When we first moved out here we noticed that many cars had OBX stickers in their windows. It took us a while to figure out what/where that was, and what a popular vacation spot it is for many people here on the East Coast. In fact, most people from the Washington DC/Northern Virginia area regularly visit either Virginia Beach (a 3 hour drive) or the OBX in North Carolina (5 hour drive). So a few months ago when my friend Heidi called to see if we wanted to rent a beach house, and spend a week with them in the Outer Banks, we jumped at the opportunity.
The Outer Banks are actually a strip of narrow islands that run along the coast of North Carolina- so you have the Atlantic Ocean on one side, and a series of sounds and bays on the other side. It was exactly as I always pictured the beaches of the East Coast- sand dunes with rows of slatted fences and tall grasses. It was lovely.
We rented a house that was just 2 blocks from the beach, in a town called Corolla. The house was lovely, and we really enjoyed everything there. Although getting there was a little crazy...
The traffic crossing over the long bridge onto the island took us a couple of hours to cross. And the traffic wasn't any better on the island. With one main road (one lane in each direction) it took us another hour and a half to get down to our part of the island- about 20 miles of bumper to bumper traffic. Apparently all the rentals on the islands have a Saturday check-in, so everybody is trying to get on the island at the same time. Yikes!
So we got there late on Saturday, and got settled in. The next morning we all headed to church, which was in Nag's Head, about an hour drive from our house. The small building was packed with people like us- vacationers from out of town. As we left the church, we realized that we were driving right past Kitty Hawk- the site of the Wright Brother's first flight! My husband Jack, who is in the Air Force, and is a lover of all things in Aviation, was ecstatic! We pulled into the park, and spent a few hours there.
The displays were wonderful, but the highlight had to be the Park Ranger Tom White's telling of the Wright Brother's story. This guy knew how to tell a story! He was so great. He told of Wilbur and Orville Wright, how a small toy from their father has inspired their love of flight when they were small children. They spent years and years studying, learning from experts, and experimenting on their own until they were finally ready to test out their flying machine. There wasn't enough wind in Ohio, so they scouted various locations and finally determined that the sand dunes of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina were the perfect location. When they arrived they were shocked at how desolate the place was, but they knew the wind was perfect, and that the sand would provide a soft landing area for them. So they set up camp, and spend months preparing for their test flights. Ultimately, it was their second trip out there when they finally succeeded, and flew first 100 feet, then finally over 800 feet! After years of so much trial and error, they finally succeeded. And they changed the world.
The Park Ranger was so animated and lively as he told their story, the whole audience was entranced. And as he finished, I teared up a little, and so did Jack. On our way out of the room, he told me that he had a spiritual experience in that moment, and was very moved. I think we all were.
Here is a photo that was snapped at the the very moment of that historical flight.
Here is a replica of that historic flying machine.
After the Visitor's Center, we walked along the path where the first flight occurred. They used large stones to mark the distance of each of the 3 flights. The requirement for the "powered flight" was 300 feet, which they exceeded on the third try. (about 800 feet)
Leo running down the original flight path. Back then this whole area was just sand dunes... but they had to plant some grasses because the blowing sand made the area miserable for visitors! The two wood buildings were where the Wright brothers camped (the one on the left) and worked (the hangar for the plane). There is now a large monument at the top of the hill, as you see in the background.
The next few days at the Outer Banks was a mix of sight-seeing and beach time.
Leo has always loved the beach, and so he had a great time in the water and playing in the sand too.
He loved playing with the Heidi's kids, especially sweet little Mary, who is just a few months older.
We found a great little Nature Walk area on the island. The boardwalk wove through swampyand wooded areas, and finally out to the beach. It was beautiful!
Race car drivers!
One of our favorite excursions was to Manteo, a cute little village on Roanoake Island.
The kids did a Pirate Adventure, where they get to dress up as pirates, and ride on a Pirate ship! They even learned how to speak "pirate" before beginning their voyage.
This tour was really designed for kids- they did a great job at really engaging them, and making it fun.
They had water cannons on the boat for them to "shoot" at another pirate in a small rowboat. When the pirate finally succumbed and fell into the water, the kids squealed with delight. Then they found a bottle floating in the sea- with a treasure map inside. The map lead them to the right spot, where they pulled a real treasure chest from the ocean water! The kids were literally jumping up and down with excitement. They opened the chest to reveal its treasures- little plastic compasses, gold coins, jeweled rings, and more. Each child took a turn, and was able to grab a handful of booty. They loved it.
Leo, lounging around the house, sporting some cool shades.
The Corolla lighthouse. We wanted to climb to the top, but Leo had a meltdown while we were waiting in line, so we left. He fell asleep in the car about 2 minutes later. (too many late nights for this 3 year old means some major meltdowns!)
Another great day at the beach!
To continue the pirate theme, we made some treasure maps, and hid these mini treasure chests for the kids. They were incredibly excited! I was lucky to capture the pure joy and excitement on Leo's face as he pulled the chest from the sand. "A TREASURE CHEST!" he exclaimed.
Well, that was our OBX adventure. We had a great time.
We decided to leave super early on Saturday morning, so we wouldn't get stuck in traffic on the way out.
We got up at 4am this morning, put a sleeping Leo into the car, and then headed out. The traffic was terrific, and we made it home in a record 5 hours! (Much better than the 10 hours it took us to get there-- Lesson learned.) We made it home about 9:30, and have been enjoying the rest of our Saturday at home. Leo is already missing his friends though. Every half hour or so he asks me if someone can come over to play with him. He is so ready for a sibling...