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UNCLE JACK'S WEBLOG
Tuesday, November 29, 2005
Sunrise in Sonag, Tuesday November 29

      The penultimate morning of November (love that word which is so often misused)  did not produce quite as lovely a sunrise as yesterday's but it certainly was worth getting up for.  The surf was up this morning for some reason and that added a kind of wild beauty to the scene. The weatherman says the day will deteriorate into wind and rain as it goes along so Uncle Jack is glad he got his walk in early.


    Have a nice day wherever you are and if you have to shovel snow today take it easy.  You need to save your back for January and February.



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This was as pretty as it got, twenty minutes before official sunrise.

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Pink clouds everywhere for a short while.

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More of the same.

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By the time the sun finally made an appearance the sky show had pretty much fizzled. You just never know what Mother Nature is going to do next.

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Uncle Jack made a pilgrimage to the Home Depot yesterday and on the way he drove by the new monster Marriott under construction near Kitty Hawk pier. He wonders if they will have wireless high-speed internet in the rooms.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:40 AM

Comments [3]



Monday, November 28, 2005
Sunrise in Sonag, Monday November 28
   It was already 65 degrees at 6:30 a.m.  That fact and this spectacular sunrise made the beach the place to be early this morning.


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Breathtaking.

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The entire sky was lit up.

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More of the same.

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And still more in a different direction.

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There were a few early risers on the beach but very few. What a pity.

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These gulls had great seats from which to view the celestial festivities.

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Icing on the cake. An almost complete rainbow appeared in the northwest at one point and stayed around for quite a while.

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The legendary pot of gold appeared to be in the sky this morning.

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The sun finally appeared to take a well-deserved bow at about 7 a.m.

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Have a nice day wherever you are.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:58 AM

Comments [10]



Sunday, November 27, 2005
Sunday in Sonag--November 27, 2005

     Sunday turned out to be the loveliest day of the entire Thanksgiving week-end.  Uncle Jack's heart went out to all the folks who had to climb into their cars and head for home on a day like this when the Outer Banks truly seem like Paradise.


      He and Mrs. U.J. spent a couple of hours this morning checking out the neighborhood which they haven't really had a chance to do since they got back from their trip.  Some of the changes are pictured below.



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For openers the sunrise was gorgeous.

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Pelicans were on the move in their hundreds.

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They looked for their favorite endangered cottage, originally known as Gray Eagle and later as Kookoo's Nest on Seagull Drive.

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Much to their surprise it was gone. This is the house that stood directly behind it, now with a much improved ocean view. (For how long is anybody's guess)

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Diligent search of the surrounding neighborhood revealed its new location on South Colony Drive across Old Oregon Inlet Trail. The view isn't all that great but odds are that it will outlast its former neighbor on Seagull.

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The houses fronting what is left of Seagull are braced with huge sandbags, ready to confront the winter northeasters that are just around the corner.

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This beachdweller just north of Seagull is for sale. Apparently the buyer will have to supply his own sandbags.

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The owner of this dune walkover is apparently unaware that the steps have vanished. That's quite a drop to the beach so one can only hope that his liability insurance is paid up.

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The derelict house in front of what's left of Surfside Drive is a step closer to demolition now that the windows have been removed. There was a time when it might have been moved like Kookoo's Nest.

posted by Uncle Jack at 5:20 PM

Comments [1]



Saturday, November 26, 2005
Sunrise in Sonag, Saturday November 26

     Uncle Jack was worn out from the hyper-commerce that transpired at Yellowhouse Gallery yesterday so he was a few minutes late getting to the beach this morning.  The sun was already above the horizon and it was freezing again so he didn't stay long.  He needed to conserve his strength for the second day of the big Thanksgiving Sale at Yellowhouse.


    If the mob at the Tanger mall was any indication yesterday was a banner day for Outer Banks merchants.  The new stoplight in front of the mall helped immeasurably to save lives as crowds of people surged back and forth across the  Bypass from their parking places on the east side streets.   Bizarre.


     



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Hardly a cloud in the sky this morning making for a not terribly exciting sunrise.

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At least a dozen people turned up to watch the sunrise this morning. By Monday it will be back down to one or two no doubt.

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Hundreds of shoppers found remote parking places on the east side of the Bypass and then risked their lives to cross five lanes of speeding traffic to purchase stuff they could have just as easily bought in their hometown Tanger mall. Amazing.

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Nearby streets were utilized to the hilt for parking. At least these shoppers got a little exercise along with their bargains.

posted by Uncle Jack at 8:01 AM

Comments [4]



Friday, November 25, 2005
Sunrise is Sonag (not!) November 25

    Uncle Jack walked dutifully up to the beach at 6:30 this morning,  felt the 34 degree wind chill on his cheeks, took one picture of the mass of ominous black clouds on the horizon, realized that there was no point in waiting around for a sunrise that was not going to happen, and headed home again to bask in the warm glow of his computer.


     What a change from yesterday when the sun shone brightly all day and post-prandial strollers were able to walk off their turkey and mashed potatoes in their shirtsleeves.  Today should be an ideal day for the annual post-Thanksgiving shopping orgy which generates enough heat to keep bargain hunters warm no matter what the wind chill factor.


      Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. won't be shopping themselves because they will be minding the store at Yellowhouse Gallery during their annual Thanksgiving Sale which goes on today and Saturday from 10-5 and Sunday from 12 to 4. Lots of  neat items on sale that could help you solve your knottiest Christmas gift problems and plenty of  free parking, too, which you won't find at the outlet mall.


    While he usually eschews commercial exploitation of his weblog he thought he could be forgiven for mentioning that at the age of 75 he has decided to follow the example of his good friends Edward and Richard of the Christmas Shop in Manteo and retire from the wonderful world of retail---but in a  way that could preserve the business for the enjoyment of future customers.


     Rather than having a "going out of business" sale and ending the 36 year life of Yellowhouse Gallery in one fell swoop he prefers to sell it to one buyer who could continue to operate it indefinitely.  To this end he is offering to sell his voluminous inventory of  antique and modern prints and maps including all the fixtures in the main gallery as well as the framing equipment and supplies in the Yellowhouse Annex for the very reasonable (and firm) sum of $90,000.


    While Uncle Jack does not own the historic buildings in which the gallery and framing shop are housed, his landlord is prepared to offer the buyer a lengthy lease on the property which would make it a turnkey operation for the new owner.  (If the new owner prefers to move the business to a different location the selling price will be $94,500).


     For further information about this interesting and unusual business opportunity please call Uncle Jack or Mrs. U.J. at 252-441-6928 (gallery) or 252-441-7460 (home) any time between 10 and 5 Monday through Saturday or email them at yelnag@charter.net   Yellowhouse Gallery will probably never make the owner rich but it is an enjoyable way to make a living and it has a lot of unrealized potential for greater profits in the hands of someone who is not quite as lazy as Uncle Jack.



 


 



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Maybe tomorrow will be better.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:42 AM

Comments [2]



Thursday, November 24, 2005
Thanksgiving Day in Sonag

   If conditions at sunrise are any indication this will be a gorgeous Thanksgiving Day on the Outer Banks.  It's already ten degrees warmer than it was at any time yesterday and the thermometer is headed for a comfortable 60 degrees.  Uncle Jack sends his sincere condolences to all Outer Banks lovers who could not be here today.  Judging from the traffic on the bypass, though, there can't be many of you.


    Mrs. Uncle Jack is preparing a traditional Thanksgiving dinner just like the one Squanto served to the pilgrims---turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, cranberry sauce, Swedish rye bread and low calory chocolate mousse for dessert.  Yum.


     As soon as they finish the dishes they are going to start resting up for their big sale at Yellowhouse Gallery Friday and Saturday. Drop in and say hello if you are on the Outer Banks this weekend.


     A very happy Thanksgiving to all wherever you are!  



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6:40 a.m. Thanksgiving Day in South Nags Head.

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Ditto.

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Lots of folks out on the beach at sunrise this morning, with and without their dogs. They were richly rewarded for getting out of bed.

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6:47 a.m. Right on time.

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Behind the clouds again.

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This will no doubt be a busy day on the Outer Banks pier. A few hardy souls were already out there before sunrise.

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Some of their feathered compatriots were surf-fishing at the same time.

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Helmet crab aficionados will have a field day today. Uncle Jack counted about 50 of them washed up in a single mile north of the O.B. pier today. He has no idea what might have caused this mass die off.

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This ancient tree stump washed up during the night. Uncle Jack has seen hundreds of these exposed in the surf after storms, a reminder that South Nags Head was once a forest. (Not a very good place to build houses).

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One last look.

posted by Uncle Jack at 8:51 AM

Comments [2]



Wednesday, November 23, 2005
Sonag Sunrise Wednesday Nov. 23, 2005
    It was cold out there this morning, folks.  39 degrees with a brisk wind out of the north.  Uncle Jack didn't stay long but the sunrise was certainly worth the trouble.


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6:45 a.m.

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A few minutes later.

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Nobody on the Outer Banks Pier this morning unless they were inside the pier house drinking hot chocolate or something.

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One intrepid fisherman braved the icy winds this morning. You have to be dedicated (or demented) to do this.

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6:55 a.m. It really does look like this could be a sunny day unlike yesterday which began to fall apart immediately after sunrise.

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Remember the free Thanksgiving dinners at The Wharf restaurant? This is what the Wharf lot looks like today. Sic transit gloria Randy.

posted by Uncle Jack at 9:02 AM

Comments [2]



Tuesday, November 22, 2005
Today's blog-Tuesday Nov. 22
    A little glitch developed this morning.  For today's blog please scroll down to "Sonag Sunrise, Tuesday November 22" which got out of order somehow. 

posted by Uncle Jack at 8:17 AM

Comments [0]



Sunday, November 20, 2005
Sunday Sunrise in Sonag.
  Now this was worth getting up for.  It's going to be a magnificent day in Nags Head unless Mother Nature changes her mind later on.


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6:45.

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Ditto.

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The whole sky was lit up this morning.

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And it kept changing.

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Hide and seek.

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Once again the beach was almost deserted at sunrise.

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Not a good night for helmet crabs. Several were washed up on the beach this morning.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:40 AM

Comments [5]



Saturday, November 19, 2005
Saturday sunrise in Sonag

   Uncle Jack has been trudging up to the beach to get a picture of the  sunrise every morning since he got home from New Orleans but to no avail----until this morning.  The thick black clouds that have hidden the horizon for the past couple of days have gone away and the sun shone forth brilliantly right on time at 6:43.


     It is still just as cold as yesterday, 43 degrees, and the wind is still blowing out of the north but somehow the beach seemed much more inviting this morning so he walked a mile down to the Outer Banks Pier (with the wind on his back) and returned home via the splendid Multi-use Pedestrian Walkway which is one of South Nags Head's truly excellent amenities.


     It is a truly splendid day on the Outer Banks and all the folks who are arriving this week-end in anticipation of Thanksgiving should be pleased as punch to be here.



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This is what sunrise looked like Friday morning. Yuk.

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And this is what greeted him at 6:30 this morning---hardly a cloud in the sky.

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And it got better.

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Greta Garbo would have loved the beach in South Nags Head this morning. Not a soul visible for over a mile.

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The pelicans were out in force, though. This is just one of several huge flocks that flew by this morning.

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Garbo would have enjoyed fishing by herself on the Outer Banks Pier. Being a good Norwegian she would not have minded the bracing wind out of the north.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:33 AM

Comments [5]



Tuesday, November 22, 2005
Sonag Sunrise Tuesday November 22

   As the pictures below will attest this morning's sunrise in South Nags Head was glorious, unlike yesterday when the sun never made an appearance at any time.  Uncle Jack doesn't know how much rain fell on Monday but it was enough to turn the beach road into a river in places making driving extremely hazardous. 


        While he usually eschews commercial exploitation of his weblog he thought he could be forgiven for mentioning that at the age of 75 he has decided to follow the example of his good friends Edward and Richard of the Christmas Shop in Manteo and retire from the wonderful world of retail---but in a  way that could preserve the business for the enjoyment of future customers.


     Rather than having a "going out of business" sale and ending the 36 year life of Yellowhouse Gallery in one fell swoop he prefers to sell it to one buyer who could continue to operate it indefinitely.  To this end he is offering to sell his voluminous inventory of  antique and modern prints and maps including all the fixtures in the main gallery as well as the framing equipment and supplies in the Yellowhouse Annex for the very reasonable (and firm) sum of $90,000.


     While Uncle Jack does not own the historic buildings in which the gallery and framing shop are housed, his landlord is prepared to offer the buyer a lengthy lease on the property which would make it a turnkey operation for the new owner.  (If the new owner prefers to move the business to a different location the selling price will be $94,500).


     For further information about this interesting and unusual business opportunity please call Uncle Jack or Mrs. U.J. at 252-441-6928 (gallery) or 252-441-7460 (home) any time between 10 and 5 Monday through Saturday or email them at yelnag@charter.net   Yellowhouse Gallery will probably never make the owner rich but it is an enjoyable way to make a living and it has a lot of unrealized potential for greater profits in the hands of someone who is not quite as lazy as Uncle Jack.


      



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6:35, ten minutes before official sunrise.

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Five minutes later.

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Another part of the sky.

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And yet another part of the sky.

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Old Sol makes a belated appearance over the clouds.

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From the looks of the clouds moving in this is probably about as good as it is going to get today.

posted by Uncle Jack at 8:08 AM

Comments [6]



Thursday, November 17, 2005
Home Again

   Just a quickie to report that we have arrived home safely after three days of  mind-numbing interstate cruising through the piney woods and red clay of Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina. After nearly two months in the wide open spaces of  Arizona, New Mexico and Texas it was hard to adjust to driving through endless tunnels of  second-growth scrub trees on their way to becoming chip board and cardboard cartons.


     For the first time since the Virginia Dare bridge opened a couple of years ago we decided to to take the old bridge from Manns Harbor to Roanoke Island and we were glad we did.  The corridor of trees and flowers through the north end of the island is as beautiful as anything we saw in all our travels this summer.  It's a pity in a way that visitors who arrive on the Outer Banks via the new bridge don't get to see this miraculous bit of landscaping, especially when everything is in bloom.


     Uncle Jack had hoped to have a sunrise picture to decorate this homecoming weblog page but it was not to be.  The weather this morning is awful enough to make him want to turn around and flee back to sunny Arizona---almost.  There is nothing like having an ocean around to look at even when it is acting up the way it is right now.


     Anyway the trip was fun but the Mini is happy to be home for a while and so are we.



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Uncle Jack thought that maybe his favorite South Nags Head derelict would be gone by the time he got back but he was wrong. It would look quite at home in New Orleans right now.

posted by Uncle Jack at 10:07 AM

Comments [12]



Sunday, November 13, 2005
New Orleans-I

       Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. have been in New Orleans for four days now and they are at a loss for words to describe their feelings.  On the one hand there seems to be reason for optimism as the French Quarter begins to show signs of life again but in other parts of the city the devastation is so overwhelming as to make them wonder if the city can ever recover. 
      Optimists are already busy planning for Mardi Gras and next year's Jazz Fest in April but if these exercises in frivolity actually do take place it will be against a somber background of destroyed homes and lives.  On the other hand maybe the city will be ready for some mindless fun by that time.
      In the meantime the French Quarter where we are staying seems to be in a kind of suspended animation.  All the buildings are here but without people crowding the streets and restaurants the whole place seems like a movie set waiting for the director to yell "Action".  It's downright eery.
      But there are hopeful signs.  A few restaurants are open, most of them with short hours and even shorter staffs.  There is a little live music to be heard in a few places.  Many businesses now closed are planning to open soon.  But unless there is a huge influx of tourists during the next couple of months it is hard to see how many of them can survive.  Some were still reeling from the long-term effects of 9/II on tourism and now this. 
      We have made our reservations for the French Quarter Festival in April and fully expect that the resilient residents of this indomitable neighborhood will pull it off  somehow in some form.  But there is more to the city than the French Quarter and it's the other 90% we are most worried about.  But then again Hiroshima survived so maybe there is hope for New Orleans, too.


Scroll down to the next entry for more pictures.                                                            



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The Cafe du Monde where folks have been washing down beignets with chicory loaded coffee for centuries is back in business. You won't have any trouble finding a table so come on down!

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A trombonist and a guitar player entertain the patrons with their eccentric version of traditional jazz tunes.

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The Cafe Napoleon, one of the oldest in the city, had only one waiter at lunchtime yesterday but the muffuletta was worth waiting a long time for.

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The blue tarp roof is ubiquitous throughout the areas ravaged by Katrina and Rita. This one is in the French Quarter near Uncle Jack's apartment.

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This tent city adjacent to the old Jax Brewery building in the Quarter contains a huge commissary as well as command centers for the many organizations working on recovery efforts.

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A little humor among the grimness.

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Mini rests up for the return home Monday in a nearly empty parking lot on Chartres Street in the Quarter.

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A couple of intrepid street artists share space with an overflowing dumpster on the edge of Jackson Square.

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A pick-up band of great players holds forth at the Palm Court Jazz Cafe Saturday night. The audience was small but very enthusiastic.

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An NBC camera crew was there to record the proceedings for a forthcoming TV show.

posted by Uncle Jack at 10:41 AM

Comments [7]



Sunday, November 13, 2005
New Orleans-2

   A few more pictures from a drowned city.



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Mountains of trash like this are piling up in the formerly flooded areas as armies of clean-up workers systematically move through the streets. The task is overwhelming but nothing compared to what lies ahead.

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Officials are still trying to decide what can be saved but some estimate that as many as 50,000 flood-damaged houses may have to be torn down and added to these piles.

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The damaged areas of the city are plastered with signs of all kinds like these. Huge areas of the city are still without power after ten weeks. The shortage of workers is acute because there is no housing for them.

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This parking lot behind the French Market is normally filled to overflowing. With most businesses closed and no tourists on the scene it is practically vacant.

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As is the riverfront promenade in front of the French Quarter. The Quarter is nearly free of damage but with few tourists here many businesses are still closed. It's like a ghost town.

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Few of the popular tourist activities are functioning. The Aquarium is closed as is Harrah's Casino a block away.

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The fountain in the Spanish Plaza in front of the Riverwalk shopping complex adds a cheerful aspect to the area. The Riverwalk itself is scheduled to open soon but many of the shops will be closed because there is no one to open them.

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Two cruise ships near the Riverwalk house workers and city officials who have lost their homes.

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Jackson Square is usually teeming with tourists, erstwhile artists, street musicians, fortune tellers and homeless people. Perhaps it will be again one day soon.

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Abandoned refrigerators decorate the curbs everywhere in the French Quarter, waiting for pick-up by the overloaded municipal trashmen. Spoiled food made them lethally stinky.

posted by Uncle Jack at 10:40 AM

Comments [0]



Thursday, November 10, 2005
The King Ranch

     Our next stop after reluctantly leaving South Padre Island on Monday morning was Kingsville, Texas,  headquarters of the 825,000 acre King Ranch (through a lot of which we drove on the way to Kingsville).  This incredible operation which produces cattle, oil, sugar, cotton, thoroughbred horses and a host of other products was started 150 years ago by a penniless Irish immigrant who ran away from home at 13 in New York City and stowed away on a steamer bound for Texas. The American Dream writ about as large as it can be writ.
      Captain Richard King went to Mexico back in the 1850's to buy cattle for his ranch and persuaded 100 Mexicans to go back to Texas with him to work his new spread. The descendants of these workers, many of them fifth-generation "Kineros", still make up the bulk of the ranch's staff and Spanish is the "first language" on the ranch.Paternalism takes on a whole new meaning here with cradle-to-the-grave security the order of the day (in return for total loyalty and a lot of very hard work).
      The Kleberg family has owned the place for generations and some 150 descendants of the first Klebergs (tied to the King family long ago by marriage) now share ownership of the family corporation.  The Kleberg mansion is no longer lived in but is used by members of the family to entertain their friends.  (Visitors in the past couple of weeks include President Bush,  Prince Charles and what's-her-name,  Nolan Ryan, and George Strait among others).  Visiting the King Ranch while in Texas is comparable to spending the night in Buckingham Palace while in London.
     Our tour of one small corner of the ranch was fascinating as our delightful tourguide,  a fifth-generation Kinero who is studying computer science at Texas A & M in Kingsville,  rattled off a torrent of statistics and other information about this largest and oldest of all American agri-business enterprises.  To her credit, we think, she is planning to leave the ranch and take her chances in the wider world when she finishes her studies.  Perhaps she will return one day as a distinguished guest and get to stay in the "big house" overnight.
      If you are ever in the vicinity a visit to the King Ranch is an enjoyable and educational experience---a great opportunity to see how the "other half" lives whether they be the Kleberg family who hobnob with kings and presidents or the hapless vaqueros who labor on their behalf for 12 hours a day six days a week.


http://www.texasoutside.com/kingsville/kingranchframes.htm
     


       



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These shorthorns nearly stampeded when Uncle Jack got off the bus with his camera in hand. They probably thought he was a terrorist.

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This cowboy was described as the top hand on the King spread. He was engaged in teaching a nervous thoroughbred to go docilely into a horse van. They call him the "horse whisperer".

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This is a horse graveyard where some of the King's top racing horses are buried, including a triple-crown winner named "Assault" who earned millions for the ranch during his racing career and at stud.

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East meets West. This old cowhand and Uncle Jack are the same age but you would never know it. After 60 years of unremitting toil on the ranch he looks 20 years younger.

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The main entrance to the Kleberg mansion. This palace is maintained by a full-time staff of 17 people even though no one lives there.

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The Big House is guarded by a flock of peacocks like the one shown in this not very good photograph. Nice touch.

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This elegant building was Captain King's private stable. Built in 1853, it is a short walk from the mansion. Santa Gertrudis is the name of the first line of beef cattle bred in the U.S. developed by Captain King on his ranch.

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The ranch keeps a small herd of Texas Longhorns for display purposes even though they are no longer raised for sale to beef buyers. (They refused to come closer to have their pictures taken. Very stuck up for a bunch of steers).

posted by Uncle Jack at 10:56 PM

Comments [6]



Thursday, November 10, 2005
Port Lavaca, TX to Kinder, LA

     After leaving the King Ranch late Monday afternoon we drove a hundred miles or so through the vast sugar and cotton fields of  south Texas to a town called Port Lavaca (In English Port Cow) where there were several chain motels.  Much to our surprise and chagrin the Best Western had no vacancies.  The Motel 6 down the road had no vacancies.  The Executive Inn across the highway was closed for repairs inflicted by Hurricane Rita.  It began to dawn on us that we had reached the hurricane zone and that things were definitely not back to normal.  We did get the last room in a Days Inn whose parking lot was filled with pick-up trucks belonging to workers who were doing various kinds of post-hurricane work in the vicinity.
      We should have known that it would get worse as we got closer to New Orleans but we drove on Tuesday morning through Galveston where there were only minor signs of damage and then through Port Arthur near the Louisiana border which had been hit very hard.  Huge piles of debris line the streets of Port Arthur and hundreds of houses are covered with blue tarpaulins while the owners wait for roofers who have vastly more work than they can handle.
      They started looking for a motel room in a town called Sulfur, Louisiana near Lake Charles where the kindly desk clerk informed Uncle Jack that there wasn't a motel room to be had anywhere for a hundred miles around New Orleans.  She suggested that we try the hotel at the casino operated by the Cashoutta Indian tribe in a town called Kinder about 25 miles north of Lake Charles.  Mrs. U.J. got on the phone immediately and nailed down what must have been one of their last rooms because when they arrived an hour later the place was sold out. 
     Lucky for them they have reservations in their favorite apartment house in the French Quarter where they expect to arrive around noon on Wednesday.  After the destruction they have already seen in Port Arthur and elsewhere they are prepared for the worst in the Big Easy.  Stay tuned.
     



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A typical scene in southeast Texas and southwest Louisiana near the Gulf. Mile after mile of huge refineries and plastics factories. They are so complex you wonder how they can work at all.

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This is not a mirage. That hotel in the distance, appearing to float over the water, is really there on the waterfront in Galveston.

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The new Kitty Hawk Hilton might look like this one day.

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Beach renourishment in front of the seawall in Galveston. This is a never-ending process just as in Virginia Beach.

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Yes, Virginia, there's a Wings in Galveston, too.

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A Gulf-front lot in Texas on Bolivar Island north of Galveston. An oil well probably produces more revenue than a ten-bedroom particle board palace because they pump all year round.

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This billion dollar oil-drilling platform under construction near Port Arthur will probably replace one of those destroyed by Katrina and Rita.

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A white pelican bobs in the wake of our ferry crossing the Houston Ship Canal from Galveston to Bolivar Island.

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The elegant old Galvez Hotel on the waterfront in Galveston comes from the same period as the Del Coronado in San Diego and resembles it somewhat.

posted by Uncle Jack at 3:11 PM

Comments [2]



Monday, November 7, 2005
South Padre Island, Texas
       Uncle Jack and Mrs. U. J. have been playing tourist for the past four days in a beachfront condo in South Padre Island which is kind of a Nags Head for Texans.
South Padre is at the southern tip of what was once a single one hundred-mile-long barrier island stretching from Corpus Christi at the north almost to Brownsville at the south. Most of the northern part of Padre Island is a national seashore reminiscent of Portsmouth Island. South Padre is partly state-owned public land and partly privately-owned beach and bay-front land that is being developed to the hilt.
       South Padre is connected to the mainland by a modern four-lane bridge and causeway that looks much like an oversize Bonner Bridge. It replaced an older wooden bridge in 1974 and led to the explosive growth that has been going on ever since.
              The island is only a half-mile wide at its widest and just about all the developable land from bay to gulf has been filled with a bewildering variety of high and low-rise buildings including condos, hotels, motels, private residences, stores of all kinds and, of course, real estate offices by the dozen.
              South Padre is flat as a pancake, the oceanfront buildings are mostly unprotected by a dune system and the whole town looks like a disaster waiting to happen. There hasn't been a direct hit by a hurricane since 1980 when the island was much less developed but Uncle Jack shudders to think of what a category 3, 4 or 5 storm might do to this place now.
              In the meantime it's a great place to vacation, especially at this time of the year when both the air and water are still warm, the fishing is great, the crowds nonexistent and the rentals of all kinds dirt cheap. (A night in the local Best Western, for example, costs $25 including tax for two people).
              According to a gentleman at the Tourist Information Bureau the beach in front of the developed area was renourished two years ago by the state using sand from the shipping channel at the south end of the island. Much of it disappeared in the waves generated by this summer's hurricanes but what is left is approximately the texture of concrete. Bicycle riding on the beach is popular and where permitted ordinary 2 WD cars like the Mini can drive on the beach without fear of getting stuck.
              The bridge-causeway connects South Padre with the attractive town of Port Isabel which is a shrimp-fleet headquarters. We were lucky to be in town on Sunday for the annual Shrimp Cook-Off which pits all the local chefs against each other in a battle to see who will have bragging rights in the shrimp cookery department for the next 12 months. We ate a lot of shrimp but would have been hard-pressed to pick a winner. It was all delicious.
       On Monday the 7th we leave South Padre for New Orleans where we will spend five days before returning home. Needless to say we are a bit nervous about what we will find in the Big Easy but from all reports the French Quarter has resumed at least a semblance of normality.
      
             
      


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One of the first buildings a visitor sees after coming off the bridge onto South Padre. We didn't know whether to laugh or cry.

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And if you thought nothing could be worse than a Wings--- this is what is across the street.

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It was like we had never left home.

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Ditto.

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Tractors groom the flat, hard beach every day. This one is removing a raft of bamboo fragments that washed in the night before from some unknown source, probably in Mexico.

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Sunrise from the deck of our condo. Yes, they have them here, too.

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Sand pumped from the shipping channel into Port Isabel has solidified into something resembling granite. You can ride a bike on it even in the surf.

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The north end of town contains a state park where the dunes are not stabilized and often blow onto the road as on Hatteras. Sisyphus redux.

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They use hay bales as sand fences but that doesn't work any better than anything else.

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This jetty at the south end of the island is a popular fishing spot. From what we could see the surf-fishing and jetty fishing here are excellent. Another jetty opposite forms the channel into Port Isabel.

posted by Uncle Jack at 9:45 PM

Comments [7]



Wednesday, November 2, 2005
San Antonio
       Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. have been in San Antonio for the past three days and they have been too busy enjoying the city to post a blog. This is their first visit to San Antonio but he is sure it won't be their last.
       They have to check out of their lovely room in the historic Menger hotel on the Alamo Plaza in an hour but he will post as many pictures as he can in the time available. He could spend hours singing the praises of this amazing city but the pics will have to do for now.


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Tourist poses in front of entrance to the Alamo. This is the number one attraction in all of Texas and deservedly so. It is a treasure trove of Texas history and beautifully presented.

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The number two tourist attraction in all of Texas is Riverwalk, the three-mile long promenade on the banks of the San Antonio river which wends its way through downtown. A delightful city amenity.

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Among the delights of Riverwalk is this fabulous 5-piece band of musicians from Peru who perform free every afternoon for several hours.

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Our home away from home---the Menger Hotel across the street from the Alamo. The old section in this picture was built in 1858 just 23 years after the fall of the Alamo.

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The Victorian Lobby of the Menger. Teddy Roosevelt recruited his Rough Riders while staying here. Other guests run the gamut from Babe Ruth to Bill Clinton (who loved the mango ice cream).

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William Sydney Porter (aka O. Henry) lived in this house when he resided in San Antonio. It's now a museum.

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The "Day of the Dead", an important holiday in the Mexican calendar, was celebrated while we were here. The creation of "altars" memorializing the dead is an important part of the observance. This one was in honor of American soldiers who died in Iraq.

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The altar in the previous picture was in the Texas Cultural Institute, a splendid museum operated by the U. of Texas in downtown San Antonio. This section celebrated the manifold contributions of Swedish immigrants to Texas culture.

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The gardens surrounding the Alamo are full of lovely flowering bushes like these. The shrine is maintained by the Daughters of the Republic of Texas, a non-profit group which does not accept government money of any kind.

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The bar at Mi Tierra, San Antonio's most popular Mexican restaurant. It's a cavernous place, open 24 hours a day, in the Mexican Market downtown. Great food and music.

posted by Uncle Jack at 11:45 AM

Comments [8]




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Except for short hiatus in Baltimore Uncle Jack has lived in Nags Head for over 45 years. He was a columnist for the Outer Banks Current and its successor, the Outer Banks Sentinel, for 20 years. A collection of his columns is available from Amazon Kindle under the title Uncle Jack's Outer Banks. He and Mrs. Uncle Jack, aka Sue, live in South Nags Head whence he observes and sometimes comments on the passing parade.
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