Road trips have become a tradition of summer. Everyone has memories from childhood of piling into the family car and hitting the road. The trips can be long or short, jam-packed with stops or just a quick visit. The great thing about road trips is that the possibilities are endless.
Road Trip to North Carolina
~Many families all along the East Coast will be heading for the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Of course, North Carolina is more than just the thin barrier islands that stretch along the coast but they are a great place to start any trip. The Outer Banks are not only a haven for those looking for surf and sun but it is also a great place to explore a corner of American History. Driving over the Route 158 bridge, you are soon in Kitty Hawk. If that name sounds familiar it should, it is the birthplace of flight. More particularly, it is where Orville and Wilbur Wright tested their flying machines. On December 17, 1903 the Wright Brothers successfully tested their flying machines in the area now known as Kill Devil Hills. Today, a memorial to these Ohio-born brothers sits proudly on the site. A small hill stands out against the flat plains of the islands, which is made even more dramatic by the tall memorial tower that stands atop it. Scattered throughout the memorial park are plaques that mark the flight paths, artifacts from the first flying machines, a replica hanger and the Centennial Pavilion which commemorated 100 years of flight.
~Heading back toward the mainland on Route 64 the hustle and bustle of the beach community begins to quiet and the small town of Manteo is another worthwhile pit stop. The town of Manteo was named after a member of the Croatan tribe and it's history, as well as the history of Roanoke Island, stretches far back. The 1584, English settlers established a foothold on the island. Due to lack of supplies, bad weather and tense relations with the native tribes the fort eventually failed. Three years later, another group of settlers arrived to try to make a more permanent colony. Among them was the Dare family. Two months after they arrived on Roanoke, they gave birth to the first English-speaking child in the New World. The patriarch of the group was forced to leave the burgeoning colony. When he arrived back in 1590 there was no sign of the the English settlers. Their whereabouts where never discovered and the mystery remains. The Lost Colony has been the subject of many theories over the centuries. The most popular one was that the Croatans came to the help of the starving colonists and brought them into their tribe. There were countless reports of American Indians with blue eyes and light complexions, convincing some they were the missing colonists.
Today you can spend the day exploring Fort Raleigh National Historic Site, where you can get the full story of the various attempts to colonize the island. Take a stroll through the beautiful Elizabethan Gardens with its vibrant colors and traditional layouts. The young and old alike will enjoy boarding the Elizabeth II, a replica of the small ship that the colonists traveled over on from England. You can even stay to take in a performance of The Lost Colony play in the wooden fort.
~The majority of the Outer Banks are connected by bridges spanning the breaks between islands. However, when you get to the southern tip of Hatteras it is time to hop on board the car ferry. When you disembark on the far side, the only place to go is south to the quiet village of Ocracoke. The easiest way to see Ocracoke is on foot. The Ocracoke Lighthouse was built in 1823 and stands 75 feet tall over the village. The stark white building is the second oldest lighthouse in the United States. Despite the peaceful atmosphere that Ocracoke gives off, in the early 1700s it was home to a famous sailor. Edward Teach, also known as Blackbeard, was one of the most feared pirates of his time. For years he sailed the oceans looting and plundering. Eventually, Blackbeard decided to retire before the authorities caught up with him. He took his riches and retired to Ocracoke but apparently retirement wasn't good enough. The Governor of Virginia overreached his authority and made it clear that he wanted Blackbeard gone. On November 11, 1718 the HMS Pearl arrived in the waters off of Ocracoke and did not leave until Teach was taken care of. The tales of pirates and tall lighthouses are common occurences throughout the islands of North Carolina.
One thing that is surprising is that a small corner of the island is British soil. During WWII, German u-boats were a continuing problem along the East Coast. In 1942, the HMT Bedfordshire was patrolling the coast and was fired upon by a u-boat. Six bodies washed ashore. The fallen sailors were buried in the local cemetery and eventually the land was given over to the British. The Union Jack still flies over the small plot, which is separated by a white picket fence, and the local US Coast Guard takes care of the area.
Next time: It's back to the mainland of North Carolina to continue the road trip.
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