Just a few days after school let out for the summer in Hendricks County, Indiana, our family packed up our minivan and drove 825 miles southeast to a little sliver of North Carolina land just off the coast of the Atlantic Ocean called the Outer Banks.
These are our stories.
We started our day by getting some family photos taken on the beach by a professional photographer from Shooters at the Beach. We had to dodge a little bit of rain, but the combination of posed and candid photos turned out great. We look forward to ordering some prints for our home.
After some breakfast at The Dunes restaurant in Nags Head, we headed over to Roanoke Island to the Dare County Regional Airport in the town of Manteo for an air tour of the Outer Banks, courtesy of Barrier Island Aviation.
Barrier Island Aviation offers air tours in a three-passenger Cessna or in a two-passenger biplane with an open cockpit. Since I have a healthy fear of heights and a strong dislike of flying, we opted for the Cessna tour. Otherwise, my wife said, I might startle all the people on the ground with my shrieks of terror as we flew overhead in the biplane.
Neither of my kids had ever flown before, and it wasn't lost on me that their first flights would be over the home of The First Flight. I don't want my daughters to learn a fear of heights or flight from me, so I put on my big boy pants and prayed that I could keep from sobbing or barfing uncontrollably while in the air.
My youngest daughter went up first with her grandparents for a 30-minute flight. Whether you have one, two or three passengers, it's $135 for 30 minutes. They also offer 10-minute flights for $60 and hour-long flights for $235.
She set the bar high for me, exiting the plane at the end of her flight with a huge smile on her face. Now I was going to have to put on my poker face because it would look bad if my 6-year-old handled flying better than I did.
So my wife, my oldest daughter (8 years old), and I piled into the Cessna, and the pilot made sure we all had our seatbelts on. (Seriously?! Like seatbelts are going to make a difference when we plunge to our death from 90 billion feet in the air?!)
My youngest had apparently already squealed to the pilot that I was not looking forward to this experience, because the young lady who was going to take us up in this tiny plastic coffin with wings made a point of telling me that everything was going to be just fine, and I could probably release my death grip on the door handle.
Once we got up in the air, though, MAN was it neat!
It's amazing what a tiny little sliver of land makes up the Outer Banks, out in the middle of water as far as you can see. We all had headsets on so that we could hear each other, and it was fun listening to my daughter in the back seat oo-ing and ah-ing over everything she was seeing.
The pilot pointed out all of the local landmarks as we passed above Roanoke Island, the Wright Brothers Memorial, Jockey's Ridge and Bodie Island lighthouse. She also added interesting facts and history about a variety of spots, so we learned a lot about Outer Banks in the process.
It was a unique experience sitting up with the pilot and looking out the windshield as we flew. I nervously kept a sharp eye out for birds, other planes, UFOs, and anything else that might threaten our safety. I also listened closely to our pilot's communication with the control tower along the way. I couldn't understand the vast majority of what they were saying to each other, but they were both speaking in calm voices, so I assumed that everything was progressing normally for both of them.
As we headed out over Oregon Inlet -- over the water, along the beach -- we hit some turbulence. I'm not sure if my face turning green or my screaming for my mommy tipped off the pilot that I wasn't enjoying the turbulence, but she calmly suggested that I think of the turbulence as potholes in a road.
Surprisingly, that mental image helped. So did the fact that she climbed a little bit to get us out of the turbulence.
We saw our rental home as we passed above our stretch of the beach, and then we circled back around to Roanoke Island, where the pilot landed us like a champ. Again, it's a whole different experience landing in an airplane when you're looking out the windshield at the ground approaching quickly!
My oldest daughter had the same huge grin on her face that my youngest had when we got out of the plane. Their first flight was a huge success and one of their favorite memories from our family vacation in the Outer Banks.
I can't recommend this activity highly enough for you and your family if you visit the area. It's not terribly costly, and it will create memories for a lifetime, even if you're a big airplane chicken like I am.
We spent the remainder of our afternoon on the beach and made our own dinner at the rental house.
Day 5 of our Outer Banks family vacation held something I was really looking forward to: a baseball game.
Days 1 and 2
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