Today was a magnificent day. I make no apologies for using the word ‘magnificent’, that’s just how it was. I love when things go wrong and I love engineering marvels and today had both of these. I ended the day stood in a field as the sun went down, but the field I stood in was a very special field – in fact one of the most special fields on the face of the earth, where a very special thing happened, but before I tell you about that I should tell you how I ended up stood there.
I left Winchester early with the intention of making it as far as possible today towards my destination – the field mentioned above - and to try to get three more States ticked off.. I headed east and hit the outskirts of Washington DC only to end up in the wrong lane and completely miss my turn for the ring road. The only alternative was for me to try and head eastwards through the city centre and try to get back onto a freeway.
After a couple of minutes of being lost, I suddenly knew exactly where I was. I was still lost, but when you are in Washington DC and you can see a big ‘White House’, behind some trees it becomes apparent where you are!! How the hell I ended up driving past the White House I don’t know, but I decided to get a bit of sightseeing in while I was there, so I took a quick drive past the Washington Monument, the War Memorial with the Lincoln Monument further down the mall and then finally a quick drive past the Capitol building before finally hitting the freeway heading east. I honestly didn’t mean to get lost in DC, but it was a lot of fun driving through the city and a damn sight easier than getting through London!
|I knew where I was (Capitol Building)|
|Lincoln memorial in the background...|
|But this is as good as the map got!!|
Further East I took the magnificent Bay Bridge, which connects the mainland to the island which has Delaware and parts of Maryland and Virginia on. It’s a huge bridge spanning a wide waterway between the two land masses and has great views over the water. A quick drive onwards took me into Delaware itself- which was mainly full of old tourists, retirement homes and golf courses – but it was a pleasant enough place. (A bit like Scarborough!!)
South from Delaware took me back into Maryland and another State completed. Yesterday I imagined I would get this far by about tea time, but it was only 1pm and so I continued onwards towards another magnificent structure:- The Chesapeake Bridge and Tunnel – a 17 mile long roadway with man-made islands, tunnels and bridges that link the area around Norfolk, Virginia with the island to the north – saving a 96 mile drive.
|Two cool brodges..|
|and another one|
|Entrance to the tunnel into the water!|
The bridges are stunning, but the real engineering marvels are the tunnels under the ocean are which built into, through and under manmade islands. It kind of messes with your mind when driving it –You are on a bridge over water and then suddenly the road descends into a tunnel – Into the water!? Huh!?
Anyway, after the two magnificent bridges and tunnels I found myself near to North Carolina again and so close to my destination, so I decided to do it today instead of waiting for tomorrow.
The destination is called Kill Devil Hills. Have you heard of it? If not you should know the name Kitty Hawk? Its where the most important engineering feat by modern man took place: - The first powered flight by the Wright Brothers in 1903. Unfortunately, when I got there it was closed. I was gutted.
I decided to have a drive around the back of the memorial park to try to get a view of the monument and discovered a back gate that you can go into at night and wander around – so that’s what I did.
|Orville and Wilbur Wright|
|The Flyer monument|
The memorial park is called First Flight airport and actually does have a modern little runway for tourist flights over the area. But inside the park is the huge sand dune where the Wrights practiced launching their gliders before the powered flight. This same sand dune now has a huge magnificent memorial atop and below the dune is a life sized model of the first flight, complete with the brothers and everyone who was there on that day.
A short walk away are a set of marker stones which mark the actual spot of the first, second, third and fourth flights – all which took place on that fateful day in 1903. I was there all alone and when I looked into the sky and saw planes flying over I got a little lump in my throat as I thought about just how special a place this is. The rail that he brothers launched the flyer from is there as well as a reproduction of their living quarters and the hangar for the flyer. All this is within a few feet of where the first flight took place. I got the same feeling as when I watched the sunrise on the Great Wall of China, knowing I was somewhere really special. I’m also glad I was there without any other tourists so I could savour the moment. It really is a magnificent place and is now one of my favourite destinations.
|Take off point and 4 landing points|
|The launch rail|
|History was achieved here|
The town and park itself just have an atmosphere, with the houses in the town all on stilts overlooking the ocean and sand dunes all around. The Memorial Park is simple and beautiful and a stunning piece of modern history has been remembered in just the right way. I am so glad I took the effort to drive all the way there and experience it for myself.
I drove on for a couple of hours before a night in a roadside motel helped me get some rest after such a long day. The next morning I started all over again and drove southwards along the beautiful and spectacular Carolina Coastline. All the way there were lovely little towns like Pollocksville, with just a few old houses, a post office and a fishing dock on the river – really peaceful lovely little towns with friendly people and peace and quiet. I also stopped at Surf City and spent an hour on the beach myself enjoying the warm wind and the sound of the big waves crashing onto the beach. This is a lovely area of the states and one that is relatively untouched. In Florida for example, it’s hard to get to the beach if you are away from the tourist places as all the private houses have their private beach areas – but here you just park up next to a stilted house and wander along to your heart’s content. Beautiful.
|Store entrance through a sharks mouth!|
|South Carolina...on a beach! Its all like this!|
|Broadwalk on the beach|
|Myrtle Beach big wheel|
|Sunday lunchtime on the beach|
I’m now in Myrtle Beach: – quite a popular tourist resort, with cheap hotels and ocean views. I have been here since yesterday and am using it as a rest after my 2000 mile drive over the last week or so. I have been to the pool, walked along the beach and generally vegged out since arriving yesterday and have been doing much of the same today. I did have a wander around last might – to the local fun area its big wheel and crap bars as well as ‘Boardwalk on the Beach’ – a waterway surrounded by rides, miniature golf (Myrtle Beach has more miniature golf than anywhere else in the world) a theatre and cinema and a few bars. It’s a spectacular place similar to a small theme park, but nice to wander around. Today I have spoken to my mum on the phone (Hi Mum!!) been to the beach again and had a lovely walk in the sunshine. But later I think I will sit on my little balcony with a view over the ocean, watch the sun go down and finish my book. I think I deserve a rest day!