We got up and had breakfast and headed off to see the Wright Brother’s museum.  On this site, Orville and Wilbur finally got their powered vehicle to fly in a controlled manner and so changed the world.  The museum is pretty small but the park service rangers there give a 45 minute talk in front of a reproduction of the “flyer” which is first rate.  There is also a huge monument that Mel and I climbed to the top of to take some photos.  Recently, they have added some balloon-type structures with more displays inside and we saw it all.

We spent the entire morning there.  I’m a huge fan of airplanes and have spent my entire career around them so it was almost like a religious experience to be where the first one was developed.  I was especially curious about the engineering aspect since they were doing (in principle) the same sorts of things that I do for a living.  I think back on the things I’ve developed and I don’t think there’s enough laying around for the Smithsonian to preserve if they should choose to do so; I think the Wright’s must have had an idea of the importance of their work, otherwise they wouldn’t have saved things like they did. Furthermore, they did a lot of measuring with things that seem primitive and that they built themselves (or had them built by the machinist that worked for them back in the bike shop in Ohio) whereas we now buy everything and everything is electronic.  They truly understood what they were measuring and sometimes I’m not so sure about what I measure.

From there we headed south to the Cape Hatteras national seashore.  At this point it’s worth saying that the National Parks Service is probably the most awesome thing that our government does apart from the space program.  These are all extremely well done and very cheap to visit. Tom bought a pass to every national park in the US and with his military discount I think he only paid about $20.  That’s an incredible bargain. Anyway we drove on. We only drove as far as the Bodie Island Lighthouse; the Cape Hatteras lighthouse is about 60 miles away and I didn’t want to drive that far.  Actually Tom didn’t want to ride that far.  Long car trips apparently bother his back or something so we decided to limit the lighthouses in favor of keeping the rides short.

This lighthouse is out in the open as it should be and as all of them were originally.  The lighthouse keeper’s house is also conserved and so there was a lot to photograph.  The lighthouse is in the process of being renovated and so the light itself was covered up a bit with tarps but this didn’t harm my photographic efforts at all. Actually it turns out that the lighthouse keeper’s house is actually a duplex.  Not surprisingly, there was an assistant which makes sense when you think about it.  The assistant and his family (if any) lived in the other side.

From here we drove back over the causeway to the Roanoke Island Festival Park which is a very recent attempt to do something like Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia.  They have an indoor museum, a film explaining the history of the area, and a reproduction village complete with blacksmith.

They also have a reproduction of a sailing ship that the original colonists would have arrived in and it was amazingly small.  I cannot imagine sailing from England on that thing and yet many did.  Upwards of 50 people on this ship alone (or one like it) and you’d be hard-pressed to even get that many on board it now without some complaining.  I can only imagine the sea sickness and how personal hygiene was accomplished.

The blacksmith was an entertaining fellow; a huge Scotsman who had no trouble speaking with the period specific accent.  Most of the other teenagers working there were obviously working at their accents and were occasionally straining to keep up the appearance of late 1600s vernacular but this fellow was a natural.  We were the only ones there at the time and so he devoted himself to teaching us the secrets of the smithy and made for me a hand-wrought nail.  I applied for an apprenticeship but alas, I have to return to work in Oklahoma.  He, like all historical reenactors, claimed not to know where Oklahoma was so I referred to it as “Indian Territory”.  Well, in the late 1600s everything west of a region about 50 miles from there was Indian territory so I had to just tell him it was off any map he had ever seen or would see. 

This park is small and still getting established and so we then went to check out the historic Fort Raleigh which is where the original Roanoke colony was established.  This is what they call “The Lost Colony” and as a schoolboy what I remember is that it was a mystery as to what happened to them.  I am probably just not remembering the facts correctly. I recall that the word “Croatan” carved on a tree was a complete mystery but in hindsight it isn’t.  It is clearly the name of the tribe of natives that lived there at the time.  Through some miracle of archeology, they have located the original fort and reconstructed it.  It is little more than an earthwork but it’s impressive nonetheless that it was found and rebuilt – as a child the books told us that only the general whereabouts were known.  Similar work has been done at Jamestown in Virginia.

By this time we had to head back to the hotel.  We discovered that most everything closes at 5:00 pm except places that we didn’t care about (bars and restaurants like Dirty Dick’s).  We did stop at The Bird Store.  Tom is an active and long-time carver of birds.  He has carved hundreds of birds of all species, given many away, and sold a few.  This store was completely devoted to the selling of such things and so Tom was drawn to it like a magnet.  He saw it out of the corner of his eye as we were driving down the highway and I stopped.

After that, we had dinner and then it was back to the hotel.  Tom dragged his chair out of his room and played his guitar on the balcony for awhile until I went out to listen and then we fell to talking.  We did this until everyone else was asleep and then we went inside to bed too.