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Tuesday, May 31, 2005
Uncle Jack's Mailbag-P.E.T.A.
Dear Uncle Jack,
       I read in the paper where some crazy people from up north are going around trying to get people to stop fishing. They say it is not fair for people to kill fish to eat and it is even worse for people to fish for "sport" which is where you get fish to bite on hooks and drag them through the water for a while and then let them go. They say the hooks hurt the fishes' mouths and it is not fair for humans to hurt fish just because they are bigger.
       Is this the dumbest thing you ever heard of or what, Uncle Jack?
                                                                      Skip Charter
                                                                      Hatteras Village

Dear Skip,
       Uncle Jack would hesitate to say this is the dumbest thing he ever heard of because he used to attend a lot of commissioners meetings back when he was a reporter and he heard some doozies then, too.
       He does have to admit, though, that when he first heard about People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals which is what they call themselves he thought maybe they were all suffering from some kind of protein deprivation or something.
       He does try to give people the benefit of the doubt even when he thinks they are worthy objects of ridicule so he has been pondering the whole business of the food chain and man's place in it a lot lately, especially during the late evening when he is likely to be consuming only distilled vegetable matter which is not likely to offend any pressure groups with the possible exception of the WCTU if there still is one. As far as he knows there is not yet a group called People for the Ethical Treatment of Barley for which many of us can be thankful.
       Anyway Uncle Jack has been reading as much as he can find about what the PETA folks say about "ethical treatment of animals" and he has to admit they make some pretty good points and he is not going to read any more because if they talked
him into treating animals fairly it could really mess up his life, especially at mealtimes.
       It is very hard for Uncle Jack to contemplate a life without hamburgers, hot dogs, pork chops, chicken wings, filet mignons, fish sandwiches and all the other non-vegetable stuff he eats every day. He tries not to think about where the hamburger came from or how the cow felt when she got whacked on the head with a sledgehammer or however they do it these days. (Maybe they get whacked on the head with computers).
       On the other hand Uncle Jack is not inclined to poke too much fun at people who are nice enough to try to understand how a cow or chicken or pig might feel about sacrificing his or her life to satisfy some person's craving for a Big Mac or a plate of spicy Buffalo Wings.                           
       About fish Uncle Jack is not so sure. (This is also true of shrimp, clams, oysters, mussels, scallops, crayfish, eels, and all the other more-or-less brainless creatures we eat).
       He does not know whether or not fish experience physical distress or even angst when pierced by a hook and dragged through the water against their presumed wills. He can only tell you how he feels at this stage of his life about the "sport" of fishing whether it involves sitting on the beach and feeding expensive bloodworms to the crabs or
spending $600 to go out on a charter and spend the day barfing and/or pitting his atrophied back and arm muscles against the powerful sinews of a 300 lb. billfish who would enjoy nothing more than performing an impromptu appendectomy on him while he is posing for the pre-release snapshot.
       Uncle Jack confesses that there was a time when he thought that matching wits with a wily fish (estimated brainweight l/4 ounce) was the noblest sport in which man could engage but now he doesn't even own a rod and reel.
       Sic Transit as they say down at the train station.
       The sunrise was a bit puny this morning but Uncle Jack had the rare privilege of watching four osprey all fishing at the same time which he has never seen before.

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South Nags Head beach, Memorial Day 2005. Where the heck is everybody?

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At the Tanger Outlet Mall, of course. Maybe we should be talking about mall renourishment. Who needs beaches anyway.

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Somewhere behind that thick mass of clouds the sun presumably hides.

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Sure enough, there it is. Right on time, too.

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Two osprey soaring. Uncle Jack could never get all four in the same frame. Three appeared to be juveniles who were learning the ropes from an adult.

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He cannot tell a lie. Those are pelicans.

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Salinger fans: What is the sound of one osprey soaring? This one plucked a small fish from the surf right in front of Uncle Jack who was too bemused to get a picture of it.

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This one nearly dove out of the frame. Osprey seem not to be faced with any moral dilemmas when it comes to catching and eating fish.

posted by Uncle Jack at 6:48 AM

Comments [3]

Monday, May 30, 2005
A Memorial Day to remember.
       It would be hard to exaggerate the utter perfection of yesterday (Sunday) for every manner of outdoor activities at the beach. Those who drove hundreds of miles to be here during Memorial Day weekend were amply rewarded even if it rains all day today which it probably won't.
       As his major outdoor activity of the day Uncle Jack chose a spin in the Mini up to the strawberry patch in Point Harbor to replenish his supply of those succulent, no-fat, no cholesterol goodies. Mr. Malco, the genial proprietor of Point Harbor
Pick-Your-Own, says the picking should be good for another week. If you're heading north on 158 today and you're not in too big of a rush Uncle Jack suggests stopping off for 15 minutes which is enough time to fill a good sized sand bucket with ripe berries at a cost of perhaps $5 or $6.
       Watch for the sign about a quarter of a mile north of the Wright Memorial Bridge and turn right on the hard surfaced road (Pinegrove?) and watch for the entrance to the berry patch on your right about an eighth of a mile down. It's a winner.
       Uncle Jack noticed on the way home that at least a couple hundred people had chosen to spend this spectacularly beautiful afternoon cooped up in the dark at the new multi-giant cinema in KDH.
God help them, poor souls.
       He and Mrs. U.J. went for a post-prandial evening stroll on the beach in South Nags Head (how does Sonag sound---as in Soho?) last night. The dolphins were out in force as were the fishermen on the Sonag pier. If there is a more pleasant way to spend an hour he doesn't know what it could be. (Of course he hasn't seen Star Wars III so maybe he's missing something).
       As the pictures below will attest, the sunrise this morning was awesome. Have a great day and if you're driving watch out for speed traps. For many communities in N.C. and Virginia this is one of the most lucrative days of the year.

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The Outer Banks Pier in South Nags Head was rockin' on Sunday. (Not as much as it was during Isabel but in a nicer way).

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The Dunes South condo development in Sonag is sporting a handsome new sand fence where the new berm used to be. It is a thing of beauty and should hold up very well until the next storm.

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It will surely hold up longer than this massive construction which is not expected to weather the next high tide.

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This was kind of a reflected reverse sunset over the ocean last night. While they aren't visible in the picture dozens of porpoises were cruising north quite close to shore at this time much to the delight of evening strollers.

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Memorial Day sunrise, May 30, 2005. The Indianapolis 500 will be an anti-climax.

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There was vivid color through nearly 180 degrees. This is looking north toward Jennette's Pier.

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There were dolphins gliding by the whole time but try as he might Uncle Jack could never catch one with his sluggish little Canon Elph.

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The sun appeared right on schedule and then disappeared behind the clouds for a few minutes.

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Only to return with its reflection in the sand shortly after.

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One of Uncle Jack's neighbors reminded him that this is, above all, a day to remember all those Americans who sacrificed their lives to preserve our freedoms (which include going to the movies on a spectacularly lovely day if you want to, among others).

posted by Uncle Jack at 6:29 AM

Comments [3]

Sunday, May 29, 2005
The price of success.
       Sometimes Uncle Jack wonders why he never amounted to anything even though he is a high school graduate and also enjoyed many other advantages including a nagging mother.
       Here he is, entering the stage of advanced decrepitude with hardly enough money to buy a bloodworm when the spots are running and all around him he sees people half his age pulling $l0,000
boats behind their $30,000 4WD pick-up trucks and living in $500,000 houses and going off on vacations to places Mrs.Stonebreaker never even mentioned in geography class.
       Uncle Jack knew he must have done something wrong somewhere along the way but he didn't know what it was until last week when he read this article in the paper about clothes.
       This article had a lot of good advice in it for people who want to amount to something and it is too bad Uncle Jack didn't read it 50 years ago because he might have been a success today
instead of not having two nickels to rub together.
       This is one thing Uncle Jack did not know:
       "For any kind of business career, one needs, at minimum, three good suits. They do not have to be tailor-made, but you should go to some trouble to make sure they fit. If you can find a good custom tailor who will do alterations, it's worth
the time and effort."
       You can see what Uncle Jack was up against right there because he can tell you he has never owned more than one suit at a time in his whole life and he has never owned a suit that fit.
       Every suit Uncle Jack ever bought from J.C. Penney or Sears Roebuck seemed to fit o.k. when he was standing in front of those triple mirrors in the store but as soon as he got home and he bent over to get a beer out of the bottom shelf of the
refrigerator his suit would try to cut off his arm at the armpit.
       Also it would always turn out that the pants were too long and Uncle Jack could not afford to go to a tailor so he would fix the cuffs with paper clips.
       According to this article you cannot make a very good impression in most business circles if you go around with paper clips holding up your cuffs.
       "Shirts should be white or plain light blue; cotton is best. They should not have contrasting collars, oddly shaped collars, or French cuffs."
       Uncle Jack was glad to read that about shirts because shirts were one thing he thought he did right. Most of the time he wears a light blue shirt made of l00 per cent cotton that does
not have any strange kind of collar or cuffs.
       Wearing the right kind of shirt does not seem to have done him any good in the business world, though, and he would hate to think it was just because his light blue l00 per cent cotton
shirt has "I Got Crabs at Austin Fish Company" written on the front.
       "Shoes should be simple, too. Plain black lace-up shoes without fancy stitching or thick soles are all one needs; and they should be meticulously polished."
       Uncle Jack really goofed when it comes to shoes because he usually wears plastic shower clogs from Taiwan except when he is going out to a fancy restaurant like Sam and Omie's he puts on his fake Nike running shoes from the shoe department at Ace
Hardware. Neither one of them takes a very good shine, either.
       Most of the time, though, he goes barefoot and the newspaper article says this is definitely not the way to get ahead unless you are Jimmy Buffett.
       "If you want to get ahead you should dress for success. To my knowledge nobody objects to a dark blue suit, a plain shirt and a dark tie."
       If you want to know the truth Uncle Jack is not so sure he wants to be a success any more since he read that article in the newspaper.
       If the price of success is having to wear a dark blue suit, a dark tie, and black leather shoes all the time he thinks maybe there is something to be said for being a failure.

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Low tide reveals some dangerous stuff lurking in the surf, ready to trip up the unwary bather. A house once stood here but apparently nobody is officially responsible for removing hazards like this.

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Imagine impaling yourself on this while diving into the surf? Who would you sue?

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This unsightly and possibly dangerous mess of wires and pipes has been exposed at Seagull Drive for weeks now. Perhaps the Visitors Bureau could spring for a clean-up one of these days.

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Abandoned sandbags add so much beauty to the beach, don't they? Expecially the black ones. "Save the houses, to hell with the beach" seems to be the mantra of our lawmakers these days.

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Lucky for all of us there are some gorgeous stretches of beach in South Nags Head where houses do not impinge on the beach and the late, unlamented berms are but a fleeting memory.

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No berms and sandbags here, either.

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Uncle Jack cannot tell a lie. He left his camera at his shop yesterday and could not take a picture of this morning's glorious sunrise. It looked a bit like this one from last August. Looks like another fabulous day on the Outer Banks.

posted by Uncle Jack at 6:04 AM

Comments [418]

Saturday, May 28, 2005
Uncle Jack's new game.
                            Outer Banks Trivia Game

       Uncle Jack has spent a fair amount of his life trying to figure out some way to get rich and famous without working but he has not come up with anything yet and sometimes he wonders if he ever will. He is not a quitter though so he keeps trying to think of something at all times and he usually manages to stay fairly cheerful even though he is still poor and unknown.
       The only time Uncle Jack gets a little depressed is when he hears about how some other person has come up with a terrific money-making idea he should have thought of himself and how
that person is getting filthy rich.
       This happened to him last week when he read in the paper about this man who invented a new game called College Trivia or something like that which is just like Trivial Pursuit except that all the questions are just like the questions they put
in the "SAT Test" which is what all the high school graduates take if they want to get into college.
       Uncle Jack is a high school graduate as he might have mentioned once or twice before and he remembers how he had to take that test and how hard the questions were and how nice it would be if you could study up for it before you took it.
       It is a very hard test to study for, though, because the questions are fairly dumb for the most part and you tend to fall asleep before you get very far into your studying and that is why it was so smart for that man to put it into the form of a game.
       People will enjoy almost anything if you make a game out of it and that is why even something as stupid as football has caught on and is now quite popular in some circles. The same thing is happening with the SAT Test game which is making several people very rich and Uncle Jack very jealous.
       Like he said before, though, he never gives up and it did not take him very long to come up with a new game which he is calling Outer Banks Trivia and he is hoping it will catch on enough so he can make a down payment on a second Mini Cooper convertible for Mrs. Uncle Jack to drive.
       So far he has only had time to think of a few questions for his new game but maybe they will give you some idea of how it will go:

l. Manteo is
a. more often mispronounced by tourists than Rodanthe.
b. less often mispronounced by tourists than Wanchese.
c. more often mispronounced by tourists than Bodie Island.
d. less often mispronounced by tourists than Duck.
e. more often ducked by tourists than mispronounced.

2. Chicamacomico is
a. the way a few people spell Chicamacomico.
b. Colonel Sanders' favorite vacation spot.
c. an Indian word meaning "two feet of water covering Highway l2.”
d. what they used to call Avon before they found out that "Chicamacomico" was too long to fit over the door of the new post office.

3. Which of the following best describes the town of Southern Shores?
a. "Gateway to Duck"
b. "Nine Holes and a Nap"
c. "Pentagon-by-the-Sea"
d. “The Outer Banks best-planned, best-governed and most beautiful residential community.”

4. Nags Head is to Kill Devil Hills as
a. Salvo is to Waves
b. Buxton is to Avon
c. Hatteras Village is to Frisco
d. Southern Shores is to Sodom and Gomorrah
e. all of the above

5. "Development" is to "Outer Banks" as
a. fertilizer is to flowers
b. rape is to virgin
c. McDonalds is to ground beef
d. H-bomb is to Hiroshima
       Anyway that's the way Uncle Jack's Outer Banks Trivia game will go and he will be happy to get lots of contributions from his readers so he does not have to do all the hard thinking himself. And if he does finally get rich he promises to spread his wealth around, too, especially in the bars and restaurants.


       Friday was a stupefyingly beautiful day on the Outer Banks. Holiday weekend visitors are pouring in by the thousands and the Bypass is a raging torrent of cars except at the stoplights which grow more numerous every year.

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Jennette's Pier gets a new sign for the season. It is made of vinyl which should reduce the inevitable cost of replacing it next year.

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These erstwhile beachgoers at Bonnett Street gave up and set up their chairs on top the berm, amidst the newly planted sea grass sprigs. The beach is about seven feet down at this point.

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These children were calling for help when Uncle Jack happened along with his camera. It was a long drop to the beach.

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Mom to the rescue.

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Little boy helps by pushing his sister over the edge. She was not injured as far as Uncle Jack could tell.

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Home Depot and Ace Hardware must have had quite a run on ladders this week as homeowners try to help their renters get to the beach over the eroded berm.

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Rappelling gear might be necessary to scale this cliff. How many renters thought to bring rappelling gear with them Uncle Jack wonders.

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A welcome sight. A few crabs seem to have returned to this section of otherwise sterile, berm-smothered beach in South Nags Head.

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Sunrise this morning. Thick clouds on the horizon muffle the usual colorful display. Looks like a perfect beach day coming up, though.

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Uncle Jack's idea of the perfect job. Driving down the beach at dawn, emptying trash cans.

posted by Uncle Jack at 6:14 AM

Comments [10]

Friday, May 27, 2005
A top-down day.
Thursday started out dreadfully like every other day for the past week but by noon it had metamorphosed into magnificence which sent Uncle Jack rushing out to put the top down on his Mini for a ride around the neighborhood.
There was a lot going on at the intersection of Bonnett Street and the Bypass in Nags Head. The natural gas pipelaying crew has reached the area with their bright yellow conduits through which one can hope cheaper fuel will flow one day. The Outer Banks has been in thrall to the rapacious bottled gas industry for much too long if you ask Uncle Jack.
       He does have to wonder if anything will ever come of this, however, knowing that many miles of fiber-optic cable has been laid along the bypass and down to the bottom of South Nags which has never been connected to anything as far as he knows.
       Dowdy's Amusement Park was well established long before Uncle Jack first came to Nags Head in 1969 and he is happy to see them setting up for yet another season. Patrons will have to be careful not to slip on the puddles of developers' drool that no doubt cover the ground around the rides.
       With the new elementary school next door and the YMCA across the street the Dowdy tract has become prime habitat for another cluster of particle board palaces. Buyers will surely pay a premium to have their kids within walking distance of those two wonderful amenities. Watch for Dowdy's to one day go the way of the Foosball Palace, the Casino and the Surfslide, the other great entertainment venues of yesteryear. It is much too tacky to survive in the elegant, upscale Nags Head that is a-building.
       Uncle Jack is reminded of a day he was fishing down at Oregon Inlet maybe twenty years ago when a huge pink Buddy Davis-built sport fishing boat went by at full throttle. The name on the transom was "Dowdy's Amusement".
       Have a lovely day.

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Dowdy's Amusement Park, a tacky but welcome link with the past.

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The natural gas pipelayers are moving expeditiously down the bypass. To what end remains to be seen.

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Nags Head Elementary School riseth on the lot next to Dowdy's Amusement Park. All Uncle Jack's school had was a set of swings and a monkey bar.

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The sea hath its treasures. Uncle Jack would love to pass this off as another piece of a shipwreck but it looks too much like a piling from some defunct beachfront house.

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Surfers were out in force yesterday. Twenty of them had congregated near the Comfort Inn where they could show off for each other.

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A nice ten-second ride. To be followed by ten minutes of gruelling paddling back out to the next wave. Where do they get the energy?

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The beach at dawn this morning. Smooth as a billiard table but with a distinct tilt. Uncle Jack almost hated to sully it with his cruddy old Birkenstocks.

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Sunrise Friday May 27. Wonderful to see some some color in the sky for the first time in nearly a week.

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There she comes.

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The beginning of what should be a truly splendid day on the Outer Banks.

posted by Uncle Jack at 6:48 AM

Comments [4]

Thursday, May 26, 2005
Fish story..
       Uncle Jack has been spending the last few nasty, rainy, windy, cold days going through old files and throwing away stuff he should have dumped years ago. One of the things he should have tossed was a floppy disk (remember floppy disks?) that contained the following true stories about fishing events that actually happened to him back before he got older and wiser and decided it was more fun to watch other people fish than to do it himself.


       Uncle Jack is happy to report that this was another very good week for him in the fishing department. He followed Uncle Jack's First Law of Good Fishing to the letter which is to go
to where the fish are before you start fishing and it really paid off.
       Last Saturday, for example, he was driving his new secondhand Jeep down the beach on the way to work and he almost ran over this man who was busy catching a very large bluefish. Uncle Jack stopped right there and started trying to untangle his
rusty Hopkins from the rest of the mess in the bottom of his tackle box but then he saw a bottom rig which already had some mullet on the hooks from when he was fishing a few days before so he decided to try that.
       He does not expect anybody to believe it but about two seconds after he casted out that bottom rig with the dried mullet on it he hooked a l7 pound bluefish which is the biggest fish he has caught in his life so far. If you ask him this ought to prove once and for all that as far as fishing goes if you are in the right place at the right time nothing else matters.
       Uncle Jack has heard that this is also true in other walks of life such as real estate and bank robbery but he cannot vouch for that. But he does know about fishing so when he heard they
were catching flounders down at Cape Point last Sunday he drove right down there.
       Uncle Jack and his friend who is a Professor of Philosophy over at N.C. State University caught so many flounders that they got tired out and had to stop fishing even before the flounders stopped biting. You might not think that a Professor
of Philosophy could do anything practical like catch flounders but he really did which just goes to prove that if a person is in the right place at the right time he can overcome almost any handicap.
       In between catching flounders Uncle Jack also caught his first octopus which he threw back because he does not have any good recipes for octopus. He is kicking himself, though, because somebody told him he probably had the new world record for octopus caught on 8 lb. test line and he would have got his picture in the paper which he could have sent to all his relatives who thought he would never amount to anything.
       Uncle Jack also caught a bluefish which clamped his teeth down hard on his finger and would not let go no matter how much he swore and jumped up and down. Finally Uncle Jack remembered this spy movie he saw on TV where the bad guys were trying to
get another man to talk so they held his head under water until he talked so Uncle Jack did the same thing to the bluefish and it really worked, too.
       He held that bluefish's head under the water until he finally let go of Uncle Jack's finger and swam away which goes to prove that Uncle Jack is a lot smarter than your average bluefish.

       He should probably explain about the first two pictures below. His only begotten daughter, Emily, has joined the obxconnection family and has been contributing pictures and comments for the past few weeks. She uses the first picture below in her bio and it looks pretty innocent but she probably didn't know that her Dad had a copy of the same picture as it looked before she very kindly cropped it. The second picture contains the unvarnished truth about her father back before his heartless cardiologist told him to dump his two best friends in the whole world, Mattingly and Moore.



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Emily's obxconnection bio picture.

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The uncropped version. That's a jug of Mattingly and Moore bourbon she gave him for his 70th birthday. Is she a good daughter or what?

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Uncle Jack is pleased to report that Whalebone Seafood on the bypass (accessed from Gray Eagle street on the other side of the bypass from the Tanger Outlet Mall) is open at last. Great fresh seafood at manageable prices all summer long. Hallelujah.

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There's a real whalebone by the front entrance so bring the kids. Uncle Jack has no fiduciary interest in the place but he's mighty glad it's open again.

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Uncle Jack visiting his brother in Brainerd, Minnesota on July 4, 2001. He and Mrs. U.J. will be up there again in June and he hopes the snow will be gone by that time.

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No sunrise again this morning. Still cold and overcast. Here's one from last August.

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And this one's from June, 2004.

posted by Uncle Jack at 6:11 AM

Comments [3]

Wednesday, May 25, 2005
Fun with Google
       It's unseasonably cold and windy in South Nags Head this morning-----again. Like yesterday there was no sunrise to photograph so Uncle Jack has reached into the archives for a couple from last year.
       He is hoping that today will develop into a reasonable facsimile of yesterday when there were patches of sunshine between the periods of cold drizzle, but it doesn't look too promising.
       It turned out to be a fun-filled day for him in spite of the weather because he discovered a most amazing new Google program called "Keyhole". He signed up for a seven day free trial and spent hours playing with it and there is no doubt that he will be coughing up $29.95 to have it available for a whole year.
       For those who don't already know about it he can tell you it is a satellite picture service whereby you can type into the search bar any street address in the U.S. and it will present you with a satellite view of it. For example, he zeroed in on his daughter Emily's new house in Concord, California that she hasn't even moved into yet.
       But that is not all. You can scroll in and scroll out for either wider or tighter views and starting from any one place you can travel the entire country without ever leaving your computer.
       (Uncle Jack wishes he had known about this before he bought his new Mini and started making plans for a cross-country motor trip this summer).
       Seriously this program is more fun than a night at the Foosball Palace (remember the Foosball Palace?) and it is easy to download and play with. If Uncle Jack could do it anybody can. Just google Google Keyhole to get started.
       But don't do it at work or you could be in big trouble. It's addictive.


       Uncle Jack stopped off at the large Bonnet Street beach access in Nags Head to see if any progress has been made in providing convenient ways
for our Memorial Day visitors to get over the new berm and onto the beach without risking their lives. Nothing has, as the pictures show. Maybe they will be forced to go shopping instead which could be good for Yellowhouse Gallery which is almost right across the street and easy to get to. Every berm has a silver lining?

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Outer Banks pier, Google satellite image. Looks like it was taken before Isabel lopped off the end.

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The Belk shopping center in KDH. Looks worse from the air than it does at ground level. Redeemed only by New York Bagels.

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Sam and Omie's and neighboring structures at Whalebone Junction. The heart of downtown South Nags Head.

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Village at Nags Head golf course. When Uncle Jack first came to Nags Head this was the undeveloped 440 acre "Epstein Tract" of rolling dunes, ponds, live oak, rabbits, snakes, deer, etc. But we needed another golf course so it had to go.

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This one probably needs no caption. Where else could you find this much undeveloped land in KDH?

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Bonnet Street "public access", milepost 11 in Nags Head, three days before the Memorial Day mobs arrive.

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Ditto. It will be too cold to swim so perhaps the lifeguard can help people onto and off of the beach. They will need all the help they can get.

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Latter day Lewis and Clarks are blazing new trails over the berms in search of a way to the beach.

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One morning in August 2004.

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And another from December 20.

posted by Uncle Jack at 6:28 AM

Comments [906]

Tuesday, May 24, 2005
Hitting the Cut-off Man
Dear Uncle Jack,
I have wanted to ask you a question about baseball for a long time but I had to wait for my husband to die, which he did, thank goodness, during a doubleheader last Saturday
afternoon. If you want to know the truth he was dead for four hours before I even noticed which did not surprise me because every time he turned on the TV to watch a baseball game he would fall asleep immediately and he would not wake up again until it was over.
Except when I would try to sneak in and change the channel to Miami Vice or something he would open one eye and mumble "gottawatchaballgame" and as soon as I switched back to the game he would fall asleep again.
Needless to say I was forced to endure a lot of baseball during the 35 years we were married and my question to you is this: How could there be such a thing as insomnia in the world as long as there is baseball on TV? I would rather watch two communists play chess than have to sit there while a bunch of overpaid slobs stand around and scratch themselves and spit and wait for something exciting to happen which hardly ever does except when some bimbo runs on the field and starts taking off her clothes.
So if you are so smart maybe you can tell me what is so great about baseball that they have to put six games on TV every night.

Baseball Widow
Southern Shores

Dear Widow,
Uncle Jack's heart goes out to your departed husband who must have suffered greatly during his long and unfortunate marriage to such a sarcastic person as yourself. It is fairly obvious to Uncle Jack that you have not even tried to learn enough about the great game of baseball so that you too could understand and appreciate it as much as your late husband did.
Take the spitting, for example. If you gave your husband a chance he could have opened your eyes to the wonderful world of spitting in which there is never a dull moment if you know what to watch for. He could have told you about the various types of chewing tobacco which produce the almost infinite variety of spitting styles which trained observers like Uncle Jack and your late husband could use to glean valuable information as the game proceeded.
For example, Uncle Jack can tell you almost to the minute when a manager is going to change pitchers just by the amount of tobacco juice running down his chin. And if they have a good cameraman who knows how to move in close to the cheek area Uncle Jack can tell you if the manager is working on a gob of real Red Man or just some wimp-type chew that comes in little packets like Lipton's tea and tastes like Wrigley's spearmint.
And he can tell you it makes a lot of difference over a whole season if the manager is a real man who can handle a real chew or if he is some kind of sissy who goes for one of the designer brands. This is not something you can hide from your players for very long, especially when they are sober.
And there is a lot more to baseball than just spitting, too. If you know the game you can tell what kind of underwear a pitcher is wearing just by the way he handles himself on the mound.
Anyway there is a lot more Uncle Jack could tell you about baseball if he had time such as "hitting the cut-off man" which is so important that if a player cannot learn to do it right he might as well quit baseball and go into real estate just like everybody else.
Uncle Jack

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A bit of tidying up is in order in the Surfside Drive vicinity before someone gets hurt. Perhaps if the Town of Nags Head has a little money left over from berm-building it could tackle a clean-up in this area.

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Uncle Jack has often wondered why this house has been allowed to stand when the one next to it was condemned and torn down many months ago. Strange are the workings of government.

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A quick and dirty (and inexpensive) solution to the berm drop-off problem. If all the stairways in South Nags were as simple and unassuming as this the clean-up after the next storm would be a lot easier.

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Unfortunately most of them look like this. Is it because the insurance company pays for these unnecessarily elaborate constructions?

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This one is ready for another berm if one ever materializes. More likely it will crumple in the next storm. Uncle Jack's heart goes out to people who own oceanfront property.

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These fishermen (and U.J. and Mrs. U.J.) were treated to the sight of a pod of porpoises leaping and splashing in what appeared to be a feeding frenzy right in front of them. How lucky can you get?

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It was gorgeous on the beach until sunset when the wind abruptly switched to the north and the temperature dropped about ten degrees in five minutes.

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You can believe Uncle Jack when he tells you there are porpoises in this picture. The first ones he has seen this year. They were moving north, faster than he could walk, about 50 yards off shore. A lovely sight.

posted by Uncle Jack at 5:45 AM

Comments [7]

Monday, May 23, 2005
Hollowell Hotel-1892
       Uncle Jack spent another hour yesterday going through old files and he found a folder full of papers and letters relating to hotels in Nags Head owned by the Hollowell family of Elizabeth City in the 1890's. He acquired them perhaps 15 years ago when the contents of the Hollowell mansion in E. City were auctioned off and the house sold. It was a minor tragedy that so many historically significant items that had been in the same family for generations were scattered in this way instead of being preserved in one place.
       The first item is a handwritten contract for the building of a new hotel in old Nags Head using some of the lumber from another hotel that had been partially destroyed. Apparently a man's word was his bond in those days so no lawyer got any piece of this transaction.
       These items can be perused on request at Yellowhouse Gallery along with many other equally interesting pictures, letters, etc. relating to local history, many of which are available for purchase. Uncle Jack also ran across a stash of the famous Ash Wednesday Storm photo pictured below. It is available in the gallery or by mail at a special reduced price of $15 to obxconnection members.
Let him know if you would like to have one and he will personally get it off to you toot sweet. (He offers this information only as a public service, of course, with no mercenary intent.)


       Sunday was just plain gorgeous. He and Mrs. U.J. did some dashing around in the Mini with the top down and finished the day with a walk on the beach in the Surfside Drive area at sunset. It's nice and wide now, thanks to Mother Nature, but littered with the torn remains of many sandbags which the Town of Nags Head put there in a futile effort to save the street. It's possible that normal wave action will cover this unsightly stuff in time but if it doesn't it seems to Uncle Jack that the Town has the responsibility to clean up the mess it made before the summer crowds arrive.

       Looks like another pleasant day in store for the Outer Banks today with mild temperatures and only a chance of thunderstorms later. High surf the past couple of days has scrubbed the beach clean in most areas and except for the sandbagged portions it looks great.

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First part of the contract which continues in the next picture. No mention of particle board which apparently had not yet been invented.

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End of contract. Note the agreed upon amount of $825 for building this large structure.

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Mr. Hollowell and Mr. Vaughan must have thought it a fair price.

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A letter from guests at another Hollowell hotel. The most expensive rooms cost $2.50 per day $15 per week and $50 per month. The hotel was on the sound side and was reached by boat from Elizabeth City, Hertford and other cities in the area.

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Ash Wednesday Storm, March 7, 1962, Kitty Hawk, N.C. The cottages are real but is the picture? Some say it's a fake but whether it is or not it's a great conversation piece.

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Abandoned Town of Nags Head sandbags don't add much to the esthetic of this new beach at Surfside Drive. Mother Nature is working on it but she might need a little help.

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Sunset in South Nags Head, Sunday 5/22.

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Sunrise, 5:51 a.m. in South Nags Head, Monday May 23.

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Ditto. Definitely worth getting up for. Enjoy.

posted by Uncle Jack at 6:21 AM

Comments [8]

Sunday, May 22, 2005
Read it and weep.
       Good morning all. If you have time today there is a "must read" article in yesterday's issue of the Virginian-Pilot Online by Catherine Kozak. If you don't already have a shortcut to the Pilot on your desktop or in your list of favorites this would be a good time to do it. If you're signing up for this free service for the first time you may have to fill out a short questionnaire but it's worth the effort. The Virginian-Pilot often contains articles about the Outer Banks which are informative and well-written and which do not duplicate the offerings of the local newspapers.
       In this lengthy piece Kozak reports on the rather dismal spring experienced by many businesses on the Outer Banks and explores some of the reasons (besides the weather) why they might be having trouble. It's a good piece and Uncle Jack highly recommends taking the time to read it.


       It turned out to be a glorious day on the Outer Banks yesterday after a drippy start. It was chilly but just right for a bracing bike ride around the neighborhood. Uncle Jack needed to work off the harmful effects of ingesting too many fried bluefish and hushpuppies (not to mention cheesecake and strawberries and entirely too much pinot grigio as a chaser) for dinner last night.
       As a result of his ride he is in a position to further obfuscate the situation surrounding the Sea Oatel, the venerable Quality Inn near Sam and Omie's at Whalebone Junction. The Oatel suffered serious damage at the hands of Isabel and has been limping along ever since, renting only units in an annex on the west side of the Beach Road.
       In recent months workers have installed a brand new metal roof on the oceanfront unit which suggested that other repairs would soon begin. But very recently most of the doors and windows have been removed which is often an indication that a building is being prepared for demolition.
       Uncle Jack has learned from one unimpeachable source that the hotel has been sold and will soon be demolished. He has learned from another unimpeachable source that it is going to be repaired but it will not reopen this summer. Now it remains to be seen which unimpeachable source is really unimpeachable. The way things have been going lately he would be inclined to put his money on the folks with the wrecking ball.
       With the coming of all the chain businesses and the consequent disappearance of so many smaller, locally owned establishments Uncle Jack has reason to rejoice that so many of his neighborhood favorites are still in place and hanging on. The Dune Burger, Sam and Omie's and Cahoon's Grocery pictured below are all within a mile of his house and for that he is eternally grateful. He noticed today that Whalebone Seafood, around the corner from Sam and Omie's on Gray Eagle street, has reopened for the season which is a great boon to all who live and vacation in South Nags Head.
       Speaking of seafood he is happy to respond to public demand and reprint below his favorite recipe for croaker, as previously offered in his unbest-selling book "Uncle Jack's Outer Banks" of which he still has a few copies for those who are in a position to part with $4.95 plus $1.50 shipping. (It's $4.95 with no shipping at Yellowhouse Gallery). Let him know if you want one.

                                   CROAKER RECIPE

One medium croaker, unscaled, head on.
One cup crushed bran flakes.
Three tablespoons cod liver oil.
One cup crushed ice.
Four ounces cognac brandy.

Roll croaker in bran flakes until well coated. Fry in cod liver oil, three minutes on each side. Remove from pan and set aside. Pour cognac over crushed ice. Drink cognac while waiting for croaker to cool. When croaker has reached room temperature, feed to cat. Cats like croaker; Uncle Jack does not.


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Musical restaurants. Eastern Europe will be happy to learn that this latest addition to the ubiquitous Applebee's chain of uninspiring eateries is now hiring. It will occupy the former site of the La Fogata Mexican restaurant at the Nags Head Mall.

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La Fogata, which had replaced Hardee's, has moved across the street (love the new paint) to replace the late, unlamented Maione's. Stay tuned for further developments in the local restaurant scene which are never long in coming.

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The Bodie Island Beach Club condo development south of Jennette's pier has not looked too robust since Isabel. Uncle Jack would not be surprised to see it come down the rest of the way soon although he has no definitive info.

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The sign says Enjoy the Charm of the Outer Banks which includes, presumably, the hurricanes which wrecked the place.

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The Sea Oatel, a.k.a. the Hamlet Inn. (To be or not to be...?)

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The Dune Burger at Whalebone Junction. It was here when Uncle Jack came in 1969 and it's still going strong. No wonder McDonald's and Burger King and Wendy's all decided to locate in Kill Devil Hills. They knew they didn't have a chance.

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Applebee's schmapplebee's. This is the one, the only, the greatest---Sam and Omie's at Whalebone Junction.

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Cahoon's everything store (once Evans) is the saviour of every cook in South Nags Head who suddenly discovers that he or she doesn't have some essential ingredient. One of the last survivors from pre-supermarket era.

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At last a sunrise worth getting up for this morning. The surf is up and has scoured the beach clean of all detritus including the piece of shipwreck which has departed for parts unknown.

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Looks like a magnificent Sunday on the Outer Banks. Wind has shifted to the west and balmy temperatures are predicted for later in the day. It's going to be a top down day in the Mini for sure.

posted by Uncle Jack at 6:22 AM

Comments [8]

Saturday, May 21, 2005
Remembering 1973.
       Uncle Jack was tossing out old files yesterday morning when he ran across one full of yellowed clippings from 1973 issues of the Coastland Times. There had been a humongous storm in the winter of that year that did all manner of damage.
       The picture of the stranded Corvette reminded him of a sad event he observed while fishing at Cape Point many years ago. The little creek that sometimes develops to carry overflow out of the big pond at the point was barely a trickle when a gentleman tried to gun his brand new chrome-plated Ford F-150 pick-up across it heading west.
       He got stuck, of course, and the little creek soon widened into a river wide enough to sweep his beloved truck into the ocean. Fortunately a park service tow truck had gotten a line on it and kept it from floating away although the engine was completely submerged. Later another monster tow-truck from Buxton arrived on the scene and they were able to winch it slowly back up on the beach.
       Uncle Jack leaves to your imagination what probably happened to that magnificent vehicle after a two hour dousing in saltwater.


       Rain was splattering on the skylight at 5:30 a.m. so Uncle Jack did not bother to roll out and try to take a picture of a sunrise that he knew was not happening. There is a chilly wind out of the north this morning and even though the sun is shining brightly now it's not going to be a good day for lounging around on the beach.
       For this the shopkeepers of the Outer Banks, Uncle Jack included, are grateful.

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Folks with long memories might remember Uncle Jack's First Colony Gallery which stood by the Beach road in front of that fine oceanfront hotel from 1969 to 1976.

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Uncle Jack checks out a liberty ship that broke loose from its tow near Rodanthe, enroute to a scrapyard in Louisiana in 1973. It was later floated off by oceangoing tugs.

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Uncle Jack wishes he had bought this house in 1973. Wonder what it's worth now. Of course $13,500 was an astronomical amount of money for him in those days.

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An eternal story on Hatteras. How many vehicles have been lost to sand and sea just like this one in 1973.

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He who hesitates is lost. Our lawmakers did have a chance to keep the bypass a bypass back in the 70's but by the time they got through planning it was too late.

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Yes, Virginia, there was a Pebble Beach Motel in Nags Head. Until recently when a higher and better use for the property was found in the form of numerous particle board palaces. No trace of it remains.

posted by Uncle Jack at 9:35 AM

Comments [7]

Friday, May 20, 2005
Homage to Ann Landers
       Back when Uncle Jack was a newspaper columnist he was a great admirer of Ann Landers because she was able to crank out a new column almost every day without ever running out of ideas. Then he found out that she had a whole staff of people helping to write her column and also that she used to recycle her columns all the time just by changing them a little bit.
       He didn't admire Ann Landers quite as much after that but he did think that the way she recycled columns was a very good idea and he has been doing it ever since. Like today, for example.


Dear Uncle Jack,
       I saw in the paper where that play called "The Lost Colony" is going to run again this summer over on Roanoke Island. I have heard so many stories about what happened to the Lost Colony that I don't know what to believe any more. What really happened to the Lost Colony, Uncle Jack?


Dear Confused,
       The Lost Colony is a good reason why people shouldn't believe everything some developer tells them. Sir Walter Raleigh's brochures were full of hype about the "terrifick fishing" and the "salubrious climate" in what he called "the goodliest land under the cope of heaven". But Raleigh never said a word about the mosquitoes on Roanoke Island.
       He lured those poor colonists over here about 200 years before Sir Reginald Off invented insect spray and those pesky little critters nearly ate them alive before they decided to split.
       Uncle Jack agrees with Professor Herman von Schitzlinger of Harvard who says that the colonists just packed up and went to Illinois one day after somebody told them there weren't any bugs up there.
       The professor even says he found some direct descendants of the Lost Colony still living in Highland Park, a suburb of Chicago. He knows they were from the Outer Banks because they pronounce it Hoighland Pork. And now you know.

                                                               Uncle Jack


Dear Uncle Jack,
              I enjoyed my visit to the Outer Banks last month but I got very confused because I kept seeing signs that said "Bodie Island" and "Pea Island" and "Hatteras Island" but I could never find any islands. Does "island" mean something different on the Outer Banks than it does in other places?

                                                               Geography Major
                                                               Chapel Hill

Dear Major,
       You have unwittingly discovered one more example of the wisdom, frugality and patience of the hardy folk who settled this fragile strand known as the Outer Banks. Bodie Island, (pronounced "body" as in Baywatch) and all the other non-islands you name, really were islands at one time. When the inlets that formed them filled up and they weren't islands any more nobody bothered to change the signs because everybody who lives here knows that one of these days---maybe next week---they are going to be islands again.

                                                               Uncle Jack


Yesterday was too nasty for Uncle Jack to get out and take pictures so he decided to recycle some of them, too.

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Sometimes the ocean is pretty.

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And sometimes it ain't.

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You never know what will wash up next. This photo of the "Loch Nagshead Monster" was taken by Lynn Atkins of Manteo, picture framer par excellence.

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An intact helmet crab is a rarity. Uncle Jack read somewhere that this critter has survived as a species longer than almost all others. Can he survive beach replenishment? Stay tuned.

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Once in a while Uncle Jack is rewarded by a sunrise like this.

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Or this.

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But alas, this morning, Friday 5/20, it looked like this.

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This should be a busy couple of weeks for the folks who build steps. The Memorial Day hordes will be looking for some way to get onto the beach without jumping off the edge of a precipice.

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The neighborhood shipwreck looks like it could float off to a new location any day now. It has shifted slightly but remains in the same location as it was last week.

posted by Uncle Jack at 6:14 AM

Comments [4]

Thursday, May 19, 2005
Strawberry time.
       Ever since he got his new Mini Cooper convertible Uncle Jack has seized upon any excuse to drive it somewhere so yesterday when Mrs. Uncle Jack mentioned that strawberries were ripe for picking up in Currituck county he took off, even though his usual strategy is to avoid anything resembling work at all times.
       Point Harbor Pick-Your-Own, James I. Malco, Prop., is just over the Wright Memorial Bridge. Watch for the "Pick them Yourself" sign on the right and turn right on the first hard-surfaced road, the name of which Uncle Jack has already forgotten. Watch for the entrance to the strawberry patch on your right about an eighth of a mile down. (Mr. Malco says it's a good idea to call before you make a long trip to make sure he's open---252-491-8266.)
       Uncle Jack brought his own bucket which he filled to the brim before his back gave out in about twenty minutes. What looked like $25 worth of strawberries at store prices cost $6.50. If you live within driving distance and have a little time on your hands (and you love strawberries) this is a highly recommended outing. (But don't procrastinate---it will all be over by the end of this month).
       On the way up to Currituck he swung by the site of the new hotel under construction near the Kitty Hawk pier. The pier itself was almost completely destroyed by Hurricane Isabel which you would think might be taken as an ill omen by the developers. As some of the pictures below suggest, oceanfront hotel-building on the Outer Banks can be
a little dicey. You have to be a well-heeled optimist, that's for sure.

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International headquarters of Point Harbor Pick-Your-Own.

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A little bit of heaven for strawberry lovers. This lovely field will probably become a sand pit one day as berm building on the beaches continues forever under the auspices of the county commissioners.

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If the developers ever get past the site preparation stage this will become the Outer Banks' largest hotel. A Hilton if Uncle Jack's shaky memory serves him right.

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They actually got further than this last time before they pulled up the pilings and went home. Are they past the point of no return? Stay tuned.

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Uncle Jack can remember when the Sea Ranch had a nice wide beach in front of it. Perhaps the Hilton developers have found a way to prevent this from happening.

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Ditto the Sea Foam near the 17 milepost. Does Martha Stewart do sandbags, he wonders.

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Then there's the Comfort Inn South (nee Armada, then Ramada), 40 years old and counting. The swimming pool was once in the near corner. How long does it take to amortize a large oceanfront hotel, he wonders.

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Sunrise (?) Thursday May 19. Not the most memorable sunrise in Uncle Jack's portfolio. Right after this it started to rain so he didn't hang around to see if it would get better.

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Here's a prettier one from last August.

posted by Uncle Jack at 6:56 AM

Comments [9]

Wednesday, May 18, 2005
Mending fences.
       Uncle Jack rarely agrees with the county commissioners on anything relating to beach renourishment but he is happy to report that there is one matter on which they are in perfect accord. When one Luther Tucker of the Beach Reclamation Company of Florida presented his "Walking Sand Snare" scheme to the board last week as an alternative to dumping dredge spoil on the beaches they were not impressed.
       Nor was Uncle Jack. His memory of similar devices goes way back to "Potter's Fence" which the city of Virginia Beach expensively installed about thirty years ago when they ran out of sand to pump from Rudee's Inlet onto the beach. After a couple of swimmers nearly drowned in the "fence" the town fathers quickly (and very expensively) had it removed. The commissioners then could have bought it for ten cents on the dollar, which even at that price was no bargain.
       More recently readers will recall the efforts to plant "plastic seaweed" in front of the Hatteras lighthouse to build up the beach. After one of the installers became tangled in the stuff and drowned that cockamamie scheme was also abandoned.
       There is no doubt in Uncle Jack's mind that Mr. Tucker sincerely believes in his invention and it may even have had limited success in other areas but there is also no doubt in his mind that it won't work here. In that respect it is very much like the recent berm-building efforts which have also demonstratively, and expensively, failed.
       Now if we could only convince the commissioners that copious quantities of dredge spoil aren't going to work either we would have all that money available to clean up after the next bad storm which is surely coming, and which we can do nothing
to stop.

It was a gorgeous, albeit chilly, day yesterday---perfect for taking some visiting friends to Hatteras for a look at the lighthouse (and another basket of the world-class hushpuppies at the Buoy
restaurant). Evidence of our recent inclement weather were everywhere in the form of sand build-up along highway 12 and standing water in every low spot. The water table in most of Dare county must be high enough to support rice cultivation at this point.

If you haven't discovered the new Google map program yet you have fun in store. Go to Google and try it out. Uncle Jack thinks you will be happy to abandon all the other map programs you might have been using---and it's free!

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Sunrise Wednesday May 15, 2005. For the first time this week the sun was visible at sunrise. Huzzah.

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And a few minutes later. Still a chill wind blowing off the ocean this morning. It's not going to be a good day for soaking up rays.

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Lake Hatteras has formed again at the base of the lighthouse following the recent frog-strangling rains.

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Want to climb the tower? There's no waiting on a Tuesday in mid-May. Uncle Jack graciously declined, saving his aged knees for the Grand Canyon this summer.

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Uncle Jack's friends, Jim and Jeff, from California and Georgia, smokers both, made it to the top. "Let the wheezing begin" was Jeff's cry as they started up.

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Heavy equipment is still working to remove sand from Hiway 12 south of the bridge after the recent northeasters. A never-ending task that gets harder every year.

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Still no birds on the beach in South Nags Head but at least the pelicans still fly over regularly.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:21 AM

Comments [5]

Tuesday, May 17, 2005
Nostalgia time
       Uncle Jack spent a couple of delightful hours yesterday wallowing in nostalgia while perusing a new book entitled "The Outer Banks in Vintage Postcards" by the late Outer Banks author Chris Kidder whose unexpected and lamentable death occurred just weeks before its publication last month.
       This book is an absolute must for anyone who loves the Outer Banks. The small sampling of pictures below barely scratches the surface of this treasure trove of images of local scenes from the past. Uncle Jack apologizes for his ineptitude in scanning and presenting these pictures and he highly recommends that you obtain a copy and see for yourself just how excellent it is.
       He bought his copy at Manteo Booksellers where the affable proprietor, Steve Brumfield, has a goodly supply. Call him at 252-473-1221 or google Manteo Booksellers.
       Among the most nostalgic pictures for Uncle Jack is that of Daniels' Cafe on the causeway which was in his opinion one of the finest restaurants in the world during its five year existence. Basil Daniels, the co-owner with his wife Beulah, prepared fried shrimp and oysters that were so delectable as to make Uncle Jack's mouth water 25 years later. The original building is now incorporated into Basnight's Lone Cedar restaurant in the same location.
       LeRoy's Seaside Inn metamorphosed into the First Colony Inn where he spent his first couple of summers in Nags Head. The Casino was still rocking in those days, literally, especially when a great band like Bill Deal and the Rhondels got a couple of hundred dancers moving in unison on the upstairs dance floor. It was Mother Nature, though, who finally blew the old building down which was something even Louis Armstrong couldn't do.
       There are scores of pictures like this covering Hatteras, Nags Head, KDH, Roanoke Island, Manteo, Ocracoke and more. You will love this book.      

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The cover.

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George Crocker's Galleon Esplanade, mentioned in a recent blog entry, lower picture.

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Daniels' Cafe, bottom. Midway gas station top.

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The place to swing in its heyday. The Casino on the beach road in Nags Head, where Kitty Hawk Kites is now. Louis Armstrong and many other greats played here.

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The First Colony Inn started life as LeRoy's Seaside Inn. Top picture is an old soundside hotel.

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This is how folks got to Hatteras from Nags Head for 30 years before the Bonner Bridge was built over Oregon Inlet.

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Barefoot coeds served lace cornbread to the patrons at the Oasis Restaurant on the causeway.

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Uncle Jack doubts that we will see the sun at all today. It didn't look promising at 6 a.m. as you can see.

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So you won't forget what a sunrise looks like this was taken last August.

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And this one in November.

posted by Uncle Jack at 6:10 AM

Comments [3]

Monday, May 16, 2005
Best of the beaches--2005
       Uncle Jack's initial impressions of the Outer Banks were formed by the neighborhood he stayed in when he first arrived. This happened to be the vicinity of the First Colony Inn, directly across the road from Jockey's Ridge at the northern end of the row of old cottages now known as the historic district.
       He and his family spent their first two summers in the First Colony Inn and established what was later to become the Yellowhouse Gallery in a building on the hotel property. (That building was later damaged by a large truck that rolled down the hill from Austin's gas station across the beach road but it's still around---part of the "historic village" that the late Carolista Baum had assembled behind her jewelry store near the 14 milepost). Yellowhouse operated as the First Colony Gallery until moving in 1977 to its present location at the 11 milepost. (Later the First Colony Inn itself was moved to a new location between the highways near the 16 milepost).
       Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. took advantage of yesterday's glorious weather to go for a stroll on the beach in the old neighborhood and he must say he was pleased by what he saw. The beach in that area is without a doubt the widest and prettiest in all of Nags Head and probably KDH and Kitty Hawk, too for that matter.
       The berm builders stayed away from that area so the beach is completely in its natural state. (He guesses that because there are no public accesses in the historic district it was not eligible for federal funds but he could be wrong about that).
Whatever the reason the beach looks exactly as it did when Uncle Jack first saw it 36 years ago and it is gorgeous. The water's edge is teeming with sandpipers and gulls just as it always was.
       As the pictures below show, this magnificent beach exists today because the owners of those cottages have wisely moved them back over the years as the ocean began to encroach. Had they decided to pile walls of sandbags around them 15 or 20 years ago the area would look like parts of South Nags Head look today. Wouldn't that be a pity.
       For all who have not had a chance to read it the excellent letter-to-the-editor by J. Martin Booth that Uncle Jack mentioned a couple of days ago is now available in the online edition of the Outer Banks Sentinel. Google the Sentinel and click on the link to letters and editorials. Highly recommended reading.

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Looking south in the historic district.

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Looking north in the historic district.

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The same area after a storm in '71 showing former locations of the cottages on the right.

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Still there 34 years later.

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Here's where the sandpipers are who fled the sterile beach in South Nags Head. This area hasn't been ruined for them.

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Good gull habitat, too.

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Former location of the First Colony Inn across from Jockeys Ridge.

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Again this morning the sun played peekaboo through heavy clouds. Uncle Jack couldn't see it until after he got back to the house at about 6:30. Looks like a nice day is shaping up.

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Uncle Jack says goodby today to his beloved old prerusted Plymouth Voyager that carried him and Mrs. U.J. over 99,000 trouble free miles over the past ten years. He would feel bad about this except that he knows he is going to love his new yellow Mini Coo

posted by Uncle Jack at 6:47 AM

Comments [3]

Sunday, May 15, 2005
Good luck graduates.
       Uncle Jack drove past the Rev. Pat Robertson's bible college up in Virginia Beach the other night and he noticed they were having their commencement ceremonies. So it must be that time of the year when all the graduating college seniors have to get out there in the real world and look for a job.
       From what he has read in the papers this is not a particularly good time to be looking for gainful employment, especially if you have set your sights a little higher than stocking shelves part-time at Wal-Mart.
              Uncle Jack was much luckier when he graduated from college a half-century ago because he had a job waiting for him when he got out. The U.S. Navy had paid for his education at the University of Wisconsin and the ink was still wet on his sheepskin when they shipped him off to Korea where the U.S. government was engaged in a "police action" aided by a handful of United Nations troops.
              Uncle Jack came home intact (which was somewhat amazing after some of the nights of liberty he enjoyed in Tokyo) but other American servicemen and women remained in South Korea to "keep the peace" and fifty years later they are still there. This does not augur well for our present adventures in the Middle East.
              There was a time not so long ago when joining the Peace Corps was a great way for new college graduates to get some valuable work (and life) experience before entering graduate school or going to work but Uncle Jack is not so sure he would recommend that to young people who are graduating this year.      
              In most of the countries where Peace Corps volunteers once were welcomed they now seem to have a greater need for heavily armed soldiers equipped with tanks and helicopters who might actually have a chance of imposing "peace" on the warring factions who are ripping those countries apart. Even that doesn't always work as we so painfully learned in Somalia and are relearning in Afghanistan.
              There is always Iraq, of course, where the U.S. is trying to establish something resembling democracy in that dissension-wracked pseudo-country. Saddam Hussein had a hard enough time maintaining his ruthless dictatorship over the disparate tribes and religious factions that are lumped together under the rubric of "Iraq" so it is hard for Uncle Jack to understand why President Bush and his fellow infidels think they are ready to govern themselves peacefully any time soon.
              At any rate it looks like there will be guaranteed employment for willing (or desperate) Americans in Iraq for the foreseeable future, right up to the day the government gives up, declares that democracy has been established, and goes home.
       All things considered (if you don't fancy being blown up or shot) it looks like maybe the best thing for a local college graduate to do is move to Currituck County and buy a dumptruck. Hauling sand to the beaches looks like it will be the major growth industry around here for a long time if the commissioners get their way. You might start looking for a doublewide up there, too, because you surely won't be able to afford a house in Dare County.      
              Anyway Uncle Jack wishes all the graduates the best of luck and he urges them to start saving every penny they can so they can pay for the war which has cost $300 billion of borrowed money so far with no end in sight. This is a war by credit card and it's today's young people who will be paying for it---if not with their lives then with their future earnings. It isn't costing us old folks a dime which is a good thing considering the cost of medical insurance these days.
       Have a nice day y'all. Uncle Jack will try to think of something a little more cheerful to write about tomorrow.

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Again the clouds were so thick this morning that no sun was visible at the appointed moment. Uncle Jack could have stood in bed.

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This pigeon and his mate have established residence under the deck of this house. They are the only birds frequenting this neighborhood at the present time. Uncle Jack would prefer sandpipers but he will probably learn to love the pigeons in time.

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This public access walkway in South Nags Head is a dropping off place for folks on the way to the beach

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This is the sheer drop at the end of the walkway where the steps recently vanished along with the new berm that was supposed to protect them. Mother Nature can really be a pest sometimes.

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After his grouchy essay the least Uncle Jack can do is put up some pretty pictures. This one was taken in August last year.

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And so was this.

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And this.

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Fun with foam.

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This happened in November last year.

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A sunny day at the pier. Don't you wish you were here?

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:38 AM

Comments [11]

Saturday, May 14, 2005
Beachgoers---bring your parachute!
       The beach near the public accesses at Blackman and Bonnet Streets (milepost 11)) was one of the last to receive a FEMA berm before operations ceased on May 1. Having missed all the winter storms it remained relatively intact during the recent northeasters, losing only ten feet or so of its original width.
       As the pictures below show this has created a bit of a problem for erstwhile beachgoers. After gaining access to the top of the berm they are faced with a sheer five to seven foot drop-off which can be intimidating to all but the strong and agile, like Uncle Jack.
       As Uncle Jack found out it's a lot easier to get down to the beach than it is to get back up, especially if you are carrying children and beach paraphernalia (or both).
       Already frustrated beachgoers are trampling the expensive beach grass implants looking for a way down and sometimes setting up their beach chairs on top of the berm after despairing of reaching the beach.
       Uncle Jack is sure that this problem was anticipated by town officials and that steps (?)will be taken soon to correct the problem before the summer crowds arrive. (Assuming that there is any money left after spending a reported quarter of a million dollars on beach grass sprigs and God knows how much on the mostly vanished berms themselves).
       Of course Mother Nature will eventually solve the problem at no cost to the taxpayer but probably not until the next northeaster or hurricane, whichever comes first.

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Not exactly the white cliffs of Dover but maybe they could become a tourist attraction in their own right.

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It can be done, obviously, if you're fit enough and determined.

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No people. No birds either.

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Fortunately there's a little bit of beach left to sit on if you can get to it. Nice looking berm, though.

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Frustrated erstwhile beachgoers return home empty-bucketed. Yes, that's Uncle Jack's Yellowhouse Gallery in the background.

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One reason why Uncle Jack was very happy to leave Pittsburgh and move to Nags Head.

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He has to admit it was pretty sometimes.

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Sunrise Saturday May 14. This was all she wrote. The clouds were so thick Uncle Jack could only see this little sliver of orange before it disappeared. Much warmer though. Still not a bird in sight.

posted by Uncle Jack at 6:19 AM

Comments [5]

Friday, May 13, 2005
1% sales tax vs. higher property tax vs. no tax
       "Perplexed in PA" responded to Uncle Jack's suggestion in yesterday's blog that Dare County voters ought to sign the petition presently circulating which, if successful, will compel the county commissioners to hold a referendum on their 1% sales tax earmarked for beach renourishment. He pointed out that if the 1% sales tax did not go through the commissioners have threatened to up the property tax for the same purpose. In "Perplexed's" opinion the 1% sales tax would be preferable to a higher property tax---the lesser of two evils, so to speak, inasmuch as nobody likes higher taxes of any kind.
       Uncle Jack wishes that everybody had access to today's issue of the Coastland Times which contains a splendid letter from J. Martin Booth of Southern Shores on this very subject---and much more. Perhaps if the letter is published in the next issue of the Outer Banks Sentinel (which is available online)more obxconnection members will be able to access it there. He will alert you if this happens.
       Very briefly Uncle Jack will try to summarize Mr. Booth's argument with which he heartily concurs.
First, the county's "plan" (if you could call it that) for coping with beach erosion is badly flawed. Beach renourishment as outlined in the Corps of Engineers proposal will not work here. It will cost vastly more than the Corps' projections and it will not work because of the vulnerability of the Outer Banks to powerful and frequent storms. Vast amounts of money can be spent in an effort to stop the ocean but at the end of the day such efforts will be futile. Uncle Jack could not agree more.
       The 1% sales tax is regressive and unfair to lower income people in Dare County. If the commissioners are determined to waste money on renourishment schemes, an increase in property taxes
would put the burden closer to where it belongs. He points out that 70% of the property in Dare County belongs to people who don't live here. A substantial amount of the other 30%, including a great deal of ocean front property, belongs to the very commissioners who are most determined to spend local tax money, whatever the source, on an extremely dubious effort to stop the ocean in its tracks---something that no politicians on earth have ever been able to do.
       Uncle Jack agrees with Mr. Booth that it is not too late to begin to look at sensible alternatives, including retreat where it obvious that nothing else can be done. This blog is getting a bit too long but rest assured that Uncle Jack will visit this subject again soon. It's important.

       The current online issue of the Outer Banks Sentinel contains coverage of an excellent speech made recently by Jan DeBlieu of the North Carolina Coastal Federation on renourishment of Outer Banks beaches. Uncle Jack urges everyone to read it and to do it quickly before the next issue of the Sentinel replaces the one now on line. Go to:                           
       www.obsentinel.womacknewspapers.com and click on "top stories" or google Outer Banks Sentinel and get to it from there. It's a very thoughtful and informative piece.
       Have a nice day but remember---it's Friday the 13th.                                  

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It was cold, windy and dark on the beach this morning. An appropriate beginning for Friday the 13th.

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Uncle Jack sought shelter behind a pile of sandbags while he waited for the sun to pop over the horizon. It seemed to take forever.

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At last. I'm outta here.

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On a day like this Uncle Jack thinks of sunny Malta in February.

posted by Uncle Jack at 6:33 AM

Comments [6]

Thursday, May 12, 2005
Sandbagging the public (redux) Sunday Oct. 7, 2007

       The more things change the more they stay the same, the wise man said. Uncle Jack read in the paper yesterday that North Carolina government officials have announced that they will begin to enforce regulations governing the use of sandbags beginning in May of next year.  He recalls that in May 2005 he wrote a column about this very same subject which he has resurrected and presents below as a reminder to those optimists out there who think that anything is actually going to come of this most recent pronouncement.

     In the intervening 18 months or so additional hundreds of sandbags have been added to the existing piles in South Nags Head.  The only sandbags removed during that period that Uncle Jack knows about were those placed in front of the late Surfside Drive by the Town of Nags Head.  Mother Nature did most of the removal work and the Town cleaned up the remaining mess.

   And so it goes.

    Many years ago when Uncle Jack was a fledgling reporter for the Outer Banks Current he would often be assigned to cover meetings of the Coastal Resources Commission (CRC). The CRC is a regulatory body created to help carry out the goals of the North Carolina Coastal Management Act which goes way back to the 1970's. Even that long ago wise people recognized that the North Carolina coast was in serious trouble and that something had to be done to try to control development at the water's edge. Using knowledge gained from the experiences of older coastal communities in states like New Jersey and New York where many of the beaches are similar to ours, the CRC developed a number of regulations aimed at keeping people from doing really stupid things like building too close to the beach or building bulkheads or solid walls to protect their buildings when the ocean encroached on them. He remembers one rule that said new houses could not be built closer than 30 times the annual erosion rate from the first line of vegetation. There were, of course, a lot of problems with trying to establish an "annual rate of erosion", especially when a hurricane would come along and do ten years worth of erosion in one day. Their hearts were in the right place, though, and the CRC folks deserve credit for at least trying. Another very sensible rule had to do with "hardened structures" like breakwaters and groins and bulkheads and seawalls which property owners often reverted to when their buildings were threatened. This was common practice in New Jersey where the beaches eventually became littered with the wreckage of such futile activities. Hardened structures have been banned from the beaches of N.C. for many years and that is a very good thing for everybody who loves a natural, uncluttered beach. Then came the invention of the monster sandbag which has all the characteristics of a hardened structure except that they are not banned. Under the current rules sandbags may be used for a limited time to protect structures and their septic tanks and drainfields while arrangements are made either to move or demolish such buildings. Unfortunately a mockery has been made of this provision by many owners of threatened property who have been permitted to surround their buildings with huge sandbag walls which has enabled them to keep them in rentable condition for many years. Apparently "waiting for beach replenishment" is now an acceptable reason for leaving the bags in place indefinitely. The results of this unfortunate development can be plainly seen in South Nags Head where dozens of houses that should have been removed years ago have been allowed to encroach on the public beach to the point that they constitute an inconvenience and even a hazard to beach walkers, bathers and rescue personnel whose vehicles cannot get around them. If our lawmakers are serious about "saving the beaches" and not just keeping property on the tax rolls no matter what, they might start by taking another look at what uncontrolled use of sandbags is doing to the public beach. End of sermon.

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Eleven sandbagged houses=no beach.

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Hardened structure? Naahh.

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What keeps it there year after year?

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You guessed it.

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Another row of sandbagged houses which are lucky to have a little bit of beach at low tide. Renters can fish off the decks any other time.

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Sandbags saved this house but not its driveway. It's one damn thing after another when you build on the oceanfront.

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The Town of Nags Head did this so it must be o.k. Not the sort of view you would want to put on a postcard.

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Sunrise Thursday May 12, 2005. Thick clouds on the horizon.

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There she comes. Looks like a nice day in store for the Outer Banks.

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Looking good. Still no birds on the beach this morning. They must be somewhere on a natural beach that isn't smothered in Currituck County pit sand.

posted by Uncle Jack at 6:43 AM

Comments [13]

Wednesday, May 11, 2005
Down memory lane with Solak, the Proust of the Outer Banks
       Uncle Jack greatly enjoyed chatting with Solak (see the message board) the other day and reading his reminiscences of life on the Outer Banks over the past 35 years or so. They certainly resonated with Uncle Jack even though he rarely wandered up into Solak territory which seemed to be mostly north of the Trading Post which is about as far up the road as he ever went back in the 70's. Those were the days when the Trading Post was the only "supermarket" east of the Foodarama in Manteo. You could even get Pepperidge Farm bread there if you got there early enough on Thursdays.
       Solak mentioned working for the late George Crocker at the Cabana East which brought back memories of that remarkable man who really livened things up around here for a while. It is hard to believe that almost nothing remains of his "empire"--the Galleon and Galleon Esplanade, the Cabana East, A Restaurant by George. All that is left is the building that once housed the car museum that he and the founder of Domino's Pizza once jointly operated. You would never be able to find it if you didn't know where it was. (Does anybody remember the 3-dimensional plaster sculpture of cars that once adorned the north wall? It's still there but hidden behind an exterior facade---waiting to puzzle the wreckers who will eventually tear it down as they have all of George's other wonderful creations.)
       In a very real way George Crocker was the avant garde entrepreneur who, for better or worse, led the northern Outer Banks into the modern era. He created a kind of excitement that attracted attention back in the days when air-conditioning was considered an affectation and the tourist season really did end on Labor Day.
       Anyway Uncle Jack thanks Solak for the memories and wishes him the best of luck in his new life over on the mainland. Lucky for him Highway 64 is getting shorter every day.

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In Memoriam: A Restaurant by George, milepost 11 on the Beach Road in Nags Head, c. 1970-2004.

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In Memoriam: The Cabana East Motel, milepost 11 on the Beach Road in Nags Head, c. 1965-2004.

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In Memoriam: The Galleon and Galleon Esplanade. Milepost 11, Beach Road, Nags Head. c. 1968-2001.

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In Memoriam: The George Crocker Car Museum, between the highways, Milepost 11, Beach Road, Nags Head. c. 1970-?. It looks more like a mosque but it's actually now a church.

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Sunrise, Wednesday May 11, 2005. Some are better than others, that's for sure.

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This piece of wreckage was still on the beach this morning. With big spikes sticking out the length of it it could be a menace if it winds up concealed in the surf this summer. In the meantime it certainly is picturesque.

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Sunset with pilings. Eat your heart out Ansel Adams.

posted by Uncle Jack at 6:48 AM

Comments [6]

Tuesday, May 10, 2005
"Minihaha" wouldn't fit on the plate.
       Uncle Jack hardly had time to get up to the beach yesterday he was so busy taking care of Mini Cooper business. His Mini may look like a toy but it still has to have license plates and a title just like a Hummer.
       This required a trip to the motor vehicle office in the drug store in Manteo where the very nice lady who is running the place now took care of everything in a jiffy. There was a time when Uncle Jack dreaded to go over there because he
never seemed to have all the papers he needed and he would have to make several trips back home before he could get his new license plate or whatever.
       He can tell you that if you live in Dare County and you have been putting off getting a new car because you are afraid of the mean license plate lady who used to be in charge over there you don't have to worry any more. She's gone.
       Uncle Jack was not too crazy about the license plate number they gave him from Raleigh, namely "SYL-1850" which he thought was pretty nondescript for a Mini Cooper convertible so he popped ($30) for what they call a "vanity plate". There must not be very many Minis in North Carolina because he got the number he wanted on the first try---"MINI". Needless to say he is happy as a clam and he only hopes they won't misspell it.      
       Anyway he did have time to ride his bike down the street to check out the new fire station they are building in South Nags Head. That area is a bit swampy so it took what seemed to be several hundred truckloads of fill dirt to build it up so the fire trucks would not get stuck on the way to a fire. This is supposed to be a pretty palatial building when they get through with it so he will take pictures from time to time as it goes up. Now that Son of Porta-Potty is finished he needed a new source of exciting photo ops anyway.
       Today he is going to prepare his pre-rusted Voyager for sale to some lucky person who has $495 and needs a terrific van with only 95,000 gentle miles on it. He would keep it for sentimental reasons but he really doesn't have room for three cars in his yard, even if one of them is a Mini.

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Coming soon to Uncle Jack's neighborhood.

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Out of the muck it will rise.

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On this rock I shall build my firehouse.

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Open at last. Outer Banks Pier in So. Nags Head

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Here comes the sun. Tuesday 5/10/05. 6:00 a.m.

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This piece of an old wreck washed up last night, draped in an empty sandbag at one end----

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and a fishing net with floats on the other. Must be a lot of stuff floating around out there in the surf.

posted by Uncle Jack at 5:04 AM

Comments [3]

Sunday, May 8, 2005
Greetings. Monday May 9, 2005
       This is Uncle Jack's first blog entry under the OBXConnection rubric. He started his blog back in September 2003 right after Hurricane Isabel and most of the entries since then may still be viewed at www.sparkpod.com/UncleJack
He looks forward to communicating with the large and lively group of OBXConnection members and he hopes to hear from you when he strikes a chord---positively or otherwise.
       He doesn't plan to do anything differently than before. He will continue to walk the beaches of South Nags Head with his Canon Elph, taking pictures of both the beautiful and the perplexing. When he and Mrs. Uncle Jack travel, which they plan to do a lot this summer, he will report from wherever they are. He hopes you enjoy his blog wherever you are.

       Yesterday was a glorious day on the Outer Banks. Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. went for a stroll on the beach just below the 19 milepost in the morning. They were astonished at how much sand the most recent northeaster removed. Buried objects he hasn't seen for years have been uncovered and stairways have been left dangling several feet above the beach. Much of this sand will return in due time but right now the beach stands as mute testimony to how much sand Mother Nature can move in a given period of time compared to the Currituck County dumptruck brigade. How long would it take her to remove $25 million worth of dredge spoil? We will find out soon enough if the county commissioners stay on their present course.

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Uncle Jack wonders sometimes how much money has been spent on stairs and walkways in South Nags Head. These are all less than a year old.

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Whatever this is Uncle Jack has never seen it before. It must have been buried very deeply before the last northeaster.

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There's a beautiful beach somewhere under this mess. This house could be yours for only $1.2 million, sandbags included at no extra charge.

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Try getting around this if you're walking on the beach. Uncle Jack always thought that the beach up to the high tide belonged to the public. Apparently he was wrong.

posted by Uncle Jack at 12:26 PM

Comments [792]

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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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