The Wright Brothers’ Great Adventure

WRBO - Danny on plane
Wright Brothers National Memorial

I’m still in the North Carolina Outer Banks for a couple of days. I figured that this is so far from Asheville that I might as well see the sights. Today I head for Wright Brothers National Memorial.

It’s a warm but very windy day and I’m still tired. Maybe the adrenaline has just oozed out of me after yesterday’s climb to the top of Jockey’s Ridge or maybe I’m just eager to finish the Mountains-to-Sea Trail officially. But I’ve made hiking and shuttling plans for next week and I can’t unravel them.

The Wright Brothers Memorial is three miles up the road from Jockey’s Ridge State Park. Wilbur and Orville Wright may have been Bill Gates’ predecessors. They were tinkerers but they were also very skilled in math and science. Their mother taught them math and languages – Yeah Mom.

The brothers felt that they had nothing more to learn from school so they quit high school.

From bicycle racers, they became bicycle repairers and then bicycle manufacturers in Dayton, Ohio. So how did they end up in the Outer Banks?  A letter from Orville read, “We came down here for wind and sand and we have got them.”

They wrote to the Weather Bureau in Washington looking for places with wind, sand and no obstacles. The Outer Banks was on the list. They wrote to Cape Hatteras and the postmaster, William J. Tate, replied with an offer of free room and board.

“Now how many of you have been offered this today?” Steve Jones, the volunteer giving the talk, asked.

Steve showed how the plane worked by pushing and pulling on controls. They used bike pieces and principles of body motion like in a bicycle.

Steve said to me after the talk “The story is not about planes but about family and faith in each other and perseverance”.

That’s the beauty of visiting a National Park. You don’t have to know much when you go in. You just have to take the time to see and do what is offered.

WRBO monumentI climbed up the hill to the memorial where you can see the Sound and the Ocean. Then I walked around the memorial to the outdoor sculpture. That’s me up there with one of the brothers.

There’s a memorial plaque set in stone put up by the National Aeronautical Association in 1928 to mark the spot that their flight took off from.

If you just see these markers, you miss the most important story, the hundreds of unsuccessful flights that just dove to the ground. The big day was December 17, 1903 where they were – 120 ft. in 12 sec. first flight. But the story always seems to end here.

But what happened after 1903? The brothers tried to get a patent in the U.S. but there was a lot of skepticism about their flying machine. They went to Europe where they were granted patents. After that, aviation really took off.

Unfortunately Wilbur died of typhoid fever in 1912.  By 1915, Orville was a multi-millionaire. He went back to Dayton and was on many boards and active in the aviation community. He saw the result of his invention for the first and second World War.

He was a tinkerer and inventor until he died in 1948.

I spent five hours at the site. Tomorrow Fort Raleigh.

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