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UNCLE JACK'S WEBLOG
Thursday, February 2, 2017
February Comes in Like a Lamb
Wednesday February 1, 2017 was a great day to be alive and well, especially if you happened to be on the Outer Banks at the time. With a high temperature in the upper 70's and nothing but sunshine all day long it was hard to find anything to complain about.
Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. have been putting off a visit to the Pea Island Bird Sanctuary until conditions were conducive and yesterday they were. They drove down to the headquarters building in the morning, observing the progress of the new Oregon Inlet bridge on the way, and strolled out on the pathway along the north pond. Unlike on previous visits the pond was loaded with swans and ducks who seemed to be enjoying the weather as much as they were.
After a pleasant hour of bird-watching from a comfortable bench at the edge of the pond they returned to South Nags Head, packed a lunch and headed for the beach to check out the local fauna. In the course of the next two hours they were treated to the antics of a pod of dolphins feeding about 50 yards offshore, the southbound flight of numerous flocks of white birds which appeared to be seagulls of some kind---hundreds of them, several diving ducks at work in the surf right in front of them, a passing trawler, two large seagulls who took position a few feet away---no doubt hoping for a handout, and numerous dogs of all shapes and sizes enjoying unleashed freedom as their owners strolled down the beach, leashes in hand.
Uncle Jack has always thought winter was the best time to be on the Outer Banks and yesterday did nothing to change his mind. He is happy to report that he and Mrs. Uncle Jack have gotten their ducks in a row, so to speak, and will be spending most of the winter here for the first time in several years.


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This group of swans was in constant motion during our stay, as were the small ducks in the foreground.

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This group appeared to be snoozing and never moved a muscle.

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This little trawler scared the dolphins away. Luckily it was not dragging its nets as it passed by.

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Plenty of room for everybody on the beach in South Nags Head in February.

posted by Uncle Jack at 11:01 AM

Comments [5]



Thursday, October 8, 2015
South Nags Head after the storm
       Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. arrived in Sonag Sunday afternoon after an uneventful cruise down I-95 and I-64 from Baltimore. Traffic was almost nonexistent and it was their fastest trip ever---6 hours door-to-door.
       The surf was still up---way up---on Sunday afternoon. They had planned to drive the beach road from Kitty Hawk to Sonag but that proved to be impossible because of large areas of standing water and the wash-out near the Black Pelican. More work for the D.O.T. which had labored mightily to restore the same patch of road after a previous washout in May.
       The wind was still blowing like crazy and the intermittent raindrops made walking unpleasant but they did walk up to the beach at Ciltvaira Street (17 milepost) before dark and took one picture of the wild waves rolling right up to the sand-fenced dunes and covering the beach completely.
       By Wednesday morning the wind had died enough to permit enjoyable walking so they strolled around down in the Sea Gull Drive area and McCall Court at the southernmost end of South Nags Head to how the beach had held up in that neighborhood after several days of pounding from Mother Nature. Not so well as the pictures below suggest. Farther north in South Nags Head the replenished beaches seemed to rebound quite well from last week's storm and provided more than enough room for the fishing tournament to proceed normally.
      


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The beach at Ciltvaira Street Sunday afternoon. Not conducive to anything but looking in awe at the waves.

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By Thursday morning the sea had calmed down enough to make room for the 65th Annual Nags Head Surf Fishing Tournament. This picture was taken from the same spot as the previous one at the foot of Ciltvaira Street.

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The last remaining house in front of Seagull Drive near the 21 milepost weathered the storm but it's back in the water again.

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Looking north toward Sea Gull. The large yellow house once had another large yellow house in front of it. The replenished beach appears to be pretty much gone in this area.

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Looking south from Sea Gull Drive. Sand fences took a beating last week.

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Looking south toward McCall Court. The beach became unwalkable at this point so we drove down to McCall.

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This beleagured house at the foot of McCall Court took a pounding. The protective dunes on the south side washed out, revealing a mountain of sandbags.

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Large dunes built up by wind and sand fences over the past year or so were badly eroded by several days of high surf.

posted by Uncle Jack at 2:22 PM

Comments [6]



Tuesday, May 5, 2015
A tale of two cities: Baltimore
       Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. moved to Baltimore six years ago much to the astonishment of many friends who thought they had surely lost their minds. After the tragic events of the past couple of weeks you might think they would be having second thoughts about the wisdom of forsaking peaceful South Nags Head for strife-torn Charm City.
       He is happy to report that this is not the case. They fell in love with Baltimore very quickly and nothing that happened last week has made them change their minds about it. This is a great place for people like themselves to live and they hope that what happened last week will turn out to be a positive step toward making it a good place for everybody who lives here.
       Unfortunately Baltimore, like many other American communities, is really two cities existing in the same location---one for the lucky, mostly white, folks who are able to enjoy all the good things about the city---and one for the unlucky, mostly black, population who struggle to survive in a place where jobs have disappeared with the collapse of American manufacturing. A case in point: the Bethlehem Steel plant which once employed 30,000 workers, many of them African-Americans, and now employs none.
       Chronic and severe unemployment has led to a host of social ills in the black neighborhoods of Baltimore which have persisted over generations despite band-aid remedies which have accomplished little to overcome decades of racial discrimination, segregation in housing and schools, Jim Crow laws, brutal policing and a grossly unfair criminal justice system.
       Whether the violent offshoots of last week's mostly peaceful protest marches will positively or negatively affect future efforts to ameliorate Baltimore's deep-seated and complex problems remains to be seen. In any case Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. aren't going anywhere.
       (Except to South Nags Head of course at every opportunity).

P.S. The pictures below are offered as an antidote to the negative images of Baltimore that saturated the media over the past ten days.
             
      
      


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The cherry trees in front of Uncle Jack's condo building are in full bloom.

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The public park across the street has reached peak prettiness.

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Thousands of tulips are in bloom along with many other shrubs and flowers in nearby Sherwood Gardens, another public park in the upscale neighborhood called Guilford which is celebrating its 100th birthday this year.

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A typical front yard in Guilford where a small army of landscapers toils all year round to keep everything shipshape.

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The Johns Hopkins University Spring Fair went on as scheduled in late April. This duo known as Nelly's Echo entertained Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. on a gorgeous Saturday afternoon. Nelly is an incredibly talented singer from Nigeria.

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These kids wound up on the stage with Nelly before the afternoon was out.

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This colorful gent and his monkey entertained passersby with his ukulele and funny songs. The monkey collected tips.

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Mrs. U.J. and daughter Katy Maloney admire Kate's tree in front of her house in Hamilton Hills, an integrated working class neighborhood in Northwest Baltimore untouched by the recent unfortunate events.

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Meanwhile back in South Nags Head there are still a few choice weeks available this summer and fall in Uncle Jack's Beach Cottage. Google it or contact the Cola Vaughan Agency for more info about this delightful senior friendly house.

posted by Uncle Jack at 11:21 AM

Comments [2]



Monday, April 6, 2015
Seagull Drive: A retrospective in pictures
       Uncle Jack first became acquainted with Seagull Drive in South Nags Head back in the early 80's when he regularly visited a friend from New Jersey who for several years rented the house known as Goosewing 20 on the west side of Seagull Drive for a couple of weeks each summer. On one of those occasions he attended an Open House at a brand new house on the ocean front directly across the street from Goosewing 20. Uncle Jack's friend asked the house's owner how long he expected to be able to enjoy his new treasure, which query was received with total incomprehension by the askee. He didn't have a clue that the beach in front of his beloved "Pair-a-Dice" was disappearing at a frightful rate. (A very few years and several storms later the owner wisely decided to have the house moved to safer ground on the west side of Old Oregon Inlet Road).
       It wasn't until after Hurricane Isabel in 2003 that Uncle Jack began taking pictures of Seagull Drive and the beleaguered cottages that lined the east side of the street as they suffered one indignity after the other from Mother Nature in the decade that followed. The Town of Nags Head and the owners themselves fought valiantly to keep Seagull viable after successive storms tore up the street and battered the houses, exposing septic systems and cutting them off from water and electricity while undermining the foundations of some of them.
       In early 2004, using funds provided by the Federal Emergency Management Authority (FEMA) the Town built a ten-mile-long artificial dune (berm), part of which was designed to protect the newly reconstructed Seagull Drive which Isabel had destroyed. (See pictures). The berm, made of sand brought in on trucks from borrow pits in Currituck County, washed away in short order along with most of the rebuilt street.
       Huge sandbags were then employed to try to stave off the inevitable for a few years and then, in the summer of 2011, a beach replenishment program widened all the beaches in Nags Head at a cost of more than $30 million. The newly widened beach in front of the Seagull cottages gave new hope to the owners who began to repair some of them for possible use or sale. Alas their replenished beach soon washed away and the cottages were condemned by the Town after once again losing their septic systems, water and power.
       The Town and the owners then engaged in a prolonged legal battle over the disposition of the houses which ended in March when the Town agreed to buy the houses before tearing them down. In one way Uncle Jack will be happy to see them go as they have become an atrocious eyesore in otherwise lovely South Nags Head, and a hazard to beach users in that area. On the other hand he has enjoyed having them to photograph as icons in the endless struggle of man versus Mother Nature at the oceanfront. He will miss them.



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The Great Berm at Seagull as it looked shortly after completion in the spring of 2004. The replacement road is on the left and the view is to the north with the troubled cottages at the right in the distance.

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Seagull Drive looking south with the Great Berm still in place in the spring of 2004.

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Going, going.... By January 2005 most of the Great Berm was gone. This walkway, built a year earlier, had very little sand under it by this time and the ocean was attacking the new street again.

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By December 2005 there was no trace left of the Great Berm and most of the reconstructed Seagull Drive was gone. The sandbags helped a little to preserve what was left of the road.

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Looking south on Seagull in December 2005. The large yellow house at the left known as "Gray Eagle" was soon moved to a safer location on the other side of Old Oregon Inlet Road. Goosewing 20 is the house with the row of vertical white-trimmed windows.

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By May 2006 successive storms had done considerable damage to the oceanside cottages, all of which had been condemned for want of working septic systems and general dilapidation.

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In 20ll the battered cottages got a new lease on life with beach replenishment but the new beach was narrower in front of Seagull than in other parts of Nags Head because these buildings were in the water most of the time before replenishment.

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By September 2014 at least one house had been repaired and was on the market in spite of the rapidly diminishing beach in front of it and the rather shaky appearance of its neighbors.

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By February 15, 2015 storms had again uncovered septic systems and once again the houses were often standing in the surf. In March 2015 the Town of Nags Head purchased all but one of the remaining Seagull cottages and will tear them down.

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Google "Uncle Jack's Beach Cottage" for information about how to rent this delightful home in South Nags Head. A few choice weeks in 2015 are still available. Senior citizen friendly with only 7 steps up and all rooms on one floor. Close to the beach.

posted by Uncle Jack at 10:59 AM

Comments [4]



Sunday, February 15, 2015
Winter in South Nags Head
       Uncle Jack is happy to report that neither he nor Mrs. U.J. nor the Mini has been blown away by the serious winds of the past couple of days and they are continuing to enjoy their deep-winter sojourn in South Nags Head. They wandered around in the neighborhood with his ancient Sony Cyber-Shot and took more pictures of drifted sand which has become the new bete-noir of oceanfront property owners in Sonag. (And a new source of fulfillment for commercial front-loader owners).
       One day they satisfied a long-time itch by driving over to Mann's Harbor and exploring the length of Mashoes Road which traverses a strange and almost scary section of swamp just north of the village. The picture below does not do justice to the overall eeriness of the terrain. The road and the little cluster of houses at the end of it take their name from a man named Peter Mashoes who is said to have washed ashore a couple of hundred years ago and built a house there when the forest was still primeval.
       On their way home they stopped to visit the Welcome
Center of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on northern Roanoke Island across from the Lost Colony entrance. Lots of interesting exhibits to look at and well worth an hour of their time.
       More to come when it warms up enough to go outside.


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The Outer Banks Fishing Pier in South Nags Head is closed for the season which is probably a good thing considering the present difficulty in getting to it.

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Whimsical Mother Nature keeps robbing sand from under these Seagull Drive cottages to pile it up where it isn't wanted.

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The northernmost house on Seagull keeps tilting a little more with each storm. Might be resting on the beach before the winter is over.

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A few years ago the problem would have been to replace the walkway and stairs that washed away in a nor'easter. Never a dull moment for the oceanfront home owner.

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What a difference a day makes. Yesterday (Friday) the waves were rolling right up to the dunes. Today the ocean is calm and the beach is as wide as it gets.

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For an otherworldly experience just drive over the old bridge to Manns Harbor and turn right on Mashoes Road. It's only a few miles long but it looks like something Mother Nature might have produced on a bad day.

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Uncle Jack's house in South Nags Head is dog friendly and ideally suited for senior citizens because all rooms are on the first floor only seven steps up from the ground. Google Uncle Jack's Beach Cottage for more info.

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One of the dozens of photos in Uncle Jack's Kindle book along with 100 funny stories about life on the Outer Banks. Google "Uncle Jack's Outer Banks" to find out how to order. A steal at only $4.99.

posted by Uncle Jack at 1:44 PM

Comments [7]




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Uncle Jack lived in Nags Head for 35 years before he moved to Baltimore a couple of years ago. He still has a house in South Nags Head which he and Mrs. U.J. visit every chance they get.
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