North Carolina, Where We've Been

The Wright Brothers, Roanoke Island, Kitty Hawk Hang Gliding, Bodie Island Lighthouse, Cape Hatteras National Seashore

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Dreaded Roads and Broken Springs

The trip into North Carolina was an eventful one. I carefully planned and drove this route because of the reports of incidences I’ve read about broken leaf springs and axles on RV’s while traveling on I-95 in South Carolina. South Carolina has been ranked as the state with the worst roads in America and so far, this I can attest to. We stopped in Lumberton, North Carolina for an overnight at a Walmart. Otherwise the drive up to the Outer Banks would have taken us about 7-8 hours and we try not to push it if the day will be long. It already takes several hours to get everything ready to go in an RV, get hooked up, drive under the speed limit, find a place to stop for lunch, a gas station that has diesel and can accept a “big rig”, and make it to our destination before nightfall. 

While in Lumberton, Ben thought it would be wise to check underneath the trailer as we had gone over a number of potholes while traveling on our way north and sure enough, we had a problem.

A leaf spring on one of the axles of the trailer had snapped in two. This is not a good scenario for a couple of reasons: 1. If we had continued on, we could have lost the axle and experienced even greater damage to the trailer. Possibly even totaling it. 2. The leaf spring was pushing up into the frame of the trailer, meaning that all of the trailer’s weight on that axle could have bent the frame… also totaling the trailer.  

Ben was able to manufacture a bandaid fix using supplies at a nearby Lowe’s to get us back up and running just enough to get us 30 miles to the trailer parts store and install a replacement leaf spring. Then we were on our way…


The Wright Brothers National Memorial

One hundred and twenty years ago, the Wright Brothers made a historic flight above the sand dunes that line the outer banks of North Carolina. The brothers chose this location because of the dunes that would give them a cushioned landing should they have crashed their flying machine, which they did many times before their successful first flight on December 17, 1903.

Inside the visitor’s center, displays talk about the Wright Brothers, their families, their experiments, and their many failed attempts while working to perfect their flying machine. 

The brothers were bicycle shop owners and as such they were familiar with the workings of the bicycle. Many of the concepts used to control and power a bicycle become apparent in their design of the first flyer.

The brothers spent years and attempt after fateful attempt constructing and refining the shape of the wings, direction and shape of the propellers, control of the elevators and rudders, engine, and even a takeoff rail to propel them forward despite the sand that surrounded them.

The museum holds a replica of the flyer reconstructed with accuracy. However the real flyer that flew at Kitty Hawk is on display at the Smithsonian in Washington D.C.. A trip we are yet to make. 

This stone and plaque marks the location where the flyers all took off. The rail on the ground where the kids are standing would have been attached to the underside to allow it to be propelled forward. This was the zero mark. 

From here, four attempts were made. The first flight’s pilot was determined by a coin toss with Orville being the winner. He flew for 12 seconds at a distance of 120 feet.

Wilbur pilots the second flight. He flew for 12-13 seconds at a distance of 175 feet. 

Orville pilots the third flight. He flew for 15 seconds at a distance of 200 feet.

Wilbur pilots the fourth flight. He flew for 59 seconds at a distance of 852 feet.

The first three markers can be clearly seen in the picture below, but you have to look fairly far into the distance to see the fourth.

It was the second flight that marks the “first flight” that day.

Up on the hill stands a shrine to the Wright Brothers and their conquest of the skies.

Behind the shrine is a small park with a metal reproduction of the scene that day. You can climb aboard and pretend you are flying along with the brothers over the dunes of Kitty Hawk. 

On board, you can see where the pilot would have laid to control the flyer with his arms and his hips. It was a rather ingenious design that laid the ground work for airplane design in the years to come.


Fort Raleigh on Roanoke Island

The first English settlers were deposited on the shores of Roanoke Island in what would later become North Carolina. Here the settlers were to make their homes, initiate trade with the local tribes, and establish a successful settlement for future settlers who would come after them. 

The first English child was born at this time in the new land. Her name was Virginia Dare.

Unfortunately, they didn’t get very far in their mission. Upon the return of the next ship from England, it appeared that the settlers had abandoned their homes with little reasoning as to why they left or where they may have gone. The only clue they left was a carving in a tree that read Croatan. The captain of the ship had set out to find the villagers, but a storm prevented him from doing a thorough search of the surrounding area and he returned to England with many questions unanswered.

Thousands of ideas abound and are kept on post cards, in books at the visitor’s center. One of Ellie’s ideas was that they were playing a game of hide and seek with the Captain.

What do you think happened to them?

One of the most plausible ideas I have heard is that since it was nearly winter and hadn’t had time to plant crops, they were already struggling in the new land. Without a way to survive, they joined a nearby Native American tribe and intermarried with them. The descendants of this tribe were said to have gray eyes, speak English, and some even had last names such as Taylor, Hyatt, and Dial. 

Kitty Hawk Hang Gliding School

What made Kitty Hawk a great place for the Wright Brothers to fly, still makes it an ideal place today. The strength of the winds, the plentiful dunes, and the temperate climate are all ideal for a hang gliding school. 

Ellie strapped on her vest and helmet and happily strolled onto the dunes to take her first lesson in hang gliding. 

With just a few steps and a “kite” strapped to her back, the strong winds lifted her up into the air and she glided nearly 200 feet down the slope of the dunes. Each beginner is given a lesson in controlling the hang glider followed by five guided flights. This gives the student a chance to feel what it’s like to fly and an understanding in how to control the craft in the winds.

Each flight became easier as she learned how to turn left and right and swing the bar above her head to put on the brakes in come in for a soft landing.

Without a doubt, she LOVED it!

Bodie Island Lighthouse

The Outer Banks of North Carolina has some beautiful scenery. The Bodie Island Lighthouse is a classic scene that defines East coast landscapes.

The lighthouse is still in operation today, but no longer has a keeper that lives there to tend it. 


Cape Hatteras National Seashore

Other iconic buildings line the shore up and down the Outer Banks. This is the Oregon Inlet Life Saving Station. It is no longer in use, but at one time it was used to serve the ships that were lost on the treacherous waters along the coast.



More Things Break

On moving day, at the end of the week, we packed up our things, loaded the trailer onto the truck, and started leaving our campsite. Just as we get out on the road, the truck’s DPF warning screen lit up. The DPF is a diesel specific exhaust system that modifies what would otherwise be a rather noxious exhaust and combines it with DEF to become a benign and clean air exhaust.

This system can also be rather troubling when it doesn’t work. Failure of the system to regen will cause the speed of the truck to top out at a breezy 5 mph. 

We immediately turned around, made reservations at the same campground for another few days, and had to wait for a few days for the truck to be fixed. 

This would cut our visit to Virginia short, unfortunately, but we will hopefully make some of that up on the return trip. 


Oregon Inlet Campground

This campground is located on the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. It is really, really, really tight. The campsites are connected by a single lane paved road and the paved sites are just wide enough for the trailers tires. In fact, had their been anyone in the campsite on the other side of us, I doubt we’d have been able to get into our spot.

Some of the sites are water and electric hookups and some are dry camping. 

I spoke with the camp host while we were there. He said that plans were in the works to expand the campground to fit larger trailers. When it was constructed in the 1960’s, such big trailers did not exist.

Starlink was quite fast at 90 down / 18 up. Verizon on the phone was at 3 bars and both Verizon and AT&T were at 5 bars with the cell antenna.