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Excited at first, Wilburís tone became more sober by the time he reached the Outer Banks. The Wrights planned their first visit to North Carolina as a kind of sportsmen's vacation. Even if their ideas on flight proved unworthy, they still wanted the trip to be the adventure of a lifetime. And it turned out to be just that.

First, they had to sleep in tents, for their were no houses for rent. They had to settle for making the spars of their craft of white pine, for there was no spruce. Even that was shorter than planned, thus forcing them to scale down other components. More compromise.

The trip to the Outer Banks tested Wilbur's resolve. In fact, he couldnít find anyone who had even heard of Kitty Hawk, let alone anyone who could take him there. Wilbur began to feel the dull ache of failure in his gut. Soon, he might have to pack up and return to Dayton, having accomplished nothing.

And life among the dunes was far from luxurious. Forced to sleep in freezing conditions, not knowing if their thin tent would be picked up and carried away by the wind during the night, and them with it, caused them great concern. Wilbur wrote home of rations so poor that eating condensed milk off a spoon was a good dessert. This was a true test of their self-reliance.

For easier access to the big dunes, they decided to establish a more permanent camp at Kill Devil Hills, arriving on July 12, 1901. They soon began building a hangar, a 25-foot-long, 16-foot-wide, 6-foot-high shed whose ends were hinged so they could be raised and used as awnings.

Next: On the Brink of Powered Flight


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