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Sunday, December 31, 2006
Winter Wonderland: Camden, Maine 12/31/2006

      The ultimate day of 2006 is bright and sunny, dazzling actually, in a mantle of fresh snow that fell yesterday afternoon and evening. Battalions of snowplows dashed about during the night clearing the roads so Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. were able to get around easily today after scraping a two-inch layer of snow and ice off the Mini. (The snowplows here are reminiscent of the bulldozers of the Outer Banks--sysiphussian in their labors).

     They drove out to the Camden Snow Bowl, a small municipal winter sports complex near the "Tree House" they stayed in last summer. The first snowfall of the year attracted scores of skiers and snowboarders of all ages and there were long lines at the lifts. Uncle Jack made a short film of some of the action which can be viewed by clicking on the YouTube link below.

     Tomorrow, weather permitting, they will drive over to Belfast, another charming coastal town about twenty miles up Route 1, to take in a jazz brunch featuring several musicians who play in the style of the great Gypsy guitarist, Django Reinhardt.  It's a fundraiser for the Camden community radio station and it's being held in an elegant old private home so it should be a blast.

    Tuesday morning it's "on the road again" with arrival in Nags Head scheduled for the following Monday. A visit to L.L. Bean in Freeport is on the itinerary along with stops in Morristown, N.J. and Baltimore (to visit the dreaded grandchildren again and have the Mini serviced). This could be the last weblog entry for a while unless something really interesting turns up along the way).

    Happy New Year to all.  If all goes well the Sonag sunrises will resume soon.




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Snowmakers at work at Camden Bowl.

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Part of the early morning crowd waiting for the lifts to start operating.

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The "Tree House" all closed up for the winter. Imagine having to shovel those 32 steps after every snow fall.

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The former Camden Theater is now a clothing store across the street from our apartment. It hosted the premiere of the movie "Peyton Place" which was partially filmed in Camden. This picture hangs in the store.

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Maine is noted for its eccentrics. Here's one of them jogging around Rockland in his shorts in sub-freezing weather. At least his hands are warm.

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Here he is again jogging past a marina in Rockland harbor. By this time his skin was beet red. Weird.

link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B-GG_jE0p00

posted by Uncle Jack at 4:31 PM

Comments [5]

Thursday, December 28, 2006
Happy New Year from Camden, Maine 12/28/06

     It has been a week since Uncle Jack last posted a blog and what a week it has been.  He and Mrs. U.J. are in Camden, Maine where they spent a couple of delightful weeks last summer and where they hoped to experience a White Christmas for the first time in over 25 years.

     It was not to be.  Not only did it rain on Christmas Day but for the two days before that and the day after as well. It has finally stopped raining and the sun has shown brightly for most of the last two days but the most they can hope for now is a white New Year's.

    The weather was actually irrelevant as it turned out because they have been primarily preoccupied by the intestinal virus that has put both of them out of action since the day they arrived here.  The bug was apparently a Christmas gift from Mrs. U.J.'s formerly adorable granddaughters whom they visited in Baltimore on the way up here and who were just getting over the same nasty malady.

     He is happy to report that they, too, have both nearly recovered from the ordeal whose agonies he would rather not attempt to describe so close to dinner time. Mrs. U.J. is actually cooking a chicken this evening which will anchor their first real meal since last Saturday. They have their fingers crossed and the Immodium at the ready.

     Happy New Year to all.  If Camden gets some snow in the next few days rest assured he will upload it to YouTube and let you know.

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The Mini's first taste of snow on December 27. What a thrill.

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Who would have thought that these two sweethearts could be carrying something akin to the Bubonic Plague?

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Camden's fleet of windjammers is all battened down for the winter and most of the smaller pleasure craft have been hauled. The harbor is still pretty but much quieter than the last time they saw it in September.

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After diligent search we have just about nailed down an apartment overlooking the harbor for part of next summer. This windjammer operates from the dock right in front of the apartment.

posted by Uncle Jack at 4:57 PM

Comments [14]

Wednesday, December 20, 2006
Sunrise in Sonag, Wednesday December 20, 2006

     It's another bright, sunny day on the Outer Banks but much colder than yesterday.  A chill wind out of the north at 10 mph did not encourage beachwalking this morning and the surf is up.

    Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. did hang around long enough to watch the sun come up at 7:10.  What they saw has been recorded for posterity on a short film you can view by clicking on the YouTube link below.  The sound track is disappointing because the noise of the wind blots out the sound of the surf most of the time.  If anybody knows what to do to prevent that from happening Uncle Jack would be most grateful for suggestions.

     He will not be blogging for the next few days for various reasons but he will put a message on the board when he starts up again.  In the meantime he and Mrs. U.J. wish you all a happy holiday season wherever you are.   

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6:50 a.m. Twenty minutes before sunrise.

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7:10 and all's well.

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Beaufort harbor. One of the most picturesque waterfronts on the east coast.

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The big trawlers operate out of Morehead City across the Neuse river from Beaufort.

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Beaufort is loaded with perfectly preserved 18th and early 19th century houses. It looks like a movie set.

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If you get a chance to visit Beaufort don't miss the old graveyard. It's a trip.

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The boatbuilding annex to the N.C. Maritime Museum is fascinating, as is the Museum itself.

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Many of the old waterfront buildings in Little Washington have been spruced up and the downtown area looks vibrant.

link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xPJNunkZWio

posted by Uncle Jack at 9:02 AM

Comments [14]

Tuesday, December 19, 2006
Sunrise in Sonag, Tuesday December 19, 2006

     The good news is that it's another gorgeous day on the Outer Banks.  The bad news is that the high temperature for today was reached at about sunrise and it's all downhill from here.  A front of some kind is moving in and the wind has switched around to the north again where it belongs.

     Uncle Jack is a bit late getting his blog posted because he had an early appointment with his dentist this morning.  Nothing like starting off the day with a jab of novocain and a bit of drilling.  At his age it could be far worse, though, like a triple bypass or something.  He is not complaining.

     He went to the Town Hall yesterday afternoon and exposed himself to some further education about the proposed beach nourishment project for Nags Head.  It was pretty much a repetition of the last meeting he attended so he can't honestly say he learned anything new.  He is coming to the conclusion that all beach renourishment projects are essentially "faith based".  While there is some pretty good science bearing on the subject, when it gets down to the nitty gritty people tend to believe what they want to believe based on their need to believe it.

     A person whose house is about to fall in the ocean will believe fervently that beach renourishment will save it no matter what the odds are that it won't.  He will believe this no matter what has happened elsewhere because it is always possible that what happened elsewhere will not happen here. 

     Belief can move mountains, they say, and in this case it may move four million cubic yards of sand if the Nags Head voters can be sufficiently "educated" in time for next spring's tax referendum. Of course most Nags Head voters don't own rental properties that are about to fall into the sea so it's hard to say what they might believe.  In any case the next few months are going to be interesting to say the least.

   A short video of this morning's sunrise complete with surf, wind, and bird obligatto, is available by clicking the YouTube link below.


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6:50 a.m. A solid bank of clouds is obscuring the southern horizon.

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7:10 a.m. The sun claws its way into view.

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The bulldozers were busy "saving the beach" again yesterday making walking a bit hazardous this morning.

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One thoughtful and considerate 'dozer operator laid down a path for beachwalkers at the end of the day. He should get some kind of award from CAMA.

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A long day's work for sure. It could all disappear in less time than it took to push it up there.

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A congregation of godwits? Do they stand around and tell each other jokes do you suppose?

link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nHnPsu6rnCU

posted by Uncle Jack at 12:04 PM

Comments [4]

Monday, December 18, 2006
Sunrise in Sonag, Monday December 18, 2006

    It's hard to believe that the winter solstice is only three days away when the temperature on the beach at sunrise is in the mid-50's, heading for 65 later in the day.  Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. ate lunch on the deck yesterday and it looks like they can do it again today if they want to risk sunburn.

    Today's sunrise video (click on the YouTube link below) is very much like yesterday's but what the heck.  It's an excuse to spend a couple of minutes on the beach wherever you are.

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6:50 a.m. A paucity of clouds this morning makes for a rather routine sunrise.

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7:07 a.m. Ho hum.

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This fishhead may not look very appetizing to you, but....

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To a hungry gull it looks better than the breakfast special at Sam and Omie's. (Notice the second gull swooping in to try to get a piece of the action).

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Gulls and other shore birds were out in force this morning, unlike the renourished beach in Emerald Isle which is utterly devoid of life forms of any kind at this point.

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About a hundred of these prefabricated condos line the sound front in Atlantic Beach across from Morehead City. They make Pirate's Cove look positively attractive by comparison.

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One of the gems of Emerald Isle is this public park with spaces for hundreds of cars, volleyball courts, restrooms, changing rooms, etc. Mini had it almost all to himself on Friday.

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This concrete seawall on Bogue Banks is a holdover from the old days when hardened structures were permitted on N.C. beaches. There once was a fishing pier here.

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A supply room in Ft. Macon filled with replicas of typical Civil War foodstuffs.

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Wake of the Minnesott Beach ferry. There were five crewmen on the boat and two more ashore at each dock and on our trip across the Neuse river the ferry carried four cars--free. Not a big moneymaker for the State of N.C. obviously.

link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qYedl8UcXRw

posted by Uncle Jack at 8:48 AM

Comments [4]

Sunday, December 17, 2006
Sunrise in Sonag, Sunday December 17, 2006

    Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. are home again after a three-day motor excursion through the back roads of Eastern N.C.  They celebrated passing their annual physicals at Duke on Thursday (with flying colors) by wandering home in the Mini by way of Goldsboro, Kinston, Emerald Isle, Salter Path, Atlantic Beach, Fort Macon, Beaufort, Havelock, Chocowinity, Little Washington, Plymouth, Columbia and points in between.

      It was a fascinating odyssey made longer than it needed to be by Uncle Jack's frequent wrong turns on the poorly marked roads. If you have never had the pleasure of driving aimlessly through this backwater and have some time on your hands this winter by all means do it.  You will see things you never thought possible and at no time will you be more than 500 yards from a church should you feel the need for spiritual guidance.

     It was more than thirty years ago that Uncle Jack drove the length of the Bogue Banks from Emerald Isle to Fort Macon, back when the village of Emerald Isle had a year-round population of fewer than 100 hardy souls.  To see what has happened to the island in the ensuing three decades is a mind-blowing experience.  It is actually more incredible than what has transpired on the northern Outer Banks during the same period of time.  You have to see it to believe it. He will have more to say about Emerald Isle in future blogs.

     After visiting Fort Macon, one of the most interesting Civil War museums in all of N.C. (or for that matter anywhere) they crossed over to the mainland at Morehead City and spent the night in one of their favorite hostelries, the Inlet Inn overlooking the harbor in Beaufort.  Again, if you are looking for a great getaway weekend this winter try a visit to Beaufort.  If there is a more charming town anywhere in N.C. Uncle Jack has never seen it.  You can spend hours just wandering the streets of the town which is really one big historical district.  The Maritime Museum on Front Street and its boatbuilding annex across the street are worth a long visit.

     They motored home by way of Havelock and the free ferry across the Neuse River at Minnesott Beach, thence to Chocowinity where they crossed the Tar/Pamlico river to Little Washington.  They were amazed at the transformation of the latter from what they had perceived to be a dismal dump not so many years ago into a vibrant, pretty riverside town.  They are already planning a return visit to Washington sometime this winter.

     Uncle Jack was not able to keep the Mini from doing what it wants to do (go fast!!!) on the lonely stretch of road through the swamps east of Columbia and picked up his second lifetime speeding ticket from an alert state trooper named (what else?) Daniels. Even that unfortunate occurrence was not enough to mar the memory of a delightful three-day excursion through one of the most beautiful and exotic parts of the world, eastern North Carolina.

     For a two-minute look at this morning's sunrise click on the YouTube link below.  Then, if you're lucky enough to be on the Outer Banks today, get out there and enjoy another day of summer in December.



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6:50 a.m. Fifteen minutes before sunrise.

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On the Outer Banks pier at sunrise. It will be shirtsleeve weather by noon.

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King of the hill. The bulldozers must have been working frantically during the past three days judging from the number of oceanfront houses with fresh sandpiles pushed up in front of them.

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Looking south toward Bogue Inlet at the south end of Emerald Isle. Picture taken from the deck of a house that nearly washed away before the Corps of Engineers dredged a new inlet and closed the old one. More about this in a future blog.

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Affordable housing in Emerald Isle. There are many trailer parks on the ocean front in Emerald Isle along with scores of the old-fashioned motels that have nearly vanished around here.

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One of the many Wings stores on the Bogue Banks. Ubiquity thy name is Wings.

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Is it possible to out-ugly a Wings store? You be the judge.

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Cookie-cutter architecture thrives in Emerald Isle, too. There are about 50 of these identical pseudo-tudor condos in one development on the ocean front.

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Interior of Fort Macon. The N.C. State Parks folks can be justifiably proud of what they have done here. One of the best museums of its kind to be found anywhere in the U.S.

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Uncle Jack almost forgot. Emerald Isle has a renourished beach, too. More about that another time.

link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=we3tIbFcoZQ

posted by Uncle Jack at 10:40 AM

Comments [4]

Wednesday, December 13, 2006
Thursday December 14, 2006
    Uncle Jack forgot to mention that he and Mrs. U.J. are going to be out of town for a few days so he probably won't be posting again until Sunday.  See you then.

posted by Uncle Jack at 9:02 PM

Comments [5]

Wednesday, December 13, 2006
Unrise in Sonag, Wednesday December 13, 2006

   Uncle Jack is sorry to report that the long series of perfect days on the Outer Banks has ended---not with a bang but a drizzle, to paraphrase T.S. Eliot. It's raining just hard enough to prevent a walk on the beach and it's already obvious at 6:30 that there will be no sunrise visible this morning. (YouTube addicts will have to settle for a video of a man from Durham catching a fish yesterday morning.  Click on the YouTube link below).

    Serendipitously there appeared in the New York Times this morning an opinion piece co-written by his guru, Professor Orrin Pilkey, on the wisdom of spending billions on a misguided effort to protect the Gulf shore of Louisiana. Much of what he and his co-author say is directly relevant to our situation on the Outer Banks so he thought he would reprint it here as a public service.

Castles in the Sand

Published: December 13, 2006

AT this year’s meeting of the Geological Society of America, which took place in Philadelphia in October, representatives of the United States Army Corps of Engineers presented proposals to re-engineer the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Some 200 coastal and marine scientists attended the meeting; most of them were stunned by the scope, expense and sheer wastefulness of the projects the corps is considering.

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Elliott Golden

The corps’ proposals include a large seawall to protect parts of Bay St. Louis on the coast along with storm surge gates, similar to those that the British use on the Thames, to close off local bays. One particularly awe-inspiring proposal calls for reconfiguring the Mississippi Gulf Islands to approximate their circa 1969, pre-Hurricane Camille length and width, while adding sufficient sand to the islands to achieve elevations of roughly 20 feet. These barrier islands are part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore and include designated wilderness areas. The proposed project would dump an estimated 50 million cubic yards of sand on the national seashore solely to protect redevelopment of the mainland coast.

At the very least, these proposals would cost billions of dollars to realize, aside from the environmental damage that would ensue. Yet as the corps acknowledged at the Geological Society meeting, its proposed “coastal improvements” would not provide protection from the kind of Category 4 and 5 hurricanes that have destroyed coastal Mississippi twice in the past 37 years. So what, exactly, is the point?

The corps’ failure to devise a rational redevelopment plan points to the futility of trying to maintain coastal development in such an unstable place. A realistic appraisal would conclude that the long-term outlook for coastal development there is bleak. Yet the corps, urged on by developers, seems determined to wage a quixotic fight.

This is particularly galling in light of a recent report issued by the British government under the leadership of Sir Nicholas Stern, who is widely viewed as a pragmatist. The Stern report concluded that it will probably cost global economies more to ignore climate change than to take steps to address it. It seems we are about to learn this lesson in coastal Mississippi. Rather than use a creative, flexible approach to redevelopment on a vulnerable, changing coast, the corps is commanding nature to behave itself.

The clear consensus among coastal scientists at the Geological Society meeting was that the corps’ ambitious plans for Mississippi will fail — either all at once in a major hurricane or gradually through shoreline erosion and other long-term changes. It is an effort in futility.

Pragmatism, fiscal and otherwise, dictates that we cannot afford to continue the cycle of development and destruction. The vulnerability of our nation’s shores will only increase over the next decades as global climate change leads to rising sea levels, increased coastal erosion and stronger hurricanes of greater duration.

The time has come to step back from this extraordinarily hazardous shoreline, perhaps to replace the blocks of destroyed buildings with rows of protective dunes in a seashore park. We should not rebuild on the shoreline of vulnerable areas like the Mississippi Gulf Coast. We certainly shouldn’t be doing it with federal dollars or destroying a National Seashore in order to provide a false sense of security for redevelopment.

If the corps follows through on its proposals, the United States will once again miss an opportunity to respond sensibly to the threat of global warming.

Robert S. Young is the director of the Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines at Western Carolina University. Orrin H. Pilkey is a professor of earth sciences at Duke.

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A propos of the Pilkey piece. If this beach in front of the former Surfside Drive is widened by renourishment will the Town be pressured to rebuild Surfside Drive so the whole fiasco can be repeated? Stay tuned.

link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-yn3QW_UGp0

posted by Uncle Jack at 8:09 AM

Comments [6]

Tuesday, December 12, 2006
Sunrise in Sonag, Tuesday December 12, 2006

    Yet another perfect day on the Outer Banks.  Not a cloud in the sky, no wind to speak of, temperature in the upper 50's and an almost traffic-free motoring environment.  What more could a person ask?

    This morning's sunrise was not spectacular due to the lack of clouds but you can view it anyway by clicking on the YouTube link below. It probably beats sunrise in Schenectady.

  Here's a piece about fishing from the archives to help while away the time today.

                                     Fishing the Point

Last Sunday was one of those days Uncle Jack used to dream about back when his body was living in Pittsburgh but his mind was on the Outer Banks. It was warm but not too warm and the sun was shining the way it only shines on the Outer Banks and it was his day off so naturally he felt this powerful urge to go fishing.

He went down to the garage and fished his trusty $4.95 Gaylord Perry signature reel out of the bucket of WD-40 where he keeps it between fishing trips and screwed it onto his trusty Junior Johnson signature flounder rod and headed for the beach in his (t)rusty new secondhand Jeep on which he has eight payments to go before he will own what is left of it outright.

He used his time-tested fishing strategy which is where he drives down the beach until he comes to somebody who is catching fish which is where he stops and tries to bum enough bait so he can fish there too. This is a very good plan as long as somebody somewhere is catching fish but if you want to know the truth he drove from one end of Nags Head to the other and he only saw one man fishing and he was not catching anything.

Uncle Jack is not sure where all the fishermen were but he would not be surprised if they were all sitting in dark rooms somewhere watching the Steelers and Redskins which is a fairly dumb thing to do on a nice Sunday afternoon but he has done it enough times himself so he is not entitled to cast aspersions.

Anyway this lone fisherman mumbled something about how he caught a hundred flounders down at Cape Point the day before and Uncle Jack is the kind of fool who believes stuff like that so he drove right straight down there. He was very lucky to find a good parking place only about a half a mile from the point so he could walk over there and watch all the crazy people standing up to their armpits in freezing water and fishing like there was no tomorrow which is probably close to the truth if what you have to do tomorrow is pack up and drive back to New Jersey.

Anyway he watched for a long time and the only person who caught anything at all was a small boy who snagged a broken conch shell with his Hopkins. Needless to say Uncle Jack did not even both to bait his hooks and bye and bye he decided to head on over to Bubba’s Barbecue and pick up a slab of ribs for dinner which he can tell you is not a bad substitute for flounder when you are in a pinch.

You can imagine how a sensitive person like Uncle must have felt when he turned the key of his new secondhand Jeep and all he heard was a puny little buzzing noise instead of the full-throated roar of his powerful gas-guzzling engine. His worst nightmare had finally happened---his Jeep was dead in the sand at Cape Point and he didn’t know how to fix it.

Lucky for him, though, a lot of fishermen who did not have anything better to do, such as catch fish, came over and peered into his engine and poked and prodded at all the various wires in there and after a while they all agreed that what Uncle Jack needed was a new Bendix which was news to him because he did not even know he had a Bendix in the first place.

The only Bendix he ever heard of besides William Bendix, the actor, was the old Bendix washer Mrs. Uncle Jack used to have which had a rubber tub which would collapse at just the right time and squeeze all the water out of the clothes. It worked real well, too, until the time Uncle Jack forgot and left his Swiss Army knife in his pocket with the corkscrew in the open position.

Anyway a nice man with a rifle in the back window of his pickup truck finally came along and gave him a tow and got his Jeep started again and he did not even wait for Uncle Jack to thank him before he was gone. If you want to know the truth Uncle Jack has never been too crazy about people who ride around with guns in their pickup trucks but he decided right then and there to send a generous contribution to the National Rifle Association and he is even thinking about voting for Charlton Heston if he ever runs for president.

It was a few minutes later before his radiator hose broke and that is another sad story but Uncle Jack does not wish to dwell any longer on his misfortunes. He can tell you he crossed the Bonner Bridge at sunset and what he saw was enough to make him forget all the trials and tribulations of the day.

And the ribs were not bad either.

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6:45 a.m., fifteen minutes before sunrise.

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Lots of fishermen working the surf just north of the Outer Banks pier this morning including this group from Durham.

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More of the group.

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Altogether they had caught these two speckled trout after an hour of casting. Not a very good return on the time invested but nobody seemed to be complaining.

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7:05 a.m. Who cares if you catch a fish when you can watch something like this while you're fishing.

link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x1dzO6tkPoI

posted by Uncle Jack at 8:49 AM

Comments [2]

Monday, December 11, 2006
Sunrise in Sonag, Monday December 11, 2006

     It's another spectacular December day on the Outer Banks with lots of sunshine, no wind and a predicted high temperature in the mid-50's.  Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. were up early enough to see the unusual three-planet display in the southeast sky just before dawn, following which they walked down to the Outer Banks pier and back.  Mornings just don't get any more beautiful as the pictures will attest.  He made a two-minute video of the actual sunrise which can be viewed by clicking on the YouTube link below.

    It's Monday but try to enjoy the day anyway.  If you toil in retail at any level Uncle Jack (shopkeeper, retired) offers his profound sympathy at this difficult time. 

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6:50 a.m.

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ditto, looking due south. The whole eastern sky was colorful this morning.

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The Outer Banks pier was deserted this morning but it makes a lovely picture against that sky.

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From below it looks a bit wobbly since the Thanksgiving storm.

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This bobcat was moving sand at 7 a.m., the beginning of what will probably be a very long day for the owner.

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An ounce of prevention is worth.....

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The never-ending search for sustenance.

link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8u-qhVx5XGc

posted by Uncle Jack at 9:43 AM

Comments [5]

Sunday, December 10, 2006
Sunrise in Sonag, Sunday December 10, 2006

    It's another glorious day on the Outer Banks.  Wall to wall sunshine, no wind and temperatures that will rise into the fifties after an early-morning freeze.  Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. walked up the wide, flat beach to Jennette's pier at sunrise before attacking their customary Sunday morning whole-wheat everythings from New York Bagels. He had to drive to KDH to get them because the Nags Head outlet has closed for the season---one of those dark days in the Outer Banks calendar to which year-round residents learn to adjust somehow.

    Yesterday they drove up the beach road all the way to the new Hilton where they poked around for a while (winter rates start at $99 by the way if you have a hankering).  Along the way Uncle Jack made a short film, viewable in his collection on YouTube, of the wreckers hard at work demolishing the old Sea Spray motel near the 12 milepost.  It has been closed ever since Isabel but now it appears that the conversion of the property to house a few more mini-hotels has begun in earnest.  Sic transit. 

     He thanks all the folks who have purchased copies of his book "Uncle Jack's Outer Banks" in the past few days and assures them that the books are on the way.  He still has a few copies left and can accept orders for another week or so.  They are $7.50 each postpaid.  Email him at yelnag@charter.net if you would like a copy or two for stocking stuffers. 

  P.S.  Click on the YouTube link below for a short video of this morning's sunrise.

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6:45 a.m Very similar to yesterday at this time except that a passel of dolphins were passing by this morning, heading south.

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A late skate, as Monty Python would say. His carcass was providing breakfast for a group of seagulls who fled in terror as Uncle Jack approached.

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A group of hardy but apparently unsuccessful fishermen in front of the Bodie Island Beach Club.

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The condos south of the Comfort Inn have a new bulldozed dune this morning. That should be momentarily comforting to the owners.

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The Comfort Inn has a new sand fence. Will it grow a dune in time for the next storm? Stay tuned.

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This handsome sign will not be welcomed by the many fans of Quagmire's restaurant that once inhabited this space (or the fans of the Croatan Inn that preceeded it).

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Some of the damage suffered by the new Hilton during the Thanksgiving storm. They just don't build 'em like they used to. (The Croatan Inn is a good example).

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The Hilton from the Kitty Hawk pier ramp. That's the wreckage of an old bulkhead in the foreground. Let's hope we don't get a really big storm any time soon.

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Looking north from the KH pier ramp. More bulkhead ruins.

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These dolphins at the Hilton would have a hard landing today. The pool is completely frozen.

link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9mjnxz6IXuA

posted by Uncle Jack at 10:40 AM

Comments [6]

Saturday, December 9, 2006
Sunrise in Sonag, Saturday December 9, 2006

     The frost is on the pumpkin in South Nags Head this morning.  At 6:30 a.m. it's 32 degrees and not expected to go much higher during the day but the wind has died and beachwalking conditions are superb as today's video shows. (Click on the YouTube link below to see the short video).

     Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. hiked down to the Outer Banks pier and encountered the usual suspects along the way, to wit: Miles and Doris and their two dogs, Teddy and Breeze;  Audrey and her yellow lab;  and neighbor Jim Morris who is dogless at the moment after the recent death of his beloved Kady at the ripe old age of 14.  The barking obligatto on the video is by Breeze, the Cairn terrier who made such a hit on YouTube a few days ago by digging in the sand for an elusive crab. (His was the most-watched video in its category on YouTube that day and the number of viewers continues to grow.  Wait 'til David Letterman sees it---the sky's the limit).

     In short it's a gorgeous, albeit chilly, day on the Outer Banks and Uncle Jack can't think of any place he would rather be.



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Season's Greetings. This 2003 Chrysler Voyager is still for sale, by the way. Call 252-441-7460 if you're interested in a low mileage, like new, seven passenger van at less than half the cost of a new one.

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6:55 a.m.

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Mrs. U.J. and Audrey leaving Uncle Jack in the dust. Does that beach look inviting or what?

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The dozers have been busy the past couple of days. Sisyphus lives.

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Last night's sunset was a winner. The sunsets have been outdoing the sunrises for several days running.

link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hc-J1wYe1gg

posted by Uncle Jack at 8:54 AM

Comments [3]

Friday, December 8, 2006
Sunrise in Sonag, Friday December 8, 2006

      South Nags Head feels like the South Pole this morning.  It's 30 degrees at 6:30 a.m., heading for a blistering high of 39. The wind is out of the northwest at 20 mph gusting to 35 and Uncle Jack's  new heating system is struggling to keep his house habitable. He decided not to go up to the beach this morning because it obvious the sunrise will not be visible behind the thick bank of black clouds on the horizon. In other words he is a heat-seeking chicken.

    Today's video (click on the YouTube link below) provides a progress report on the steady deterioration of Surfside Drive which is (was) located around the 19.5 milepost in South Nags Head.  The Thanksgiving storm tore up what was left of the original macadam at the north end of Surfside, flattened the remaining berm and partially covered the remains of the various sandbag walls that have been erected by the town in recent years in a futile effort to keep the street from disappearing.

     Along with battered Seagull Drive a mile to the south, Surfside is kind of a poster child for the disease that ails all of South Nags Head. Its troubles began when it was built about 35 years ago.  Like Seagull (and the late Altoona street, the easternmost part of which washed away years ago) it is a "loop road" which begins on Old Oregon Inlet, runs east to the beachfront, turns and runs parallel to the beach for a few blocks, then turns west and returns to Oregon Inlet. A second street running parallel to the beach but farther back connects the two east-west arms of the loop.

     This kind of platting allowed developers to cram many houses into a given amount of acreage instead of just the few that would have been allowed if lots had been platted to run from the oceanfront to Oregon Inlet Road.  Mother Nature immediately began to show her displeasure at this effrontery and it was not long before the buildings on the east side of the oceanfront section of Surfside were in trouble.  Over the years they have all disappeared; some were destroyed by storms, some were moved away from the beach and some were demolished in place after being condemned.

     With the houses out of the way Mother Nature started working on the asphalt street and despite heroic and expensive efforts by the town to save it it, too, has vanished bit by bit.  (Nostalgia buffs might like to revisit Uncle Jack's blog for June 9, 2005 in the archives which has a report on the State of Surfside at that moment in time).

      Now that the houses and the street itself are gone the beach at Surfside is probably the widest in all of South Nags Head.  It desperately needs a serious clean-up to remove broken asphalt, wires, pipes, sandbags and other dangerous detritus but by next summer it could be the prettiest beach in town.

    There's a moral in all of this which Uncle Jack will continue to explore as time goes by.  Have a nice day wherever you are.  T.G.I.F. 


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Surfside Drive, all gone, 12/6/06

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Yet another exposed septic tank, this one full of you-know-what.

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This wall of bags looks formidable.

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But Mother Nature is doing an end run around them.

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This drainfield will need a little work before next summer.

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Thursday night's sunset was something to behold.

link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BJdnHehmack

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:19 AM

Comments [10]

Thursday, December 7, 2006
Unrise in Sonag, Thursday December 7, 2006

Uncle Jack is sorry to report that just as he was ready to head for the beach to immortalize this morning's sunrise with his Sony Cyber-shot the sky opened.  Pearl Harbor Day looks like it will be a wash-out.  The rain clouds snuck up on the weatherman just as the Japanese war planes did to Pearl Harbor so many yeats ago.

Speaking of Pearl Harbor, Uncle Jack can’t help wondering how many children under the age of 50 actually know why we are supposed to remember it. He knows why because he was 11 years old already when it happened but he also knows that most kids who study U.S. history in school never get past the Civil War.

Uncle Jack himself did not know there was a First World War until the grown-ups started talking about the Second World War right after Hitler invaded Poland. Or was it Czechoslovakia?. Anyway he would not be surprised if there were several million people in the U.S. who never heard of Pearl Harbor or World War II for that matter and that is not counting all the illegal immigrants  which is probably several million more.

Uncle Jack’s creeping Alzhimer’s will have to get a lot worse before he forgets Pearl Harbor, though. He can remember like it was yesterday when he came back into town with his father and mother after a Sunday outing in the woods and they saw a big crowd of people standing in front of the office of the Ashland Daily Press which was sort of the New York Times of northern Wisconsin at the time.

They were reading the news about the bombing of Pearl Harbor from sheets of yellow teletype paper that were taped to the windows. Uncle Jack had no idea where Pearl Harbor was or who the Japanese were but he knew that something important had happened because it was the first time he had ever seen the grown-ups in his home town show any interest in anything that had happened outside Ashland county.

He should have been scared out of his wits by the news that most of the American Pacific fleet had been sunk in one fell swoop and that the Japanese were a diabolical race bent on destroying the U.S.  But he wasn't because he knew that President Roosevelt would not let anything really bad happen to him.  Uncle Jack wasn't sure about God but he had abiding faith in President Roosevelt.  

Anyway he did what he could to help win the war for the next four years, weeding the Victory Garden, eating margarine instead of butter, saving the tinfoil from his gum wrappers, and cheering John Wayne as he singlehandedly drove the enemy from our islands in the Pacific which we had grabbed from Spain in another war he had never heard of (anybody still remember the Maine?)

 "The War to end all Wars" they called it. (Or was that the first World War?)  Sigh.

Anyway if it clears up he will try to get out today and take some more pictures but in the meantime it's slim pickin's.


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Last night's sunset was so spectacular he got out of his barcalounger twice to photograph it, leaving his preprandial libation behind both times.

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The pictures don't really capture it, unfortunately.

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This was taken on December 7 a year ago.

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The Mini covered with frost on December 7, 2005. Now it's snug and warm in its own garage.

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The beach was looking good on December 7, 2005. This is looking north from near Tides Drive in Sonag.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:06 AM

Comments [6]

Wednesday, December 6, 2006
Sunrise in Sonag, Wednesday December 6, 2006

     This morning's sunrise was an almost carbon copy of yesterday's but Uncle Jack filmed it anyway and you can see it in his collection on YouTube if you can't get enough sunrises.  Today he has uploaded a two-minute video of Mr. Chesapeake Bay Breeze (Breeze for short), an adorable Cairn Terrier, trying to catch a sand crab which has apparently burrowed to the center of the earth in an effort to escape.  Dog lovers should get a kick out of this.

     It's a nice day on the Outer Banks but not as sunny as it has been.  Apparently a change in the weather is on the way with high winds and showers likely.  He has a hunch he was smart  to take  two walks on the beach today.

    Have a lovely day wherever you are.  Click on the YouTube link below to see Breeze at work. 

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6:50 a.m.

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Fifteen minutes later.

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They're back. This one tore up a large swath of beach in the vicinity of Whitecap street yesterday afternoon making walking difficult in the ruts and sinkholes.

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This piece of "found art" would probably bring $15,000 in a New York City gallery.

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Out of code? This archaic septic tank marks the location of a cottage that once stood here. Its modern-day replacement is about 100 feet farther back and safe for the moment.

link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3SodIVr5p7A

posted by Uncle Jack at 1:48 PM

Comments [5]

Tuesday, December 5, 2006
Sunrise in Sonag, Tuesday December 5, 2006

     "Oh what a beautiful morning" comes to mind after a stroll on the beach while watching the sun rise into a cloudless sky.  The wind has died to a whisper and it looks like a perfect day for surf-fishing.  This could be the day that Uncle Jack buys a new rig to replace the one he ran over with his new secondhand Jeep a few years ago.

     He continues to experiment with the movie-making function of his Sony Cyber-shot.  Today's effort can be seen by clicking on the YouTube link below this text.  The camera ran out of internal memory just as the sun was peeping over the horizon which has convinced him he needs to buy something called a "Memory Stick" so he can take longer videos.

    He and Mrs. U.J. went for a walk on the beach yesterday afternoon and he made a short video of the foam being kicked up by the surf in the late afternoon sun.  It's quite pretty and you can see it listed amongst his YouTube collection.

    Gotta go.  Have a nice day.

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Fifteen minutes before sunrise.

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As the sun was rising the full moon was setting.

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Lots of these on the beach this morning. Conch egg cases?

link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u-mVAIxzZ5Q

posted by Uncle Jack at 8:28 AM

Comments [724]

Monday, December 4, 2006
Unrise in Sonag, Monday December 4, 2006

     Not a nice day to start the week.  Uncle Jack took one look outside at 6:45 a.m. and decided on the spot to forego his usual walk to the beach to capture the sunrise because it was obvious there wasn't going to be one.  (The sun did appear briefly about an hour later but it disappeared again before he could get a picture of it).  In short it's a gray, damp and dismal day on the Outer Banks but he is sure a lot of you would like to be here anyway.

     It warmed up a bit Sunday afternoon so Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. did go for a walk in the area south of the Outer Banks pier.  The beach was incredibly wide and flat and hard enough to ride a bike on.  A few hardy souls were fishing off the pier but they must have been desperate for something to do.

    Mrs. U.J. is going to the Y to swim this morning and Uncle Jack will spend an hour in the gym shooting baskets.  The other day he made three free-throws in a row which is more than Shaq O'Neal has done in his entire NBA career.  His bosom swells with pride.

    In case you didn't look at yesterday's blog he will mention again that he has a few copies left of his last book---"Uncle Jack's Outer Banks" which he will be happy to part with for $7.50 postpaid.  Scroll down to yesterday's blog for ordering info. Have a lovely Monday wherever you are. 

   Click on the YouTube link at the bottom of the page for today's mini-movie, filmed yesterday.


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You have to be crazy to fish off a pier in a wind like yesterday's but the Outer Banks has never been short of crazy people.

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Hersh Grieves begins the arduous task of restoring his sand fences after the Thanksgiving storm tore them up. This is an infinitely better way to build dunes than bulldozing but it's a lot of work.

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A tree grows in South Nags Head. Mother Nature's artistic handiwork.

link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QxDQe12ih98

posted by Uncle Jack at 8:40 AM

Comments [9]

Sunday, December 3, 2006
Sunrise in Sonag, Sunday December 3, 2006

         Mighty cold up on the beach this morning with a stiff wind blowing out of the northeast and kicking up foam.  It propelled us southward at a good clip and forced us to return home on the magnificent Multi-Purpose Pedestrian Facility (aka the sidewalk) which is nicely sheltered from the ocean breezes.  It's a sunny, bright morning auguring a great day for just about every outdoor activity except surf fishing.  You would have to be some kind of masochist to enjoy standing at the water's edge and flinging bait into the teeth of this wind.

     Nags Head was the scene of two spectacular events yesterday---one natural and the other man-made.  For openers the sunset last night deserved at least a 9.9 on the Sphincter Scale of visceral reactions to ineffable beauty.  Uncle Jack hasn't seen anything like it for years and his little Sony Cyber-shot was unequal to the task of trying to record it for posterity.

     The other main event was the jazz session at the Red Drum Taproom last night featuring the Redd brothers, Chuck and Robert, with their special guest, guitarist Jack Byrd, very talented brother of the legendary Charlie Byrd. They drew a large and very enthusiastic audience to the Red Drum and Uncle Jack hopes that this will be just the first of many such delightful events in the future. Now that New Orleans has become a shooting gallery it would be wonderful to be able to stay home and hear great jazz without risking life and limb.

    For today's mini-movie click on the YouTube link below.  While you are on the YouTube site look for a link to "more from this user" where you might find other short films by the noted Outer Banks auteur, Uncle Jack, that were not posted as part of one of his weblog entries.

     Have a relaxing Sunday wherever you are. Stay out of the malls and shop on line.   Which reminds him, he still has a few copies of his last book, "Uncle Jack's Outer Banks" that might make good  stocking stuffers for any of your friends who have big feet.  They are $7.50 each postpaid. Send checks or money orders to Uncle Jack, Box 554, Nags Head 27959 or use PayPal if you are equipped to do so.  Don't wait too long, though, because he will be out of here in a couple of weeks.



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6:50 a.m.

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Last night's sunset a-building.

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A little more color.

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And still more.

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And still more. It went on like this for at least 20 minutes.

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Longtime weblog readers might remember the house that arrived in nine parts which were bolted together a few years ago. It's the one in the middle and it can be yours for a little over a million. "Solid construction" is one of the major selling points.

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Chuck Redd on vibraphone and brother Robert on electronic piano. These guys are gooooood!

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Robert with Frank Byrd on guitar. Uncle Jack plans to upload to YouTube a short clip of the band playing "Caravan". He ran out of memory before they finished, unfortunately.

link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MBuHXquCLyg

posted by Uncle Jack at 9:32 AM

Comments [6]

Saturday, December 2, 2006
Sunrise in Sonag, Saturday December 2, 2006

    It's another magnificent morning on the Outer Banks.  Yesterday's rain clouds have moved on leaving slightly cooler temperatures but they shouldn't keep anyone from enjoying the beach today. 

 Last night's benefit concert for the Outer Banks History Center was a whopping success, drawing a capacity crowd to the auditorium at Roanoke Island Festival Park (formerly known as Iceplant Island) in Manteo.  The jazz provided by Chuck and Robert Redd with guest artist Jack Byrd (brother of world-renowned guitarist Charlie Byrd) was scintillating and earned a standing ovation from the crowd. Chuck is a truly world-class vibraphonist and drummer who just completed a one-week gig at Dizzy's Club in Lincoln Center in NYC, one of the world's premier jazz venues.

      The evening was billed as a remembrance of the Casino, Nags Head's legendary dance hall and entertainment center,  where some of the top bands of the 40's and 50's played, including Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Artie Shaw, Gene Krupa and others.  Between music sets several locals who had frequented the Casino in its glory days reminisced about their experiences to the great enjoyment and applause of the audience.

    Chaz Winkler and his wife Dorothy of the Nellie Myrtle Pridgen Beachcomber Museum were the primary instigators of this delightful evening of jazz and nostalgia and they deserve the thanks of every music lover on the Outer Banks for pulling off this enormously successful event.  As M.C. Jim Lee said, this could be the beginning of something big in the cultural life of the Outer Banks.  In the words of the immortal bard, "tis a consummation devoutly to be wished".  (Unfortunately doddering old Uncle Jack forgot his camera so he can't show you any pictures of this splendid affair).

    Click on the YouTube link below for today's mini-movie.  Thanks to you all, Uncle Jack's first foray into cinema yesterday shot to the top of the YouTube ratings in the Travel and Nature category.  He actually made three short videos this morning which he will upload to YouTube when he has time.  He has to go to Norfolk this morning to collect Mrs. U.J. from the airport.  She went to Baltimore on Thursday as kind of a mobile backseat babysitter for grandchildren Sophia and Isabella while their mother drove. (Too fast, as it happened----they got a speeding ticket on the way).

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6:45 a.m.

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With zoom. It took a while for the sun to get over a cloud bank.

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It finally showed up a little after 7 a.m.

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The Dream Center in Nags Head, formerly George Crocker's Antique Car Museum, recently got a new coat of paint. Whaddaya think?

link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3-NpqXn8EUE

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:57 AM

Comments [6]

Friday, December 1, 2006
Sunrise in Sonag, Friday December 1, 2006

   It's summer in Nags Head again this morning, complete with a chance of showers later.  Uncle Jack walked a mile up to the Outer Banks pier and he was perspiring freely by the time he got back to Whitecap street.  This on the first day of December no less.

   He is going to try something different this morning in the photography department.  He discovered accidentally that his "new" Sony camera can make short films with sound so he decided to try it. He uploaded the film to YouTube which you can reach (he hopes) by clicking the link below the last still picture.

     It is a pretty clumsy effort (if it shows up at all) but he is hoping that from now on he will be able to augment his still pictures with a little sound and movement.  In a day or two, for instance, he may be able to capture in living color the first bulldozer to start pushing sand in the post-Thanksgiving Storm period.  Won't that be wonderful?

     Anyway give it a try and see if it works for you.

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7 a.m. We are only 21 days away from the winter solstice when the sun reaches its southernmost point and the day is the shortest of the year.

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Deck and stairway parts waiting for reassembly. A never-ending task when you are unfortunate enough to own oceanfront property.

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Not a soul in sight all the way to Jennette's pier. Wish you were here?

link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VN41xkdIcLA

posted by Uncle Jack at 8:12 AM

Comments [23]

click picture for more
After retiring in 2005 after 35 years as owner/operator of Yellowhouse Gallery and Annex on the Beach Road in Nags Head, Uncle Jack, accompanied by Mrs. Uncle Jack (a.k.a. Susan), commenced to travel extensively. This blog is a chronicle of their ramblings around the U.S. (in their redoubtable Mini Cooper convertible) as well as visits to England, Ireland, France, Italy, and Malta, interspersed with lengthy stays in South Nags Head and Baltimore between trips. He took a lot of pictures along the way, many of which are posted along with each blog entry.
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