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UNCLE JACK'S WEBLOG
Friday, January 31, 2014
Real Snow
       Nothing like a big snowstorm to break the monotony of winter on the Outer Banks. Uncle Jack would have stayed to enjoy it except for inescapable obligations in Baltimore. He and Mrs. U.J. lit out at dawn on Tuesday and never saw so much as a flurry all the way home.
       Looking at all the pictures and reading the stories in the Voice and the OBX Message Board did prompt a fit of nostalgia for his own childhood in northern Wisconsin where something like this week’s blizzard was nearly a weekly event. The snow that fell in late November or early December was still on the ground in March, buried deep beneath the snow that fell regularly all through January and February. Apparently nothing has changed since he left Ashland, Wisconsin for good in 1948 because he read in the online Daily Press that 31 inches of snow had fallen in one day in late December.

http://www.wdio.com/article/12628/?vid=4846392&v=1
      
Copy and plug this URL into your browser to see a short video of the real thing.






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This is what 31 inches of snow in one day looks like.

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With any luck the snow will disappear before rental season begins for Uncle Jack's Beach Cottage. Google it for further info about availability, etc. Prime weeks are going fast.

posted by Uncle Jack at 4:07 PM

Comments [3]



Monday, January 27, 2014
Gone but not forgotten
       Uncle Jack’s three-week mid-winter sojourn in Sonag is about to end. On Tuesday he and Mrs. U.J. will depart the frigid Outer Banks and return to glacial Baltimore where the winter weather is so bad that even the annual “Polar Plunge” madness had to be cancelled because of floating ice and wind-driven waves. That and the ten inches of snow that fell last week add up to a less than heart-warming homecoming.
       He will spend most of his last day here in the company of Richmond author Ray McAllister who is in the very beginning stages of thinking about writing a book about Nags Head. Ray’s previous works include books about Topsail Island, Wrightsville Beach, Hatteras Island and Ocracoke and Uncle Jack can tell you they are uniformly excellent.
       Knowing that Uncle Jack has lived around here for a while Ray asked him if he would take him on a tour of Nags Head and reminisce about what the place was like when he first came here and what has changed over the past 43 years. In this blog he thought he would do a mental rehearsal of what he can remember in the way of landmarks that were part of the scenery back in 1969 but have disappeared for one reason or another over the years. He will start at the bottom of South Nags Head and work his way up Old Oregon Inlet Road and the Beach Road to the KDH line and then go south on the Bypass back to the Causeway and over to the Baum bridge.
       He is sure that his aged memory is fallible and he will miss a lot of defunct places that readers may remember. In the interests of historical accuracy he would be delighted to hear from anyone who remembers other important landmarks that he has forgotten so he can pass them on to Ray.

South Nags Head from South End to Whalebone Junction:

The Buckminster Fuller domed house on the ocean front. Built in 1970 and destroyed by a storm in 1980.

The oceanfront portions of several streets, e.g. Altoona Street and Surfside Drive, and all the houses on them, destroyed by successive storms.

The cottages at Jennette’s pier that were built to house Civilian Conservation Corps workers during the Great Depression.

The original wooden Jennette’s Pier which was severely damaged by Hurricane Isabel in 2003 and replaced by the present concrete pier.

Whalebone Junction to KDH line:

Sea Oatel motel.

Vivianna Motel.

El Gay restaurant.

Brick’s store (still standing but unoccupied for many years)

Epstein Tract oceanside (now part of Village at Nags Head PUD)

Arlington Hotel and Seafare Restaurant

Coastal Redi-Mix (west side of Beach Road)

Remains of the Nags Head Coast Guard station (now under water)

Newman’s Shell Shop and Museum (demolished)

Sadler’s Cottages

Kessinger’s Cottages

Hollowell Hotel (demolished)

Carolista’s Jewelry (demolished after fire?)

The Casino (demolished after damage from storm)

Little Mint drive-in

First Colony Inn (relocated to 16 milepost between the highways)

Wharf Restaurant (demolished)

Olde London Inn (demolished}

Sea Spray motel (demolished)

Old Nagsheader Hotel (destroyed by fire 1977)

Snug Harbor rooming house (demolished after fire)

A Restaurant by George (demolished)

Galleon Esplanade (demolished).

Planters National Bank office (demolished)

Carolinian Hotel (demolished)

Bypass, KDH line south to Whalebone Junction:

ABC Store (demolished but under construction in same location)

Dowdy’s Amusement Park

Surf-Slide/Ange’s Supermarket

That’s-a-Burger and Jockey’s Ridge Putt Putt Golf

Epstein Tract (400+ acres, now the Village at Nags Head PUD and golf course)

Tillett’s Trailer Park (demolished)

Ghost Ship putt-putt golf (demolished)

Windmill Point Restaurant (demolished)

Roller Skating Rink (demolished)

Whalebone Junction to the Baum Bridge

Oasis Restaurant (demolished after fire)

Spencer’s Restaurant (demolished)

Daniels’ Cafe       (incorporated into Basnight’s Restaurant, then burned)

That’s all Uncle Jack can remember off the top of his head but he is sure there are many more Nags Head landmarks that are gone but not forgotten.
Also there are many, many buildings that date back to the 70’s that are still in use but performing different functions, like Bell’s Store on the Beach Road that is now a popular drinking place.

Please let him know what he has forgotten. Thanks.


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Cold, windy and incredibly clear Sunday afternoon. The pier is a mile away but people on the pier were clearly visible.

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Since the beach was renourished beach-combing is rather unrewarding; few if any shells or other natural detritus. This was the most interesting object on the Sonag beach Sunday. Any guesses?

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Since beach renourishment blowing sand has created some interesting situations; this walkway is now under several feet of sand instead of over it.

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Renters of this cottage may face an uphill battle getting to the beach this summer.

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To dig or not to dig. That is the question.

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Google "Uncle Jack's Beach Cottage" for info about renting his South Nags Head house this season. Senior citizen and pet friendly. Only seven steps to climb. Three minute walk to the beach.

posted by Uncle Jack at 6:11 AM

Comments [10]



Wednesday, January 22, 2014
Wanchese Wings
              When he wrote about eating oysters at O'Neal's Sea Harvest in the Wanchese Seafood Industrial Park the other day Uncle Jack forgot about a piece he wrote many years ago that touched on some of the same subjects he expostulated about in that blog. (He should explain that "Colonel Hunt's Roanoke Island Turkey" is what some people were calling the Seafood Industrial Park after it failed to get off the ground. It was then-Governor Jim Hunt's baby.)


                                   Wanchese Wings      

Uncle Jack is one of those people who really likes to read about cooking and restaurants and anything else that has to do with food. When he goes to the bookstore he is usually the only man in there sneaking peeks at the Joy of Cooking instead of The Joy of Sex. He always keeps an eye out for articles about food in the paper and he usually reads them two or three times so he is sure he hasn't missed anything.
Last week, though, he read an article about food that was so awful he could hardly get through it even once. What it said was that some scientists think that penguins could become an important source of food for the hungry people of the world, who seem to be getting more numerous all the time.
At first Uncle Jack thought this article was some kind of an April Fool joke but it wasn't. Those scientists really think we are going to have to start killing and eating penguins.
Now Uncle Jack loves to eat and he will chew up just about anything you put in front of him including his napkin, but he hopes he will never get so hungry he would have to seriously consider eating a penguin---even a penguin stuffed with crabmeat.
All of which reminds him of a conversation he had a while back with a man who really thinks that seagulls might become a pretty good source of food if things get any worse around here. He said the way the shrimp and fish are disappearing and the oysters and clams are getting polluted, the seagulls are going to be just about the only thing left to eat.
This man had been thinking a lot about the problem and he had some very good ideas, too. For one thing he said that if the government decides to give up trying to keep Oregon Inlet open and even the little trawlers can't get to Wanchese any more they ought to turn the Wanchese Seafood Industrial Park into the Wanchese Seagull Industrial Park. He said they could turn that trawler basin over there into a sanitary landfill and if they put in all the garbage from the best restaurants and the classier neighborhoods like Pine Island and Southern Shores they could probably attract about 3 million gulls a day from all over the east coast. All the unemployed fishermen could go over there and throw their nets over the gulls and then they could take them home for the women to pluck.
Uncle Jack is not so sure this is such a good plan because he doesn't know if it is possible for somebody to get hungry enough to eat a seagull. He has read some stories about people who got lost at sea and managed to choke down an albatross or two when they didn't have anything else to eat for a few weeks so maybe it would work.
He also read where some American company has been test-marketing batter-fried seagull over in Japan where they call it "Colonel Hunt's Roanoke Island Turkey". The article said they really lap it up but that is not so surprising when you consider they practically live on raw fish over there. Uncle Jack has never tasted seagull but he would guess it must taste a little like raw croaker marinated in kerosene sauce.
Anyway it is something to keep in mind for when there aren't any fish or shrimp or clams or even crabs left to catch. Maybe by that time they will be growing enough soybeans over on the mainland to feed everybody in the world, though. They are already making bacon out of soybeans so it probably won't be long before they figure out how to make a nice plump salty oyster out of soybeans, too.
       Uncle Jack can hardly wait.


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Sonag became Snownag Tuesday night accompanied by high winds and sub-freezing temperatures. Power went off at about 10:30 p.m. but came back on less than an hour later. Scary. It's much worse in Baltimore so they're glad they're here.

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The high yesterday was 64 so they went walking on the lovely trail in Corolla just north of Whalehead. Monkey Island is visible out in Currituck Sound. Several duck hunters were blasting away from their blinds nearby---the only sound to be heard here.

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This semi-toppled tree next to the boardwalk reveals an elaborate root structure. Thank goodness this small part of the northern banks will be preserved from the kind of all-out development that surrounds it. It belongs to the citizens of N.C.

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Auditors return to their cars after an interesting lecture on NOAA's marine site preservation program at the N.C. Wildlife Education Center in Whalehead. A must visit when you get a chance.

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The alternate trail (no boardwalk) they will take next time. It's 1.5 miles to the sound through marine forest. Looks very inviting.

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Looking north from Jennette's pier on Monday Jan. 20. A gorgeous day for a visit to the pier and a stroll up the beach. Dolphins were cavorting off the pier but Uncle Jack couldn't get a picture.

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Look carefully and you will see an intrepid individual paddling his surfboard just north of the pier on Monday afternoon. He is not actually paddling uphill as the picture suggests.

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The venerable Sea Foam motel just north of Jennette's is hunkered down behind a huge post-beach-nourishment dune.

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Things weren't looking so good ten years ago after Isabel passed by. Presumably those bags are still down under that new dune in case another Isabel turns up.

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Google "Uncle Jack's Beach Cottage" for info about how you can rent it this season. Pet friendly and ideal for folks who don't like climbing stairs all the time. Beautifully furnished and only seven steps up from the ground.

posted by Uncle Jack at 10:43 AM

Comments [2]



Sunday, January 19, 2014
Gimme shelter
                            The wind chill factor has kept Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. from spending much time on the beach for the past few days but they have fallen back on some of their favorite winter haunts for their daily walks.
       Friday they visited Bodie Island lighthouse for the first time since all the scaffolding and construction detritus were removed and they were delighted with the spiffy appearance of the newly painted lighthouse and outbuildings. Even in January it’s a tourist draw: they saw seven other visitors, probably Canadians, during their brief visit. It probably cost a bundle to do all the renovations---maybe as much as it costs to keep the war in Afghanistan going for another five minutes.
                     It was even colder yesterday so they headed for their favorite trails in the Nags Head Woods where it always seems warmer because the wind doesn’t penetrate. They love the woods in the winter because of the total absence of mosquitoes, flies, snakes and other objectionable creatures. Also people.
              Uncle Jack forgot to bring his Kindle (further evidence of his rapid descent into senility) so he has been making do in the reading department with large print books from the KDH and Manteo libraries. So far he has finished an Elmore Leonard and a terrific non-fiction book by Barbara Ehrenreich in which she examines the rise of the motivation and self-help industries which have made millionaires out of few hucksters who prey on the gullibility of out-of-luck folks who want desperately to be rich. A sad and scary book.
       As a palate cleanser he is now reading a biography of a 17th century Danish scientist/priest named Steno who is often called the father of the science of geology. He was the first to come up with a reasonable explanation for the fact that fossilized seashells are often found high up in mountain peaks. He had a terrible time reconciling his theories with Biblical accounts of the creation and eventually gave up scientific research and became a priest. Fascinating book about a remarkable man.
       Tonight he will no doubt put down his book and tune in to Downton Abbey which is still fun even though it seems to be taking on some of the characteristics of a flat-out American soap opera. Rape in the kitchen while Nelly Melba sings Puccini upstairs? Give us a break, Julian.

      


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Bodie Island light after two years of painting and repairs. Not to be confused with the leaning tower of Pisa.

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This snazzy boardwalk leads to an observation platform whence the visitor can see swans, snow geese and other migratory waterfowl chomping up grasses in the Bodie Island ponds.

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On a warmer day this would be a great place to eat lunch while watching the birds do the same.

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Repairs to the eroded pilings under the Bonner Bridge have been underway for weeks. In the summer this work would have created massive traffic jams.

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Meanwhile over in the main channel a small dredge works doggedly to clear another shoal that has developed since the big dredge departed after completing a multi-million dollar project to widen and deepen the entire channel. Sigh.

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Pond scum fans love the Nags Head Woods.

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Even after the monsoon rains of the past week the trails are dry and walkable.

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Some day Uncle Jack is going to find out what this hydrant is doing in the middle of the Nags Head Woods. There must be a story.

posted by Uncle Jack at 12:20 PM

Comments [2]



Friday, January 17, 2014
Winter fun in Sonag
              Just because he moved to Baltimore five years ago doesn’t mean that Uncle Jack loves the Outer Banks any less. He proved that last Friday when he and Mrs. UJ drove from Charm City to South Nags Head through eight hours of freezing rain, most of it on Interstate 95 in the company of gigantic trucks throwing up clouds of blinding spray as they roared past       the Mini.       Coupled with a nearly one hour wait while a car burned to a crisp in the Hampton Roads Tunnel it turned out to be a trip best forgotten.
       As of this writing they have been in South Nags Head for five full days, only one of which was sunny and pleasant enough for a walk on the beach, the rest consisting mostly of rain---occasionally of biblical proportions . Do they wish they had stayed in Baltimore? Not a chance. One walk on the beach in nice weather is worth any amount of aggravation, especially at this time of year.
       Lousy weather provided them with an excuse to drive over to Wanchese and have lunch at one of their favorite restaurants, O’Neal’s Sea Harvest, located in the Wanchese Seafood Industrial Park. Fresh, local oysters are back in plentiful supply and that is reason enough to make the trek to O’Neal’s where the luscious little creatures are breaded and fried to perfection at a very reasonable price.
       O’Neal’s appears to be the only seafood-related business (they are also wholesalers and retailers of fresh local seafood of all kinds) in the Seafood Industrial Park at this time and thereby hangs a tale. It starts back in the 70’s when Federal, State and County officials worked together to devise a grand plan to boost the economy of Dare County and North Carolina by creating an infrastructure that would support the local commercial fishing industry.
       The Feds would contribute by stabilizing Oregon Inlet with jetties and the county and state would dredge a basin in Wanchese Harbor, install a wastewater treatment facility, a water tank, electrical service and all the other ancillary equipment that would enable fishing entrepreneurs to process their catches instead of being totally reliant on the vagaries of the fresh fish markets in New York and other large eastern cities.
       The plan started to fall apart when internecine warfare among several federal agencies blocked the building of the crucial Oregon Inlet jetties. As the inlet continued to shoal up large trawlers were unable to access Wanchese harbor so that the supply of fish never grew enough to justify investment in processing equipment. For many years the park languished as local and state authorities waited for the feds to build the promised jetties but it never happened.
       Slowly but surely non-seafood-related businesses like boat-building and repair, marine supplies and other businesses catering to sport fishing and recreational boating began to move in and today the Seafood Industrial Park appears to be booming but not in the way it was intended to. As far as Uncle Jack is concerned the best thing to come out of all this is O’Neal’s restaurant which probably wouldn’t exist except for the hundreds of hungry boat workers who are lucky enough to be able to lunch there every day. Needless to say dress is casual. Wear your Wellingtons (a.k.a. Wanchese ballet slippers)if you have a pair.

      
      
      


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A fixer-upper in Wanchese on the road to the Seafood Industrial Park.

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The harbor was full of small trawlers on the day we were there. Somehow they manage to make it in and out in spite of the nasty shoaling at the inlet.

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Looking north from near the 19 milepost in South Nags Head. Mother Nature keeps rearranging the beach with every storm.

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Another view of the beach in Sonag. It may be Uncle Jack's imagination but the farther south one walks the wider the beach seems to get. Could the dredged sand be drifting south? Time will tell presumably.

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Picture 5 Uncle Jack's house in South Nags Head is ideal for senior citizens like himself who can't handle stairs any more. Google "Uncle Jack's Beach Cottage" for more information about availability and rates for the coming season.

posted by Uncle Jack at 10:09 AM

Comments [6]




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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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