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Tipton, Washington, Charlottesville, Kitty Hawk

Flying the Edge of America

Saturday, August 23, 2008: Tipton, Maryland

A bit of nasty weather along our way.

Oh say can you see what a great day it was to fly to Washington DC by the dawn's early light. We so proudly hailed at Chincoteague at twilight's last gleaming. We saw broad stripes and bright stars at the airport before the perilous fight.

Over Washington airspace the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming. Because we followed all of the airspace rules we did not see the rockets" red glare or the bombs bursting in air. It gave proof through the flight that our flag was still there. When we landed at Tipton the Star Spangled Banner still waved over the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Tipton flight Video

Jim gave us a warm welcome.

I was feeling very patriotic today as we landed at Tipton airport in Maryland and drove to Washington DC; so I could not resist mangling the anthem into the passage above.

A really big obelisk, much bigger than those puny ones in Europe.

The bad news is that our wonderful, and, so far, unerring workhorse 51 Juliet gave a few too many splutters and a shakes on landing. This was enough for me to put her in the shop for an inspection. She flew without a problem to Tipton but while taxiing she did not seem right; so better safe than sorry I figured. Fortunately Tipton airport is Jim's (the Commander pilot we met in New York just a few days ago) airport so the mechanic on the field is familiar with Commanders. It was great to see Jim again and we plan to have dinner with him and his wife on Monday. We will find out on Monday if 51 Juliet has major or minor problems; let's keep our fingers crossed.

Once in Washington, and checked into our hotel, Julia and I walked three or four miles taking in the major monuments. It was really hot and humid so this was an extra hard walk for us; but well worth it as I got to visit the FDR memorial, for the first time, which is now my favorite memorial. FDR happens to be my favorite President.

Washington Video

Sunday, August 24, 2008: Washington, DC

A little painting by Renoir.

We visited the Natural History Museum in the morning, surrounding ourselves with stuffed animals and dinosaur bones. The museum's mineralogical and gemstone exhibit was outstanding and caused us to spend several hours wandering around the amazing crystal filled rooms.

In the afternoon we visited the Philips Art Collection. It is a small gallery, just two private houses, but it contains exquisite impressionist and modern works. We ended the evening by eating an excellent dinner of tapas, red wine, and Pedro Ximenez; if you have never tried it you are missing a life experience.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Julia checking the time at the Portrait gallery.

Today we visited the National Space and Science Museum in the morning where we encountered many exhibits that represent milestones in flight and space exploration. Then in the afternoon we visited the American Portrait and Art gallery which flooded us with faces from the revolution and images of America. After this we drove out to College Park Airport to visit the aviation museum there. This airport was the first in the USA and is the oldest, continually operated airport in the world.

The Wright brothers trained the first two American pilots to fly their airplane at this airport. The first mile high flight was made here and the first instrument approach was flown here. I spent my time on a computer simulator of the Wright Flyer and did manage to get it flying after many crashes.

Just a big kid at heart.

The good news, 51 Juliet was given a clean bill of heath by the aircraft mechanic today. He found two faulty spark plugs, replaced them, and found everything A OK.

We were so relieved to hear this as Julia and I had started creating a list of alternate plans, which included flying back home commercially, and booking a vacation rental in DC. Now we can continue our saga on schedule tomorrow.

Julia, David, Beth, and Jim; with a P51 in the background.

The evening ended on another good note as we had dinner with Jim and his wife Beth. It was so good to see Jim and Beth.

We ate an excellent dinner and shared travel stories. Thanks for helping us with our mechanical problems and making us feel so welcome Jim and Beth, and for buying dinner; we owe you one.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008: Charlottesville, Virginia

The Blue Ridge Mountains.

We were able to leave Washington/Tipton this morning as planned. After replacing the two faulty spark plugs the old Commander performed flawlessly as it has since we left Oakland on June 30. Once again we lifted off into the skies over Washington and, other than being sent in all directions by the air traffic control, made a simple flight to Charlottesville, Virginia. The weather was overcast so we only got a glimpse of the famous Blue Ridge Mountains as we set down at Charlottesville airport.

The hotel we were staying at picked us up from the airport so we were soon walking about the historic downtown of Charlottesville enjoying a fabulous lunch, wine, and cappuccinos. The weather cooled off a bit and the humidity went down considerably making it a very pleasant afternoon to visit Thomas Jefferson's old stomping grounds.

We saw Woody Allen's new movie and it is really worth seeing. In his later films, to me, he has become a modern day Shakespeare as he is able to explore through his films the basest human feelings, aspirations, and bad behavior.

We walked around the University of Virginia before dinner. Its main campus was designed by Thomas Jefferson and is attractive.

Flight to Charlottesville

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Monticello, the home that Tom built.

The rain came down, and down, and down all last night and all day today. It seems the tail end of hurricane Fay drenched the entire southeastern seaboard. This made our visit to Monticello, Thomas Jefferson's home, a rather soggy one, but we did not let a little rain deter us from our sightseeing.

It turns out that all the locals we met were not unhappy with the rain as there hasn"t been much in the area for a few months now.

Julia trying to keep dry.

Thomas Jefferson is a true dichotomy to me. On one hand he was a renaissance man, a man of reason, of science. He was an advocate for political freedom and yet he was the owner of over a hundred slaves. He wrote a document outlining his views against slavery and yet he only freed certain slaves while he lived. And worst, he undoubtedly had a slave concubine and DNA evidence showed he fathered children with her.

It is hard for me to reconcile my feelings toward this man. I am torn between great admiration and utter disgust. He surely did much good in his life but on the backs of much human suffering. There are no answers in life only choices.

When we returned from Monticello we needed some place to eat lunch. Our favorite restaurant had stopped serving by the time we got there so we popped in to a very unassuming diner and were pleasantly surprised. This diner not only had good food but good wine too. The food in Charlottesville has been consistently delicious.

Thursday, August 28, 2008: North Carolina

A very wet airport.

Today we left Charlottesville for Manteo in North Carolina. We lifted off into a 400 foot cloud ceiling and pouring rain. Along our way we had to deviate from our planned course several times to edge our way around large thunderstorm cells. We saw cells that reached up higher than 20,000 feet above us.

Low clouds and rain are not fun to fly in.

The flight was relatively smooth considering how much weather we encountered. Thank Darwin for the GPS onboard weather receiving system it really saved our bacon on this flight. But, no matter how we tried the weather beat us in the end. When we were within 30 miles of Manteo a thunderstorm forced us to land at Edenton in North Carolina instead. I was really frazzled after this flight. I had so much work to do and then at the end of it I had to plot a new course to an unplanned strip; I was glad to be on the ground.

We are definitely in the south now.

At Edenton the FBO attendant was really helpful and very supportive. He loaned us a crew car; which is a rare free car that is offered to pilots at very few airports. He tried his hardest to get us a rental car but this did not work out. We thought we might keep 51 Juliet at Edenton and drive the rest of the way to Manteo and Nags Head. In the end we drove into Edenton's old historic town center and ate lunch. It turns out that Edenton was the first capital city of North Carolina. When we returned to the airport after lunch the weather had cleared enough for us to fly to Manteo as originally planned.

By the time we got on the ground again I was really beat. Julia had booked us a terrific hotel right on the beach of the barrier islands in Nags Head. So the first thing we did was go for a swim in the warm but stormy Atlantic Ocean. The swim made me feel refreshed and renewed. What a day this was.

Flight to Kitty Hawk

Friday, August 29, 2008

What must it have been like at that first flight?

Just down the road from our hotel is Kitty Hawk. Kitty Hawk is where the world's first controlled heavier than air flight was made by Wilbur and Orville Wright.So our first stop today was the national park which is now home for this historic site.

Julia is ready for her next flight.

The area was once all sand dunes but has since been planted with grass I guess to stop erosion. The park has the original rail the brothers used to launch their first motorized aircraft. They have recreated two sheds that the brothers used as workshops and living quarters for the three years they spent at Kitty Hawk building and testing their aircraft.

There is also an art deco stone monument atop the tallest dune which is stunning and a bronze statue scene depicting the first flight that is quite well done. We had a great time looking through the small museums they have there too. I cannot tell you how happy I am to have had the opportunity to visit this site. By the way Wilbur Wright was born on April 16, 1867 and I was born on April 16, 1957; a small coincidence.

From Julia: While visiting the Wright brothers" memorial, David overheard a small boy saying to his parents, "It's easy to know which came first, either the chicken or the egg; the good Lord created the chicken first". The boy's statement of religious belief seemed to contrast with the realization I"d just had about the Wright brothers" scientific approach to creating a way to fly. The place is a wonderful monument to science. It was only through repeated empirical experimentation that the Wright brothers were able to make the first controlled, engine powered flight. They didn"t sit down on the sand and pray for God to send them an airplane (well, maybe they did, apparently their dad was a pastor). At the site, you can see reproductions of the early experimental gliders and the first plane, and we saw a piece of fabric from the Wright brothers" airplane that was taken to the moon by Neil Armstrong.

The weather has been improving so we are both looking forward to the Smoky Mountains tomorrow.

Kitty Hawk Video

Trip stats

Obama: 20

McCain: 5

Undecided: 3

Miles Hiked: 150

Miles Flown: 6,387

Flights Flown 31

Hours Flown 47.63

States Visited: 23

Towns Visited: 38


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