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Hi! My name is Robert and my sister is Bridget. This year we went to North Carolina during spring break. We thought we'd like to share some of our fun with you. Hope you enjoy reading about our trip as much as we enjoying going on the trip!



Thursday, 8 April 2004



The first day of our trip we did ALOT of driving to get to the Outer Banks. We stayed in Kill Devil Hills, right on the beach. Our first full day at the Outer Banks was April 8th, the temperature at 10:30 AM was 82 degrees, but the Atlantic Ocean was FREEZING! Bridget loved the cold water, even though the big waves kept knocking her down. She swears it only happened five times.




Because it was so cold, we went to the Wright Brothers Memorial. It was on a humongous sand dune! The sand dune (named Kill Devil Hill) was near where the Wright Brothers flew their first powered airplane. Bridget and I did little pamphlets on the Wright Brothers and got patches from a park ranger for completing them.








I learned that the Wright Brothers were from Dayton, Ohio. They had a bike shop in Dayton. They were interested in mechanics and became interested in flight. In 1899, they wrote to the Smithsonian and asked for all the information about heavier than air flight that was available. They decided everyone else’s designs were wrong. They knew that balance was the key to stable flight. First they built gliders. They picked Kitty Hawk as the place to fly their gliders. Because, when they looked at the Weather Bureau’s records, Kitty Hawk had the right wind conditions. They needed 15 to 20 mile per hour winds. In the fall of 1900 they flew their first glider and it was a disaster. On the way home, Wilbur said to Orville, “Not within one thousand years will man learn to fly.” But when they got home to Ohio, they changed their minds. They built a wind tunnel (there is a model at the museum) and tested wing designs. They decided that long, narrow wings were good and that short, fat wings were bad. They built a glider with 32 foot long curved wings. This is the same basic shape as a modern jet. They went back to North Carolina in 1902, to Kill Devil Hills. The glider worked beautifully, except for turning. They decided that their two fixed rudders was the problem, so they made one flexible rudder and hooked the rudder wire to the wing wire. On October 10, 1902 on the West Kill Devil Hill they launched the improved glider and it turned perfectly and landed under their full control. They had unlocked the secrets of flight. They are Pitch, Roll and Yaw. Pitch is the up and down movement of the nose and tail. Roll is the up and down movement of each wing tip. And, Yaw is the side to side movement of the nose and tail.

Wilbur and Orville went home that winter and built their first powered air plane. They called it the “Flyer.” It had a 40 foot 4 inch wing span and a 4 cycle gas engine that weighed 180 pounds. September 1903, they built a hanger at the foot of the biggest of the Kill Devil Hills. On December 14, 1903, Wilbur flew first, because he won the coin toss. There was not enough wind, so it went straight up in the air and crashed. On December 17th the wind was strong. Orville flew first. The plane went 120 feet in 12 seconds. They flew the plane three more times that day. They took turns flying. The last flight went 853 feet in 59 seconds. The original plane is at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. Sixty-six years after the first flight, Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. The picture below shows the markers along the path of the first four flights.


This is just the beginning of the fun!


Friday, 9 April 2004


We went south down the Outer Banks from Kill Devil Hills to Jockey’s Ridge State Park in Nags Head, North Carolina. Jockey’s Ridge is the tallest natural sand dune on the east coast (believe me—it is big, I climbed it). It’s 80 to100 feet above sea level. It changes height due to wind conditions, hurricanes or nor-easters. From the top of the dune we used my binoculars to see the Roanoke Sound, Roanoke Island, the Atlantic Ocean, the towns of Kill Devil Hills and Nags Head, and way off in the distance the Wright Brother’s Memorial.

From Bridget's journal: "We went to Jockey's Ridge. At Jockey's Ridge I walked a huge sand dune bare foot and slid down on my bottom."

There are trees growing on the sand dune but they are very stunted and small. People hang glide off the top of the ridge. But it was so windy the day we were there that no one was hang gliding or flying kites.


After lunch, we went to the Lost Colony of Roanoke. It was the first English colony in what is now the United States. There were two attempts to settle the colony. The first group was all men. They were interested in gold. They did not get along with the Indians. They abandoned the colony. A second group came. They were families. They wanted to get along with the Indians. But, the Indians were hostile because of the first group. In 1587, Governor John White left to get supplies from England. He wasn’t able to come right back because Spain attacked England with its Armada. Queen Elizabeth I called all ships into the British navy. Against all odds, the British won the battle and defeated the Spanish Armada (the most powerful navy in the world). John White still couldn’t leave because no one would fund him. Finally in 1590, he was able to sail back to Roanoke. But, the colony had disappeared completely. They had carved the name of an island called “Croatoan” on a tree. But, the colonists were not there. The colony was never found. The first fort from the first colony is in the woods at the park. Archaeologists and historians don’t know where the second colony fort was.

We went to the Elizabethan Gardens next to the Lost colony. We saw Spanish moss growing from Live Oak trees. We also saw other plants that are indigenous to Roanoke Island. These plants were yucca, prickly pear, red cedar, and fleabane (it looks like little daisies). We also saw the sunken garden which had a fountain with a statue of Leda and the Swan. Then there were four other statues of Venus, Jupiter, Diana and Apollo.


There was a statue of Virginia Dare. She was the first English child to be born in North America. Her grandfather was John White. She stayed with her parents when he went back to England and she disappeared along with the rest of the colony. We saw a huge ancient Live Oak that was supposedly there when the colonist settled the island.








We stopped at the Freedman’s Village Memorial. Escaped slaves came to Roanoke Island during the Civil War and the Union Army set up a town for them. Some of the men joined the Union Army and were part of the Colored Troops. By the end of the war there were over 3,000 freed blacks living in the town. But, when the war ended the land was given back to the original owners and the town disappeared. Many of the freedman’s descendants live on the island today.

We crossed the Roanoke Sound bridge. On the other side of the bridge we drove through the Alligator Natural Resource Area. We saw signs on the road that said “It is unlawful to feed the bears from the road” and “Red wolf crossing.” I learned that some of the animals that live in North Carolina are: black bears, alligators, red wolves, squirrels, opossums, grey foxes, racoons, eastern white cotton tailed rabbits, blue crabs and fish.

We stopped at Somerset Plantation outside of Creswell, North Carolina. Mom use to work there as an archaeologist before she met my dad. The plantation belonged to the Collins family. They grew corn, wheat, and rice. The plantation was 100,000 acres of land. That’s ten times the size of Washington, D.C. Because it was a southern plantation, they had over 300 African American slaves. It was the fourth largest plantation in North Carolina. Mom was there in 1982 to look for the slave quarters. Since then archaeologists have found the remains of the quarters and they have been rebuilt.


Saturday, 10 April 2004


Dad, Bridget and I started the morning off in the hotel hot tub (mom decided to sleep-in). After breakfast we drove into the city of Norfolk, Virginia. We visited Nauticus, the Naval Museum. I think it should be a science museum. We saw what a Naval ship’s bridge looks like (way cool)! Then, we got to pet a shark. It felt like rubber. I petted a White Spotted Bamboo Shark. They are deep sea dwellers. Their teeth are smaller then human teeth, so they didn’t want to bite us. Bull Sharks, Nurse Sharks, Sand Bar Sharks and Smooth and Spiny Dogfish live in the Chesapeake Bay.

Mom petted a Nurse Shark. She said “It felt like leathery sand paper.” I thought it was very cool! Bridget wasn't too crazy about petting the shark, she just stuck her hand in the water.

I got to direct a toy boat and build a miniature dam. There was a current of water with the toy boat. You start three boats at the top of the tank on any course that you build. You build the course by putting little slabs of plastic in the slots provided. This changes the course of the current and therefore the direction that the boats float also changes. The dam was also built across a current of water. You had to stop the water from flowing by placing magnetic blocks in the space provided.

There was a sea creature petting zoo. I got to pet a horse shoe crab, which totally freaked my sister out, so it can’t be all that bad. I also got to pet a common sea star. Then we watched a movie called “The Last Battle Ship.” It was about the U.S.S. Wisconsin, an Iowa class Battleship that was built during World War II and served during World War II, the Korean Conflict and the First Gulf War. After lunch we got to tour the U.S.S. Wisconsin.

The U.S.S. Wisconsin is docked next to the museum. She is three football fields in length and 18 stories tall. In all the time she served (which was about six years total), she only took one direct hit during her time in Korea. No one was killed or seriously injured. She crashed into another ship off the coast of Virginia in the 1950s and badly damaged her bow. The Navy replaced the bow with the bow of the U.S.S. Kentucky. It was another Iowa class battleship that was never finished. The bow was built, but not the rest of the ship. When they put the bow on the Wisconsin, it made her 11 inches longer than all the other Iowa Class battleships. So, the Wisconsin was the last one built and she is the largest (because of the extra 11 inches!).

I also learned that the Wisconsin is like a small city. There is a story about a man who looked for his friend for three days with no success. He finally sent his friend a post card that said “Meet me by Turret Number III at noon.” He must have been agitated.

The biggest guns on the ship are 16 inches in diameter and the smallest guns are 5 inches in diameter. During the First Gulf War Tomahawk missiles were also launched from the ship’s harpoon launchers.


Locations on the ship are given as the bow (front), the stern (back), port (left) and starboard (right). We weren’t able to go below decks because the ship is climate controlled. The humidity and temperature are constant to keep the interior of the ship from rusting. This is done so that at any given time, should there be a national emergency, the Wisconsin can be called back into service. There were five levels of the ship that I did get to go on. They were the main deck and levels 01, 02, 03, and 04 (these were in the con tower).

We left Norfolk for home at 3:30PM. We drove 815.5 miles in four days. But we got home in time for the Easter bunny and sunrise service. I wonder where we'll go next year?


Links to website for some of the places we visited:

The Elizabethan Gardens

The National Maritime Center

Somerset Place

Wright Brothers National Memorial


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This web site was produced by Mom, Robert and Bridget, copyright 2004.