Carolina: Cruising Past 70: OLA: Being Blown Away by the Outer Banks!

Monday, April 9, 2012

OLA: Being Blown Away by the Outer Banks!

the outer banks, off the coast of North Carolina

Literally and figuratively! Barely the start of the tourist season (April 1-3), we braved those more than 25 mph winds that made it seem colder than the 59 degrees high (we had to dig out our winter wear). The Outer Banks jut out as barrier islands 26 miles from the US continental shores off North Carolina (about 200 miles). I had always wanted to see how people live there. The proper winds, the lights that guide, the shifting sands of time, and the three postscripts are what blew us away in North Carolina's Outer Banks in just three days!

The Proper Winds

This kind of constant wind was what the Wright Brothers lacked in their Dayton, Ohio home. So they selected the winds in Kitty Hawk at the Outer Banks to make history. The Brothers succeeded in making four flights there on Dec. 17, 1903. With the winds just a bit stronger than those we felt, on the fourth try they flew their plane for 852 feet in just 1 second short of a minute. It was exhilarating to walk those grounds.

grand memorial to the Wright Brothers' the conquest of space
Kitty Hawk, Outer Banks, NC

And so it is fitting that a grand memorial is there on 90-foot high Big Kill Devil Hill from where they made the launch, even preserving the cottages from where they lived and engineered the dream. It is even more fitting that a Memorial to a Century of Flight was erected commemorating 100 years of aviation achievement since the Wright’s conquest of air space. There is a monument to each decade laid out as a circle with a 120-ft. circumference. The Memorial holds a time capsule, to be opened in 2103, by the heroes of the next century of achievements. Who knows what and who those might be? 

The Lights that Guide

These barrier islands are so important to maritime history. The very first colony was braved on Roanoke Island by about 115 white settlers led by John White in 1585. Historical distrust between two races, leadership crises among the settlers, or succumbing to natural diseases may have stricken those left behind when White returned to England to ask for more resources. They were all gone when he returned 3 years later. This preceded the Jamestown Colony in Virginia in 1607 and the Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts in 1620. However, it didn’t survive like the other two. It is now fondly called The Lost Colony. Interesting to know,

This bit of history highlights the geographical significance of the Outer Banks. In the 19th century, four lighthouses were built to aid maritime commerce: the Ocracoke Lighthouse built in 1823 and still operating, the Bodie Lighthouse built in 1846 supposedly named after bodies washed ashore from shipwrecks, the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, also known as the American Lighthouse, built in 1870 and the tallest (160 ft.) brick beacon in the world, and the Currituck Beach Lighthouse, privately owned and built in 1875. The four make for a beautiful collage of important history. Sad to note, however, that so many shipwrecks still happened in the waters there such that it was called the Graveyard of the Atlantic and a museum so-called stands at Ocracoke.

The Sands of Time

Jockey's Ridge State Park, Nag's Head, Outer Banks, NC

The 2-lane Highway 12 that connects the islands of  Outer Banks is separated from the ocean in large stretches by sand dunes. But at the 426-acre Jockey’s Ridge State Park, the highest active sand dune (estimated 30 million tons) in the East Coast of North America lives. It is called a medano—a massive, asymmetrical, shifting hill of sand which the notorious winds cause to continually shift, making the dunes move about one to six feet to the southwest each year. Thus, hang gliding, hiking, and kite flying are great to do there. Bill loved capturing the artistry of the sands on his D5000. I got scared, though...don't know why!

the Inn at Rodanthe, featured in the movie 'Nights at Rodanthe', Outer Banks, NC

The Three Postscripts

Our Lady of the Seas at Buxton, Outer Banks, NC
Three other moments on this short trip are memorable: 1) hearing a Spanish Mass at the Our Lady of the Seas Catholic Church right at the edge of the Sound for Palm Sunday, 2) finding the Inn at Rodanthe where Richard Gere and Diane Lane created for all of us their memorable but tragic love story, and 3) choosing to dine at Carolina Seafood just because it was named after me. There we found Sandra who guided us to a reasonably-priced Carolina Seafood Platter (what else?) the only condition for which was to eat at the bar. What luck. She is the paragon of a gracious host and best of story-tellers in the Outer Banks!

Sandra's Carolina Seafood Sampler at Nag's Head, Outer Banks, NC

In three short days, we truly got blown away by the Outer Banks of North Carolina, literally and figuratively,...its proper winds, the lights that guide, the sands of time, and the three postscripts. We wished we had more time to do some of the activities the unique environment had to offer.    


  1. the Outer Banks --- i've heard about them for years. Most of what I've heard is about fishing, wandering the beaches, and of course, Kitty Hawk.

    good article and thanks for letting me know about the Night at Rodanthe, it was a good movie

    1. thanks...the article may not reflect the utmost fascination we had about this unique place...hope you get to go there some time!


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