A Visit to the Wright Brothers National Memorial

Blog Post created by bejacob on Nov 20, 2018

It’s incredibly rare for a single stop during one of my county collecting trips to be so significant as to make most of the rest of the journey almost meaningless, but that’s exactly what happened on my recent visit to North Carolina. The goal of my 3-day weekend was to 'collect' the remaining 32 county seats in the state. Pretty simple, right? It started out that way. The nonstop flight from CMH to RDU was uneventful despite being delayed almost an hour. The hotel stays (Research Triangle Marriott, FFI Elizabeth City, and CY Greenville) were all fine, if unremarkable. Even the county courthouses didn’t stand out. No, the one stop that truly defined this trip was my visit to the Wright Brothers National Memorial. 


On a chilly Sunday morning, my route between Currituck and Manteo took me to the Outer Banks for the first time. Touristy though they may be, I found something to my liking. Having spent more than half my live living in Ohio, only an hour away from the home of Orville and Wilbur Wright, it seemed appropriate during my visit to the Outer Banks to make a stop where the brothers made their first flight. As luck would have it, I visited on Veterans Day, and in honor of those who served, the normal $10 admission fee was waived for everyone (though the site is definitely worth the price of admission). I arrived a few minutes before the scheduled opening time, but as the entrance gate was open, I was able to park and explore the area even before the Visitor Center opened. I decided to fist climb to the top of Kill Devil Hill to photograph the monument. While the Wright brothers first powered flight took off from the ground below, the hill served as the launching point for many of the glider flights made leading up to the famous flights on December 17, 1903.


The entire site covers more than 400 acres and includes reconstructions of the workshop and hangar used in 1903. There is also a really cool sculpture showing the Wright Flyer as it leaves the ground surrounded by statues of the people who witnessed the event (note the monument atop Kill Devil Hill).

On the opposite side of Kill Devil Hill from the sculpture is the location where the first powered flights took place. A large boulder indicates the point at which the Wright Flyer took off. Four markers show where they landed. Each flight was longer than the one preceding. The four measured 120 feet, 175 feet, 200 feet, and 852 feet. That last one is almost the length of three football fields.  See if you can spot that last marker in the picture below.

Here’s a better view of the markers showing the distance of the first three flights.

Before leaving, I took a look around the inside of the Visitor Center. Inside is a full-scale replica of the Wright Flyer along with some excellent displays on the origins of human flight as well details on the engineering challenges the brothers overcame. For aviation enthusiasts, the Wright Brothers National Memorial is a ‘must visit’ location.

There’s not much else I need to say about this trip. Over the course of the three days, I did reach the last 32 county seats in North Carolina and have now moved this state into the ‘completed’ column. This marks the 20th state where I have visited every county. Here are the before and after maps for anyone interested.

This was my last county collecting trip for 2018. That means it’s almost time for my year in review post. I expect to have that ready by early to mid-December. 


Until then…


Happy Travels