Cape Hatteras, NC

Our entire mission today was to make it to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. What, you may ask, are the Outer Banks (or as the locals say, OBX)? They’re a long sandy strip of islands off the east coast of North Carolina. They protect the mainland from the Atlantic Ocean and storms but in turn they also get pummeled by the aforementioned ocean and storms. It’s a land of sand dunes, lighthouses, history, and tourists. And in true Lyon fashion, getting there was quite the adventure.

Map of the Outer Banks off the North Carolina coast

Our grand plan was to get up REALLY early to leave Myrtle Beach in time to hit the ferry to the southern most point of the Outer Banks by 10:00am. It was the only midday ferry going in that direction. However, stormy weather is back and the forecast was for gale force winds on the Cape. We said a few big prayers and headed out before dawn to catch that ferry.

Uh-oh… our Highway Weather app has an alert

We set our northerly course through the coast of South and North Carolina, comparing Google’s GPS with the Subie’s in order to make the ferry on time. The Outer Banks include Cape Hatteras, the closest U.S. land to Bermuda and of course, Kitty Hawk, where the Wright Bros first flew a powered aircraft. Jim was here many years ago and has dreamed of going back. We could drive around up from the west, but the southern ferry would make it a grand adventure and we would see everything in a scenic (“green dots”) loop.

Once again, the GPS is blank as we cruise along on newly constructed highways

We were making good time when we got the call from the ferry ticket agent at 0730 to tell us the ferry was cancelled due to the high winds. Dang. Now we’ll have to go around from the west, get to the islands from the north, drive down to Cape Hatteras and then double-track back up to Kitty Hawk and beyond to Bill and Aster’s in Virginia by tonight. On your mark, get set, go!

On our way we drove through Wilmington and the coastal areas of the Carolinas. It’s very rural and we saw several homes that are slowly being reclaimed by the forest. Some were abandoned, some looked like people were living in them, but they were covered in vines, roofs collapsed, not from any recent storms but just through time and neglect. Soon we hit the shore and the bridge to the islands. The sound was covered in whitecaps and chocolately-looking water. Subie was getting blown all over the road. When we got to the island, we wanted to walk over the dunes to the see the surf — it was crazy! Lisa felt like the reporters you see on the news during hurricanes. It was the windiest we have ever walked in!

Onward to the lighthouses (Lisa’s favorite attraction). The first was Bodie Lighthouse (with horizontal stripes) on the middle of the islands and the second was the much larger and more famous big sister, the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse (with “twisty” stripes) at the southern most point. The stations continue to warn ships of the Diamond Shoals, a dangerous section of coastline called the “Graveyard of the Atlantic”. There was an awesome poster in the gift shop that showed all the shipwrecks along the coast… hundreds of them! In an engineering feat, the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse was actually moved 20 yrs ago to keep it from falling into the ocean. Lisa wanted to climb the lighthouses, but they don’t open until April 19th. So we had to enjoy their beauty from ground level.

We had a quick lunch at the coolest little diner called Kill Devil Grill. Great vibe, unique food and it was busy at 3pm on a Tuesday afternoon! (It is Tuesday, isn’t it? We’ve been forgetting what day it is – haha)

That’s actually Jim’s beer

Next it was on to Kitty Hawk National Monument— we definitely wanted to spend some time here. The sun was starting the shine, but the wind was not abating at all. We got blown all over the airfield where Wilbur and Orville Wright flew a plane for the first time — We now know first hand why they picked this windy site! There is a big sand dune called Kill Devil Hill (Jim loves that name) where they practiced different experiments with gliders, then they worked some more with power, lift, and controls. When they got it all together, they flew for the first time on December 17, 1903 — just 120 feet, but enough to fly! There are stones that mark each of the four flights that day on the actual field where it happened. The visitor center is really nice, with a full-sized replica of the plane and outside there’s a sculpture of one for kids to play on. There is also a HUGE monument on top of the hill — we walked up there and were almost blown down by the wind!

And yes, we used our National Parks Annual Pass for this — We believe we’ve paid for the card now with all our visits. What a deal! Even though the ferry didn’t pan out due to the wind, Jim worked out that we actually saved time and were able to see more things on the trip, even with the double-backing on Hatteras. There were actually two ferries we needed to take to do the whole loop: The first one is a 2.5 hr trip and the second is an hour. We were able to make up that time with some efficient GPS planning and still have time to see everything in a timely manner. We even tried to get Subie stuck in the sand but she would have none of it.

“Virginia is for lovers” Really??

We’re quickly working our way up the coast. It is interesting to watch the architecture change as we move from one region to the another. The history is getting older as well. And we keep finding lots of forts! Lisa is sure it’s like castles in England — all over and in various states of ruin. Finally, we made it to Suffolk, VA to spend some family time with Jim’s brother, Bill and his wife, Aster. It’s always good to be with family. Thank you for taking us in!

Bill, Jim and Aster

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