The Birth of a Man & The Birth of Aviation

4/16/15

 

Yesterday was another happy little accident.

 

I started the day by cooking bratwurst and eggs in the parking lot of George Washington’s Birthplace National Monument (site / wiki).

 

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.

 


Paraphrasing:

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.

 

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Nothing too fancy looking out GW’s back door.

 

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.

 

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Reconstructed house where Cornwallis surrendered. It was partly dismantled and burned as firewood during the Civil War.

 

Within the Yorktown Battlefield Historical Park (site / wiki) I drove the auto tour, and it took me chronologically and geographically through the events and skirmishes of the battle.

 

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.

 

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Flag swap at the Yorktown Victory Center

 


 

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.

 

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Exact replica of the first “heavier than air” powered flight vehicle. The the front is towards the right of the picture. The pilot laid down on his stomach and operated controls with his hands and feet.

 

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.

 

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Lay of the land. Kitty Hawk was chosen for its consistent wind and sandy soil for crash landings.

 

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.


 

Also,


“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.

 

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..no bird.

6 Comments on “The Birth of a Man & The Birth of Aviation

  1. JAY

    the oldest gimmick in military history and it has always worked, sucker the other guy into coming to you. Whether on land or sea the visiting party has always come out second best. We still have had no rain and have had lots of sunshine. It doesn’t seem possible that you have been on the road 4 mos. How time flies when you are having fun.
    You will have a very IMPRESSIVE learning experience. The flag swaps themselves are
    without a doubt a chance to stop and engage in some very interesting thoughts and particularly the people that are involved. I understand that the BELL BREWERY in Laguna Canyon puts out a classic brew, ”’this is strictly hearsay”, maybe I can confirm the status on Sunday. I really enjoy your writings.
    Love
    gpaChuck

    1. Yes! It is starting to feel like I’ve been gone a long time. I remember when I was in Texas, and I kept thinking “Dang, Florida is still a long way off.” Here in Connecticut, it feels like Florida was ages ago. I should be coming up on my unofficial half way mark in the next few weeks. Let me know how the beer is, and say hello to Wally for me!

    1. Haha they had a whole rack of military outfits at the Victory Center in Yorktown. Its an American officer jacket. It was 100% wool and super stiff and heavy.

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