanderling Resort, 1461 Duck Road Duck, NC 27949 (877) 650-4812
Elizabeth’s Café, 1177 Duck Rd # 11 Kitty Hawk, NC 27949 (252) 261-6145, elizabethscafe.com