Archive for June 9, 2010

Day 10 – I had only read about these places

June 9, 2010 9 comments

Location: Newport News, VA

Miles Driven:   323.4

Total Miles:   2,642

Left Saba’s fairly early and after a stop at a diner, I headed east towards the coast of North Carolina.  It was a scenic drive along Highway 64 – lots of green, wide-open fields, and as you got closer to the coast you could feel a solid breeze.  It wasn’t cold, but it was cooler than any previous portion of this trip.  The plan was to go check out the Wright Brothers National Memorial in Kitty Hawk, but first there was something right on the way that I couldn’t miss.

See, beginning several months ago, I was compiling lists of all the different places across the U.S. that I wanted to check out that were in addition to the bigger places I already had in mind (cities, national parks, etc.).  And one day I saw this girl with a t-shirt that said “Roanoke” on it.  Although the shirt was probably for a college in Virginia, it jogged my memory about the famous “Lost Colony” story I knew about since sixth grade social studies class with Mrs. Conard, and I added Roanoke Island, the site of the Lost Colony, to my list.  If you need a refresher, here’s a quick summary from the book “Road Trip USA” by Jamie Jensen:  

The legendary “Lost Colony” was first established in 1584 by Sir Walter Raleigh, but the effort was not a success, and the survivors returned to England.  In 1587, a larger expedition of 110 colonists arrived, including 17 women and nine children, but because of the outbreak of war with Spain and the manifold difficulties involved in crossing the Atlantic Ocean, there was no further contact with England until 1590.

By the time the next supply ship returned, the settlers had disappeared without a trace, which prompted numerous theories about their fate.

All that was found in the search for the colonists was the word “Croatoan” carved into a post of a stockade, and the letters “CRO” carved into a tree.  John White, the leader of the expedition trying to find the colonists, took this to mean the colonists left for Croatoan Island, but because of  storm a search was never conducted, and eventually John White and co. returned to England.

So there are numerous theories about what happened to the colonists.  Some include:

  • absorption by local Natives
  • colony tried to pack up and leave for England but was lost at sea
  • killed by the Powhatan Confederacy (Powhatan – Pocahontas’ father)

No one is sure what happened, and excavations and research continue to this day in the effort to find more clues.  Naturally, I have been fascinated with this story since I first heard it, so when I discovered Roanoke Island was right on the way to Kitty Hawk, I knew I had to stop.

On the road to Eastern North Carolina

Crossing the Virginia Dare Memorial bridge

Fun Fact:  The first child born in the Americas to English parents was Virginia Dare.  I had remembered this fact from history classes, and found there is a lot named after her in that region – the county, a big bridge, schools, etc.  Sadly, there are no living descendants of Virginia Dare, since she was a member of the Lost Colony.

So I arrived at the Fort Raleigh National Historic Site where the Lost Colony is discussed (I think the exact whereabouts of the original colony on the island are unknown), but there was a lot of great information available there.  Learned a good deal from talking to the park rangers.  I asked one of the rangers, who was knowledgable about the history of the area, what he felt happened to the colonists.  He believed that “whatever happened to the colonists” did not happen on Roanoke Island, as he feels they were fixin to move to another piece of land in the region when the supply ship first returned to England.  Just fascinating stuff – I was taking it all in.

Went to take a walk on the nearby nature trail through the woods, and that led to a beach area with the water from Albemarle Sound crashing against the shore.  I quickly learned why this area, among two others, has earned the nickname “The Graveyard of the Atlantic.”  I couldn’t imagine big ships of the olden days trying to stay steady amongst these waters.

I looped back to the beginning of the nature trail and made my way back to car.  The next stop planned was Kitty Hawk, which was only about 20 or so minutes away.  I didn’t realize the Outer Banks vacation area was in this region, as well, so I drove through a lot of touristy attractions on the way.  One particular luring attraction was a miniature golf course called “Jurassic Putt” which had some great looking dinosaurs on the course, but I decided to pass.

Made my way to the entrance gate of the Wright Brothers National Memorial, paid my $4, and found a spot near the field to park.  If you can picture it, there’s a large sand dune about 90′ tall (that has since been planted with grass so it wouldn’t erode away) where a large wing-shaped monument stands.  I had seen pictures of the monument on the Internet before, but I had underestimated how large it is.  The monument devoted to the brothers is 60′ tall!  Just standing on land with such history was a huge thrill.  Almost 107 years ago, on this very spot, the Wright Brothers flew their airplane a distance of 120 feet in 12 seconds – the first powered flight…ever.  Incredible.

The monument is huge even from this distance

I made my way to the top of the hill to get a better look of the monument.  Here are some pictures from up close:

The incription along the base of the monument reads:

In commemoration of the conquest of air by the brothers Wilbur and Orville Wright.  Conceived by genius, achieved by dauntless resolution, and inconquerable faith.

Orville Wright in front of the monument

Just a brilliant memorial.

I spent some time walking in the nearby field, where granite blocks marked the locations of the first three successful flights.

I also spent a good deal of time in the vistors center which had some very cool exhibits.  Some touched on the future of aircraft, and others touched on the challenges faced by the Wright Brothers.  Overall an amazing value for just a $4 entry fee.

It was time to leave and make my way north to Newport News, Virginia.  I have a couple friends I’ve known for years who live in the area.  One is Chrissy, another is Chris, and then Chris’ financee, Sundae, so I had plans to meet up with all of them.  Arrived at Chrissy’s about three hours later, and soon headed out for dinner to meet up with Chris and Sundae.

We all met up at a Japanese Hibachi place.  Chris and I made sure to wear out matching shirts.  See, a few years back, Chris and I dressed up as characters from Top Gun for Halloween – I was Iceman, and he was Maverick.

Halloween in VA Beach - 2008

Naturally, we saved the shirts we had underneath and continually wear them.  Soon after meeting outside the restaurant, we simply had to get a photo:


Had a great meal at the hibachi restaurant, and then enjoyed hanging out in the City Center area of Newport News afterwards.  I hadn’t seen Chrissy in probably several years, and hadn’t seen Chris and Sundae in about a year, so I was grateful once again to hang out with some great friends.  Chris and Sundae are discussing a potential wedding next year, so I’m hopeful no matter where in Asia I’ll be, I’ll have a chance to come back and catch that, and get to wear the Top Gun tshirts once again.

We’ll all be hanging out on Wednesday night, also, which will be my last night in the area.  Can’t wait.

Looking silly. Chris and me in the back, Sundae and Chrissy in the front

Now looking classy

Great times, once again.