Not sure of how much we would cover that first full day, we set out before noon heading north towards the Wright Brothers National Memorial. Not far from camp we passed the turn off for the Bodie Island Lighthouse, but elected to hit it another day. The Memorial is almost seventeen miles straight up Highway 12 (158), but we elected to deviate slightly from that busy highway by driving up its parallel companion, South Old Oregon Inlet Rd. that then turns in to South Virginia Dare Road. We would follow this same route a couple of days later on our bikes.
Much as we had done in Europe, no day of sightseeing is complete without a stop for coffee and a snack, which we accomplished by moving one block over to Highway 12 to stop in at Morning View Coffee House in Nags Head. Known locally for their in-house roasting and wide selection of beans, we enjoyed a cup of nicely brewed house blend and a scone.
Just a few miles up the road we turned into the Memorial grounds and prepared to pay the entry fee of $4 each. As I was sitting in line I remembered to pull out my National Park Service Senior Pass, which I had applied for when I turned 62, the minimum eligible age. I’d already saved 50% off my campground fee at Oregon Inlet Campground and was delighted to find that our total admission fee to the memorial would be waived. The bottom line is that if you are 62; get one of these lifetime passes. The cost is just $10 ($20 if you apply for it by mail) and if you travel like we do it could easily save you hundreds of dollars over your lifetime.
We pulled into the parking lot of this the 431-acre site, dedicated in 1932 to commemorate Wilbur and Orville Wright’s first sustained flights by a heavier than air powered machine on December 17, 1903, and made our way to the Visitor’s Center. Like most National Parks (see my entries for WWII sites in Normandy last year) the display’s and presentations are thoughtful, educational, and entertaining.
Our timing was good as there was just a short wait for the 30 minute interpretive program by a park ranger, giving us enough time to quickly peruse the exhibits and get a grounding in the events that occurred that fateful day, the work that led up to them and the magnitude of the accomplishment. In the race to be the first to conquer heavier than air flight the brothers, although not the first to build and fly experimental aircraft, were the first to invent aircraft controls that made fixed-wing powered flight possible. Their fundamental breakthrough was the invention of three-axis control, which enabled the pilot to steer the aircraft effectively and to maintain its equilibrium.
At the finish of the program we walked out to the grounds and viewed replicas of the small house the brothers lived in while working and the barn where their gliders and planes were assembled. Next to these two structures is the flight path from that historic day, with four granite markers delineating the distances in feet achieved with each flight, 120, 175, 200, and on the last of the day, 852.
It’s sobering to stand out on that field and think about how far we’ve come in a little over 100 years, from a flight of less than 1,000 feet to intercontinental travel over great distances. Some dispute the key role the Wright Brothers played in advancing the science of flight, but without a doubt theirs was a critical and early contribution.
Loyal readers of this blog know by now that sightseeing makes us hungry, so we repaired to the Highlander for a quick lunch made up of food from the cooler and action packers. Tanks full, we walked over to Kill Devil Hill and walked to the top to view the official memorial, then descended the hill to take in the 10,000-pound life-sized bronze and stainless steel sculpture First Flight Centennial Memorial.
Sculpted by Stephen Smith, a local artist, it was a gift from the State of North Carolina to the U.S. Government and dedicated on December 17, 2005, the 102nd anniversary of the first flight.
By this time it was early afternoon and we decided to just keep driving north on the highway towards the Currituck Beach Light House, at the top of the island in Corolla. Joanna had been doing some research on the area and had discovered a place we had to make a stop, that being Duck Donuts where each serving is made to order. I waited in the car while she went inside, reappearing with a maple iced cake donut topped with bacon crumbles. When they say made to order, they mean it, as the donut itself was still hot from the fryer. One really wasn’t enough, but we were disciplined travelers and skipped a second unlike the two young men we glimpsed on a bench near the entrance to the shop, starting in on the dozen donuts they would split that day.
The drive from Duck to Corolla winds through miles of beach houses lining each side of the road. The island is quite narrow here; you can pretty much see water if you look left or right through any clearing in the houses. We arrived at the lighthouse and after touring the grounds, decided against climbing to the top, figuring that we’d save that activity for another lighthouse later in the trip. From the grounds we walked out to Old Corolla Village, home to a number of restored buildings, many in use today as a schoolhouse, bookstore and our destination, the Corolla Wild Horse Fund Museum.
We inquired about taking one of the wild horse tours that take you out into the Currituck National Wildlife Reserve to try to catch a glimpse of some of the wild Colonial Spanish Mustangs that have lived on this island since the late 1600’s. Tours were sold out for a couple of days and given the uncertainty of our schedule, we decided to wait for some other opportunity to view wild horses.
It was getting to be late in the day and given the time it would take us to drive back down to camp, we decided not to cook that night, instead making a beeline for one of Carolyn’s recommendations, the Blue Moon Beach Grill. Our experience was so enjoyable we’d end up eating there twice, as witnessed by this first of two reviews for Trip Advisor:
Our friend Carolyn suggested the Blue Moon Beach Grill to us as we prepared to visit the Outer Banks. We were camping down at Oregon Inlet and planned to eat a couple of meals out and cook two in camp. Circumstances brought us to the Blue Moon our first full day in town and we stopped in on a Thursday around 5:30 to find a crowded restaurant and a forty-five minute wait for a table. As is our practice we found a place at the bar and as luck would have it a couple of seats came free and that’s where we spent the rest of the meal.
Our bartender was vivacious and engaging and after ordering a couple of draft beers from their small but good quality selection, we ordered the chowder special that night, a lump crab, roasted corn, and roux concoction that pleased all of the senses. For the main, we split the Angel’s Delight, Shrimp and blue crab, sautéed in a light white wine sauce, with vine-ripened tomatoes, fresh green onion, roasted red peppers, garlic, and basil. Finished with whole butter, served over angel hair pasta and topped with Parmesan cheese it was a delight from start to finish. Delicate flavors blended to highlight the seafood, no one flavor overpowering any other. The split portions were just the right amount of food for each of us; enough to satisfy but not so much you felt uncomfortable when finished.
We passed on dessert but kept their Italian Lemon Cake in mind as we paid up and left. Little did we know we’d return two days later for another go at the menu. The drive back to camp passed quickly, the landscape now becoming familiar, and buttoned down the hatches as rain was forecast for the evening. It would blow in and give us a true test of our tent’s weather readiness, a challenge it met with flying colors. We hunkered down for the evening, not sure what our set of activities would be the next day given the dicey weather. Only time would tell.
Wright Brothers National Memorial: http://www.nps.gov/wrbr/index.htm
Morning View Coffee House: https://themorningview.com/contact-us/
National Park Service Senior Pass: http://store.usgs.gov/pass/senior.html
Wright Brothers First Flight Centennial Memorial: http://firstflightfoundation.org/the-sculpture/
Currituck Beach Light House: http://www.currituckbeachlight.com/
Duck Donuts: https://duckdonuts.com/
Corolla Wild Horse Fund: https://www.corollawildhorses.com/
Blue Moon Beach Grill: http://bluemoonbeachgrill.com/