The Outer Banks are legendary for their winds. If winds were people, these winds would be celebrities. They are why those Dayton, Ohio, fellas, Orville and Wilbur Wright, chose the island to conduct their flying machine experiments back in 1903. Come to think of it, they came in the off-season, too. No wonder they flew. Heck, with these winds, they could have gotten a motorized concrete building off the ground.

Another thing we didn't do was go fishing. "Sea's too choppy," one boat captain told us. "Nobody's catching a thing. Fish all went south, where it's calmer."

Finally, we didn't play mini-golf. Inexplicably, none of the places were open. It couldn't have been the weather. Everybody knows that drenching downpours are the best time to play mini-golf.

Though no one said it, I think all of us thought it: Maybe we should just pack up and go home. But as Hunter S. Thompson once said, when the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.

"Jessica," I said, "this actually plays to our strengths."

OK, so we couldn't parasail or hang glide. Who cared, really? We were about to do what we do best: drive, check stuff out, and eat. At those activities, we are pros.

We drove from one end of the island to the other, scoping out the differences in beach towns and the variations in terrain, from windswept flat beachfront to marshland to awe-inspiring walls of sand dunes follicled with long strands of beach grass. Along the way, we toured the Wright Brothers museum and ambled the field, marked by a good walking tour, where the boys conducted their experiments. We climbed the mountainous dunes at Jockey's Ridge. We wandered through Roanoke, the first English colony that, three years after its founding in 1587, mysteriously vanished without a trace. We stopped at lighthouses. We checked out a cabaret band.