Yesterday was another happy little accident.
I was the only visitor there when the doors opened at 9am. It surprised me then, but it doesn’t now. Washington only lived there until he was three, and he returned infrequently throughout the rest of his life. The cool part was that I had the site historian to myself.
I asked him every question that popped into my head as we toured the replica house. He was the funniest guy, one of those characters that you have to meet to understand. He spoke in a Dr. Seuss style limerick about the events and personality of George Washington.
“With musical instruments, George did not play.
Instead he sought the favor of women to sway.
He took to the dance floor
drawing women’s eyes
to be repurposed as spies,
and perhaps, truth be told, for a little bit more.”
No joke – he had maybe 15 minutes of poetic historical monologue material.
From there I continued South.
I stopped in Yorktown to see if I could get my Virginia flag swapped out before making it across the North Carolina state line.
When I read Yorktown on my map it rung a bell from my days in US History class, but I couldn’t remember why. I (re)learned that the final major battle of the Revolutionary War was fought here. The siege of Yorktown and the surrender of General Lord Cornwallis. The battlefield Memorial was laid out similar to previous battlefields I’d been to.
It’s the coolest way I can imagine learning about history – idling around one-way roads through quiet countryside listening to mellow house music and stoping occasionally to stroll around the weather-worn entrenchments used during the siege or to read the informational placards through my passenger side window.
Ain’t life grand.
Today I find myself off the coast of North Carolina hanging around the same field where Orville and Wilbur Wright made their historic flight in 1903.
Similar to George Washington’s Birthplace the day before, I was at the Wright Brothers National Memorial (site / wiki) when the gate opened at 9am, this time accompanied by four school busses of middle school kids.
I read everything in the visitor center about the life and legacy of the Wright brothers. Those guys were a wild intersection of intelligence, tenacity, craftsmanship, and zeal for adventure.
I have never heard of any better microcosm of the American spirit than not just the flight, but the funding, research, experimentation, analysis, construction, testing, and execution that led up to and followed their achievement of powered manned flight. It defines the word astonishing.
The quotes from both brothers were inspiring.
The 1901 experiments at Kill Devil Hill were considered a failure, Orville later recalled Wilbur on their trip back home to Dayton, Ohio, stating in frustration:
“Not within a thousand years would man ever fly!”
This was just 2 years before they flew and 68 years before we put two men on the moon.
“Isn’t it astonishing that all these secrets have been preserved for so many years just so that we could discover them?” – Orville Wright June 7th, 1903.
Six months before their powered flight in December of that year
⇒ Salutations from the steps of their memorial. I’m going to stick around another minute to see if I can snag a picture of a bird flying through the frame.