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UNCLE JACK'S WEBLOG
Wednesday, August 31, 2005
New Orleans Blues
       Like millions of people who know and love New Orleans Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. have been watching the drowning of the city with a heavy heart. With each passing day it has become more and more obvious that this beautiful place will never be the same again.
       The plight of the people of New Orleans, especially those who live, like so many do, at the edge of poverty and despair during normal times, is almost unimaginable. They must leave the city with little more than the clothing they are wearing and will probably not be able to return to their homes for weeks or possibly months. What they will probably find when they do return is even more heart-wrenching.
       Few if any of the thousands of houses that have been submerged to their rooftops for days and even weeks in many cases, will be salvageable. The task of restoring the city to some semblance of normality, even on the surface, will be staggering.
In spite of its outward appearance of prosperity New Orleans has been a poor city for a long time and Katrina has assured that it will remain one for a long time to come.
       The doom sayers who have predicted for years that one day something like this would happen to New Orleans were right but Uncle Jack doubts that even they are inclined to say "I told you so". Even they were probably secretly happy it was there because there isn't another city like it anywhere.
       Somehow "The Big Easy" doesn't sound quite right anymore though.      
      


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He may not catch any fish but Uncle Jack can't think of a better place to be at sunrise.

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The sun was nowhere to be seen at 6:32, official sunrise, but it did turn up a few minutes later and played peek-a-boo through the clouds for a while. Not too thrilling this morning.

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This pit dug yesterday reveals the current geology of the beach in Sonag, to wit: several inches of a substance alleged to be sand trucked in earlier this year from Currituck County covering the natural beach which has been there for a very long time.

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Happier days in NOLA. Tom McDermott and Evan Christopher hold forth at Donna's on Rampart Street. Tom (piano)escaped to Dallas but has probably lost his house. Evan's whereabouts are unknown.

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Woldenberg park on the riverfront. Ironically this area, steps from the Mississippi, escaped the flooding which came from Lake Ponchartrain on the other side of the city.

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One of the prettiest sights in New Orleans---a muffaletta and an Abita Springs Amber. How long will it be, Uncle Jack wonders, before he can enjoy another. ?

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When will the riverboats sail again? It could be soon if they are used to evacuate people from the city in the next few days.

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City Park, home of the dazzling "Celebration in the Oaks" at Christmas each year, is underwater and many of the ancient oaks were blown down. Doing the show again this Christmas will be a real challenge.

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The magnificent new sculpture garden at the Art Museum in City Park is also probably submerged as it is not far from Lake Ponchartrain.

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On a happier note very few of the picturesque buildings in the French Quarter suffered serious damage. This is the heart of New Orleans and it's still beating for which Uncle Jack is deeply grateful.

posted by Uncle Jack at 5:03 PM

Comments [7]



Tuesday, August 30, 2005
No Sunrise this Morning
       It seemed somehow appropriate that there was no sunrise in South Nags Head this morning. It was as though the sky was wearing black in mourning for the victims of Hurricane Katrina.
       Uncle Jack has been watching the horror story of New Orleans unfold on the various TV news channels last night and this morning. While he is happy that the French Quarter has apparently escaped serious damage it is sad to contemplate what has happened to the rest of the city. At this point it is hard to see how it could ever recover completely from this devastating blow.
       It is almost too awful to contemplate.
      


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This is where the sun was supposed to appear at 6:32 a.m. It didn't.

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Storm clouds to the south.

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And to the north. The battery on his Canon Elph failed at this point. Apparently it is suffering from the effects of going through the washer and dryer in the pocket of his pants the other day.

posted by Uncle Jack at 8:44 AM

Comments [3]



Monday, August 29, 2005
Are the Commissioners watching?
       The Gulf beaches have a lot in common with those of the Outer Banks. They won't stand still and do what politicians and developers think they should do which is to protect the investments of people who foolishly build too close to the water. (Or to "preserve the tax base" as they prefer to put it).
       Many millions of federal, state and local dollars have already been squandered in futile efforts to keep the Gulf from going where it wants to go and doing what it wants to do. Katrina is in the process of demonstrating once again how puny
and pointless man's schemes to control the forces of nature can be.
       The taxpayers of Dare County can only hope that their elected officials are paying close attention to what is happening to the beaches of Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi this week. The same thing could, and most likely will, happen here no matter how many millions of dollars worth of dredge spoil they succeed in dumping on our magnificent natural beaches. If Isabel didn't get their attention perhaps Katrina will. But Uncle Jack is not counting on it unless the voters of Dare County can somehow force them to think again about the colossal mistake they seem determined to make.
      


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Looking north toward Jennette's Pierette. 6:15 a.m.

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Five minutes later.

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And another five minutes later. Mother Nature wields her paintbrush.

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A bank of clouds to the south gets the same treatment.

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Eat your heart out Monet.

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Meanwhile Old Sol is trapped behind a bank of thick clouds on the horizon.

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Ten minutes after official sunrise he makes his first appearance, at 6:41.

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The beginning of another hot, humid day on the Outer Banks. A perfect beach day with relatively calm water and a gentle breeze. Colleen's vacation is off to a great start.

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Almost forgot this one.

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The early bird gets the worm.

posted by Uncle Jack at 8:04 AM

Comments [3]



Sunday, August 28, 2005
Another Sunrise Spectacular
       While he was watching this morning's glorious sunrise develop Uncle Jack couldn't help thinking about the trouble in store for his favorite American city (Nags Head is a town, remember). Hurricane Katrina is bearing down on New Orleans and that is bad news.
       As everyone knows, or will know by the time the Weather Channel is finished with Katrina, many parts of the Big Easy are below sea level and even more prone to flooding than parts of Kitty Hawk.
The city is laced with huge drainage canals that serve primarily as nutria habitat during dry spells but fill to overflowing whenever it rains hard, as it surely will when Katrina passes by.
       The French Quarter is not the lowest part of New Orleans (or the founding settlers would surely not have built their houses there) but it does flood and the old buildings are susceptible to wind damage as well. Uncle Jack has already reserved an apartment in the Quarter for the week before Thanksgiving this year and he hopes it will still be there when the time comes.
       Another vulnerable part of the city is the Garden District which is filled with magnificent (if often somewhat seedy) 19th century mansions,
many of which are surrounded by huge and ancient trees. If Katrina's winds are still even moderately strong when she reaches the city a lot of those termite-weakened trees are likely to topple with devastating results.
       Evacuating New Orleans is just about as difficult as getting off the Outer Banks.       No doubt many carless city dwellers will choose to stay put and try to vaccinate themselves against the real hurricane by imbibing Bourbon Street's signature drink, the Hurricane, a lethal mixture of fruit juices and assorted spirits. Watch for scenes of apprehensive revelry as the Weather Channel's cameras visit Bourbon Street bars during the storm.      
      


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Mother Nature put on a fabulous show this morning (Sunday) for the third day in a row. Uncle Jack fears he may be getting spoiled.

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6:20 a.m., ten minutes before sunrise.

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Another great summer job. The turtle nest patrol.

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One minute before official sunrise.

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Right on time, as usual. Once again the sun dove back behind the clouds and did not show up again until after Uncle Jack left the beach.

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A flotilla of stately thunderheads sailing along the northern horizon.

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One of the four people Uncle Jack saw on the beach while all this was going on. He wonders sometimes if the sleepers know what they're missing.

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Either this is Christo working on a very tight budget or the painters are getting ready to transform the new house across the street. Stay tuned for further developments.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:32 AM

Comments [5]



Saturday, August 27, 2005
More Wow!
       Uncle Jack thought it would be a while before he saw a sunrise to top yesterday's visual extravaganza but he was wrong. This morning's Skyshow was even more spectacular and once again his little Canon Elph was put to the task of doing the impossible. Every square inch of the sky had something interesting going on in it at all times and the display kept changing for over a half hour. Many of the shapes and colors were so subtle they were lost on the Elph but dazzling to the naked eye.
      


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Twenty minutes before official sunrise everything was a steely gray monochrome that was quite beautiful in its own way.

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The first hint of color appeared about ten minutes later.

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Then the whole sky began to light up.

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Looking south.

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The instigator of all this beauty made a very brief appearance at 6:30 and then went behind the scenes again.

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Pink mackeral sky.

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This erstwhile fisherman spent more time chasing the gulls away from his baitbox than anything else.

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A happy pup who would be even happier if he could run after the gulls.

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It just kept getting more spectacular.

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Monet would have dug this.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:21 AM

Comments [3]



Friday, August 26, 2005
Wow!
       This was one of those mornings when Uncle Jack wished he had a wide angle lens on his Canon Elph. The sunrise took in all of 180 degrees of the horizon and it kept changing colors and shapes for well over half an hour. He really felt like he was performing a public service by taking pictures of this magnificent display for folks who can't be here to see it for themselves.

                                          *********

       Uncle Jack was shocked but not surprised at the latest figures on house prices in Dare County as noted by Robert on the message board yesterday.
       The median cost of a single-family home is now over $302,000. The median cost of a new house has gone from $185,000 in 2000 to $425,000 in 2004. During the same period the median price of an attached dwelling has shot up to $356,000 from $138,000. The median cost of a building lot has gone from $53,000 to $170,000.
       The only comfort Uncle Jack was able to glean from these stupefying statistics is to note that he must live in a pretty swanky neighborhood. The new house under construction across the street on a lot half the size of his which backs up to a frog pond and has no more of an ocean view than he does is on the market for $629,000. A tiny beach box at the end of a street he once lived on in South Nags Head with no ocean view, no swimming pool---not even a jacuzzi---is listed at $479,000.
       He could say that "every cloud has a silver lining" except for the fact that the county managed to jack up his taxes by nearly 25% in real terms while at the same time claiming to have "held the line" on property taxes after the last appraisal.
       How long will it be, he wonders, before ordinary working people who were lucky enough to buy affordable homes 10 or 20 years ago are forced to sell because they can't afford both their mortgages and their tax bills? Especially after they have to start paying additional taxes to pay for the sand the commissioners want to dump in front of oceanfront properties to keep them on the tax rolls while sacrificing our beautiful natural beaches to do it.
       These are troubled times indeed on the Outer Banks but just for low income folks so don't look for any improvement anytime soon.

      
             
      


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6:15 a.m. Friday, August 26, 2005.

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Ditto.

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Ten minutes later.

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One of the lucky folks who got to see the sunrise this morning.

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Right on time as usual.

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Even the pelicans seemed to be enjoying the fresh, cool breeze off the ocean.

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It took over a half hour to reach this spectacular stage.

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Sunset last night was rather impressive, too, but Uncle Jack missed all but the tail end. The lights of Manteo are just discernible in the glow.

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This splendid domicile could be yours for a mere $629,000. It has no swimming pool but there's a lovely frog pond out back and it has a stunning view of Uncle Jack's house across the street.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:58 AM

Comments [8]



Thursday, August 25, 2005
A change in the weather.
       A glorious morning to be sure. Cool, dry air has moved in on the wings of a lovely breeze off the ocean. Wish you all could be here.


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6:15 a.m. Thursday, August 25

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6:25

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6:29. Official sunrise. Old Sol is punctual as usual.

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6:32

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6:35

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6:40 Try to have a nice day even if you're not on the Outer Banks.

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It could be worse. You could be on this schoolbus at 6:40 a.m.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:02 AM

Comments [5]



Wednesday, August 24, 2005
Pat the Ripper
       Uncle Jack was not surprised to learn that The Right Reverend Pat Robertson has once again attempted to swallow his own foot. Looney pronouncements are his stock in trade and this latest outburst is pretty much in keeping with what we have come to expect from his scripture-addled brain. What is scary is that there are probably a million faithful watchers of his TV show who think he speaks for God.
       The Rev's suggestion that it is time for the U.S. to assassinate the democratically elected President of a sovereign state, namely Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, should send chills down the spine of every American. It is frightening to think that this man once thought himself qualified to be the President of the United States. Lucky for all of us not even the Republican party would have him as their candidate.
       As far as Uncle Jack knows George W. Bush has never called for the assassination of the president of a democratic country but his personal desire to remove the president of a decidedly undemocratic country has so far cost nearly 2000 American lives and untold billions of dollars with no end in sight.
       Maybe he should have sent Pat Robertson to Iraq with a hand grenade hidden in his Bible.


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This sidewalk puddle explains why there was no sunrise this morning. It was raining profusely at dawn.

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By 9 a.m. the sun had made an appearance and a brisk wind off the ocean had churned up some lively surf. Looks like a spendid beach day in store but there is a chance of afternoon thunderstorms.

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The Sea Oatel will soon be but a memory. The demolition squad is wasting no time.

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Coming soon to this space.....(you can fill in the blank)

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The near-derelict Bodie Island Beach Club a quarter mile south of the Sea Oatel looks ready for the wreckers. They will finish off what Isabel started a couple of years ago

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Looks like the palm tree may soon supplant the sea oat as the iconic vegetation of the Outer Banks. Weird. ("i" before "e" except after "c"...except in "weird". That's weird, too, just like the palm trees).

posted by Uncle Jack at 11:57 AM

Comments [5]



Tuesday, August 23, 2005
Rain. Can this be true?
       Uncle Jack is happy to report that it rained hard this afternoon (Tuesday)for a few minutes and the present temperature is 76---at least 15 degrees lower than yesterday at this time. If it would just stop drizzling he would be on his bike in a flash to get some much needed exercise.
       He has to confess that exercise is not something he indulged in very much until fairly recently when he and Mrs. U.J. took up their new healthy lifestyle at the urging of their doctor in Durham. Part of it has required a change in diet to reduce or eliminate cholesterol-causing fatty foods and the other involves actually getting up and moving around vigorously for sustained periods on a regular basis.
       They started doing this at the beginning of this year and they have to say the results have been nothing short of miraculous. Not only do they feel better but they have collectively lost about 40 excess pounds and their cholesterol counts are coming down out of the danger zone without the help of Lipitor or any of the other expensive and potentially harmful "cholesterol fighters" which the Big Pharma TV ads say you are supposed to ask your doctor about.
       Uncle Jack will confess that he still occasionally scoffs a Wendy's junior cheeseburger but generally speaking he is repelled by the disgusting offerings of the fast food joints which now seem to constitute about 90% of all the eating places in the U.S. judging from their recent trip.
       He has tried hard to conceal his holier-than-thou attitude when he sees grossly overweight people, whose name is legion in the U.S. unfortunately, but he can't help feeling sorry for them, especially those who are much younger than he is, who are dragging 50 or 75 pounds of life-threatening fat around with them at all times.
       For the vast majority of them it doesn't have to be that way. It's a simple matter of eating healthy foods in moderation and getting plenty of exercise. If that was hard to do Uncle Jack never could have done it himself.
       And now he is going for a bike ride, in the rain if necessary.
             


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Uncle Jack was a little late getting to the beach this morning but then again so was the sun.

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It finally showed up about half an hour after official sunrise, having climbed out of a thick cloud bank on the horizon.

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Getting there.

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Shortly after this it went behind the clouds again and stayed there most of the day, much to the relief of air-conditioners all over the Outer Banks.

posted by Uncle Jack at 4:31 PM

Comments [7]



Monday, August 22, 2005
Yet Another Scorcher
       Uncle Jack is getting too old for this. He did walk up to the beach this morning to take pictures of the puny sunrise but he had to eschew his afternoon bike ride because of the relentless heat and humidity.
       He is absolutely sure there have been extended periods of brutal heat many times in the 36 years he has lived in Nags Head but for some reason they seem to be more unbearable the older he gets. He feels the same way about pop music come to think of it.
       Some things don't just seem worse---they ARE worse---like traffic on the bypass. That 5 vehicle pile-up near Kitty Hawk Kites last Friday evening caused the worst traffic jam he has ever experienced on the Outer Banks (south of the bridge that is). It was a miracle that no one was seriously hurt in this accident but
you don't have to be a gloomy gus to predict there will be many more like it in the future with much more serious consequences than just a traffic jam.
       He doesn't know exactly what caused this last crash but he does know that the location where it happened is one of the most dangerous on the Outer Banks because of the curve in the road around Jockey's Ridge, the busy entrance to Kitty Hawk Kites, the pedestrian crossing, and the intersection with Soundside Road.
       Drivers who must sit for what seems like interminable lengths of time waiting for a chance to make a left turn onto the bypass are likely to become impatient and take foolish chances after a while. Uncle Jack knows because he is one of them.
       He avoids a lot of potential problems in the summer by staying on the Beach Road as much as possible and venturing onto the Bypass only where there are stoplights. He can remember when there was only one stoplight in all of Dare County at Whalebone Junction. Perhaps he can be forgiven for referring to that time as "the good old days".


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South Nags Head---6:10 a.m. Monday morning.

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6:15 a.m.

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6:35 a.m. Peek-a-boo.

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6:45 a.m.

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This is as exciting as it got this morning. There were probably better sunrises in Ahia.

posted by Uncle Jack at 6:40 PM

Comments [3]



Sunday, August 21, 2005
Hot, Humid, Hazy.
       The mantra for the Outer Banks this week. Uncle Jack managed to get in a bike ride a couple of days ago when the temperature dropped into the mid-80's for a few hours but that was the extent of his exercise regimen for the past seven days. He went up to the beach this morning rather reluctantly because it was already steaming at 6 a.m. and the haze obscured the sunrise again.
       He is not complaining, just stating the facts. This is the way it is supposed to be in the middle of August and he knew that when he moved here. Most of the tourists who spent top dollar to be here this week would not have had it any other way and he is happy for them.
       He will be spending the rest of this scorcher in air-conditioned comfort while he works on the DVD he is making of pictures taken on his recent cross-country odyssey with Mrs. U.J. in their beloved Mini Cooper convertible. If ever there was a labor of love it's this one.
       P.S. If you would like to read an excellent summary of the reasons behind the parlous state of North Carolina's beaches please patch this into your browser.

http://indyweek.com/durham/current/cover2.html

It's an excellent for which Uncle Jack is grateful to Ray Midgett for calling it to his attention.


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This was as good as it got this morning at about 20 minutes before actual sunrise.

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The sun itself did not make an appearance until about 20 minutes after official sunrise, and dimly at that through the morning haze.

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Two early risers undaunted by the heat. When one is paying thousands a week to be at the oceanfront it makes sense to get out of the pool and onto the beach as much as possible. So where is everybody?

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The moon has been spectacular the past few evenings, rising majestically out of the ocean while most people are still up to see it---even Uncle Jack. Here it is about to vanish in the west.

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One of the better jobs on the Outer Banks---driving down the beach at dawn emptying trash bins.

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Hope springs eternal.

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Ditto. Surf-fishing has its compensations. It doesn't cost much and you get to watch dolphins cavorting out in front of you. Actually catching a fish would be lagniappe as they say in New Orleans.

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You are looking at one of the last semi-natural beaches in North Carolina, tainted only by the sand-like substance trucked in from Currituck County last fall and spring. Enjoy it while you can because it may soon be covered by dredge spoil.

posted by Uncle Jack at 8:27 AM

Comments [7]



Friday, August 19, 2005
Another demonstration?
       Uncle Jack is still working his way through the pile of newspapers that accumulated while he was bopping around the Far West in his Mini for the past two months. Yesterday he read the Coastland Times for June 26 which had an interesting article about the first meeting of the Dare County Shoreline Protection Commission which is made up of mayors of all the towns plus two county commissioners. This is a very important group because presumably they will be deciding how best to throw tax money in the ocean when the county's proposed beach renourishment project gets going.
       If the county commissioners have their way the money available for this purpose will eventually amount to many millions of dollars but for openers they have given the Shoreline Protection Commission a piddling $266,835 for "expenses including salaries and contracting for services". Some part of this first dribble of funding will be used to pay for a manager and his staff as soon as the Commission members can decide who that person should report to, the Commission or the County Planner.
       Several members of the Commission expressed strong support for a "demonstration project" of some kind which could help to sway public opinion in favor of all-out beach renourishment. Mayor Bob Muller of Nags Head was quoted as saying "We need to get sand on the beach and let folks see what it looks like. When people see that they will realize that this is what they need to do."
       Mayor Muller should hope that this second "demonstration" turns out a lot better than the first which occurred on his watch four years ago and which he seems to have completely forgotten about. On that occasion "sand" dredged from Roanoke Sound was pumped to the beach just south of Jennette's Pier with disastrous results.
       Pictures of this debacle are available at www.beachhuggers.com/sandmain.htm If you haven't yet seen them by all means plug that URL into your address bar and see what can happen when mere mortals start messing around in Mother Nature's turf.
       Fortunately the alleged "sand" was so completely incompatible with the natural beach that most of it washed away within months. Four years later there is not a trace of it remaining thank goodness.
       If you want to know the truth Uncle Jack would welcome another such demonstration project, preferably in front of ocean-front property owned by members of the commission of which there is much to choose from. He is just as confident that such a trial project would demonstrate the futility of beach renourishment as Mayor Muller is that it wouldn't.

       On a happier note, the sunrise was gorgeous this morning and it looks like the Outer Banks is in for another gorgeous beach day as the week winds down.             


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Pre-dawn pink over the Outer Banks pier in Sonag.

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Nice.

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Right on time at 6:24.

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The sun plays peek-a-boo until it gets above the thick clouds on the horizon.

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Up a little more.

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Bingo.

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Remember Newman's Shell Shop?

posted by Uncle Jack at 8:03 AM

Comments [9]



Thursday, August 18, 2005
A Glorious Day
       Looks like a magnificent day in store for the Outer Banks this Thursday, August 18. There's a lovely breeze coming off the ocean, probably courtesy of Hurricane Irene who is out there somewhere but not likely to cause any problems for anyone except sailors. This could be the day Uncle Jack gets his bike out of the storage shed, pumps up the tires, and takes an exploratory ride around the neighborhood. Who knows what might have happened around here in the past couple of months.


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Old Sol showed up right on time at 6:23 with only a few patchy clouds to block the view.

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This little creature was too busy looking for his breakfast to pay much attention to the sunrise. He had the beach all to himself this morning except for the resident pigeons.

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Great flocks of commuter pelicans were on the move this morning. Uncle Jack has often wondered where they go and what they do when they get there.

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Up she goes into a cloudless sky. The weatherman predicts a high of 83 today, several degrees lower than normal and many degrees lower than any other day this week. Hallelujah.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:01 AM

Comments [6]



Wednesday, August 17, 2005
A Sunrise Worthy of the Name
       Uncle Jack's virtue was rewarded this morning after several days of dry holes in the sunrise department. There was also a lovely breeze off the ocean and the air feels drier. All in all a rather nice day seems to be in prospect. We might even get some rain if we get really lucky. Mini could use a bath.


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6:10 a.m., ten minutes or so before official sunrise.

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No mist in the air this morning. The Outer Banks Pier was plainly visible at dawn for the first time in days.

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6:22 a.m., official sunrise. The sun is still obscured behind thick clouds on the horizon but it's starting to paint the clouds a bit.

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Three foraging shorebirds made a brief appearance this morning, posed for pictures and then took off, having found nothing to eat in the Currituck county "sand" which now smothers this part of the beach.

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The stuff is good for walking on, though, as these young ladies demonstrate.

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6:35 a.m. Colors are beginning to intensify as the sun gets higher.

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6:40 The sun makes a grand entrance and takes a bow.

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And now it's time for breakfast.

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The Sheridan Hotel in Sheridan, Wyoming, built by Buffalo Bill Cody over a hundred years ago. Someday some developer will realize you could build ten particle board palaces on this lot and that will be the end of her.

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Not likely to happen in Sheridan, though. Where would they find a bulldozer operator who could bring himself to smash this exquisite bar to smithereens?

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:23 AM

Comments [1]



Tuesday, August 16, 2005
Too darn hot.
       Uncle Jack has been trying to avoid the hellish heat and humidity for the past couple of days by staying inside and trying to catch up on two months of paperwork. He did get up to the beach at dawn yesterday and again today when the temperature had dipped to 80 but the sunrises have been pathetic due to the thick heat haze and clouds on the horizon.
       He did take a little drive around the neighborhood on Sunday and took a few pictures from the Mini (with air conditioner running flat out). He is looking forward to a long walk on the beach one of these days----maybe in September if it cools off.


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This sunrise was hardly worth getting up for Monday morning. Today the clouds on the horizon were so thick that the sun didn't show up at all. The air is already like glue at 7 a.m. Be happy you are in Ohio or wherever.

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These pigeons (yes pigeons!) are the only birds he has seen on his section of beach in Sonag so far. The sandpipers and gulls apparently don't like the sterile sand trucked in from Currituck this spring and have gone in search of a natural beach somewhere

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This wide beautiful beach is the result of Mother Nature's clearance program of the past couple of years at Surfside Drive. After she swept away all the sandbags, berms and the asphalt street itself----voila!! A lovely natural beach.

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A little farther north on Surfside this condemned house continues to occupy what would be another perfect section of beach if it were removed. That's public property it's sitting on now.

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The Town of Nags Head has thrown another $14,000 at this part of Surfside Drive---more good money wasted. Watch this new sand disappear after the next storm just like the hundreds of thousands of dollars worth already gone.

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This condemned house occupies more lovely beach immediately north of Surfside. The exposed septic tank adds a nice touch to the scene. Martha Stewart would probably not approve, though. Bad feng shui.

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The new Sonag fire station is coming along. At this point it's hard for Uncle Jack to see where the trucks will go, though.

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Remember the Wharf Restaurant in Nags Head? The first two new particle board palaces are now under construction on the site. Harbingers of what is to come.

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The former site of the Twila Zone shop (and adjacent houses) is a beehive of activity right now. More P.P.'s to come, no doubt. This is across from the Nags Head Pier.

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What was once probably the only "Oatel" in the world is now a heap of rubble. Uncle Jack is glad this didn't happen to Buffalo Bill's Irma Hotel in Cody, Wyoming which is still charming after 100 years.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:50 AM

Comments [5]



Sunday, August 14, 2005
No Place Like Home
       Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. are happy to report that they are home again after what turned out to be the trip of a lifetime. The last lap from Baltimore to Nags Head took some ingenuity what with the horrendous traffic situation in the D.C. area (It took Mrs. U.J.'s daughter Colleen two hours to drive from D.C. to Baltimore on Friday) and also the usual Saturday afternoon back-up north of the Wright Brothers bridge.
       Uncle Jack mapped out a circuitous route that took them to Frederick, Maryland on I-70, south to Warrenton, Va. on 15, thence to Fredericksburg on 17, then a short stint on I-95 to I-295 (there was a brief slow-down here caused by a fender bender involving an 18-wheeler and a sedan---guess who won). I-295 whisked them effortlessly to 460 at Petersburg whence they drove to Suffolk, enjoying a plate of ham biscuits at the Virginia Diner along the way. (Fate had decreed that the Diner would be their first stop on the way west and their last stop on the way home---good planning on Fate's part).
       From Suffolk they took Route 32 straight south across Albemarle Sound to the new, improved Highway 64 where they stopped to load up on corn, peaches, tomatoes and other goodies at a great stand near Mackey's Ferry, and then home through the traffic-free swamps. The trip took 8.5 hours but it was stress-free and the route took us through some beautiful country we had never seen before in Virginia and N.C.
       It was hotter than the hinges of Hades when they arrived which was no surprise because that has been the prevailing temperature everywhere on their trip except for Alaska. The ocean looked as good as ever when they took a stroll down the beach after unpacking.
       This morning's sunrise was a bit puny but it was a pleasure to get up to the beach in the early morning while the mist was still shrouding the scene and the air was still cool enough to breathe.


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Mini is packed and raring to get out of Baltimore after an oil change, tire rotation and a good scrubbing to remove a two-month accumulation of bugs from 24 states. What a fabulous little car.

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Twas a misty dawn in South Nags Head with visibility limited to a few hundred yards.

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6 a.m., twenty minutes before official sunrise.

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This pooch seemed a bit reluctant to have his picture taken. Probably on the lam from somewhere.

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Old Sol made his first appearance as scheduled at 6:20.

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The beginning of yet another hot, humid day on the Outer Banks. Better to be here than in a lot of other places Uncle Jack can think of.

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This handsome new edifice will be blocking Uncle Jack's view of the sunsets from his back porch from now on. Only the pilings were in when they departed two months ago. Sigh.

posted by Uncle Jack at 8:44 AM

Comments [7]



Friday, August 12, 2005
The penultimate day.
       At last after two months and 10,000 miles of driving Uncle Jack gets to use his favorite word because today, Friday the 12th of August, is the penultimate day of their trip. Tomorrow they will fight their way through the Saturday traffic from Baltimore to Nags Head and with any luck they will be home by tomorrow night.
       He is going to look back in his trove of pictures and pull out a few that recall memorable moments from their odyssey through 24 states and 18 National Parks. Next time the Outer Banks---or what is left of the Outer Banks after this summer's carnage.


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Victoria, British Columbia is on their list for a return visit one day. This vine-covered building is the century-old Empress Hotel which overlooks the picturesque harbor.

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This Indian dwelling is on the grounds of the Victoria museum. There are also dozens of colorful totem poles scattered about on the grounds.

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A huge wind farm with 90 windmills is under construction in Eastern Montana near Lavinia. Many of the Western Indian tribes are likely to benefit increasingly from this approach to power generation in the future with the help of Federal subsidies.

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The Adams Hotel in Lavinia, Montana---a throwback to stagecoach days---is now a private residence. If you're looking for affordable housing Montana is the place to go.

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One of the many inscrutable signs along the roads in the far west. Your guess is as good as ours.

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Sitka was the most important Russian outpost in Alaska before America bought it during Lincoln's administration. A number of old Russian buildings like this church have been preserved. Preservation seems to be important everywhere but on the Outer Banks.

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Low-hanging clouds seem to be a persistent feature of the landscape in southeastern Alaska. This is pretty much the way it looked everywhere the ship went, including Juneau, Sitka and Ketchikan.

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This pooch in the doorway of a Ketchikan shop won the contest for "cutest animal seen on the entire trip" paws down.

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Taking on and dropping off the harbor pilots was always a thrilling sight as the pilot boat came alongside the giant Oosterdam at 25 knots.

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Comin' through the redwood. Mini deservedly gets the final mention for his magnificent performance on this 10,000 mile trip. The ultimate touring car.

posted by Uncle Jack at 11:38 AM

Comments [7]



Wednesday, August 10, 2005
Almost home.
       Uncle Jack apologizes for the absence of new weblog entries in this space recently but the drought will soon be over. He and Mrs. U.J. have reached Pittsburgh and by Saturday night they hope to be home if they don't get permanently tied up in traffic somewhere between Baltimore and Nags Head.
       Their drive from Madison, Wisconsin to Pittsburgh by way of Akron, Ohio was uneventful and fairly unpicturesque so he is going to post some pictures of one of the most exciting parts of their trip---the drive through Glacier National Park in Western Montana last week on the infamous "Going to the Sky" road which was built back in the 1930's and has to be one of the most scenic and scary thoroughfares in the world.
       It is about 50 miles long and snakes through the park from east to west as it climbs to the top of nearly two-mile high pass and back down again, clinging all the while to the sides of rugged mountains, extremely narrow and without guardrails. The Mini was made for this kind of driving but not every car on the road was a Mini as the pictures show.      


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View across a canyon to a mountainside in Glacier. That horizontal scratch about halfway up is part of the "Going to the Sun" road.

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The scenery was magnificent but Uncle Jack had to take Mrs. U.J.'s word for it most of the time. This valley was carved by glaciers over the millennia.

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Almost every stop at an overlook drew curious people who were more interested in the Mini than they were in the scenery.

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A fleet of ancient Ford touring cars (which now run on propane) carry tourists through the park. They also help to reduce the number of cars on the road. (RV's are forbidden so this is the only way many visitors can get to see the park).

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There were only inches to spare when two of the touring cars met on the narrow road.

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One of several lakes in Glacier with the bluest water we have ever seen.

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The lakes are fed by crystal clear streams like this one which are fed by melting glaciers throughout the summer.

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Views from everywhere in Glacier are spectacular. This mountain sends glacier water to the Gulf, the Pacific and the Atlantic from its three sides.

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This huge chunk of ice sitting by the road in 80 degree temperatures provides much entertainment for the younger set.

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Mini looks back at the last set of mountains it will have to conquer on this trip.

posted by Uncle Jack at 9:13 AM

Comments [9]



Saturday, August 6, 2005
Madison, Wisconsin
       The Mini reached Madison, Wisconsin on Thursday after a flying trip across the cornfields of Minnesota which were a continuation of the cornfields of South Dakota. What the farmers can ever possibly do with all that corn is beyond Uncle Jack, especially now that he has quit drinking.
       He attended the U. of Wisconsin in Madison from 1948-52 just after the first ice age and now his lovely niece, Liv Sandberg of Brainerd, Minnesota, teaches there. She took us on a nostalgic tour of all his old haunts on Friday which both he and Mrs. Uncle Jack really enjoyed. (Actually most of his old haunts which were mostly beer joints have long since been torn down and replaced by university buildings).
       These pictures may give you an idea of just how lovely the University of Wisconsin campus, especially in summer when it is not buried in snow.


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Tourists pose on the hill next to Bascom Hall---the "Old Main" building of the university from 1868 or thereabouts. That's Lake Mendota in the background.

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Tourist sits on bench in front of Bascom Hall. The Capitol building is visible in the distance at the end of State Street which connects the university with downtown Madison.

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A brat and a beer at the Brat House on State Street is an essential part of every alum's return visit to the campus. Like Mineo's Pizza in Pittsburgh the Brat House is a truly world class restaurant.

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Uncle Jack was happy to find the Alpha Epsilon Pi sorority right where he left it. He scrubbed floors here for meals for two years and nearly ate them into bankruptcy.

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He spent a lot of time in the Student Union drinking 10 cent a glass beer. This is the view from the terrace overlooking Lake Mendota where students can rent boats when they get tired of drinking beer. They don't need many boats.

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This magnificent building was the library when he was there. He wishes someone had told him then.

posted by Uncle Jack at 9:05 PM

Comments [4]



Wednesday, August 3, 2005
South Dakota Treasures
       We spent the day (Wednesday August 3) racing through most of the state of South Dakota with the Mini's cruise control set at 80. The speed limit on Interstate 90 is 75 in most places so Uncle Jack was not doing any serious lawbreaking.
       For the most part South Dakota terrain is fairly mind-numbing with hundreds of miles of alternating fields of corn and hay interrupted by an occasional small town full of grain elevators.
       As he mentioned yesterday the great Sturgis motorcycle rally is getting underway and 90 west was full of bikes (we counted two hundred in the first two hours and then quit)as well as 18-wheelers sent by Harley Davidson and other bike builders for whom this event must be very much like Christmas for small greedy children.
       We stopped in Wall to visit the world-famous Wall Drugstore. If you don't know anything about the Wall Drugstore you might enjoy googling it. It's an absolutely amazing place which got its start back in the 1930's and has grown into a retailing colossus.
       They also stopped in Mitchell, South Dakota, home of the famous "Corn Palace" which you might also like to google for further info about its amazing history. It dates back to 1892 and is a midwestern shrine of sorts.
       They are staying tonight in Worthington, Minnesota in a Travelodge full of bikers on the way to Sturgis. They appear to be gentlemen and some of them are driving bikes that must have cost upwards of $25,000 so we are expecting a quiet evening.


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Exterior of Wall Drugstore on Main Street in Wall. You have to see it to believe it.

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Right inside the front door. Multiply what you see by about 100 and you will get an idea of the size of the place. There is still a drugstore in there somewhere, too.

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Wall was crawling (if that is the right word) with bikers on their way to Sturgis. These two custom bikes had apparently been built by a guy named "Boss Hoss" who was showing them off in front of Wall Drug. Each has an 8-cylinder auto engine.

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Uncle Jack is seriously thinking about this one. It has more trunk space than the Mini.

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The Corn Palace in Mitchell is one of those places that has to be seen to be believed. The whole place, inside and out, is covered with designs and murals made of corncobs and sheaves of wheat and other local produce.

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The town fathers of Mitchell started this in 1892 as a way of attracting attention and now 500,000 people visit the one-of-a-kind attraction every year (on the way to and from Mt. Rushmore and the Wall Drugstore).

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Some designs deal with local subjects such as the discovery of gold.

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This one depicts pheasant hunting which is still a big deal around here.

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Tourist from North Carolina acting corny.

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Six months out of the year (guess which ones) the Corn Palace is a basketball arena and venue for special events (Lawrence Welk was big here in the old days) and conferences.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:11 PM

Comments [4]



Tuesday, August 2, 2005
Alaska cruise July 23-30
You may want to read the entry following this one first because this one should actually follow it with continuing coverage of the cruise after we reached Juneau on Monday the 25th.


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These three gentlemen from Hungary played beautiful music in one of the lounges twice a day. Just one of the many entertainments provided by the ship's staff every day. Bingo anyone?

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A Princess Line cruise ship that tagged along with us throughout the cruise like a little puppy. There were six cruise ships in the harbor at Juneau on the 25th much to the delight of the town merchants.

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It was raining so hard in Juneau that we didn't go ashore but the next morning held the high point of the cruise---a visit to the Hubbard Glacier. This pic shows us heading into the bay with the glacier perhaps 20 miles ahead.

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The weather was perfect and the captain was able to bring the Oosterdam up to within a ship's length of the face of the glacier which towered over the huge ship.

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Many times during the three hours we spent at the face of the glacier huge pieces broke off (calved) and fell into the sea, forming instant icebergs.

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Uncle Jack managed to catch this one in the act. Each calving was accompanied by a loud, booming noise which was usually just a little too late to alert eager photographers to the event.

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Happy tourists pose with the Hubbard in the background. A thrill of a lifetime for both.

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As soon as the Oosterdam moved out two more cruise ships moved in close to the glacier. At least six of them paid a visit to this incredible natural phenomenon this same day. Looks like a great place for a McDonalds or Starbucks.

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The clouds were magnificent, too.

posted by Uncle Jack at 9:59 PM

Comments [8]



Tuesday, August 2, 2005
Seattle
       We have fetched up in Spearfish, South Dakota for the night (Tues. Aug. 2)and we were lucky to get a room. The great Sturgis Rally starts this week and before it's over several hundred thousand bikers will descend on this area and occupy every motel room for a hundred miles around.
       Uncle Jack's last weblog had some pictures of Mt. Rainier near Seattle which they visited before leaving for Alaska on the 23rd. They were only there for a day but Mrs. U.J.'s brother Greg and his lovely wife Gina made sure we saw the most important Seattle institution---the Pike Street Market.
       Seattle is a vibrant, exciting city with much to offer the visitor and they are already planning another visit when time permits.


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One entrance to the fabulous Pike Street Market which runs for several blocks along the waterfront. Uncle Jack has never seen anything like it.

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One of the many fish vendors. This one puts on a show of throwing large fish around the stall.

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These huge dungeness crabs are o.k. tasting but the meat pales in comparison with the jumbo lump from Daniel's Crab House on the causeway.

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Another view of one of the several hallways in which just about every kind of food known to man can be purchased.

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Our hosts serving up a feast of dungeness crab, wild salmon, corn on the cob and much more at their cabin on a river two hours northeast of Seattle. A meal and a place to remember.

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Piles of lumber stacked on the docks in Seattle. This sight is ubiquitous in the whole region. They haven't cut down all the trees yet even though they have been trying for 150 years.

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Mini settles in to the Holland-American Line parking lot for a well-deserved week's rest. Unfortunately he had to share the space with a PT cruiser.

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Sunset our first night at sea on the Oosterdam, heading northwest by the outside passage to our first stop, Juneau.

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The after swimming pool which nobody seemed to want to use in the cool (65) air and wind. The air felt great to us after weeks of broiling through six states.

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Sunset the second night at sea before arrival at Juneau at 7 a.m. the next morning (July 25).

posted by Uncle Jack at 6:32 PM

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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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