Thursday, November 21, 2019

Road Trip Day 5 - Wright Brothers, Piers, and Lighthouses on the Outer Banks

     This was the best day wall to wall of the entire road trip.  It began just after 6am. I stumbled out of bed and was able to walk only a few yards outside and was right on the beach to watch the sunrise.  I tried to go back to sleep after but didn't succeed, I was already too hyped up from sunrise.  I was up and out to have breakfast early.  Just down the street was a spot called Bob's Grill - Eat and Get the Hell Out, yes that's on their sign outside.  The food was great, the surf motif was great, I was glad I went.  
     One thing about the Outer Banks, at least the more northern part, is that it was way more developed with more people than I thought going in.  I was worried when I was driving there that I'd need to stop off and get any supplies I needed before getting to the Outer Banks and was surprised when I saw so many malls and restaurants, and tons of souvenir shops.  As I had said before I visited a Publix grocery store and now wish we had one on Cape Cod, it's like Market Basket and Whole Foods had a baby.
     Seeing that NC-12, the road which travels down the Cape Hatteras Seashore, was closed for most of the day due to sand and water from the recent storms this meant I had to wait and take my time enjoying the sites on the Outer Banks.  Gee, what a shame.  Right after breakfast I crossed the street to the Wright Brothers Memorial.  At the top of the 100-foot tall Big Kill Devil Hill is a monument to the brothers and their first flight.  I met a man named Steve from Ohio up there and we took photos for each other, nice guy.  There was also a memorial to the moment of the first flight, along with the markers denoting the flight attempt and stats about it located on the field below the hill.

The monument on Big Kill Devil Hill and the marker where the first flight ended.
     After checking out of my hotel I visited a pair of piers.  Kitty Hawk Pier and Avalon Pier, usually one of them gets shown on the Weather Channel when a hurricane is coming.  The waves were still big even a few days since the storms passed through making for some good photo ops.  Avalon Pier was being worked on so I couldn't walk out on it.

     Next was a little side track to Roanoke Island.  It was here that the first attempt at an English colony in America happened in 1587.  The first English child born in America was Virginia Dare born to this group, the highway that runs much of the Outer Banks is named for her, as is Dare County itself.  The colony vanished and it is still one of America's greatest unsolved mysteries.  Archaeologists found and reconstructed an earthen fort but have yet to find the remains of the actual fort where the 115 settlers would have lived.  Every summer they do a play at the outdoor waterfront theater about this colony.

     It was about 1pm by this point and I decided to go over the the entrance to Cape Hatteras National Seashore and check if maybe they had opened the road early.  By luck they had, although with a warning that they were still working on it so beware sand and water.  I knew it was quite a hike from the entrance south to Cape Hatteras Light, but once you're on the road it seems to go on forever.  It is nearly 50 miles on a beach road, with only pockets of civilization, before reaching the lighthouse.  

     I missed the entrance to Bodie Island Light on the way out, that one is only 6 miles or so from the entrance, but that would be to my benefit later.  They weren't kidding about the road conditions either.  Only a few miles out were front-end loaders removing buckets of sand, so the long trip was made longer when I had to slow down or stop.  One fun little side note is the Bonner Bridge which crosses the Oregon Inlet about 10 miles south of the entrance, both times I drove it there was a flock of pelicans hovering just above my car.  I didn't hit any but the bridge at the top was littered with dead pelicans.

     It took about an hour to reach Cape Hatteras Lighthouse.  At 210-feet tall I could see it from a mile away.  The black and white candy cane striped structure is one of the most well known lighthouses in the world.  This was the southern most point of my journey.  It was the top site for me on my road trip, I'd wanted to visit it for years and it's matched only by West Quoddy Head Light as my favorite I've seen.  I tried to soak it all in, shoot as many photos and videos as I could but also be in the moment there.  I had one more spot to see before beginning the long trek north, this time I plugged Bodie Island Light into my GPS.

Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, reaching higher than the sun.
      Bodie Island Light and the amazing sunset I saw there were happy accidents.  Missing it on the way out, then when I got there I had to wait ten minutes at the entrance.  The road out to it is being repaved and there is a truck that basically leads you out one by one to the lighthouse.  It was worth it.  This lighthouse is also black and white striped and also very tall, 156-feet to be exact.  The lighthouse was bathed in an orange glow when I got there so it was easy to get great photos.  The topper was walking on a boardwalk to an elevated pavilion behind the lighthouse.  It's a boardwalk the entire way due to warnings about venomous snakes located in the marsh.  

Sunset at Bodie Island Lighthouse

     The sunset was amazing but once it was done I knew I had to get to driving.  From Cape Hatteras it was just under 14 hours back to Cape Cod.  I figured the more I drove Wednesday night the less I'd have to do Thursday.  Along the way I got to drive through the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel.  It is 17-miles of bridges and tunnels and also cost $14 in tolls to cross.  By the time I made it across I was ready to stop of the night.  The Eastern Shore of Virginia is more along the lines of what I thought the Outer Banks would be, desolate and sparsely populated.  I managed to find an ok hotel in the town of Onley, not as good as my Outer Banks hotel but whatever.  

     So Thursday begins the long trek home, it is over 9 hours, with a few stops along the way still to see.  When I pull back into my driveway I expect to have put about 2,200 miles on my car.  Nearly 400 were put on it Wednesday but the experiences are worth the highway hypnosis.

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