Wright Brothers National Memorial.While visiting my sister during home leave in Virginia Beach, we took a day trip to the Outer Banks, North Carolina, which is about an hour and a half away. The Outer Banks — or OBX as it’s come to be known — holds a special place in my heart as the site of many an annual summer vacation during my childhood.We didn’t make a trip to OBX for the beach, which is what draws vacationers from up and down the eastern seaboard. Instead, we headed to the Wright Brothers National Memorial, site of the first heavier-than-air motorized flights, which introduced modern aviation as we know it.A replica of the Wright Brothers’ airplane.I visited the U.S. National Park Service National Memorial as a kid, but I honestly didn’t remember much during my second visit some 20 years later. We toured a small indoor display explaining the chronology of the Wright Brothers’ research and experiments before listening to a 30-minute ranger talk that gave a bit more history about Wilbur and Orville Wright’s journey that began in their family-run bicycle shop in Dayton, Ohio and culminated on December 17, 1903 — after three unsuccessful but progressively informative flying seasons in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.Takeoff site.The Wrights chose Kitty Hawk because they were looking for a site with constant wind. Chicago, the first on the list provided by the National Weather Service at their request, was much too populated and developed. They needed vast open space and relative seclusion. Kitty Hawk was pretty much wilderness in the early 20th century, so it was the perfect place for the Wrights to experiment on lift and control, the two ingredients that had eluded contemporary aviation enthusiasts, who primarily focused on one element of flight: power.Through years of tireless research and carefully honed experiments, Wilbur and Orville Wright finally struck the right balance among power, lift and control, the three essential elements of flight. On December 17, 1903, the Wright brothers successfully completed a series of four flights, each longer than the next: a 120-foot flight lasting 12 seconds, a 175-foot flight lasting 12 seconds, a 200-foot flight lasting 15 seconds and the final flight: 59 seconds and 852 feet. This one-minute flight paved the way for modern aviation and space flight: 66 years later, man walked on the moon.Jockey’s Ridge.After the ranger talk, we went on a self-guided tour of various markers indicating the Wrights’ takeoff site (on flat land, since they wanted to prove they didn’t need to use a hill to provide lift) and successive landing spots. We then climbed a small hill where the memorial itself stood, engraved with the words “Genius achieved through dauntless resolution and unconquerable faith.”From the Wright Brothers National Memorial we drove down the road to Jockey’s Ridge State Park, where sand dunes provide sweeping views of the Atlantic Ocean on one side and the Albemarle Sound on the other. We didn’t do any hangliding but we did stop for some fudge across the street!We had lunch at my sister’s favorite seafood restaurant, Miller’s, and then did some quick window shopping (OK, I bought stuff) at the outlet mall to wait out what we thought was a passing drizzle but ended up being a pretty heavy rain. We had planned to visit Roanoke Island, which has an exhibit about the Lost Colony, an Elizabethan garden and some other sites, but instead we cut our trip short and headed back to Virginia Beach — with quick stops at Brew Thru, Nags Head Hammocks and the Cotton Gin on the way.Have you ever been to the Outer Banks?