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UNCLE JACK'S WEBLOG
Thursday, August 31, 2006
Sunrise in Sonag, Thursday August 31, 2006

     Uncle Jack never actually saw the sun this morning but for a few minutes Mother Nature put on a cloud show that made his damp walk to the beach most rewarding. It looks like August will slosh off the scene today with the chance of rain about 80%.  It rained off and on all day yesterday and into the evening so South Nags Head, former wetland,  has reverted to its natural state in many areas including Uncle Jack's back yard.


    If Geraldo or whatever its name is is planning to kick up some surf as it goes by it hasn't started yet.  The ocean is fairly calm at the moment and there is little or no wind. Let us hope it stays that way.


    Yesterday was very special in the cuisine department because Mrs. U.J. whomped up a crab salad in honor of her visiting daughter Colleen from Baltimore where good crab meat is hard to come by as everybody knows.  Lucky for us the crab meat in the salad was the finest lump backfin money can buy and it came from Daniels Crab House on the causeway, one of Nags Head's oldest and finest seafood emporia. Lump backfin is expensive at $21 a pound but it goes a long way and provides a truly gourmet experience at a fraction of the cost of almost anything you can find in any restaurant.  The crabs are cooked and picked fresh daily at Daniels and the product is unsurpassed anywhere.  Check it out is Uncle Jack's advice, before it is too late. The way excellent small businesses are vanishing on the Outer Banks you never know.


Disclosure:  Uncle Jack has absolutely no fiduciary interest in Daniels Crab House. He only  hopes it will last at least as long as he does. 


Today's witticism: "A hangover is the wrath of grapes".



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6:15 a.m.

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Starting to light up.

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A view with the less-than-mighty 3x optical zoom.

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Even the clouds in the west lit up some. (The house on the left can be yours for about 1 mil. if you have a strongly developed sense of adventure).

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Uncle Jack's friends, the Bassett Brothers, were out again this morning. By the time they leave South Nags Head will have the most thoroughly sniffed beach on the east coast.

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Daniels Crab House at the east end of the high bridge on the Causeway. Look for it next time you go to Manteo.

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Uncle Jack had plenty of time to snap this picture yesterday as he watched about a hundred cars go by while waiting to get out of the post office driveway. Hopefully the traffic will thin out a bit by January.

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Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. visited the Corn Palace in Mitchell, S.D. last summer. He read in the paper that the drought has been so bad out there this year that for the first time in a half century they will not be redecorating the Palace because of a short

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because of a shortage of corn. Experts say the drought is reaching the severity of the depression era drought of the 1930's. Too bad Katrina didn't make it to South Dakota.

posted by Uncle Jack at 8:09 AM

Comments [14]



Wednesday, August 30, 2006
Unrise in Sonag, Wednesday August 30, 2006

     The penultimate day of August is starting out like a party-pooper.  Heavy rain  began in the middle of the night accompanied by thunder and lightning and while the rain seems to have tapered off, at 6:30 the sky is completely socked in and sunrise does not look promising. A couple of hours from now it could be gorgeous but right now it looks like the area's merchants could be in for a boffo day.


     If shoppers are foolhardy enough to venture out onto the bypass that is.  Uncle Jack had to make two trips up the road to the 9 mile post yesterday and he feared for his life both times..  Constant vigilance is required to avoid collisions with cars whose drivers often seem to be disoriented, drunk or both.  There is so much visual clutter along the road that even Uncle Jack has trouble finding his destination sometimes.  Such is the price of progress, apparently.


      There is nothing new about this, of course. Uncle Jack wrote this piece so long ago he can't remember exactly when:



                          Winnebago Blues


Dear Uncle Jack,


One night last week I was racing up to the ABC store to get some cough medicine for my baby but I got behind this big Winnebago with Kansas plates going 25 mph and by the time I got past them it was too late. The ABC store was closed so I had to turn around and go back home and explain to my baby why I couldn't get her cough medicine and she got sore and made the kids go to bed instead of watching "X Files" and she pulled the plug on me, too, if you know what I mean.


Needless to say this whole experience made me pretty disgusted and the reason I am telling you all this Uncle Jack is that I know you are the kind of person who has to get to the ABC store in a big hurry sometimes so you know how I feel. I thought maybe if you published this letter it would galvanize our lawmakers into action to do something about all the slow drivers on the bypass. Why don't they pass a law that would make it a felony not to drive as fast as the law allows at all times?


Junior Johnson


South Nags Head


Dear Junior,


Uncle Jack knows exactly how you feel and you surely have his sympathy. He, too, has spent many an hour creeping along behind large recreational vehicles on the bypass and wondering if he would ever get where he is going which is usually but not always the ABC store. He has to confess he does enjoy reading all those colorful travel stickers they put on the back of those RV's but he wonders sometimes how you could get to all those scenic and historical places such as Knott's Berry Farm in California and Tarpon World in Florida all in one lifetime if you never drove over 25 mph.


He is sorry to tell you he does not think there is much the lawmakers can do about this problem so from now on you should do what Uncle Jack does and plan ahead so you do not have to make so many emergency trips to the ABC store. One way to do this is to take out a home equity loan and stock up on whatever you think you will need between now and the end of the tourist season. Uncle Jack is fairly sure you can deduct the interest from your income tax so that makes it a pretty good deal if you are careful not to lose your house.


On the other hand if you live in South Nags Head you are probably going to lose your house to the ocean sooner or later anyway so it might not make any difference.


Uncle Jack does not think it would be a good idea to make those Winnebagos go faster because if you ask him the only thing worse than being behind a large RV when it is going 25 mph is being in front of one when it is going faster than 25 mph. Anyway Uncle Jack knows that all those slow-moving people with the funny license plates are the ones who provide him with the financial wherewithal to live on the Outer Banks instead of just visiting once in a while so he is willing to put up with a slow trip to the ABC store from time to time.


Pragmatically,


Uncle Jack


 


 



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At 6:40 a.m., in broad daylight, this is as close as South Nags Head got to a sunrise this morning.

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Uncle Jack almost got run over by this schoolbus this morning. He will have to be a little more alert from now on. His heart goes out to the little kids who have to get on this bus at 6:30 in the morning.

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He is still practicing his picture-editing skills. This willett (or whatever it is) started out as a little dot in a much larger picture. Move over Ansel Adams.

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The venerable and picturesque Outlaw/Worthington cottage, one of the oldest in Nags Head will soon have a next-door neighbor, more's the pity.

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The incredibly low tides continue, producing a wide, flat, hard beach that makes walking a pleasure.

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This was an August sunrise a year ago, lest we forget what they can look like.

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Another example of how much sand one storm can remove from the beach in a few hours. Looks like about $32 million worth. This was after Isabel.

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This looks like it could be $32 million worth of sand in the middle of Old Oregon Inlet Road. "Who Moved My Beach?" could be a best-seller. (It was Isabel).

posted by Uncle Jack at 8:58 AM

Comments [3]



Tuesday, August 29, 2006
Sunrise in Sonag, Tuesday August 29, 2006
 It's a spectacularly lovely morning in South Nags Head with a cool breeze coming out of the northwest, a wide, flat beach to walk on, beautifully shaped waves rolling in one after the other.  It's hard to say how much longer this can last with Ernesto chugging along toward south Florida and possible heading up the coast but it's wonderful while it lasts.

    Yesterday was a red letter day for Uncle Jack with the arrival of his new Sony Cybershot W-100 camera.  He has managed to charge the battery and has spent a couple of hours puzzling over the instructions with little success but he did manage to take a few pictures with it last evening and again this morning.  Obviously he has much to learn but it's wonderful to have a camera that fits into his shirtpocket again.


     Yesterday was extraordinary in another way in that he paid his first visit to the Dare County Library in KDH in several years.  Now that he is retired and has a lot more time on his hands he plans to spend a lot of time in that estimable establishment. 


     While he was there yesterday he picked up a free copy of the 11th Annual "State of the Coast" report entitled "Saving Our Coastal Heritage" published by the North Carolina Coastal Federation. He had read bits and pieces of it in the local newspapers when it came out a few weeks ago but they did not do justice to the whole publication.


      He highly recommends that if you have any interest in what is happening to the coastal areas of this state that you email them at nccf@nccoast.org or check out their website at www.nccoast.org and ask for a copy of this spendid piece of journalism. It's both scary and hopeful but it does a great job of laying out the challenges that face coastal communities everywhere as they battle with the juggernaut of development.


Today's aphorism: "Procrastinate now!"


 



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First picture with the new Sony. Looking south at a nearly deserted South Nags Head beach at 5:30 p.m. Wide and flat enough to run a Nascar race.

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Second picture. This looks promising. (Well it did until I erased it while fiddling with the editing program. Take my word for it, it was a nice shot of a surfer, the cropped version you can see below.

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6:20 this morning. You had to be there to appreciate the total ambience of the beach at dawn.

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Uncle Jack was not alone, obviously. These bloodhounds have been regulars since Sunday. God has a sense of humor when it comes to making dogs.

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Oh yes. There was a mermaid, too. One of the few sand sculptures to survive last night's high tide.

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What happens when you push the wrong button on your new camera.

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It took a while for the sun to top the clouds this morning but it finally showed up at around 6:40.

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The surfer shot above after cropping. This augurs well for the future of pier shots with the new camera.

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Most piers stand still so they should be easier to keep in focus.

posted by Uncle Jack at 8:41 AM

Comments [4]



Monday, August 28, 2006
Sunrise in Sonag, Monday August 28, 2006

     Uncle Jack is having computer problems this morning and just watched 20 minutes worth of his elegant prose disappear into cyberspace, never to be seen again except possibly by somebody at the C.I.A. He is too p----d off right now to start over again.  It must be Monday.


    He will try to put up some pictures of the sunrise and maybe do another blog entry later if he can figure out what's wrong.


    Have a nice day.  Aargh.



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6:15 a.m.

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Mist to the south.

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And mist to the north.

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6:30 a.m. Even the sun is delayed by mist.

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There we are. At 6:35. Even slug-a-beds will be able to watch the sunrise before very long.

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The mighty Mavica 10x optical zoom does a better job of conveying the size of the waves.

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The mist should burn off quickly because the sky is almost cloudless other than near the horizon.

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Bailey the lab retriever was supremely indifferent to everything except the yellow tennis ball that her owner, Lisa, tossed down the beach for her about 50 times in 20 minutes. It's hard to say who owns who in these situations.

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This was the foamy scene when a spring northeaster visited in April a year ago. It won't get this bad today because there is no wind.

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At the same time repairs were underway on the Outer Banks pier which got clobbered by Isabel six months earlier.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:34 AM

Comments [7]



Sunday, August 27, 2006
Sunrise in Sonag, Sunday August 27, 2006

     Not the most inspiring sunrise this morning but as (almost) always, the beach was the place to be.  All indications point to another fairly hot and humid day, much like yesterday, but at dawn the air is still tolerable and the extraordinarily wide beach uncrowded.  The tide is such that you could drive a Mack truck around the sandbagged houses without getting the tires wet this morning. The public has its beach back for a little while.


     Here's another sample from Uncle Jack's new book which he sent off to the printer for a cost estimate last Friday.  With any luck it should be available for purchase next spring by the thousands of readers who have been waiting with 'bated breath for its appearance. Ha. He can't remember if he ran this one before or not but in any case it's for all the teachers who are strapping on their armor and wading into battle again this week or the next.  Good luck.



 


            You Might Be a Teacher



Uncle Jack has a friend named Roy who lives out in cyberspace somewhere and from time to time sends him funny things by e-mail which he calls "column fodder". It is nice to have a friend like Roy when you have to write a column every week and you feel like you are essentially brain dead when the time comes to do it.


This week Roy sent a piece called "You Might Be a Teacher If...." which is pretty dark humor but as an ex-teacher Uncle Jack can tell you it has the ring of truth so he is going to pass along a few excerpts:


YOU MIGHT BE A TEACHER IF......


* you believe that the staff room should have a valium saltlick.


* you can tell it's a full moon without ever looking outside.


*marking all A's on the report card would make your life SO much simpler.


* you believe in the aerial spraying of Prozac.


* you encourage obnoxious parents to look into charter schools or home schooling.


* you wonder how some parents managed to reproduce.


And it goes on in that jocular vein for another page or two which Uncle Jack would be happy to e-mail to any teacher who wants to post it in the teachers' room next to the vending machine which is no substitute for a valium salt lick but it's all most teachers have.


Speaking of vending machines Uncle Jack read in the paper this week that the Wake County schools over by Raleigh are thinking about making a deal with a soft drink company whereby the company would give the schools a ton of money to buy computers and whatever if the schools would agree to promote the company's products in the schools.


If they signed up with Coca Cola they would sell only Coca Cola products in the vending machines and they would have Coca Cola ads on the school buses and maybe even the teachers would have little Coke logos tattooed on their foreheads.


If you think this is the dumbest idea you have ever heard of and you think it could never happen Uncle Jack can tell you it has already happened in Texas which is usually second to California when it comes to bizarre behavior but appears to be clearly out in front on this one.


And if you think it couldn't happen in the Gret Stet of North Carolina Uncle Jack can only quote the superintendent of the Wake County schools who says "You test where a community would want to be on this, of course. But I promise you this sort of thing is coming."


Visionary thinkers like Uncle Jack would foresee a happy day ahead when schools no longer have to beg for money from politicians who are driven primarily by the need to keep property taxes down and thereby ensure their re-election.


Why not fund schools entirely out of advertising revenues? "Get 'em while they're young" has been an axiom of advertising from day one so why not capitalize on it? Sell the schools to the highest bidders in every category from aardvarks to zircons and watch the money roll in.


And where could the public schools find a better role model than the great University of North Carolina which recently sold a portion of its soul (and all of its soles) to the Nike Corporation? If Nike will pay millions to a university to flog its shoes what would they ante up to get kids thinking Nike in kindergarten. If this makes sense to you you might be a teacher.



 


 


 





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6:15 a.m. Not a cloud in the sky. (Sorry but I messed this one up)

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6:35 Peek-a-boo.

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A close-up with the mighty 10x zoom.

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That's all she wrote this morning.

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Kady Morris, who can lay claim to being one of the oldest dogs in the universe, cools her heels on a warm, humid morning. She is definitely not dressed for the beach.

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Uncle Jack took this picture about ten years ago in late December. It's the lowest tide he has ever seen in South Nags Head. Note the ledges of peat which underlies all of the Outer Banks, indicating that this area was once a forest.

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The immortal words of Duke Ellington. (From the New Yorker Magazine some years back).

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After an April northeaster last year. Mother Nature seems to be trying to create a nice beach here but there's an awful lot of stuff in the way.

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Hey Ma, what's that funny looking pipe with the holes in it for? (April 2005)

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Hey Mom, could we hook up the TV out here on the beach? (April 2005)

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:54 AM

Comments [0]



Saturday, August 26, 2006
Sunrise in Sonag, Saturday August 26, 2006

   The sunrise was quite pretty this morning but you will have to take Uncle Jack's word for it.  His ancient Sony Mavica camera, which uses floppy disks for film, kept flashing the words "disk error" every time he took a picture so he stopped after a while.  Then when he got home he found that it had been taking pictures all along, albeit not very good ones and none at all of the final stages of sunrise.


     Help is on the way in the form of a Sony DSC-W100 digital camera which is on the way to him from California as we speak. It will replace the beloved Canon Elph which he inadvertently bathed in the ocean a few weeks ago.  It purports to have 8 megapixels which should result in better pictures but it lacks the 10x optical zoom he has come to love in his clunky old Mavica. (Sorry guys. No more pier shots.)


     Uncle Jack's technological world seems to be falling apart at the moment.  First he drowned his camera, now his DVD player won't work and both his computers keep giving him error messages when he attempts to open websites in Explorer.  He suspects the latter may be caused by a glitch at Charter Cable which he hopes they will fix themselves because he dreads having to try to communicate with their robot. She has a lovely voice but he thinks she may have Alzhimer's.


     He attended a workshop on beach renourishment at the Nags Head town hall yesterday where he listened to a representative of  Coastal Science and Engineering talk about various aspects of the renourishment plan his company has drawn up for the Nags Head commissioners.  The gentleman exuded confidence in his plan which he claims will provide the town with ten year's worth of protection for oceanfront structures at a cost of only $32 million and change.


     Uncle Jack has always been a little dubious about such forthright predictions of what the ocean can be expected to do or not do over such a long period of time.  Recent experience with the post-Isabel FEMA berm project in South Nags Head provides a case in point.   Rather large sections of the  "5 year" berm had washed away even before the entire project was completed.  This does not fill one with confidence that predictions by coastal scientists and engineers (especially those with a direct fiduciary interest in selling their services) can always be relied upon.


    He will have more to say about this as time goes on but he is going to take the week-end off from pontificating.  Have a nice day wherever you are.



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6:15 a.m.

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Looking south at the same time.

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Eastern sky just before sunrise at 6:30 or thereabouts.

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And there she be once again, peeking through the murk. Looks like another beautiful day in store.

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This cartoon is in this week's New Yorker magazine. Uncle Jack scanned it but couldn't figure out how to save it in an enlarged form. (Help!) The caption reads "Rising sea levels. An alternative theory". Almost too true to be funny.

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This picture was taken on April 18, 2005. No trace of this "5 year" berm can be found less than a year-and-a-half later.

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A very costly exercise in futility, paid for with play money from FEMA.

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Coming soon to a beach near you?

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Please excuse me while I wait for beach renourishment.

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I got moved in the nick of time.

posted by Uncle Jack at 9:17 AM

Comments [5]



Friday, August 25, 2006
Sunrise in Sonag, Friday August 25, 2006

      Rather a bland morning on the beach.  Cool and pleasant.  Not a cloud in the sky for the sun to play with so sunrise was less than inspiring. Looks like another fabulous beach day to finish out an entire week of nearly flawless daytime weather during which a good time seems to have been had by all. The concrete guys and the Terminix sprayer will vie for Uncle Jack's attention today so it should be a pretty exciting Friday.  


The sermon continues:


       On this date in 1992 the surviving residents of South Florida were contemplating the devastation left in its wake by Hurricane Andrew that had blown through the area the day before.  Uncle Jack drove through some of the hardest-hit neighborhoods three months later on his way to Key West and he remembers the shock and awe he experienced at seeing what the raw power of nature can do to man's flimsy constructions.  Not until Hurricanes Katrina and Rita smashed the Gulf coast from Alabama to Texas last summer did he see anything with his own eyes to match that scene.


      He has these pictures in his mind whenever he thinks about "beach renourishment" as a solution to the problems faced by oceanfront property owners on the Outer Banks as inexorable natural forces propel our beloved sandspit to the west.  Events like Andrew and Katrina and Rita and even our own recent Isabel (a minor blow by contemporary standards) demonstrate convincingly the futility of  trying to stave off the inevitable by what amounts to throwing sand in the face of Mother Nature.


      The Town of Nags Head proposes to spend $32 million on what could best be described as a sandy band-aid for a gaping wound that will refuse to heal.  Taxpayers will be exhorted to lend their financial support to this desperate attempt to "do something" to keep the ocean from claiming any more valuable oceanfront property.    


      If past experience is a reliable guide, these exhortations will come largely in the form of  fear-mongering.  Failure to "save our beaches" (sic) by dumping dredge spoil on them will result in the economic ruin of every person now living and working on the Outer Banks. That's the story we will be encouraged to believe.


      Loss of tax revenue from oceanfront structures will be cited  as a major reason for pushing ahead with beach renourishment.  This argument conveniently ignores the fact that higher taxes will have to be imposed on all residents of the town in order to keep rental income flowing into the coffers of oceanfront property owners.  How the net income from taxes on endangered ocean front  property can exceed the net outflow of tax money to protect them is not explained.


      Tourists will stop coming to the Outer Banks if we don't "do something" right away to "save our beaches" we will be told.  Uncle Jack has walked the beaches of South Nags Head almost every day this summer and has seen no evidence that visitors have stopped coming to a part of Nags Head that at least one county commissioner has described as some kind of disaster area.  The summer beaches for the most part have been wide and inviting, providing plenty of room for throngs of visitors to do just about anything they can think of---including hitting golf balls as some idiots Uncle Jack encountered on his walk yesterday were doing. (Not into the ocean as some golfers were doing the other day but down the beach where people were walking and sitting!)


     There are a few parts of Nags Head that are ugly and uninviting and where the beach is narrow or even non-existent at times.  They are precisely where owners have been allowed to armor their buildings with huge sandbags which have caused the beach in front of them to wash away.


     These houses should be removed from the beach as so many others have been before them---before the false hope of  salvation by beach renourishment was dangled in front of their owners.  If structures are removed when they begin to encroach on the public beach there seems to be no reason why South Nags Head could not continue to have a lovely natural beach for many decades to come without the expenditure of vast amounts of money that might better be used to clean up after the storms that will continue to batter the Outer Banks until the end of time.


     Many of the delightful old cottages in the Nags Head "historical section" have survived over a century on the ocean front by the simple expedient of  moving back when they had to.  More important is the fact that the beach in that area has survived and is as wide and beautiful as it was when Uncle Jack first walked on it more than 35 years ago.  Barring another catastrophic event like the Ash Wednesday Storm of 1962 (which cannot really be barred)  they could still be there 35 years from now.


     Or maybe not.  The only thing that is absolutely certain about living on a barrier island is that nothing is predictable. 


      End of sermon for today. 


      


     



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6:15 a.m. Fifteen minutes before sunrise.

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First glimpse at about 6:30.

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Zoom. The sun seems quite round this morning.

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Last night's sunset was spectacular by comparison.

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More of same.

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A procession of scraggly seaweed marked the high tide line last night.

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Yesterday's prize-winning sand castle. It never ceases to amaze Uncle Jack how much time and energy and creativity go into constructing these bits of ephemera every summer.

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We have pretty much frightened away the real turtles but this could serve to remind us of what they look like.

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The happy end of an exciting surf ride.

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This large house near Seagull Drive, originally known as "Gray Eagle" and later as "Koo Koo's Nest" was moved off the beach during a storm last year. A wonderful example for others of how to cope with the oncoming sea.

posted by Uncle Jack at 8:07 AM

Comments [9]



Thursday, August 24, 2006
Sunrise in Sonag, Thursday August 23, 2006

      After three straight days of darkness at dawn Mother Nature came out of her funk this morning and put on a sunrise that must have delighted the handful of folks who were up to see it.  It's getting a lot easier to view the sunrise these days because it doesn't come up until almost 6:30.  Even Uncle Jack slept in until 6 this morning and still made it to the beach in plenty of time.


     Yesterday started out badly but like the first two days of the week it turned into a flawless beach day.  Today is starting out magnificently but who knows what will happen as the day goes on.  It's in the mid-70's right now with a light wind out of the north under an almost cloudless sky. This is truly prime time on the Outer Banks, especially because there are no potential hurricanes on the horizon.


   Uncle Jack has been bloviating for the past couple of days on the subject of what can be done about the fact that the Outer Banks are steadily moving westward and the ocean has begun to encroach on a lot of buildings that were unwisely built in its path.  Here's another installment:     


   Beach renourishment is, to say the least, a contentious subject.  It is seen as the road to salvation by many, including nearly all oceanfront property owners, persons whose livelihoods are dependent in one way or another on income from oceanfront property such as real estate mavens, and most politicians in oceanfront communities who feel that they must be seen as "doing something" about "erosion".


       It is seen by others, including Uncle Jack, as a chimera, a false hope, a waste of money and resources that could be better spent in facing the problem of our moving shoreline realistically. He has done his best to study the evidence in the historical record regarding the success or failure of beach renourishment projects elsewhere on the Atlantic coast and he is convinced that it won't work here any better than it has anywhere else.  In fact it astonishes him that anyone who  watched firsthand while hurricanes Dennis and Isabel assaulted the Outer Banks in recent years could believe that the cosmetic application of a few million cubic yards of sand to our beaches before those storms would have significantly reduced the amount of property damage inflicted by them. 


     Had a major beach renourishment project (say $32 million worth) been completed  before Isabel it would most likely have disappeared overnight as has happened in so many places on the Atlantic coast and in the Gulf.  Then another project would be required, and then another for ever and ever. Sysiphus and his boulder had it easy compared to barrier island communities squeezed onto narrow sandspits in the Atlantic ocean.


      As long as owners and developers of oceanfront property are not forced to bear the real costs of keeping their investments intact the manic pace of oceanfront development will continue.  The federal government is partially responsible for this folly by offering low cost flood insurance for buildings in high hazard areas.  (This could change dramatically as new rules go into effect in the near future, but probably not enough). 


       Again the federal government has encouraged the folly of  oceanfront building by lavishing untold millions of dollars on beach replenishment projects up and down the coast. This, too, is now seen by its perpetrators as a costly exercise in futility. (Just another of the many our government seems to embark upon with depressing regularity).


       Now local governments are under tremendous pressure to "do something" when there really isn't anything sensible to be done but  require oceanfront property owners to get their buildings off the beaches when the ocean overtakes them.  Politically this is so difficult that our local lawmakers will persist in trying to raise vast sums of  tax money to throw at the problem even though it won't make it go away in the long run.


      They are counting on "educating" the citizens of  Dare county and its communities, the vast majority of whom do not own oceanfront property, as to why beach renourishment is our only hope and why it must be supported by all who live here, not just by those who have vested interests in preserving their oceanfront investments.


      If events leading up to the overwhelming rejection of the county's ill-fated 1% sales tax for beach renourishment are any indication, we should be prepared for another onslaught of propaganda from the pro-nourishment interests. There will be dire warnings of  imminent disaster to all who live and work on the Outer Banks if  we do not cough up, now and in perpetuity,  the millions of dollars it will take to "save our beaches".  (Never "save our oceanfront rental houses" but always "save our beaches" even though beach renourishment has little or nothing to do with saving beaches).


     The voice of Chicken Little will be heard in the land once again as the well-heeled pro-nourishment forces roll out their armamentarium of half-truths, distortions and obfuscations in an effort to frighten the rest of us into supporting what many believe to be a foolish and costly program.


    Uncle Jack will review a few of the misleading and sometimes preposterous  arguments that the pro-nourishment folks will throw at us in the run-up to Nags Head's referendum on the issue as soon as he catches his breath.



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6:15 a.m. What a lovely surprise.

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Same time. The northern sky.

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A closeup using the infamous 10x zoom.

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First glimpse of the rising sun in four days. Heartwarming.

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Here to stay.

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Remember the Forbes candy store and putt-putt golf course on the beach road just south of the Wharf? Guess what's replacing it?

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Uncle Jack is becoming a connoisseur of sand castles this summer. This is one of the most complex and largest he has seen. It's really too much for one picture.

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This is a close-up of just one section.

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This one close to the pier pails somewhat by comparison.

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It's unusual to see pelicans flying south in the morning. Perhaps these guys were returning home after a big night out in Currituck County.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:58 AM

Comments [12]



Wednesday, August 23, 2006
Unrise in Sonag, Wednesday August 23, 2006

     South Nags Head is solidly socked in with clouds this morning so there won't be any new sunrise pictures for third day in a row.  It's not exactly raining right now but it looks like it might so Uncle Jack will eschew his usual beach walk for a while to see what happens.  Yesterday finally made nice by noon and maybe today will do the same.


     He will use the time instead to continue his windy dissertation on what can be done on the Outer Banks to cope with the scourge of "erosion"---more accurately the age-old and inexorable movement of the Outer Banks to the west.  Yesterday he answered the question posed by Bob from New Jersey, to wit: "What can we do?" with the somewhat flippant sounding "Get out of the way."  Today he will elaborate.


     He truly believes that those coastal geologists (and Orrin Pilkey of Duke is only one of many) who have concluded after years of study that there is only one sensible, sustainable approach to dealing with the westward movement of barrier islands and that is to retreat in the face of it.  They recognize that it is foolish to build anything on the oceanfront but once that has been done it is even more foolish to try to keep buildings there once the ocean overtakes them as it inevitably will.


      The Coastal Area Management Act courageously reflected this knowledge when it banned the use of hardened structures to protect oceanfront structures nearly 35 years ago. Unfortunately this wise law has been gutted by successive amendments permitting the use of sandbags on a temporary basis to allow structures to be moved out of harms way.  This sensible accommodation to the needs of oceanfront property owners has been flouted to the point where hundreds of buildings (perhaps thousands, with more to come) are anchored in place by mountains of  huge sandbags which have kept them in place for years.


      The inevitable result, as plainly seen in many parts of South Nags Head, is that buildings so protected are now sitting in the ocean much of the time with no beach in front of them at all except during periods of extreme low tide, and sometimes not even then. No effort has been made to move these buildings out of harm's way as the original law intended, and no effort has been made by authorities to enforce the law.


      The usually accepted explanation for this failure is that oceanfront property owners should be allowed to protect their buildings until something called "beach renourishment" has been accomplished, after which the sandbags can be safely removed.  Local governments have committed themselves to carrying out some kind of beach renourishment as soon as funds can be obtained with which to do it.


     This is no longer as easy as it once was when the federal government lavished countless millions on beach replenishment projects planned and supervised by the Army Corps of Engineers (recently infamous for its faulty design and construction of failed levees in New Orleans).  When the federal government, not noted for its fiscal restraint in any area of human endeavor,  decided not to waste any more money on futile beach renourishment projects it should have caused local governments to think twice about the wisdom of spending local taxes in the same way.


     But it didn't so now we are in a holding pattern while local governments try to figure out how to raise the vast amounts of money required to dump dredged sand on the beaches in a costly and never-ending effort to stave off the inevitable destruction of  the buildings that happen to be in danger at his particular moment in geological time.


    It is Uncle Jack's contention, and that of most coastal scientists and many other people who have studied this issue, that to embark on this course of action is foolish and indefensible. Entire books ("Against the Tide" by Cornelia Dean is a particularly good one).  Readers would get a much fuller picture of the issue by reading one of those tomes than by listening to Uncle Jack fulminate but he has up a pretty good head of steam now and will continue this tomorrow.  


 Hang in there. He will run out of gas sooner or later.


      



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The Comfort Inn South has done a little more tidying. The wreckage of the old swimming pool has been covered up and a sand fence erected to keep people away from it. The Inn is turning into a kind of Potemkin Village.

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Newman's Shell Shop fans who might like to make a pilgrimage to the former site should look for these twin behemoths that replaced it.

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When Uncle Jack asked these kids what they were doing they said "Digging. What are you doing?" He answered "Taking pictures". It takes two to tango.

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This young man said he was preparing to become an accountant.

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These gulls were cooling their heels in the surf yesterday afternoon while squawking at each other. Hilarious.

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This young lady should have no difficulty finding young men to bait her hooks.

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This unusually ambitious drip sculpture was almost in the shadow of the South Nags Head pier.

posted by Uncle Jack at 8:56 AM

Comments [11]



Tuesday, August 22, 2006
Unrise in Sonag, Tuesday August 22, 2006

       It's raining in South Nags Head again this morning so Uncle Jack won't be taking any pictures of today's sunrise.  No doubt the sun will rise but he won't be able to see it so there's no point in walking up to the beach.


     He will use his beachwalking time instead to begin to try to answer the question posed by Bob C. of New Jersey in yesterday's "comments", to wit U/J....WHAT IS YOUR ANSWER TO THE BEACH PROBLEM WHICH IS CONSTANT TROUBLE EVERY STORM....IF THE WATER KEEPS COMING....AND WE BOTH KNOW U DONT STOP IT .......WHATS THE ANSWER??????IN UR OPINION


     Basically Uncle Jack's answer is "get out of the way".  The ocean is pushing the Outer Banks to the west in a process that has been going on for thousands of centuries.  Up until relatively recently, say the last century or so, this has not posed a problem for anyone.  There were no man-made structures in place to be affected by this inexorable westward movement of the land so there was no particular need for anyone even to understand what was happening.


     Roughly a hundred years ago people started building houses and permanent roads on the Outer Banks relatively close to the westward-moving shoreline. This was a radical change from earlier times when the first non-native settlers built their structures (there were no roads to worry about) as far from the ocean as the width of the islands permitted. (Even then they often could not escape the damaging effects of ocean overwash during severe storms which routinely destroyed buildings even on the sound side of the islands).


     In recent decades all the lessons that could have been learned from the past history of the Outer Banks have been ignored.  Development along the shoreline has proceeded at a manic pace with little or no thought about the long-term consequences of building "permanent" structures at the edge of the sea.


     Some of the oldest oceanfront structures in Nags Head have survived the westward movement of the land under them for over a century by the simple expedient of moving with it.  The oldest of the cottages in the "historic district" have been picked up and moved back several times on their deep lots. 


     They have been moved back so far, in fact, that they are pushing up against the first "permanent" road in Nags Head, the Beach Road built in 1930, the year Uncle Jack was born as fate would have it.  Today both Uncle Jack and the Beach Road are, in a sense, reaching the end of their useful lives.  (Is that morbid or what?)


     The Beach Road opened up the entire ocean front from Kitty Hawk to Whalebone for development of everything from tiny summer cottages to large hotels. Many of the earliest structures, including some large ones like the Arlington Hotel, long ago succumbed to the steady westward movement of the land under them. Others, like the First Colony Inn, were removed to safer locations and are enjoying a second life.  


     Mistakes of the past were compounded when developers pushed down into South Nags Head below Whalebone Junction in the 60's.  Much of the land between the new road (Old Oregon Inlet Road) and the ocean was carved up into small lots served by streets running east and west which allowed many more structures to be built than would have been the case if deep lots had been platted running from the edge of the ocean back to the road.  The latter would have allowed houses to be moved back as they were threatened just as was done in the historic district.


     Problems developed very quickly in South Nags Head.  The land under the first rows of new cottages began to move out from under them as soon as they were built, leaving many of them "high and wet" as it were. Some could be moved straight back if the lot behind them was still vacant.  Others were moved elsewhere, often to the other side of Old Oregon Inlet Road which is now almost solidly built up.


    Whole streets in South Nags, like the oceanfront section of Altoona Street, washed away in storms and many cottages went with them.  Many others were saved by prudent owners who moved them out of harms way while they still could.


     In spite of all the obvious evidence that South Nags Head was a very risky place to build anything on or near the oceanfront the pace of development has been frenetic.  Small buildings have been moved off the oceanfront, not to save them but to make room for huge houses.  There is little or no land left to which the smaller, older cottages now threatened by the sea can be moved.


     So now what do we do?  asks Bob C. from New Jersey.    Uncle Jack, the indefatigable windbag, will offer his considered opinion in this space tomorrow.  Stay tuned if you wish.


Today's witticism:"God must love stupid people. He made so many".    


      



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The beach in the "historic district" after a storm many years ago. Uncle Jack is not sure of the date.

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After the same storm. Note the previous locations of some of these cottages. Also notice the VAST amount of sand that was scoured from the beach in this storm. All of the objects shown had been buried.

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Another view. Imagine $30 million worth of "beach renourishment" vanishing over night as would have happened in this storm.

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Storms like this will keep coming forever. Is there any point in drawing a line in the sand and telling Mother Nature she can go no farther?

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This gigantic "cottage" in South Nags Head was still under construction when Isabel came and filled its unfinished swimming pool with sand.

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Part of the septic system washed away before it could be put into operation. Should the taxpayers of Nags Head and/or Dare County be burdened with the never-ending cost of preserving this risky investment?

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This was the house next door that Isabel destroyed. Since then another giant house has been built on the same lot but closer to Oregon Inlet Road. How much time does it have? Who knows?

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Mother Nature cleared all this crap off the beach in front of Surfside Drive and renewed it all by herself. There's a lovely, wide, natural beach here now.

posted by Uncle Jack at 8:48 AM

Comments [17]



Monday, August 21, 2006
Sunrise in Sonag, Monday August 21, 2006

      This is Monday with a vengeance.  Uncle Jack started for the beach a few minutes ago, camera in hand, only to discover that a light rain is falling out of a completely overcast sky.  Needless to say there will be no sunrise pics this morning.  Maybe he can find one in the archives to cheer you up.


      Yesterday was pure August on the Outer Banks.  Hot as Hades and humid as Houston. In other words perfect beach weather.  If the weatherperson is correct there won't be another one like it until later in the week. Merchants must be quivering with anticipation.


     Here's something from the archives to help while away a few minutes as your Monday afternoon in front of the computer begins to drag:


                The More Things Change


Uncle Jack spent a couple of cold January days in bed with the flu last week an so he had plenty of time to look ahead (through bloodshot eyes) at what might be in store for the Outer Banks during the coming year.


FEBRUARY: A mild northeaster topples twelve houses into the surf in South Nags Head. Most of the wreckage washes ashore near Salvo where happy developers announce they will use it to build 24 new oceanfront condos.


MARCH: More than 250 Outer Banks restaurants officially open for the season joining 47 others that pretended to stay open all winter. Of the 250 about 75 are actually new and the rest are under new ownership. In their “Grand Opening” advertisements the restaurateurs collectively demonstrate 47 different ways to misspell the word “cuisine”.


APRIL: Chamber of Commerce officials announce that Easter Weekend was the biggest ever on the Outer Banks, drawing an estimated 1.5 million visitors who spent approximately $6.5 million more than last year. An informal survey of area businesses, however, reveals that most businesses actually made less money this Easter Weekend than last. “For the life of us we can’t figure out why that is”, a Chamber spokesman says.


MAY: Dare County officials predict that the severe labor shortage which has plagued Outer Banks employers for the past several seasons will be worse than ever this summer. Citing the continual shortage of low cost housing for seasonal workers, one county commissioner proposes setting aside 40 acres of the Baum Tract in Kill Devil Hills as a designated overnight parking area where workers and their Labrador retrievers could sleep in their pickup trucks without fear of hassling by local gendarmes. ”They could use the toilets over at the new Chamber of Commerce building so it wouldn’t cost the county a cent”. the commissioner suggests.


JUNE: A spokesman for Global International Malls of Lausanne, Switzerland announces that his firm will seek rezoning of a 400 acre tract fronting the bypass in Kill Devil Hills. “We are confident that the commissioners will want to approve the rezoning”, spokesman Joe Bob Tacky says, “when they learn that the new shopping center will employ up to 35 persons, at least during July and August.” He adds that Global International will present each commissioner with a Gucci bag filled with unmarked twenties, “no strings attached” as soon as the rezoning has been effected.


JULY: An overloaded tractor trailer overturns while attempting to negotiate the sharp curve in front of the Duck Deli, dumping 18 tons of bamboo shingles into the narrow roadway and bringing traffic to a standstill from Wilmington, N.C. to Wilmington, Delaware. ”They have got to do something about this bleeping curve” says driver Byron Munchausen of Raleigh who was attempting to deliver the shingles to the Casa del Sushi development north of Corolla where 780 bamboo and stucco townhouses are under construction. Munchausen speaks highly of the hot pastrami with Swiss on rye at the Duck Deli where he dines for several days while waiting for his employers to fly in a crew of laborers from Guatemala to reload his truck.


AUGUST: Currituck County commissioners give the go-ahead to Consolidated Intergalactic Land Company of Shanghai for “Lorna Dunes”, a proposed 3000 unit ocean-to-sound development near the Virginia line. When questioned by taxpayers who complain that the only access road is already seriously overtaxed, that water supplies are inadequate and power shortages imminent, the commissioners respond in unison, “So?”


SEPTEMBER: The Dare County Tourist Bureau reports that in spite of horrendous traffic jams, overcrowded beaches, poor service in understaffed shops and restaurants and typically lousy summer fishing, more people visited the Outer Banks and spent more money this year than in any previous season. While most visitors appear to have had a good time in spite of all the aggravations one vacationer, identified as a “Mr. Berra” of Brooklyn, N.Y. complains that “This place is getting so crowded nobody wants to come here any more.”


 



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Here's a sunrise from one day last August to tide you over until the next one.

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In Memoriam. Newman's Shell Shop a year or so ago.

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This one happened in November last year. Awesome.

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This post-Isabel berm at Seagull Drive lasted no time at all. Something there is that doesn't like a berm. The folks on the west side of Seagull can't say the town (and FEMA) didn't try to save their bacon.

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This sunrise thrilled all those who were awake to see it one morning in September 2004. This was taken up in Currituck County when U.J. and Mrs. U.J. were returning to Nags Head from Dulles after a trip to Europe.

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The brand new berm at Surfside Drive a year after Isabel. FEMA paid for this folly as well as the vanished berm at Seagull. Future efforts to draw a line in the sand like this will have to come out of the local treasury. There will be no end to it. Ever

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A storm a month later.

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Look, Ma! No berm! Does anybody really think that dumping sand on the beach at a cost of millions is really going to stop this from happening in the future?

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This house encroached on the beach for years before the town tore it down last year. There are many more like it in South Nags Head and there will be many more as homeowners continue to armor the front line with massive sandbags.

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Like this one, for example. Beach renourishment is years away (if it ever comes) so we can all watch for the continued transformation of beautiful South Nags Head into "Sandbag City".

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:27 AM

Comments [15]



Sunday, August 20, 2006
Sunrise in Sonag, Sunday August 20, 2006

     Yet another spectacular morning on the beach in South Nags Head, North Carolina. Light wind out of the northeast, relatively dry air for this time of year, temperature in the mid-70's and a gorgeous, sky-filling sunrise to top it all off. Again Uncle Jack's heart goes out to all those, including his own grandson and spouse, who have to leave the beach today.                                                   


      Andy and Liz started their long trek to Fitchburg, Mass. in the dark at 5:30 this morning and probably won't get home until 9 p.m. or later depending on the traffic). Uncle Jack once made the same trip some years back in his new secondhand Jeep and lived to write a column about it which he wishes he could find.  It included a near-death experience on the Tappan Zee bridge over the Hudson River which still flashes into his mind from time-to-time.


     The return trip on that occasion was even more memorable.  Uncle Jack had over-imbibed the night before on a Scandinavian mulled wine called "glug" which he used to wash down vast quantities of pickled herring, Swedish meatballs, Christmas cookies and other assorted delicacies at what is known among Swedes as a "Lucia Fest".  Never before or since has he been so hung over which would have been bad enough in itself but his misery was compounded by an ice storm the night before which coated all the streets and highways in the area with a glaze of ice.


    Somehow he slipped and slid to dry ground in Connecticut and then proceeded to bounce along interstates in his short-wheelbase Jeep all the way to the Eastern Shore of Maryland where his growing queasiness could no longer be denied.  He checked into a fleabag hotel and spent several hours throwing up before exhaustion overwhelmed illness and he fell asleep.


    He felt very little better the next morning when he departed for Nags Head, no doubt leaving the maids wondering which motorcycle gang had spent the night partying in his room.  Needless to say he doesn't do things like that any more.


Today's witticism:  "I'm not a complete idiot. Some parts are missing".


 



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6 a.m. The picture does not come close to doing it justice.

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That 10x zoom helps a little.

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That's more like it.

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The color eventually spread out across the whole sky.

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This cloud super-nova was exploding in the northern sky.

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Meanwhile, down in the south......

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In the east at 6:25 the sun was preparing to make an appearance.

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And there she be. Almost an anti-climax after the trailers.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:36 AM

Comments [7]



Saturday, August 19, 2006
Sunrise in Sonag, Saturday August 19, 2006

     What a glorious morning in South Nags Head.  The wind is off the ocean, the sea calm, the sky nearly cloudless and the humidity hardly noticeable.  This is going to be a really tough day for visitors to pack up and go home and Uncle Jack's heart goes out to each and every one of them, including Will.


    He and Mrs. U.J. took a post-prandial stroll down to the Outer Banks pier and back at sunset last evening which is one of their favorite times to be on the beach.  There is something about the light on the water coming from the setting sun that is magical.  He was happy to see so many folks who had managed to tear themselves away from their TVs and were out enjoying nature's prime time for a change. 


     Have a great weekend wherever you are.



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6 a.m. Still quite dark. Sunrise is getting later every day and it's time for Uncle Jack to adjust his internal clock.

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6:35 Still trying to get above the clouds on the horizon.

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Breakthrough.

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The sky last evening around sunset contained a sampler of just about every kind of cloud. These were in the north.

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And these were in the south.

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The Outer Banks pier was slammed. Who could care if the fish were biting or not on an evening like this.

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It was a great day for messing with sand yesterday. Presumably the "P" on this four-foot tall pile stands for "pyramid" but you never know.

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This drip castle might have been inspired by the great Spanish architect Antonio Gaudi. Or maybe it was the other way around.

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Remember the Sea Oatel? The oceanfront lots that resulted from its demolition are still vacant.

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Here's its counterpart in KDH, the Tanarama, waiting for transport to the dump. What, if anything, will be built on this very narrow stretch of beach?

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:31 AM

Comments [2]



Friday, August 18, 2006
Sunrise in Sonag, Friday August 18, 2006

     South Nags Head is one soggy neighborhood this morning after another drenching last night which has produced palpable humidity. Yesterday started out like this and then metamorphosed into a perfect beach day, much to the chagrin of merchants who had been praying for enough daylight precipitation to push a few customers off the beach and into their stores.


    Uncle Jack seeks help this morning from any of his computer savvy readers who have used the Windows Moviemaker program that he just discovered in his H-P laptop.  It's a wonderful program for making slideshows but he has not been able to make it work.  He gets all the way to the point where he clicks on "burn disk" but then he gets an error message saying that there is no drive available or words to that effect.  This is in spite of the fact that there is a DVD tray in his computer on which he has burned many a disk using other programs such as Picasa.  He has tried CD-R, CD-RW and DVD-R disks (several of each to make sure the problem was not a faulty disk).  If anybody has a clue as to what might be wrong he would love to hear from you.  (His "help" programs don't help at all as usual).


     It's Friday again, right?  When you're retired it don't mean a thing.  Have a nice day wherever you are.



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6 a.m. There were enough black clouds lingering in the area so that Uncle Jack took an umbrella to the beach with him this morning. He didn't need it.

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6:25 or thereabouts. The whole sky was lit up in pink at this point but the camera couldn't quite encompass it.

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Here's a sample.

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U.J. and Mrs. U.J. strolled up to Jennette's after dinner last evening and were pleased to see the cosmetic improvements around the Comfort Inn South.

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A mountain of sandbags has once again been concealed by a thin veneer of sand that will soon disappear. At least they try.

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Once again the stairway descends all the way to the beach which should be helpful to the hotel's guests who have been forced to find another route for the past couple of days.

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This was a scene in South Nags Head the day after Hurricane Isabel about two years ago. Note the house at the left edge of the picture next door to the wreck.

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Here it is again, two years later. It sold earlier this year for just under a million dollars. Do the taxpayers of Nags Head really have any kind of moral obligation to protect this investment by spending millions to build a new beach in front of it?

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Who needs green fees? These slightly inebriated gentlemen were amusing themselves last evening by driving golf balls into the ocean. How often does a surfer hear "Fore!" he wonders.

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Sunset clouds can be lovely to look at, too.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:45 AM

Comments [9]



Thursday, August 17, 2006
Sunrise in Sonag, Thursday August 17, 2006

   Rain was rattling Uncle Jack's skylights at 6 a.m. and he thought his usual morning walk to the beach would be a washout.  The rain stopped ten minutes later and he was treated to a magnificent show of  ominous black rainclouds looming on the horizon in all directions.  There was scarcely a glimmer of sun but the cloud show made up for its absence. 


      As promised Uncle Jack herewith presents a synopsis of last night's public hearing on a proposal by the Nags Head Board of Commissioners to ban the future placement of sandbags on the oceanfront to protect structures threatened by erosion.  Predictably the owners of property that might be affected by this ban were out in force, vocal to the point of hysteria in some cases, and sufficiently organized to bring in hired "experts" on law and beach erosion to both threaten (with litigation) and ridicule (with ludicrously inapt examples) the notion that the use of sandbags could be anything but beneficial to the beach, the town's coffers, and the public at large.


     The pro-sandbag speakers totally overwhelmed (in quantity and volume if not in logic) the puny anti-sandbag protests raised by a tiny handful of speakers (Uncle Jack included) and in the end three of the five commissioners voted to let die the proposal to do something about the sandbag mess in Nags Head. Only Mayor Renee Cahoon (who had raised the issue in the first place, and commissioner Bob Oakes, a developer and oceanfront property owner who possesses the ability, rare among local politicians, to see beyond the moment).


     The most frequent argument given in favor of continued use of sandbags was that they are the only effective way to save structures from destruction until beach renourishment makes them no longer necessary.  Several speakers who have recently purchased oceanfront property did so, they said, because they were confident that beach renourishment was just around the corner and would justify their investments.


     Commissioner Oakes and others cautioned that beach renourishment was anything but a given no matter how much oceanfront property owners would like it to be.  While the town board has committed itself to try to launch a do-it-ourselves project to the tune of $32 million there is great uncertainty as to whether it can be pulled off.


     Any funding plan of that magnitude will have to be submitted to the voters of Nags Head, very few of whom own oceanfront property.  If these voters demonstrate the same level of self-interest in protecting their purses as the pro-sandbag forces showed last night in protecting theirs, the probability of a significant beach renourishment project in Nags Head recedes even further into the distant future. 


     In the meantime look for continued proliferation of sandbags and the consequent degradation of the beach environment they bring with them. Yuk.



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6:15 a.m. looking east.

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ditto looking north.

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ditto looking southeast.

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This is as close as we got to a sunrise.

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According to one of the speakers last night the owner of this cottage spent $30,000 to install these sandbags earlier this year. Was this a wise investment, one might ask?

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Considering that this heavily sandbagged house next door sold for well over $600,000 last year it might make some sense. (Especially if a prospective buyer believes in the beach renourishment fairy).

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This cottage nearby sold for nearly a million dollars earlier this year. Look for sandbags in the near future.

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Here's a stairway nobody's using. Looks like it could replace the little aluminum ladder in yesterday's picture.

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Flight after flight of pelicans flew by this morning. Always an inspiring sight. Look for a lot more sandbags under this row of cottages, too.

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Lots of peat patches on the beach this morning. For some reason Mother Nature decided to push a lot of sand back up on the beach last night bringing the peat granules with it.

posted by Uncle Jack at 8:15 AM

Comments [7]



Wednesday, August 16, 2006
Sunrise in Sonag, Wednesday August 16, 2006

     Uncle Jack almost missed the sunrise completely this morning. He had a lot of trouble sleeping in the middle of the night while his digestive tract was locked in mortal combat with a slice of  Mrs. U.J.'s incredibly rich and tasty cheesecake.  Cheesecake is not on the approved menu of healthy foods they have been following for the past year-and-a-half and Uncle Jack's stomach has apparently forgotten how to handle it.


     It was great going down, though, along with the spectacular crabcakes she prepared dinner for our Massachusetts visitors last evening. One of the joys of having houseguests is the necessity of pandering to their unhealthy lifestyles, especially in the food and drink departments.


    Uncle Jack did manage to get to the beach by 6:35 by which time the sun was already above the horizon but still photogenic.  With the return of humid air from the south the beach and ocean were bathed in mist that softened the ugliness of the neighborhood sandbags.  This should be yet another in the long parade of perfect beach days which August visitors have enjoyed.


     Speaking of sandbags, don't forget tonight's meeting of the Nags Head Board of Commissioners at 7:30 in the meeting room under the water tank.  The board will hear comments from the public on their proposal to ban further installation of sandbags on the town's beaches.  If you can get to the meeting you might find it considerably more entertaining than whatever happens to be on TV tonight. If you can't be there Uncle Jack will try to take notes and present a full report tomorrow morning. He plans to wear his flak jacket.


 


   


    



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6:35 a.m.

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Ten minutes later. It got prettier as the morning went on.

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What could be prettier than the morning sun reflecting off piles of sandbags?

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The Outer Banks pier was shrouded in mist that has no doubt burned off by now.

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The Comfort Inn South was similarly obscured by mist which is not entirely a bad thing the way it looks these days.

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Some budding architect lavished attention on this elaborate sculpture yesterday. Note the fine details of steps and windows.

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Composition No. 1 with overturned helmet crab and sand crab hole by Uncle Jack. Eat your heart out Andy Warhol.

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Wipe-out. This kid should get a medal for trying but not much else at this stage of his surfing career.

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Sandpipers. An unending source of delight in a world gone mad.

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O.K. guys. You have been very patient.

posted by Uncle Jack at 8:20 AM

Comments [11]



Tuesday, August 15, 2006
Sunrise in Sonag, Tuesday August 15, 2006

     The wind is back where it belongs at this time of year---out of the southwest---which means the return of normal heat and humidity.  It's already 80 at dawn which probably means 90 by noon.


      Uncle Jack is probably beginning to sound like a broken record but he continues to be amazed at the present shape of the beach.  Mother Nature seems to have moved a zillion tons of sand about 100 feet to the east in the past few days which has left stairways dangling while producing an incredibly wide, flat and hard beach at low tide, which it was at 6 this morning.  Nascar could hold a race in South Nags Head these days at low tide.


    Yesterday was about as perfect as a day can get.  Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. took their daily constitutional at around 7:30 last evening and the beach was still crowded with people who obviously didn't want it to end.  It looks like today will be another one but a bit warmer. Condolences to all who can't be here for one reason or another---such as having to earn a living.  Life truly is brutish, nasty and short.


    Here's another time capsule from the archives: 


                               Shuckin’ and Jivin’



Dear Uncle Jack,


I was watching Entertainment Tonight and they were talking about this rich and famous artist named Andy Warhol. They said he got rich and famous for painting pictures of Brillo boxes and Campbell Soup cans and then he spent the rest of his life going to parties.


I got fairly excited when I heard that because I have spent the last ten years going back and forth between shucking scallops and welfare and to be perfectly honest I have not found this to be a very rewarding life style. I would much rather be rich and famous the way Andy Warhol was so I was hoping you could tell me something I could paint pictures of that would get me out of this rut.


Jasper Jones


Wanchese



Dear Jasper,


Uncle Jack hates to be the bearer of bad tidings but he can tell you it is not as easy as it sounds to get rich and famous the way Andy Warhol did. For one thing you have to move to New York City. There is no way you are going to get anywhere painting Brillo boxes or anything else unless you move to New York City because that is the only place you will find anybody to buy them. They have a lot of people up there who have so much money they do not know what to do with it so that is why the market for pictures of soup cans is so much better up there than it is in Wanchese or even Elizabeth City.


Uncle Jack happens to know that Andy Warhol was born in McKeesport, Pennsylvania which is a mill town where the general taste in art tends to run toward what you would find on the Acme Auto Parts calendar. If Andy Warhol had tried to sell his pictures of soup cans in McKeesport those steelworkers would have taken him down and held his head under the Monongahela River so he did the smart thing and took his pictures up to New York City.


Unfortunately Uncle Jack has to warn you that just because you move to NYC does not necessarily mean that you will get rich and famous like Andy Warhol.They already have a million artists up there painting pictures of everything from American flags to dog doo and most of them have to wait on tables when they are not on unemployment. Uncle Jack can tell you if he had to choose between shucking scallops in Wanchese and waiting tables in NYC it would not be hard.


He has to admit that once Andy Warhol got rich and famous he surely did have an interesting life style and also many unusual friends of which only one ever tried to kill him as far as he knows.


If you want to give it a try you will go with Uncle Jack’s blessing but he prefers to stay here with his Acme Auto Parts catalog with the picture of Miss April who is wearing only one hubcap if you know what he means. If you ask him there is much to be said for life in the slow lane.


Esthetically,


Uncle Jack



 


 


 


 


 


 



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6 a.m. It was actually prettier than it looks in the picture. Lots of awesome dark clouds over the horizon.

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6:21 a.m. Right on time as usual.

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After rising the sun played peek-a-boo through the clouds for a while. Very pretty.

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If you get up early enough you can have this all to yourself for a while. Nice.

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Except for the wildlife of course. This gull is presumably saying grace before tying into that serendipitous dead fish.

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This peripatetic little cuty moved so fast that Uncle Jack's clunky old Mavica could hardly catch up with her. It is better at capturing stationary fishing piers.

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Where there's a will there's a way.

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Your guess is as good as Uncle Jack's. (Watch for it in a theater near you).

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This shell and sea oat composition is pleasing but the artist apparently didn't know that picking sea oats is punishable by death in South Nags Head.

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A perennial pastime in South Nags Head where the wide, flat beaches and steady winds encourage kite flying.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:36 AM

Comments [15]



Monday, August 14, 2006
Sunrise in South Nags Head, Monday 8/14/06

     South Nags Head is wrapped in a cloud of stinking smoke this morning from a grass fire in the National Seashore a couple of miles south of Whalebone Junction.  Uncle Jack does not know if it is a controlled burn or something else but it started yesterday afternoon and has been pumping out acrid smoke for the past 15 hours or so.  He thought he was back in Pittsburgh when he stepped out of the house this morning.


     The beach is magnificent.  High tide last night swept it clean nearly to the dune line in many places and he has never seen it so wide, flat and walkable. (He said this a couple of weeks ago, too, but it's even more amazing now).  It was cool enough for a sweater at 6 a.m. but it looks like another spectacular beach day----except for the pall of smoke.  An east wind would blow it all away but who knows if we will get an east wind.  You can't have everything.


    To all those who (like his only begotten son) have to go back to work this Monday morning Uncle Jack offers his deepest sympathy.  Here's a little something from the archives to help pass the time:


                    Shredded Hopes



Dear Uncle Jack,


I spent two weeks on the Outer Banks last summer and now I spend most of my time trying to figure out how I could make a living down there. I have a terrific job running a shredding machine for the C.I.A. and I'm really good at it so I was wondering if you knew anybody down there who is looking for an experienced shredder. I could be there tomorrow if they need me and if the hours were right I would even consider working for less than the $75,000 I'm making now. I won't sleep until I hear from you, Uncle Jack, so please hurry.


Anxious


McLean, Virginia


Dear Anxious,


Uncle Jack is certainly glad to hear that you would be willing to take a modest pay cut because that will help you a lot when you go looking for a job down here. He is not sure what they are paying paper shredders over at the county office building but he doubts if it's anywhere near $75,000. They have surprised him before, though, so you might want to check it out when you get down here.


The big problem you face, though, is that there just aren't that many openings for paper shredders down here due to the general lack of large scale covert activity. There is probably a little hanky panky from time to time in some of the lawyers’ offices but most of it usually gets torn up by hand and flushed down the toilet.


What it boils down to if you ask Uncle Jack, and you did, is that you might have to go into some other line of work, or at least you might have to adapt your highly developed shredding skills to something other than paper.


Have you thought about cabbage? There is hardly a restaurant on the Outer Banks that doesn't have to make a ton of coleslaw every day and that means shredding a lot of cabbage. You might think about picking up a government surplus high performance shredder and setting yourself up in the wholesale coleslaw business.


If you want to know the truth that is about the only business he can think of that there is not at least two of already on the Outer Banks. For example if you are thinking about opening a discount department store forget it. There is already a Wal-Mart and a K-Mart down here and that's at least one too many if you ask Uncle Jack.


He knows how you feel about wanting to move to the Outer Banks, though, because he had the same problem once, a long time ago. All he can say is that if you want to live here badly enough you will find a way.


Optimistically,


Uncle Jack



P.S. How do you feel about selling real estate?



 


 



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6 a.m. Not a cloud in the sky.

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6:23 No waiting this morning.

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The Mavica's 10x zoom works on the sun as well as on pier houses.

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Eat your heart out Rehoboth Beach.

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Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. walked up to Jennette's pier at sunset last night to check things out. The last high tide uncovered some of the remains of the old Comfort Inn swimming pool that collapsed a few years back.

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This lovely sand sculpture was far more photogenic.

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The artist(s) even gave the creature some scary-looking teeth and toenails. Uncle Jack loves stuff like this.

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Here's another. A somewhat abstract tower built of sand fence slats and chunks of concrete scavenged from the beach. Magnificent.

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Smoke at sunset. At this point the wind was blowing it away over Roanoke Sound. This morning it's directing it to South Nags Head.

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Let's try the other side of the hotel.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:31 AM

Comments [6]



Sunday, August 13, 2006
Sunrise in Sonag, Sunday August 13, 2006

     A preternatural quiet has settled over Uncle Jack's domain with the departure of both his grandchildren and the workmen who have banged and sawed their way to completion of the Mini's new domicile.  He nearly overslept this morning but awakened just in time to make his usual pre-dawn peregrination to the beach.


     Yesterday's roaring ocean has settled down a good bit but Mother Nature has left her calling card in the form of collapsed sand fences and steep cliffs at the foot of numerous stairways, including the one Uncle Jack uses at the foot of Whitecap Street.  He was able to jump down with little difficulty but getting back up to the bottom step was a struggle.


    The beach vanished at high tide yesterday in many parts of  South Nags Head but at low tide this morning it was as wide as he has ever seen it.  It appears that much of the sand that was scoured off the beach yesterday has simply moved east a bit and formed new bars that are now visible at low tide. Walking is a joy as the sand is flat and hard in most places.


     The wind is still coming out of the northeast  and pushing up some surf so it remains to be seen if swimming will be permitted today.  Uncle Jack needed a jacket early this morning but this is shaping up to be a nearly perfect beach day.


     His trip to the airport yesterday was blessedly uneventful.  The usual Saturday afternoon traffic tie-up on highway 158 in Currituck county did not materialize until about a mile north of the Wright Brothers bridge and even then it took only twenty minutes to reach the Welcome Center.  The worst part of the trip was the stop-and-go crawl through two-dozen stoplights on the bypass between the Wal-Mart and Whalebone Junction.  Lucky for him there were no fender benders along the way.


     And now it's time to get ready for the next wave of grandchildren (adult variety---they bring beer) who arrive this afternoon.  Out with the old sand, in with the new.



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6 a.m. Looks promising.

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6:15 Almost the moment of truth. At this point there was still a celestial body visible above the eastern horizon that Uncle Jack suspects might be Mars. Anybody know for sure?

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About 6:20. Here to stay for another day.

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The beach was so wide this morning that Uncle Jack could get around this house without having to climb on the sandbags. Even the trash truck could drive around it.

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The rappelling rope will have to be extended a bit this morning in front of this cottage. The clay cliffs of Currituck.

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Pelicans in flight. Always a lovely sight in the morning.

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There should be plenty of room for everybody in South Nags Head this morning.

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A pretty cloud. One of the few in the sky this morning.

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Uncle Jack followed this beach-bound SUV across the Wright Brothers bridge. New Jersey plates, packed to the gills with every known form of beach paraphernalia. Quintessential.

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One of the advantages of a 10x optical zoom. Notice how the pier house of the South Nags Head pier stands out in this picture.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:34 AM

Comments [16]



Saturday, August 12, 2006
Sunrise in Sonag, Saturday August 12, 2006

      October in August might be the best way to describe today's early-morning weather.  There is a stiff wind blowing out of the northeast, the surf is up, the humidity down.  All in all a good day for packing up and leaving the Outer Banks if that is what you have to do.  The red "no swimming" flags will be out today for sure.


     The great fishing trip yesterday was a complete success with many fish caught and no serious mishaps.  The rain held off until the last few minutes and even then it did little more than add a soupcon of  adventure as we returned to the dock on the causeway.  Pictures below.


    Friday night was momentous for the Mini which spent its first night under cover in its splendid new garage.  It will seem strange not to have a yard full of  builders sawing and banging all day as we have for the past couple of weeks.  The garage is a thing of beauty and an asset to the community as it will serve as a sturdy hurricane shelter when the time comes.


    Today is back-to-the-airport-in-Norfolk-day as Uncle Jack's visiting family prepare for their departure for California on a 7:30 a.m. flight on Sunday.  Who knows what they will encounter at check-in time tomorrow.  Or what Uncle Jack will encounter on his return trip to Nags Head late on a Saturday afternoon in August. It has been a delightful week no matter what happens.


Today's aphorism:  "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a cash advance."  Uncle Jack knows.



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California tourists gaze eastward for the last time at 6 a.m. this morning. The sun never did appear because of the heavy cloud cover on the horizon.

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There's a sun over there somewhere. It was supposed to appear at this time---6:20.

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The surf did a bit more chopping at high tide last night. Uncle Jack's granddaughter Kelly did a bit of early morning rappelling on one of the cliffs.

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This lovely creature washed in from somewhere during the night. It must be very old because it didn't smell.

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Alexander the Great (fisherman, that is) catches them two at a time. He was fishing near the sunken barge at the entrance to Wanchese Harbor.

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His sister Kelly is no slouch in the croaker catching department either.

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Their father caught the biggest fish of the day, a puppy drum weighing at least a pound.

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Good to go. Looking south.

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Gravel to absorb rainfall from the roof. Big Bob leaves no stone unturned to produce a fine building.

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This is one lucky Mini.

posted by Uncle Jack at 8:03 AM

Comments [6]



Friday, August 11, 2006
Sunrise in Sonag, Friday August 11, 2006

     This will be a quickie as early morning preparations are underway for a foray into Roanoke Sound via pontoon boat.  Pictures will follow.


     Looks like another fabulous day in store for the Outer Banks.  The wind is out of the north, humidity is low, and the sky is almost cloud-free.


     Later, alligator, as they used to say.



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5:56 a.m.

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6:20 First sight.

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One more time.

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This industrious little critter entertained Uncle Jack for a few minutes this morning.

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These industrious fishermen did the same.

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Keith, the garage door guy, pauses in mid-installation. It's always a pleasure to watch a craftsman who knows what he is doing. It would have taken Uncle Jack three days to do what he did in an hour and a half.

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Almost ready for the Mini. Only a few mainly cosmetic touches remain.

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If you think you might want something built anywhere on the Outer Banks at any time in the future you might want to print out this sign. Big Bob is the best.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:02 AM

Comments [6]



Thursday, August 10, 2006
Sunrise in Sonag, Thursday August 10, 2006

     Not much of a sunrise this morning but it looks like another flawless August beach day is coming up.  The folks who picked this week for their vacation on the Outer Banks are getting their money's worth weatherwise but Uncle Jack's heart goes out to all the merchants who are sitting in their stores twiddling their thumbs over their silent cash registers.


     Uncle Jack is enjoying the tourist life in company with his visiting family from California.  Yesterday they drove the length of the Beach Road up to Will Thorpe's estimable High Cotton BBQ restaurant across the street from the new Hilton.  If you haven't tried it he can tell you it is a very pleasant place with tasty Q and ribs at prices he thought had gone out of style.  $4.95 for a generous pulled-pork sandwich with sides of cornbread, beans and cole slaw and enough sweetened ice tea to float the Crystal Dawn. (Uncle Jack hastens to add that he paid for his lunch---this testimonial was unsolicited.)


     Last evening he and Mrs. U.J. treated themselves and the grandchildren to a sunset cruise on the Crystal Dawn out of Pirate's Cove. The weather was perfect, the sunset spectacular and even the dolphins who inhabit that part of Roanoke Sound cooperated by showing off one of their new offspring.


     Progress was made on the Mini garage yesterday even though the garage door guys failed to show.  They are coming today. (?)  Stay tuned.


 Today's aphorism:  "He who dies with the most toys is nonetheless dead."    Words to live by when you don't have much money.



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5:50 a.m. Yesterday redux.

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6:19 Reassuring but not very exciting.

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Osprey families occupy many of the channel markers in Roanoke Sound. The Crystal Dawn passes many of them on the sunset cruise.

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Uncle Jack nearly drained the battery on his ancient Mavica trying to get a picture of the baby dolphin but this is as close as he came. Togetherness dolphin style.

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Sunset in progress over Wanchese at about 7:15. The Mavica could not do it justice.

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The reflected sunset looking east along the Roanoke Sound bridge was almost as pretty as the original.

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By 8 p.m. it looked like this over Pirate's Cove. Try to ignore the buildings jammed together on this once-desolate sandspit. Anybody remember the Drafty Tavern?

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A zillion dollars worth of boy toys all in a row at Pirate's Cove. And this is just a few of them.

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A good time was had by all. Especially by granddaughter Kelly. Grandson Alex is inscrutable.

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Big Bob Kwiatkowski, owner of Bottom Line Construction ("When Quality is your Bottom Line") applies shingles the old-fashioned way---with hammer and nails. You know the roof is strong because Big Bob is 6'5" and 300+ pounds.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:35 AM

Comments [9]



Wednesday, August 9, 2006
Sunrise in Sonag, Wednesday August 9, 2006

     Another beautiful morning on the Outer Banks.  Wind off the ocean bringing in warm water.  Not too hot.  Hard sand at the edge of the water facilitating a walk up to Jennette's pier and back.  Pretty sunrise.  All together not bad at all.


     No visit to the Outer Banks is complete without a visit to the aquarium and that is what Uncle Jack and his visiting family from California did yesterday (along with perhaps 10,000 other people---an astounding percentage of whom are seriously obese and take up a lot of room wherever they go).


     The special attraction yesterday---along with the sharks---was a visiting reptile expert who drew a capacity crowd to the auditorium to hear him show and tell about a variety of reptiles including an anaconda snake, a gila monster, a crocodile, and a large turtle.  Unfortunately he chose to do a great deal more telling than showing and Uncle Jack, who had just finished eating a mammoth lunch, fell asleep during his peroration on the crocodile---as did half the adult members of the audience. 


     Uncle Jack has not been to the aquarium for several years and he confesses to being somewhat surprised, shocked actually, at the hefty admission charges.  After spending so much time in London where admission to such worthy establishments as the British Museum, the National Gallery, the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Museum of Natural History is absolutely free at all times he was taken aback. He wonders how many kids whose parents can't afford those tickets are losing out on this valuable educational experience.


    Today is supposed to be a red letter day in the evolution of the Mini garage with the installation of the overhead door and completion of the roof promised.  Stay tuned.  Pictures at 11 if it happens.


Today's aphorism: "Being over the hill is much better than being under it."  (Uncle Jack really digs this one).


    



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5:45 a.m. The yawn at dawn.

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6:18 Right on the button.

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Morning flight.

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Sandbags? What sandbags?

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Oh, you mean THOSE sandbags. Comfort Inn South near Jennette's pier.

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Sea oats at the end of Whitecap street. They are getting increasingly hard to find.

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The post-Isabel remains of Jennette's pier await demolition followed by rebirth at some point as a steel and concrete edifice which will be operated by the N.C. Aquarium. The private pier operators can hardly wait.

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A man and his crocodile.

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Anaconda. A nice pet to own when you really need a hug.

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It won't be long now.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:48 AM

Comments [9]



Tuesday, August 8, 2006
Sunrise in Sonag, Tuesday August 8, 2006

      Uncle Jack lugged his old four-pound Sony Mavica up to the beach this morning hoping to find another sunrise as spectacular as yesterday's but it was not to be.  The sun came up on schedule but colorlessly.  It does appear that visitors are likely to enjoy another splendid beach day and if it turns out to be as perfect as yesterday they will have little to complain about.


     A small miracle did happen this morning to break the monotony.  As he was strolling down the beach toward Jennette's pier he saw another beachwalker reach down and pluck something out of the surf.  It turned out to be Uncle Jack's granddaughter's goggles which she lost yesterday afternoon while bodysurfing.  The young lady who found them (Chris from New York) graciously handed them over to Uncle Jack, thus cheating a local merchant out of another sale about which he feels only slightly guilty.


     The Mini garage builders (Bottom Line Construction Company by name) labored mightily in the heat all day yesterday and have brought this amazing structure to the brink of completion. Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. never cease to be amazed at the skill and care and attention to detail that these craftsmen bring to their work, even when they are building a humble garage. This is a rare commodity on the Outer Banks these days and we consider ourselves fortunate to have snared them between houses.


Today's aphorism:  "Earth is the insane asylum for the universe".  (That one is so plausible it is frightening considering the state of the world right now).



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5:55 a.m. Blah.

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6:30 a.m. First appearance.

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Hard to believe it's 350 million miles away.

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Granddaughter Kelly before losing her goggles.

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Only begotten son, Eric, and daughter Kelly practicing for the tandem body-surfing competition at the next summer olympics.

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Eric, the pro, going it alone.

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The welcoming front door of Sam and Omie's to which Uncle Jack and Only Begotten Son repaired for breakfast this morning. Uncle Jack fell off the wagon and had bacon, two eggs over light, grits and a biscuit with jam and butter. For shame.

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A great place to have breakfast if you beat the mob.

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Perhaps two days away from completion. Perhaps.

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Monday afternoon crowd in South Nags Head. "Nobody goes to South Nags Head any more because the beach is so narrow" says one of our county commissioners. Maybe he was quoting Yogi Berra who said "The place is so crowded nobody goes there anymore".

posted by Uncle Jack at 8:37 AM

Comments [15]



Monday, August 7, 2006
Sunrise in Sonag, Monday August 7, 2006

                        In Memoriam


    Uncle Jack is devastated to report the demise of his beloved Canon S410 Elph digital camera which succumbed to an errant wave on the beach in South Nags Head Sunday afternoon, August 6, 2006.  In a moment of supreme carelessness he allowed it to slip, unnoticed,  from his pocket while lounging in a beach chair.  The Seamark grocery bag in which it was wrapped proved to be insufficiently waterproof to resist the wave which inundated it shortly thereafter. (He is debating whether or not to sue the Seamark for gross negligence).


     The soggy little fellow has been interred on the shelf in Uncle Jack's office which is reserved for the remains of his former cameras (from which he has resurrected his clunky old Sony Mavica in the hope that it still works).


     In lieu of flowers monetary contributions may be sent to  Uncle Jack's Elph Replacement Fund, Box 554, Nags Head, N.C. 27959 (Donations are, regretfully, not tax deductible as Uncle Jack is not yet a registered charity even though he could probably               qualify).                                                                  


                                ********


What a pity the Elph did not live long enough to capture this morning's sunrise. As the pictures suggest it was spectacular compared to Mother Nature's puny efforts of the past several weeks. Early signs are that this will be another magnificent beach day, just like yesterday.  The wind was from the east all day which blew warm surface water into shore to the delight of swimmers and belly boarders, whose name was legion.  (At least the Elph did not have to spend its final moments writhing in icy water).


 



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5:50 a.m. The Mavica's first outing in over a year and a half. Not bad for a clunky old dude that uses floppy disks for film

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Same time. Looking toward the northeast.

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The Mavica did a nice job capturing these pelicans in flight. If it didn't weigh about as much as a concrete block Uncle Jack could learn to love it again.

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With its 10x optical zoom the Mavica could get up close and personal with this photogenic grackle.

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Not to mention this sandpiper that looks big enough to be a curlew.

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These fishermen were about 100 yards away.

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A few minutes before official sunrise at 6:14

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First appearance.

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Here to stay at 6:15. What a zoom!

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The Mini garage is completely sided and partially painted. If fair weather prevails the roof shingles should go on today and as soon as the door is installed and the painting is finished it will be ready for occupancy.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:21 AM

Comments [9]



Sunday, August 6, 2006
Sunrise in Sonag, Sunday August 6, 2006

     A perfect morning for a change. Colorful sunrise; cool, dry breeze out of the northeast, wildlife in profusion (except for biting insects which were absent).  Looks like a flawless beach day coming up.


     But then again Uncle Jack could be wrong. Saturday started out with heavy rain at dawn and metamorphosed into a gorgeous day.  Today could just as quickly deteriorate.  You can never be sure when you live on the Outer Banks.


    His trip to the Norfolk airport yesterday was delightfully uneventful.  The American Airlines flight from Dallas carrying Uncle Jack's only begotten son's family was 20 minutes early, their baggage arrived with them, and the drive back to the Outer Banks totally without mishap. For reasons that he cannot hope to comprehend the traffic was relatively light and the only back-up occurred in the middle of the Wright Brothers bridge which took all of five minutes to negotiate.  All this on a Saturday afternoon in August. Baffling.


     Uncle Jack's birthday present from O.B. son was a wireless router for his computer network which he installed last night. This makes it possible for him to sit in his barcalounger (or even lie in bed) and surf the net in comfort.  He fears that he may never read another book.


Today's aphorism: "My husband and I divorced over religious differences.  He thought he was God and I didn't."


Have a nice day.



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5:45 a.m.

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6:15 The dawn of a perfect day? Who knows.

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One of these gulls speared a tasty morsel from the surf. The other moved in immediately to try to take it away. A fierce battle ensued with the first gull victorious. You were there.

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Yesterday all the pelicans flew just above the water. Today they all flew up high, over the dunes. Inscrutable are the ways of pelicans.

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You can't do this in real sand. A talented sculptor creates a fantasy city in what is left of the clay/sand berm trucked in from Currituck county last year. At least it was good for something.

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California visitors arrive in Norfolk after gruelling overnight flight from Los Angeles via Dallas.

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This made it all worthwhile.

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Kelly Ann, 11, contemplates the surf from which she has just emerged.

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Alexander, 14, studies a poorly defined sand sculpture before demolishing it.

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Digging for mole crabs. You can't do this in L.A.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:20 AM

Comments [1]



Saturday, August 5, 2006
Unrise in Sonag, Saturday August 5, 2006

     There's been a change in the weather, thank goodness.  Uncle Jack strolled up to the beach at 6 a.m. with the wind off the ocean in his face, took three quick shots of the black clouds in the north, east and south, and beat a hasty retreat to his house just before the sky opened and the first rain in a week began to fall.  Needless to say there will be no sunrise this morning but it seems like a fair trade-off after the sweltering heat and humidity of the past several days.


     He hopes the rain will go away by 8:30 when he heads for the Norfolk airport to collect his only begotten son, Eric, and family from Los Angeles.  Driving to and from Norfolk in Saturday traffic is trying enough without rain to add to the misery.  Pictures at 11.



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This is the cloud that chased Uncle Jack back to his house this morning. He just made it before the downpour started.

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Looking east at 6 a.m. It was already raining over the ocean.

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It looked a little better to the south but not much.

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Some strong person or persons dragged this chunk of concrete up from the surf's edge to a spot where the town's beach patrol could remove it with a truck. It's right at the end of Whitecap street.

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The heat-defying crew from Bottom Line Construction toiled through a sweltering day yesterday to put the siding on the Mini garage which is now only a few days away from completion. Rain may set them back today.

posted by Uncle Jack at 6:36 AM

Comments [3]



Friday, August 4, 2006
Sunrise in Sonag, Friday August 4, 2006

     Yesterday morning Uncle Jack fooled himself into thinking maybe the heatwave was over but he won't make that mistake again.  At 6 a.m. the temperature is already 86 and the heat index is 99 so he has resigned himself to another day in front of his air-conditioned computer. How he suffers.


     The Mini garage builders arrived at 8 a.m. yesterday and started to work but wisely packed up their tools a couple of hours later and were not seen again.  Only the electrician (who must have a couple of kids in college or something) actually worked on into mid-afternoon, sweating off ten pounds in the process, before he, too, packed it in.  Uncle Jack has to wonder how anything ever gets done in the tropics where weather like this is an everyday thing.


      Yet another North Carolina newspaper has editorialized on the subject of sandbags at the beach.  This one, forwarded by Steve Thomas, comes from Charlotte which is a long way from the coast but close enough for the editors to view with alarm the proliferation of  these unsightly and destructive devices.  It offers more support for those Nags Head commissioners who want to try to do something to eliminate them.


Bag the beach bags


How `temporary' is a `temporary' sandbag, anyway?


State law prohibits the construction of oceanfront jetties, groins or other "hardened structures" to prevent beach erosion. Or does it? While the N.C. Coastal Resources Commission's 1989 rules and a 2003 law prohibit groins and seawalls to protect beaches, state policy seems to condone such structures as long as they look like big, temporary sandbags.


Some have been in place for years and, despite commission warnings that they eventually will have to be removed, the state keeps granting extensions allowing them to remain in place.


This is important, because any hard structure, including 15-foot long sandbags that look and feel as hard as concrete, can cause damage in adjacent beachfront areas. Here's why: The structures trap sand to help keep the beach intact, but in doing so rob adjacent areas of sand that otherwise would accumulate. That contributes to a scouring effect, heightening the erosion of beachfront areas downstream from the hardened structure.


The no-jetties policy is meant to protect the entire beach by avoiding the collateral damage that jetties can cause.


But state law seeks to help property owners who plan beach nourishment projects, often by pumping sand onto the beach from offshore or waterway dredging projects. That's compassionate, but it must be measured against economic and geological reality.


As the nonprofit N.C. Coastal Federation puts it, "The rate of sea level rise is increasing and projected within a generation or so to reach 1.7 feet per century. Hurricanes and northeasters are predicted to occur more frequently and at greater intensity. And there are chronic shortages of economical and environmentally acceptable sources of sand along significant portions of our coast. Simply stated, the result is that the on-going costs of drawing a line in the sand, and attempting to hold the beaches where they are today, will escalate until it is no longer technologically or economically feasible to do so."


Still, many property owners are willing to try. They seek permission to install sandbags to stave off the approaching seas. The rules allow for temporary sandbags to be installed for two years.


Trouble is there are now more than 300 sandbag structures along the coast. Some are virtually permanent.


Now the N.C. Division of Coastal Management is requiring that all exposed sandbags installed before 2000 be removed within two years, according to Raleigh's News & Observer. And, the newspaper said, the town of Nags Head was considering prohibiting their use.


No doubt the state and the town will find enforcing the no-structure policy difficult. The state's tradition of giving oceanfront property owners a chance to temporarily stabilize their property with sandbags may be well-intentioned, but enforcing time limits on sandbags has proven as difficult as holding back the sea.







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Today's aphorism:  A picture is worth a thousand words but it uses up three thousand times the memory.



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6 a.m. Obviously August is just not the month for awe-inspiring sunrises.

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6:30 a.m. A case in point.

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Further pictorial proof, as if any were needed, of what sandbags do to the beach in front of them.

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These birds come from a long line of pelicans.

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Sandpipers hard at work in spite of the heat. A bird's gotta eat no matter what.

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For some reason this bunch must have decided that the sand was greener somewhere else. They are too fast for the Elph's shutter obviously.

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Just in case you have forgotten what a pretty sunrise looks like.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:07 AM

Comments [8]



Thursday, August 3, 2006
Sunrise in Sonag, Thursday August 3, 2006

     The situation is improving.  Uncle Jack's glasses did not steam up when he left the house this morning, there was a light breeze off the ocean which felt refreshing compared to yesterday's hot blasts from the south, and the high today could be several degrees lower.  A fine day to put the siding on the Mini garage.


      He was saddened yesterday to see the wreckers laying waste to yet another Nags Head landmark.  The Nags Head Speed Wash, presided over by Joe and Mary Pool, was the Outer Banks' first state-of-the-art launderette when it was built perhaps 25 or 30 years ago (ancient by contemporary standards).   It was built across the bypass from the Tanger Outlet Mall property which was basically a swamp at the time.


      The Pools lived in a spacious apartment over the laundry where Joe,  a highly skilled organ builder, installed a magnificent pipe organ.  After retiring from teaching at Manteo high school he put up a separate building to house his organ and vacuum cleaner repair business.  (He died prematurely several years ago). A small round building between the two larger ones contained Mary's beauty shop.  All three are being torn down to make way for who knows what.  Reportedly the property is now owned by the same folks who have brought us all the Wings stores which have added so much to the ambience of the area.   Stay tuned for the bad news that is sure to come.


Today's aphorism: "Consciousness: That annoying time between naps."                                   


 



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6:00 a.m. A carbon copy of yesterday.

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6:30 a.m. Nothing to get too excited about.

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Mother Nature cast up this gravel pile last night. Who knows for what reason.

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Today is siding and shingle day. The crew wisely knocked off at 2 p.m. yesterday without a single fatality.

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The electrician is here this morning installing the wiring for the overhead door. Can the door be far behind? Stay tuned.

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Take a last look at this sign which will probably go the way of the Speed Wash and Beauty Boutique before the day is out.

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The former Speed Wash.

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The former Beauty Boutique.

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The soon-to-be former organ and vacuum cleaner repair shop.

posted by Uncle Jack at 8:57 AM

Comments [7]



Wednesday, August 2, 2006
Sunrise in Steamy Sonag, Wednesday 8/2/2006

   How humid was it this morning, Uncle Jack? It was so humid his glasses steamed over the minute he stepped out of the house and he almost fell off the porch, that's how humid it was.  Also it was too hot to walk anywhere so he sat in a purloined beach chair again, scratching his brown fly bites and waiting patiently for the sun to break through the mist on the horizon, which it finally did around 6:30.


    The usual suspects were present:  pelicans, sandpipers, pigeons, gulls, crows and an occasional human being who didn't realize that it was too hot to walk, much less run.  The heat index is already 96 at 6:30 a.m. and it will no doubt be higher by noon.


    Even the indefatigable Mini-garage builders knocked off at noon yesterday for which he was thankful because as much as he loves his Mini he would feel guilty if somebody died trying to build a shelter for it.                                                    So far the new air conditioner has been working perfectly and Dominion Power is keeping up its end so Uncle Jack plans to hunker down in front of his computer today and work some more on his book.  Here's a potential excerpt that may or may not make the final cut: 


              Braving the Storm


Uncle Jack is not by nature a gloomy person. His outlook on life is basically cheerful even though he realizes full well that he could be run over by a fish truck at any time. “Every cloud has a silver lining” he insists. “It is always darkest before the dawn.” Platitudes like these are the basic building blocks from which his serenity is formed.


Nevertheless from time to time Uncle Jack does experience feelings of acute anxiety, usually brought on by sharp twinges in the vicinity of his liver, or by learning that scientists somewhere have discovered that another of his vices is carcinogenic.


Uncle Jack almost never suffers insomnia. Actually he finds it far more difficult to stay awake than to fall asleep. The majority of his waking hours could be accurately described as euphoric. His basically optimistic weltanschauung (he uses words like that whenever he can so that the pain of his high school education will not have been endured in vain) has made it possible for him to live contentedly on the Outer Banks for many years.


A pessimist, Uncle Jack firmly believes, could not possibly live on the Outer Banks because there is too much to worry about. Take the melting polar ice caps , for example, which he did not learn about until three days after he sold his house in Pittsburgh 26 years ago. “Are you sure you know what you’re doing?” a friend asked him. “Surely you know that the polar ice caps are melting?”


Uncle Jack could not simply dismiss this peculiar warning as the ravings of a lunatic because it came from a Nobel Prize-winning scientist he used to play bridge with (which should give you some idea of the lofty circles Uncle Jack traveled in before he escaped to the Outer Banks for good).


What his friend was trying to tell him was that global warming is making the oceans rise and in a million years, give or take a couple of millennia, the Outer Banks will be completely under water. Needless to tell you this friend had a low opinion of local real estate as a long-term investment .


If you want to know the truth Uncle Jack does not spend a whole lot of time worrying about the melting polar ice caps but he has to confess that this is the time of year he does think a little bit about hurricanes once in a while. He has had just enough experience with hurricanes to make him wonder what he should do when the next one comes along, as it surely will.


Uncle Jack’s first hurricane was Ginger back in September 1970 which was a feeble little blow as hurricanes go, with maximum winds that never quite reached 100 miles per hour but he will never forget that night as long as he lives. For one thing it was the only time he ever saw rain come right through the walls (not the windows---the walls!) of his house. Even so he was better off than his friends whose sliding glass doors facing the ocean blew out at 3 a.m. and let the wind and rain redecorate their apartment for two hours.


What worries Uncle Jack most is that there are probably a hundred times as many people on the Outer Banks in the hurricane season now than there were in 1970 and there are still only two bridges. He can only hope that if a storm does come our way this season that every visitor and every resident will take it seriously. If you want to know the truth Uncle Jack has never heard a hurricane joke that he thought was funny..


On the bright side he also remembers that wonderful old saying “It’s an ill wind that blows nobody good..” This is especially true if you happen to be a roofer.


                    **********************


Today's Aphorism:  "Ham and eggs. A day's work for a chicken, a lifetime commitment for a pig."



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6 a.m. steambath.

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30 minutes later. The source of all our current misery comes out of hiding.

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The inscrutable tide has chopped away at the beach in front of Whitecap street again, creating a new two-foot dropoff. It's like Mother Nature is demonstrating that she can move a million tons of sand with a flick of her finger.

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Somebody toiled in the heat yesterday (no doubt at less than minimum wage) to produce this ambitious sand sculpture.

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This one was even more impressive. Where do people get the energy to do stuff like this?

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Uncle Jack can't find his bird book. Does anybody know what these black birds are? They act like sandpipers but they look suspiciously like crows.

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Dog lovers---should this guy be running his hairy companion down the beach when the heat index is 96?

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Hundreds of sandpipers dashing about again this morning. They do help to pass the time.

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The resident pigeons made an appearance this morning, too. It's like an aviary up on the beach sometimes.

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The tarpaper is on the roof and the shingles are supposed to arrive this morning, along with the electrician and the garage-door guys. Big day in store if the heat doesn't interfere.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:52 AM

Comments [11]



Tuesday, August 1, 2006
Sunrise in Sonag, Tuesday August 1, 2006

         Uncle Jack's daughter in California and his brother in Minnesota have been complaining about the heat all week.  He is happy to tell them it is already hotter (at 6 a.m.) in Nags Head than it will get in Concord and Brainerd all day.  Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. (believe it or not) walked down to the Outer Banks pier and back this morning through air that was palpable in its wetness. God help those (like the Bottom Line Builders) who have to labor outside today.


       The beach was wide and hard and great for walking this morning.  The sun did not appear until nearly 6:30 but in another few hours it will have heated the entire Outer Banks up to a torrid, sweltering 96 degrees. And that's the forecast for the next three days as well. Let's hope Dominion Power is up to the challenge.


    Here's another polemic from the archives on a perennial problem that seems to have no solution.  Have a nice day:


            Sea, Sand and Traffic


Uncle Jack has had lots of time to think lately, mostly while waiting to make left turns on the bypass. He looks out at the seemingly endless stream of vehicles coming toward him and his mind begins to wander into the past (which is the only direction he feels safe to go at his age). Often he thinks about the old days when he had to go up to Virginia Beach Boulevard to see traffic like we have here now, and his bosom swells with pride at how far we have progressed in such a short time.


Back when Uncle Jack first came here in 1969 there was only one stoplight in all of Dare County, which goes to show you what a backwater this really was. He can remember when the slogan of the Dare County Tourist Bureau was “The Outer Banks---A Secret Worth Keeping” which he thought was pretty funny because the whole purpose of that esteemed organization was to let the cat out of the bag, so to speak. Uncle Jack wonders sometimes what it might be like around here today if the Tourist Bureau had spent all those millions of dollars trying to discourage people from coming to the Outer Banks instead of wooing them..


Probably not a whole lot different he is sorry to say. Word-of-mouth is still the best advertising and he would guess that just about everybody who ever came here in the old days went home and told everybody they knew about the Outer Banks and then those people would come and love it and they would go home and tell everybody they knew and before long everybody knew. That’s the kind of magical place it used to be.


Uncle Jack knew from day one that the Outer Banks could never remain the idyllic place he perceived it to be when he first arrived. By that time many locals were complaining that the place had gone to hell in a hand basket already but he never quite envisioned the present state of affairs. He is not sure what visitors who are here for the first time this summer will say about the Outer Banks when they get home. It might be something like “The beaches are wonderful but God, the traffic is worse than the Jersey Turnpike”.


Uncle Jack nearly fell out of his barcalounger the other day when he read in the paper that one of the county commissioners had called for a county-wide moratorium on the construction of any more buildings exceeding 10,000 square feet. He is not sure what that would have accomplished given the ingenuity of our developers but in any case his trial balloon was shot down in shreds at an altitude of about 20 feet and the entire matter of rampant, uncontrolled development has been referred to the county planning board for “further study”.


Uncle Jack breathed a sigh of relief when he read that because he was afraid the moratorium might have prevented the company called Beach Mart, Inc. from building yet another big “Wings” store in Nags Head. The new one (across the street from another “Wings”) will be only two blocks from his own gallery---an easy walk because he won’t have to cross the bypass to get to it---so any time he feels the need to buy another imported plastic replica of the Cape Hatteras lighthouse he won’t have far to go.


From what he read in the paper the Beach Mart folks have graciously agreed to make their new store a little less conspicuous than most of their others by reducing the wattage of their night-time lighting a tad. This will make the place a little harder to spot from outer space but travelers on the bypass should have no trouble finding it when they, too, are seized with an uncontrollable need to buy something from China that will remind them of the Outer Banks when they get home.



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5:45 a.m.

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6:15 a.m.

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6:30 a.m. Yawn.

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The Mini garage half-roofed. Half a roof is better than none they say.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:31 AM

Comments [12]




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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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