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Friday, July 1, 2005
Devil's Tower and Buffalo Bill
       Uncle Jack wrote a lengthy dissertation to go with these pictures. Unfortunately it disappeared into cyberspace before he could save it so he is going to let the pictures speak for themselves. It's probably just as well.

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Mini approaches the Devil's Tower National Monument near Sundance, Wyoming. They debated whether to drive 50 miles out of the way to see this amazing natural phenomenon but they are very glad they did. It is awesome.

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This 865 foot monolith was named the first National Monument by Teddy Roosevelt in 1906. For centuries prior to that it had been a holy place for Native American tribes.

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Giant boulders sheered off the face of the tower surround the base.

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Trees surrounding the monument are draped with prayer bundles and shawls left by Native Americans.

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Wyoming skyscapes are magnificent. This between Sundance and Sheridan.

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Ditto. It was at about this point that they got their first glimpse of the Bighorn Mountains through which the Mini will take them Thursday en route to Cody. There is still lots of snow in the upper reaches.

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Buffalo Bill's old hotel in Sheridan. He would sit on the porch and audition acts for his famous Wild West Show. It is now preserved as a historic monument and contains a marvelous restaurant where U.J. and Mrs. U.J. dined on barbecued ribs Wed. night

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On the Outer Banks we tear our treasures down. Here they preserve them. Sheridan is a living museum of 125 year old buildings.

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The bar in Buffalo Bill's hotel, looking much as it did when he bellied up to it back in the 1890's.

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Almost enough to make up for the loss of Outer Banks sunrises while on this trip. Almost.

posted by Uncle Jack at 6:26 PM

Comments [1]

Wednesday, June 29, 2005
Mount Rushmore and More
              Uncle Jack probably first learned about Mount Rushmore from his old fourth grade teacher (and he means old---she was also his dad's fourth grade teacher) Mrs. Stonebreaker. He has waited a long time but yesterday he finally got to see it
in person and he has to say it was worth the wait.
              It was many years later that he heard about the Crazy Horse Monument that a madman named Ziolkowski was blasting out of another mountain in the Black Hills of South Dakota but yesterday he got to see that, too.
              Also he and Mrs. U.J. drove the "Wildlife Loop" in the Custer State Park which turned out to be full of surprises and to finish off the day they drove home to their motel in Spearfish, South Dakota through the Spearfish Canyon which is without a doubt the most beautiful 20 mile drive they have experienced so far. He hates to
say it but it made the Skyline Drive in Virginia seem rather puny in the scenery department.
              He is too pooped to write a dissertation on each of these experiences but lucky for him a picture is worth a thousand words so here is 10,000 words worth of yesterday, Tuesday June 27, in pictures.

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Needless to say Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. were not alone at Mount Rushmore which is operated by the Department of Agriculture for some reason. They do a very nice job.

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Will this face eventually adorn the mountain? Fuggedaboutit.

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Tourist in pink shirt poses prettily. She was as awed and moved by the whole experience as Uncle Jack was.

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Oh yes, and there's the monument itself. Pictures cannot do it justice.

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They had just entered Custer State Park when a herd of about 50 buffalo dashed across the road in front of them. They surely would have flattened the Mini had it been in the way. There are about a thousand of these shaggy creatures in the park herd.

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These wild burros are accomplished panhandlers. People feed them in spite of the signs everywhere saying "Do not feed the animals". People are obtuse. Many are also obese and should stop feeding themselves, too.

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Pronghorns. A species of antelope? Lots of them in the park. Fun to watch when they run in great leaps and bounds.

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Crazy Horse monument after 55 years of work. Much more remains to be done to carry out Ziolkowski's master plan. He is dead but his family carries on. The white sign wishes his wife a happy birthday.

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This is what it is supposed to look like when finished.

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Deadwood, So. Dakota. One of the great tourist traps of our time.

posted by Uncle Jack at 10:29 PM

Comments [6]

Tuesday, June 28, 2005
Flaming Arrow Adventure Tour
       Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. had planned to stay in Bismarck last Saturday night but every motel in town was packed with people attending a softball tournament. So they went to Plan B and drove 40 miles north to Washburn, home of Fort Mandan where Lewis and Clark spent their first winter in 1804-05.
       There is only one motel in Washburn which was full by the time they got there. There is only one bed and breakfast which also had no vacancies. That left us with something called the "Flaming Arrow Ranch" where several tepees were available along with one "cabin".
              The genial ranch owner, one Dennis Kost, led them in his ancient Jeep Wagoneer to the cabin deep in the woods at the bottom of a canyon two miles
from his house where they discovered that the tiny building had no electricity and no indoor plumbing but it was clean and it had a bed which was a very welcome sight after 11 hours on the road.                            They sat at a picnic table with Dennis, sharing a bottle of merlot while he told them the story of the Flaming Arrow from which his
ranch takes its name.
       They went to bed when it got dark around ten, only to be awakened at 3 a.m. by a violent thunderstorm with sheets of rain that pounded on the roof of the tiny cabin like a berserk tympanist. At 6:30 a.m. Dennis reappeared with a thermos of coffee and the bad news that we could not possibly get the Mini out of the canyon that morning because the heavy rain had turned two miles of dirt road into a kind of slick gumbo.
              While waiting for the road to dry out a bit he took us on a fascinating tour of his
farm which has been the site of numerous Indian villages over the centuries. There are gravesites and stone prayer circles in many places and Dennis has found literally hundreds of arrowheads, stone tools, and other Indian artifacts on the farm over the past 50 years.
       After lunch in Washburn where we were joined by his lovely wife Betty we returned to the task of trying to get the Mini out of the canyon. The pictures will give you an idea of what this involved.

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The Buffalo Drop Cabin, so named because it is perched next to a cliff over which Indians would lure buffalo to their deaths.

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One of many stone circles in the meadow above the cabin.

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Flaming Arrow campground from above. A spectacularly beautiful spot which the local Indians believe to be sacred according to Dennis.

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Some of Dennis's hundreds of artifacts. The buffalo skull has a bullet hole next to one eye.

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After the storm the Mini is in trouble. Dennis is trying to drain some of the water out of one of the bad spots. It didn't work.

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Checking the wheat field next to the road for boulders that could have damaged the Mini.

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Dennis leads the way through the wheat field with his Wagoneer.

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Comin' through the rye, er wheat. Mini proves itself to be the ultimate off-road vehicle.

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Once more into the slime, with a full head of steam.

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All's well that ends well. Now Uncle Jack knows what Dennis meant by Flaming Arrow Adventure Tours.

posted by Uncle Jack at 11:50 PM

Comments [8]

Tuesday, June 28, 2005
North Dakota the Beautiful
              Everything Uncle Jack has read about North Dakota suggests that the best thing a traveler who has to cross that state can do is grit his teeth, set the cruise control at 80 and get through it as quickly as possible. Now that he has driven from one end of this long state to the other he knows better.
       He and Mrs. U.J. entered Nodak at Fargo on Interstate 94 where they picked up a lapful of brochures and maps at the brand new visitors center and then drove to Bismarck, the capital, through some of the most beautiful country they have ever seen. This part of the state is as flat as Uncle Jack's wallet will be when they get to the end of this trip and when you get to the top of a rise you can see for 30 miles.
       Farther west the plains give way to rugged geological formations left behind by glaciers eons ago and they present a new treat for the eye. Any observer who says that North Dakota is boring is saying more about himself than he is about that
beautiful state.
       There is no way Uncle Jack's little Canon Elph could capture the beauty of the landscape but he did take some pictures of things they saw along the way which he offers herewith.

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Tourist Information building in Fargo, cleverly disguised to look like a grain elevator.

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Tourist information building near Bismarck, cleverly disguised to look like a 30's gas station. Oil well pumps can still be seen in this part of N.D.

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View of Missouri River from the deck of the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center at Washburn, north of Bismarck. Lewis and Clark spent their first winter here.

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Figures made from hay bales on highway 200 west of Washburn. You need a sense of humor to get through a North Dakota winter.

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Hamburgers on the hoof. Thousands of them graze between Fargo and Bismarck.

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View from a rest stop east of Bismarck where they ate lunch.

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Mini surveys the scene in Theodore Roosevelt National Park in the far western part of Nodak. Teddy spent several formative years ranching here before he became president.

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Prairie dog village in the T.R. park. Weird.

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Close encounter with large buffalo in T.R. park. Mini escaped unscathed.

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This coyote was either very nonchalant or very sick. He paid no attention to us at all.

posted by Uncle Jack at 10:31 PM

Comments [3]

Friday, June 24, 2005
On to Minnesota
              Tuesday morning, the 21st, after a sumptuous breakfast at the Lighthouse View restaurant (shades of Hatteras) they set off for Brainerd, Minnesota by way of Bayfield, Wisconsin, a little town across the bay which is giving Ashland fierce competition for the tourist dollar. Bayfield has the priceless advantage of being several miles closer to the Apostle Islands national park and is the port of choice for the many affluent sailors from the Twin Cities, Milwaukee and Chicago who keep their yachts there.
              Bayfield, too, was a once prosperous lumber town which is full of wonderful old Victorian mansions, taverns and other buildings that have been meticulously restored, giving it the aspect of a mini Mackinac. Madeline Island, the largest of the Apostles archipelago, is reached by ferry from Bayfield except in winter when it is accessible by an ice highway which is regularly plowed.
              Leaving picturesque Bayfield they drove through the Red Cliff Indian reservation (Chippewa)with its now obligatory casino and around the top of Wisconsin on super-scenic highway 13. When Uncle Jack was a kid highway 13 was a gravel road serving a handful of impoverished fishing villages with names like Cornucopia, Port Wing and Herbster. Today it is a wide, smooth, well-maintained blacktop carpet serving a number of prosperous tourist enclaves with the same names.
              Lovely highway 13 terminates, unfortunately, in the urban sprawl of the twin cities of Superior, Wisconsin and Duluth, Minnesota which must be traversed before reaching the wooded lake country around Brainerd in which Uncle Jack's brother and sister have resided for many years. Brainerd bills itself as the "Gateway to Vacationland" and is undergoing a building boom of Outer Banks proportions. Every road leading into or out of Brainerd is lined with new motels, restaurants, real estate offices, automobile dealerships and all the other shiny emblems of a once-quiet little city now suffering from (and enjoying) unbridled growth and development.
              Lucky for Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. his brother Don and wife Idelle live in a quiet neighborhood of tall pines and birches adjacent to a lovely lake where the sounds of the bustling city nearby are drowned by the rustling of leaves in the treetops. Even the roar of the bulldozers clearing land for a nearby housing development seems muffled and far away. If America is suffering from recession it is certainly not evident in Brainerd, Minnesota.
              After four delightful days of eating, biking, hiking, fishing and general relaxing they somewhat reluctantly repacked the Mini today (Friday the 24th) and will head out for the long trek across North Dakota tomorrow morning. This is a lovely part of the world and Uncle Jack can almost understand how the people who live here can cheerfully put up with the harsh winters just so they can be here and enjoy it the rest of the year. Almost.

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A picnic ground on Route 13 en route to Brainerd. That's another part of Lake Superior in the background. When not covered with ice and snow northern Wisconsin is stunningly beautiful.

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Launching brother Don's boat on Lake Gilbert near Brainerd.

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On the lake, Captain Don at the tiller, his daughter Jean watching for alligators.

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Wild deer feeding on the shore. Not much chance of getting run over by a speeding semi here.

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Relative of Smokey the Bear fishing from a pier.

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Blue heron watching apprehensively as boat approaches.

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Heron says "I'm outta here".

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Loon and baby loon. The loon is the Minnesota state bird and rightly so.

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End of a delightful two hours on Lake Gilbert.

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This multi-use path, formerly a railroad track, goes from Brainerd to Bemidji, 90 miles away. It passes right behind brother Don's house and is one heck of an amenity for people who live in this area.

posted by Uncle Jack at 5:47 PM

Comments [4]

Friday, June 24, 2005
The Old Home Town
       Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. spent Monday the 21st driving through the forests of upper Michigan en route to his old home town of Ashland, Wisconsin. It was another gorgeous day but actually too hot to drive with the top down. For northern Michigan in mid-June the the 90+ temperature was exceedingly unusual.
       The Upper Peninsula of Michigan is one of the least developed parts of the country, especially of the mid-west, and it was refreshing to drive through hundreds of miles of old-growth forest almost devoid of human habitation. They were fortunate not to collide with any of the wild deer they saw grazing along U.S. Highway 2. Many of the deer whose mangled carcasses they passed along the road had not been so fortunate. Few survive a collision with a speeding 18-wheeler and such mishaps are very common in this area.
       Uncle Jack's visit to his home town was his first since 1998 when he went back for his 50th high school reunion. It has continued its metamorphosis from manufacturing and iron-ore shipping port to tourist mecca which has been underway since the iron mines in northern Michigan gave out 50 years ago. Situated at the head of Chequamegon Bay on the south shore of Lake Superior it has a lot to offer to sailors and fishermen and it is beginning to prosper again even though the population has decreased substantially. (You can still buy a fairly decent house in Ashland for under $100,000 and it would be a nice place to live if you are fond of ice, snow, and subzero temperatures much of the year).
       They spent the night in the Hotel Chequamegon which is a marvelous re-creation of a grand old hotel that stood in the same place a hundred years earlier during Ashland's boom years. It is very reminiscent of the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island but on a much smaller scale. Unfortunately it is struggling to survive against competition from a plethora of nationally advertised modern chain motels offering modern amenities like waterslides and jacuzzis.
       He spent several hours driving all over town in the Mini with an old high school chum who returned to Ashland after a career in the U.S. Army. He has to say that Ashland has never looked better and he is seriously contemplating returning next summer to spend a month before the snow begins to fly---probably sometime in September.

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Beaser Elementary School, Ashland, Wisconsin. Named a World Heritage Site in honor of Uncle Jack's graduation in 1942.

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Nidaros Lutheran Church in Ashland where Uncle Jack received his early religious indoctrination at the hands of the Reverend John A. Houkum (pronounced Hokum). Needless to say it didn't take.

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Ashland's last remaining iron ore dock. The iron ore ran out 50 years ago but it was too expensive to tear down this massive reinforced concrete structure. The city fathers are still trying to find a way to turn it into a shopping mall.

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Uncle Jack's ancestral home. The big trees were little trees when he lived here 60 years ago. The house is a tribute to the durability of vinyl siding.

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Prentice Park lagoon. Could this be the same swan that swam here when he was a kid? This park has many natural artesian springs from which Ashlanders can draw their own bottled water at no charge.

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Blue heron in Prentice Park lagoon. He was surprised to see one this far north.

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The Chequamegon Hotel, named after the bay of Lake Superior on which Ashland is located. The bar is named Molly's in honor of the most famous Ashland Madam of the 1890's.

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A view of Chequamegon Bay in back of the hotel.The lighthouse is not exactly in the same league as Hatteras light but it's just as old.

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Another view of Lake Superior from one of Ashland's many waterfront parks.

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The marina in back of the Chequamegon Hotel was a pulpwood loading dock when Uncle Jack was a kid. Sic transit.

posted by Uncle Jack at 5:09 PM

Comments [4]

Thursday, June 23, 2005
Cruising Lake Huron
              State highway 25 in Michigan hugs the western shore of Lake Huron from Port Hsuron to Mackinac City and is officially designated "scenic" from one end to the other. Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. traversed it last Saturday, the 20th, with many stops along the way to enjoy the magnificent scenery. One of their stops was at Huron City, a collection of 19th century buildings that survived the great forest fires that swept central Michigan in the 1870's and 1890's and are now lovingly preserved by a conservation group.
              It was a special day at Huron City when they visited and many special displays and food booths had been set up among the trees. Uncle Jack bought a plate of delicious molasses cookies which he placed on top a suitcase in the back of the Mini. A few minutes later he put the top down, forgetting about the cookies which went flying out the back. A minor tragedy and a valuable lesson learned about motoring with the top down.
              They spent the night in Mackinaw City and caught the first ferry to Mackinac Island Sunday morning. The spelling of Mackinaw City reveals a peculiarity of pronunciation unique to the area. For some reason the word "Mackinac" is pronounced "Mackinaw" by the natives no matter how it is spelled but only in "Mackinaw City" is it spelled the way it is pronounced.
       Mackinaw City retains a certain amount of charm in spite of the onslaught of chain motels and fast food emporia but it is schlock city compared to Mackinac Island which is literally like a step back in time. More about that in the next posting.
       Note: Uncle Jack has just discovered that the setting on his camera for a couple of days was on "fine" which makes the pictures excruciatingly slow to download even on broadband. He will try to correct the problem and be back with another entry in a couple of days. He is now in Brainerd, Minnesota and will be departing for Cody, Wyoming on Saturday next. Sorry about the glitch. U.J.      

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Historical marker at Huron City on Lake Huron.

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Old church at Huron City, survivor of two horrendous forest fires. Contains a 32 star American flag among other interesting memorabilia.

posted by Uncle Jack at 1:12 PM

Comments [6]

Friday, June 17, 2005
Travels with Mrs. U.J. Days 2 and 3
       Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. spent Thursday morning on the northernmost 70 miles
of the Skyline Drive in Virginia, stopping frequently to enjoy breathtaking views of
the Shenandoah Valley and the Blue Ridge mountains. He is pleased to report that
the Mini Cooper handled the twists and turns and ups and downs with great aplomb. They chatted with the owners of a couple of Shelby Cobras (sticker price upwards of $150,000) at one of the overlooks who wanted to trade even for the Mini but he turned them down.
       After leaving the Skyline Drive at Front Royal they drove north through Berkeley Springs, West Virginia and then into Pennsylvania at Breezewood. He once visited Breezewood on a regular basis when he had to drive from Pittsburgh to Nags Head but after today he would be happy never to see it again. In a way it is the ultimate community for people on the road----nothing but motels, fast food
emporia and gas stations.
       They had hoped to reach the Buffalo, New York area by Thursday night but had to settle for DuBois, Pennsylvania which is totally undistinguished except for being kind of a shrine for beer drinkers. For many years it was the home of the DuBois Brewing Company, makers of DuBois Budweiser beer, which once fought the Anheuser-Busch company successfully for the right to use
the word "Budweiser" to label one of their brews. The brewery was demolished years ago but the name lives on.
       Should you, too, ever find yourself stranded in DuBois you may take solace in knowing that the town boasts a completely authentic Italian restaurant on the main drag called Luigi's. The food is great, the atmosphere delightful and the prices
unbelievable. Should you need a motel room he advises you to stay anywhere except the Continental Motel which appears to be a failed Ramada which has now hit bottom completely under new management. The air conditioner in their room sounded like a B-36 bomber struggling to reach 20,000 feet.
       On Friday they drove north from DuBois through the Allegheny National Forest into New York state and up to Buffalo where they crossed the Peace Bridge into Canada. The trip through lower Ontario was an unexpected delight. It is lush farmland full of spectacular red barns, cows of many colors, strawberry fields, and (much to Uncle Jack's amazement) hundreds of acres of tobacco.
       He and Mrs. U.J. stopped to buy some pre-picked strawberries at one farm and chatted with the farmer and his wife while their children ogled the Mini.They said that tobacco has been a major crop in lower Ontario for many years and
there is even a cigarette factory in one of the towns they passed through. The curing
sheds look exactly like those along highway 64 in North Carolina. (Nothing else did, thank goodness).
       After an agonizing bumper-to-bumper half-hour crawl toward the U.S. border at Sarnia, Ontario they were finally admitted back into their country after a few perfunctory questions from a bored border patrol agent. (Little did he know or care that they were smuggling a pint of contraband strawberries into the country). They are spending Friday night in a Fairfield Inn (free high-speed internet in every room!) in Port Huron, Michigan and tomorrow will drive to Mackinac City, Michigan on Route 23 which hugs the shore of Lake Huron for 150 miles. Pictures at 11---tomorrow night. Stay tuned.


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Skyline Drive. The Mini loves roads like this.

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Looking west from an overlook on the Skyline Drive.

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Wild deer grazing in Big Meadow.

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Two couples touring in their Shelby Cobras with matching trailers to carry gear. Because of its superior design the Mini does not require a trailer.

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Memorabilia in the window of the DuBois Historical Society museum.

posted by Uncle Jack at 9:43 PM

Comments [9]

Thursday, June 16, 2005
So far, so good.
       Uncle Jack is pleased to report that they have reached Charlottesville, Virginia on the first day of their cross-country motor trip. Along the way they stopped for lunch at the Virginia Diner in Wakefield, perhaps Virginia's only world-class eating establishment. Uncle Jack tasted their famous ham biscuits for the first time when he was in the navy 55 years ago and he has been going back every chance he got ever since.
       The Diner is now world-renowned for its gourmet peanuts (of which he bought four cans to distribute as presents for the various relatives he will be freeloading on during the next few weeks)but it is the food that brings him back.
       On the way to Charlottesville Uncle Jack made a slight detour into Louisa County to see if his old school was still there. He was the principal and seventh grade teacher at Green Springs Elementary School 1957-59 which was one of the great formative experiences of his life (if not for his pupils).
       Louisa County hit the jackpot some years ago when Vepco built a nuclear power plant in the county and raised the tax base into the stratosphere. All the old schools have been replaced by fancy new ones and his school is now a private residence. The old baseball field is now the entrance to the county landfill. Sic transit.
       It was 95 degrees in Charlottesville when they arrived so the pool at the Fairfield Inn was a welcome sight.
       Thursday: The Skyline Drive, thence north in the general direction of Buffalo, N.Y.       Stay tuned.      

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It didn't look like this 50 years ago but the food is still just as good.

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The sign says it all.

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The kids he taught here are now in their sixties. My how time flies.

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From baseball field to county dump. Painful to see.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:07 AM

Comments [7]

Tuesday, June 14, 2005
Prof. Pilkey's new book.
       Uncle Jack spent a good part of yesterday reading the new book by Professor Pilkey of Duke University and his colleagues called "How to Read a North Carolina Beach". It's a paperback, only $10, and it's loaded with useful information about our beaches. This is a terrific book and Uncle Jack recommends it to everybody who loves the Outer Banks and cares what happens to them in the future.


       He and Mrs. U.J. will be taking off for the west bright and early Wednesday morning so this is likely to be his last weblog entry for a few days. They are going first to the Skyline Drive in Virginia, then up through Pennsylvania and New York state to the Buffalo area. Then across lower Ontario to Michigan and up to Mackinac Island. From Mackinac to Uncle Jack's home town of Ashland, Wisconsin on Lake Superior and thence to Brainerd, Minnesota where his brother and sister live. Then to the Black Hills of South Dakota; Cody, Wyoming; Yellowstone, the Grand Tetons, Salt Lake City, Yosemite, and Concord, California where his daughter Emily lives. Then up to Seattle for a one-week cruise to Alaska and then back home by way of Washington state, Montana and a whole lot of very flat, boring states in the midwest. He guesses he will be very happy to get back to Nags Head after two months and 6000 miles in the Mini.
       He will try to post a few pictures when time and broadband connections permit but he's not sure they even have dial-up yet in South Dakota so it's a little unpredictable. Anyway he will try to stay in touch. Ciao.

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Only $10 at Manteo Booksellers. Should be on every bookshelf on the Outer Banks. A really, really good book.

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Uncle Jack played cat and mouse with this crab for a half hour this morning waiting for the sun to make an appearance above the clouds. A half hour well spent.

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Professor Pilkey tells you everything you wanted to know about these weeds that form such lovely patterns on the beach from time to time.

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Unfortunately they do not add to the pleasure of fishermen like this lady from Fredericksburg who managed to drag a skate through them which she released before giving up.

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This was the scene at 5:45 a.m. when the sun was supposed to rise. Not too promising.

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Then it got a little better.

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Then the sun peeped through for a few seconds.

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Then it disappeared again.

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Pretty but still no sun.

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All good things come to him who waits. Not the most spectacular sunrise ever but it will have to do until mid-August. How long does it take for the sun to rise over the Rockies? Stay tuned.

posted by Uncle Jack at 6:42 AM

Comments [13]

Monday, June 13, 2005
       Uncle Jack will let the pictures speak for themselves today. This is the penultimate day of preparation before he and Mrs. U.J. set forth on their cross-country trip in the Mini on Wednesday. He has so much to do today he hardly knows where to start.
       Maybe if he takes a short nap......

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Once again this morning the sun had to fight its way up through a band of thick clouds on the horizon.

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Getting there.

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The dawn of what promises to be a hot, sticky Monday on the Outer Banks. Perfect beach weather.

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Last night's sunset was not too shabby.

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Some very talented and industrious sandcastle builders were at work in Sonag this weekend. This one must have taken hours.

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Who needs Egypt?

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Looks like St. Michael's Mount in Cornwall.

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The most intricate of them all.

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The clouds have been spectacular the last couple of days. Oddly enough it seems like there have been more people in the Tanger Outlet Mall than on the beach. Maybe if we build more malls we can quit worrying about the beach so much.

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Here's something you won't find in the mall. It wasn't made in China.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:40 AM

Comments [8]

Sunday, June 12, 2005
Retail is not pretty.
Looks like yet another spectacular beach day in store for the Outer Banks today. Uncle Jack feels sorry for anybody who has to leave and make that long drive back home. He did it for many years before he moved here and opened his shop so he knows how it feels.
       He also knows what it's like to stand behind the counter in an Outer Banks store all summer and some years ago he distilled his experiences into the following:      

                            A One-Act Play
       Written for the Theatre of the Absurd

                            by Uncle Jack

Scene: A souvenir shop somewhere on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. It is ll a.m. on a typically hot and humid August day. The clerk hastily gulps her fourth Valium of the morning as three tow-headed children, ages five, four, and two, burst through the door, followed moments later by their tanned but haggard-looking parents, mother carrying a small baby.
Clerk: (with feigned cheerfulness born of economic necessity)
"Morning folks. Can I help you?"
Male Parent: No thanks. Just browsing.
Female Parent: I don't want you kids to touch NOTHING, understand? (Her eyes glazed, she is apparently unable to perceive that her three ambulatory children are simultaneously touching 47 breakable objects even as she speaks).
Clerk: (With grim smile) Just let me know if I can help. (She watches in resigned horror as children proceed to touch all 4,378 items in the shop in two minutes and 5l seconds flat. Pretty good time, she notes, but not a record for three children under six).
Five-year-old: (Brandishing ceramic replica of Cape Hatteras lighthouse exquisitely crafted by skilled Korean artisans and authentic in every detail except for the mauve and yellow stripes) Mommy I want one of these get me one I want one PLEASE!
Female Parent: Rocky I told you not to touch anything. Now put that back where you got it right now and DON'T TOUCH ANYTHING!!
Five-year-old: (Tosses ceramic lighthouse into barrel filled with pink sponge-rubber porpoises) I hate you. You never buy me nothin' I want. (Aims vicious kick at table containing 200 plastic replicas of Wright Brothers' first glider)
Four-year-old: Daddy I has to go tee-tee.                                         
Male Parent: (Deeply engrossed in study of poster displaying esthetically pleasing array of deeply bronzed and oiled female torsos. Huh?                                                                                                        
Four-year old: Daddy I has to go tee-tee real bad.
Male Parent: (To female parent who is unsuccessfully attempting to quiet screaming infant) Debbie has to go, hon. Can you take her somewhere?
Female Parent: (Shouting to clerk over screams of deranged infant) You got a bathroom in here?
Clerk: (Praying that the Lord will not strike her dead on the spot for telling a monstrous lie) I'm sorry but the nearest bathroom is over at the Visitors' Center in Kitty Hawk which is about twelve miles from here so you better get going before it's too late.
Two-and-a-half-year-old: WAAAAAAAAAHHHH. (Anticipating punishment after knocking over pyramid display constructed of 750 imported ceramic ashtrays inscribed "Fun in the Sun--Nags Heap, N.C.--Summer 2004" which had taken the owner three slow days in June to stack)
Female Parent: Dammit Rambo, I told you not to touch nothin'.
Male Parent: (Still ogling poster of oiled nudes) Why don't you take the kids out to the car, hon, while I buy this poster for the family room.
Clerk: (Reaching for Valium bottle as first family departs and new group enters) Y'all come back soon, hear?
                                                 THE END

Moral: Retail is not pretty.

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Lots of folks on the beach at sunrise this morning but they had to wait a while for the fog to lift.

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Jennette's Pier was barely visible, shrouded in mist. Even the Comfort Inn South took on a pleasing aspect.

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While waiting for the sun to appear Uncle Jack whiled away his time snapping pictures of passing ospreys.

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And jet contrails.

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Which are interesting to watch sometimes.

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Mr. Starfish has been abandoned by the folks who made him and a slow process of deterioration has set in. Uncle Jack almost wishes a high tide would come along and put him out of his misery.

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The sun finally started to make an appearance around 6 a.m.

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Getting there.

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You go, sun.

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Looks like it's here to stay. Uncle Jack is pleased to have welcomed what appears to be another perfect day at the beach.

posted by Uncle Jack at 6:40 AM

Comments [3]

Saturday, June 11, 2005
Lest we forget.
       Looks like another gorgeous day is shaping up on the Outer Banks. Folks who took advantage of pre-season rates are lucking out this week.
       Uncle Jack has been studying up on Western history in preparation for his big trip which starts next week. Much of it has to do with the way the U.S. Army drove the Native Americans off their land to make room for settlers, slaughtered the buffalo to starve the tribes, and generally acted very badly.
       This reminded him of a column he wrote many years ago which he recycles here as a public service. It does not carry a stamp of approval from the Roanoke Island Historical Association but he thinks it's fairly accurate.


                                   Lest We Forget

       Back in the l980's Dare County celebrated the 400th Anniversary of the early exploration and settlement of the Outer Banks by the English. Because Uncle Jack grew up in Northern Wisconsin and his fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Stonebreaker, did not spend much time on this topic he was fairly ignorant about it. He decided to read up on the subject and this is what he found out:
The whole thing started in the spring of l584 which was even rainier and nastier in England than it usually is and Queen Elizabeth was having a hard time getting around London without getting her feet wet.
Lucky for her she had this admirer named Walter Raleigh who kept putting his coat over puddles for her to walk on and she thought this was kind of cute so she gave him a very nice reward. She told hm that he could have any "remote, heathen, and barbarous landes, Contries, and territories not actually possessed of any Christian Prynce nor inhabited by Christian people," that he could get his hands on.
Raleigh was too smart to try to cross the ocean in a small boat himself but in the summer of l584 he sent two men named Amadas and Barlowe over to the Outer Banks (which were even more remote, heathen, and barbarous than they are now) to find the best place to build condominiums.
Naturally they wound up in Southern Shores and it must have been almost as beautiful then as it is now because the stuff Barlowe wrote about it sounds just like what you would read in a time-sharing ad today.
Barlowe must have liked the people who were living in Southern Shores at that time, too, because he called them "the most gentle, loving, and faithful, void of all guile and treason, and such as lived after the manner of the golden age."
(All of which shows that nothing much has changed in Southern Shores in the past 400 years).
Anyway Amadas and Barlowe told Raleigh a lot of nice things about the Outer Banks so the next year Raleigh sent Richard Grenville and Ralph Lane over to start a colony for him. They brought 300 soldiers with them and the first thing they did was build a fort to protect themselves from the "gentle, loving, and faithful" Indians who were "void of all guile and treason" as we know.
A little while later the English soldiers pretended to make a friendly social call on the Indians but instead they attacked their village and killed their chief, thus introducing the concept of "guile" into Indian culture.
After that a lot of really dumb things happened to Raleigh's first colony that Uncle Jack does not have time to go into but the upshot was that everybody went back to England except l5 soldiers who stayed behind and got killed by the Indians who were getting less gentle and loving every day for reasons that are not too hard for Uncle Jack to understand.
Finally, in l587, Raleigh sent over the unfortunate people now known as the "Lost Colony" and everybody knows what happened to them so Uncle Jack will not go into that.
Anyway now that Uncle Jack has studied up on what happened around here in l584, l585, l586, and l587 he thinks maybe some parts of the history of the Outer Banks are better left unremembered.

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5:40 a.m. today, Saturday. Same fisherman. Same spot. He must have caught something yesterday.

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5:40 a.m. Looking south toward Outer Banks pier.

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5:44 a.m. The sun plays peek-a-boo behind a thick bank of clouds on the horizon.

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Good morning sun.

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Mr. Starfish looks like he had heart surgery during the night, not to mention getting stepped on. At least the high tide didn't reach him.

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The dolphins were out in force this morning. Look hard and you will see one in this picture. Really.

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Looking north toward Jennette's Pier. The beach is wide and wonderful in this area. Why would anyone want to spend millions to cover it with dredge spoil?

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It's peak wildflower time on the Outer Banks. This is how the yard next door to Yellowhouse Gallery looks right now. Snug Harbor once stood here. Anybody remember Snug?

posted by Uncle Jack at 6:53 AM

Comments [2]

Friday, June 10, 2005
Wanchese Wings.

                                   Wanchese Wings?

Uncle Jack is one of those people who really likes to read about cooking and restaurants and anything else that has to do with food. When he goes to the bookstore he is usually the only man in there sneaking peeks at the Joy of Cooking instead of The Joy of Sex. He always keeps an eye out for articles about food in the paper and he usually reads them two or three times so he is sure he hasn't missed anything.
Last week, though, he read an article about food that was so awful he could hardly get through it even once. What it said was that some scientists think that penguins could become an important source of food for the hungry people of the world, who seem to be getting more numerous all the time.
At first Uncle Jack thought this article was some kind of an April Fool joke but it wasn't. Those scientists really think we are going to have to start killing and eating penguins.
Now Uncle Jack loves to eat and he will chew up just about anything you put in front of him including his napkin, but he hopes he will never get so hungry he would have to seriously consider eating a penguin---even a penguin stuffed with crabmeat.
All of which reminds him of a conversation he had a while back with a man who really thinks that seagulls might become a pretty good source of food if things get any worse around here. He said the way the shrimp and fish are disappearing and the oysters and clams are getting polluted, the seagulls are going to be just about the only thing left to eat.
This man had been thinking a lot about the problem and he had some very good ideas, too. For one thing he said that if the government decides to give up trying to keep Oregon Inlet open and even the little trawlers can't get to Wanchese any more they ought to turn the Wanchese Seafood Industrial Park into the Wanchese Seagull Industrial Park. He said they could turn that trawler basin over there into a sanitary landfill and if they put in all the garbage from the best restaurants and the classier neighborhoods like Pine Island and Southern Shores they could probably attract about 3 million gulls a day from all over the east coast. All the unemployed fishermen could go over there and throw their nets over the gulls and then they could take them home for the women to pluck.
Uncle Jack is not so sure this is such a good plan because he doesn't know if it is possible for somebody to get hungry enough to eat a seagull. He has read some stories about people who got lost at sea and managed to choke down an albatross or two when they didn't have anything else to eat for a few weeks so maybe it would work.
He also read where some American company has been test-marketing batter-fried seagull over in Japan where they call it "Colonel Hunt's Roanoke Island Turkey". The article said they really lap it up but that is not so surprising when you consider they practically live on raw fish over there.
Uncle Jack has never tasted seagull but he would guess it must taste a little like raw croaker marinated in kerosene sauce.
Anyway it is something to keep in mind for when there aren't any fish or shrimp or clams or even crabs left to catch. Maybe by that time they will be growing enough soybeans over on the mainland to feed everybody in the world, though. They are already making bacon out of soybeans so it probably won't be long before they figure out how to make a nice plump salty oyster out of soybeans, too.                                                                                                                       Uncle Jack can hardly wait.

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This fisherman beat Uncle Jack to the beach this morning, ten minutes before sunrise.

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5:43 a.m. Won't be long now.

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5:45 a.m. Right on the dot.

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The beginning of what should be a perfect day on the Outer Banks if the weatherman is to be trusted. High in the mid-80's with only a slight chance of rain.

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An artistic sand crab added the finishing touches to this amusing sculpture. Must have studied anatomy somewhere along the line.

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When he took this picture on June 3 Uncle Jack wondered where this oceanfront house near the Outer Banks pier was going. Now he knows.

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When he drove by the lot yesterday it was gone. (Anybody have a guess as to what will replace it?)

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Further sleuthing revealed that it now occupies a lot on the west side of Old Oregon Inlet Road about five doors south of Son of Porta Potty. Instant neighbors!

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These two pigeons (pigeons!)were the only birds on the beach this morning. Uncle Jack had his fill of pigeons in London last winter and he longs for the return of the sandpipers and gulls who hung out around here in pre-berm days.

posted by Uncle Jack at 6:58 AM

Comments [6]

Thursday, June 9, 2005
The money pit.
       Uncle Jack read in the paper that the Nags Head commissioners have decided to throw another $30,000 into the Surfside Drive money pit. The money will be used to fix up what is left of the northern end of the street so that a few rental cottages will be accessible by car for the rest of the summer. The town will also try to get permission from the Fish and Wildlife Service for renters of the rest of the Surfside houses to drive on what is now the beach, the street itself having washed away completely. This should make for some interesting scenarios this summer unless the new beach is roped off in some way to protect beachgoers from the vehicular traffic. Presumably all the renters will drive 4WD vehicles (unless the commissioners plan to build yet another temporary asphalt road, pieces of which will eventually litter the beach in that area along with the remains of earlier streets and torn sandbags which make parts of it a hazard to beachgoers even now).
       From what Uncle Jack can gather from the newspaper account there was a lot of emotional rhetoric flung about at last week's hearing, most of which had to do with "saving the beach" by hook or crook. He has been watching developments in the Surfside Drive area for years now and he has to conclude that the beach could do a very nice job of saving itself if the commissioners would only let it.
       As the pictures below show, now that the broken pieces of lower Surfside Drive and other detritus have been removed, the beach itself is looking great. The northern part, where efforts are still underway to save the street, looks awful, with sandbags, electrical wires, broken pipes and other hazards in profusion.
       There is a kind of irony in the fact that the owners of property on the west side of Surfside seem united in their desire that the one remaining condemned house on the east side be torn down as soon as possible. Yet they are prepared to have the town do anything and everything, regardless of cost, and regardless of the public weal, to save their own.

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The beach in front of Surfside Drive as it looked during the week before Memorial Day, at high tide. Or is it the Dare County landfill?

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The same section of beach as it looked this morning. Kudos from Uncle Jack to whoever was responsible for the clean-up. He hopes that nobody will mess it up again with sandbags and temporary pavement.

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The beach at Surfside Drive looking north this morning. Why would anyone need to "save" this beach by building a new sandbag wall in front of the houses on the left? Or are we really talking about saving privately owned buildings at public expense.

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The area just south of Surfside where sandbags are keeping buildings in place while the beach disappears in front of them. "Save the buildings" or "save the beach"? We do have a choice.

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This mess, created by the Town of Nags Head, is in front of the northern section of Surfside Drive on which another $30,000 of local tax money is about to be lavished. Visitors have to climb over this obstacle course to get to the beach.

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This crab posed for his picture. Uncle Jack couldn't tell whether he was brazen or sick.

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The new house next door yesterday morning, June 8.

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And again a day later. They seem to have two pilings left over but then again things are not always what they seem.

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This was as good as the sunrise got this morning. The fog rolled in shortly after this and that was all she wrote.

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The fog comes on little cat feet. It sits looking over harbor and city on silent haunches, and then moves on.(Carl Sandburg)(no relation, unfortunately)

posted by Uncle Jack at 10:02 AM

Comments [6]

Wednesday, June 8, 2005
Home again.
       Uncle Jack is pleased to report that he and Mrs. U.J. are home again in Sonag after an arduous five hour trip from Durham that included thirty-minutes of cowering in terror under an overpass in Raleigh while Mother Nature put on a sound and light show the likes of which they have not seen for years. Lightning struck all around them while sheets of wind-driven rain forced cautious drivers like Uncle Jack to the side of the road while slowing the idiots in their monster SUVs to a wimpy 50 mph.
       The rain had stopped by the time they reached Columbia allowing a brief pit stop during which they were attacked by hordes of flying bugs which made filling the gas tank even more unpleasant than usual. The tiny corpses of a few thousand of these wretched little creatures now adorn the hood and windshield of the Mini which is beginning to look a little less like it just came off the showroom floor every day.
       It was a pleasure to get back to the beach at dawn this morning even though the sunrise was somewhat obscured by thick clouds on the horizon. Uncle Jack was rewarded by the sight of numerous sand crabs popping in and out of their holes, something he hasn't seen for months. Apparently the crabs have fought their way up through the layer of berm sand that covers the natural beach. Still not a bird to be seen working the edge of the surf, though. They are missed.
       It was already 75 degrees when Uncle Jack stepped out the door at 5:30 this morning, heading for 90 according to the weather prognosticators. On mornings like this he thanks the Lord he is not a roofer.      

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5:45, official sunrise. This is going to take a while.

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5:55 a.m.

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6 a.m. Worth waiting for.

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Time to get back to air-conditioned comfort.

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Viewers with sharp eyes and high resolution monitors may be able to spot a crab peeking out of his hole at dead center. He did not want his picture taken.

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Flying birds like this giant osprey were out in force this morning but no sandpipers or their kin.

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When Uncle Jack left on Saturday only the floor of this new house in back of his was visible. What you see is the result of two days of very hard work by three framers working in stupefying heat and humidity. Budweiser sales must have peaked yesterday.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:15 AM

Comments [7]

Tuesday, June 7, 2005
Excuses, excuses.
       The pictures below will help to explain why Uncle Jack hasn't been able to post a weblog entry for the past couple of days. In addition to putting 800 miles on the Mini he and Mrs. U.J. had sole custody of two delightful young ladies named Sophia (2 months)and Isabella (18 months)for 36 fun-filled hours over the weekend. (They are Mrs. U.J.'s granddaughters who live in Baltimore).
       He is pleased to report that a good time was had by all. With any luck he will be back tomorrow with a sunrise.

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Sophia at work.

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Isabella pondering her next move.

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All the swingers hang out at the tot lot.

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Two under two can seem like six at times.

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Isabella is apparently preparing for a career in beach replenishment by dumping very expensive sand from her sandbox into her wading pool where it promptly disappears.

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And she wants a handout from the taxpayers too.

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Sophia at rest. Don't make a sound, please.

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Human bassinette.

posted by Uncle Jack at 8:29 AM

Comments [8]

Saturday, June 4, 2005
Welcome to Fardley Place
       Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. are off to Baltimore in the Mini early this morning so he probably won't have time to do a sunrise even if there is one. He hasn't seen the sun for so long he hardly knows what it looks like.
       He and Mrs. U.J. will be babysitting two adorable but demanding grandchildren while they are in Baltimore so it is unlikely that he will be able to do a weblog entry from there either. Things should be back to normal by Wednesday morning so if you don't see anything new here until then that is the reason.
       To fill the allotted space he is recycling a piece from many years ago that was intended to be the first part of a kind of Baedeker of interesting and unusual places within easy driving distance of the Outer Banks for visitors who have already seen the Wright Brothers Memorial, the Elizabethan Gardens and all the other tried and true Dare County attractions. For some reason he never got around to finishing the project. It's probably just as well.

                                   FARDLEY PLACE
       Located on the Dare County mainland, not far from the picturesque village of Drainfield, Fardley Place is believed by local historians to be the site of the first permanent mobile home residence in the United States.
According to records in the archives of the N.C. Department of Transportation, the Alpheus Fardley family of Nutley, New Jersey were en route to Florida in search of work when a flat tire on their "house trailer", as such vehicles were called in those days, brought their journey to a premature end on December l8, l928.
Unable to afford a tire patch, the penurious Fardleys were forced to remain parked on the shoulder of state highway 263 for several months, subsisting primarily on the remains of turtles and possums whose carcasses litter the roads in that area.
Eventually the luckless travelers were befriended by a group of moderately xenophobic local residents who helped them move their trailer to a vacant field nearby. Once settled the industrious Fardleys quickly found steady employment as scallop shuckers and in a few short years were able to replace their tiny domicile with a six-room, state-of-the-art, Conner "Palais de Versailles" model with indoor facilities.
The family remained in residence at Fardley Place until December l94l when "opportunity knocked" in the form of the Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor. The senior Fardleys and their nine children promptly moved to the Norfolk area where they reportedly amassed a considerable fortune in shipbuilding, real estate, and fried chicken during World War II.
While no trace remains of the Fardley trailer, which was reportedly blown to a new location in Tyrrell County during Hurricane Hazel in l954, the cement blocks on which it stood are still clearly visible at low tide. The Fardley yard, however, has been preserved intact as a living museum of depression-era North Caroliniana.
Visitors may view (and children may climb on!) the remains of no fewer than 20 assorted Ford and Chevrolet vehicles (circa l926-38) which the Fardleys acquired and discarded during their l3 years in Dare County.
Four partially collapsed sheds on the property shelter the rusting remnants of one of the most comprehensive collections of broken farm implements and household appliances ever assembled by a single family east of the Mississippi.
Lovingly cultivated by the ladies of the Drainfield Garden Club the Fardley Yard also contains one of the largest displays of indigenous weeds in eastern North Carolina.
Fardley Place is open to the public every day and admission is free. From Nags Head drive west on highway 263 to Drainfield. Turn around at the Methodist Church and drive back exactly l.2 miles. Look for the miniature replica of Stonehenge cleverly fashioned out of cement blocks by the Men's Auxiliary of the Drainfield Garden Club.


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Uncle Jack figured there must be something special going on at this oceanfront house in South Nags Head.

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And there was---a wedding on the beach. (Or more accurately on the berm).

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Now if the bride and groom can negotiate this four-foot drop-off in their wedding clothes they should be able to handle any other problems that might come along in their marriage.

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There's nothing for gulls to eat on the beach any more so they have taken to the road for sustenance in South Nags Head.

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This oceanfront house in Sonag is on the way to somewhere but Uncle Jack knows not where. He will keep an eye on it.

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Drop-off at the end of Oriental Street. Looks manageable, Matthew, unless you have little kids to carry.

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Beach at Oriental looking south. Hard to believe there was once a street here with houses on the ocean side and a large dune in front of them. Mother Nature is relentless.

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Beach at Oriental looking north. Should be plenty of room to spread out at low tide.

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Third house back from the ocean on Oriental has an appropriate name.

posted by Uncle Jack at 6:13 AM

Comments [5]

Friday, June 3, 2005
In Memoriam: George Mikan (1925-2005)
       Uncle Jack was watching Shaq O'Neal and his teammates demolish the Detroit Pistons last night when he learned that George Mikan had died earlier in the day at the age of 80. For aging basketball fans everywhere his passing no doubt opened the floodgates of memory just as it did for him.
       He was still in high school (and the Pistons were still in Fort Wayne) when George Mikan joined the Minneapolis Lakers and began to put the newly formed "National Basketball Association" into serious competition with major league baseball and football for the hearts and dollars of American sports fans.
       At six feet ten inches (when "tall" meant six feet) he dominated professional basketball in a way that no other player has since his time. He was "Mr. Basketball" to a degree that not even Wilt Chamberlain or Shaq, both much bigger men, were able to match.
       For Uncle Jack, who spent much of his early life with a basketball in his hands, George Mikan was God. One of the most significant events of his adolescence was a pilgrimage to basketball Mecca, a.k.a. Minneapolis, with a group of high school buddies in a Model A Ford to watch Mikan and his teammates (whose basic job was to feed him the ball high enough so no defender could reach it) destroy the visiting Washington Capitals.
       He can remember vividly almost every detail of that trip, from the "zoot suit" his Minneapolis friend Richard Anderson was wearing when he met us at the hotel to the collision with an unfortunate pheasant on the way back to Ashland, Wisconsin which resulted in a wild chase through a frozen cornfield in pursuit of the mortally wounded bird.
       The game itself was a revelation. Never had he seen basketball played the way the pros did it. He realizes now, of course, that they were stumbling amateurs compared to today's players but at the time they seemed almost superhuman.
       The most startling realization for Uncle Jack upon learning of George Mikan's death was that his great childhood hero was only five years older than he was. The towering figure he worshipped when he was 17 was only 22 himself.
       That's something for the tattooed, bling-draped multi-millionaire hoop jockeys of today to think about.


       Yesterday was a total wash-out on the Outer Banks. It rained so hard all day that Uncle Jack could not even get outside to take a picture. It hasn't rained so far this morning but there wasn't a visible sunrise either for which he is sorry. Looks like another yukky day for the unlucky folks who chose this week for their vacations. (Except for those who have the good fortune to visit Yellowhouse Gallery, of course).

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Definitely not a good beach day. Looking north through the fog toward Jennette's Pier, 7 a.m.

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Surf's up too.

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High tide last night took away another foot or so of the berm in front of this cottage revealing you-kn0w-what.

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Kayaking and skimboarding are now among the permitted activities on the South Nags Head "Multi-use walkway".

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Uncle Jack took this picture just after the pilings went in for these three "beach cottages" at Whalebone Junction near Jennette's Pier which had just been destroyed by Isabel.

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And here they are today, all ready for the next hurricane.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:34 AM

Comments [4]

Thursday, June 2, 2005
Rained out.
       Uncle Jack awakened to the pitter-patter of raindrops on the skylight at 5 a.m. and nothing has changed in the past hour. It looks very unlikely that the sun will be seen at all on the Outer Banks today but as a public service he has posted another lovely sunrise picture from days of yore. He has heard people say that a bad day on the Outer Banks is better than a good day in Pennsylvania (Ohio, New Jersey, New York, etc., choose one) but on a day like this he is not so sure.
       He read in the paper yesterday that the Nags Head and KDH commissioners have voted to extend their contract with a Washington lobbying firm for another six months. Marlowe and Company will get another $30,000 plus $2000 in expenses for chasing the beach renourishment ghost through the halls of Congress until the end of the year.
       This is, of course, a gamble that Marlowe will succeed where they have already failed before, along with all the even more highly paid lobbyists before them. Uncle Jack can't help thinking the towns would be better off sending him up to Virginia to buy $32,000 worth of lottery tickets.
       Or maybe they should send it to the Reverend Ewing who promises a "continuous flow of money blessings" to all who contribute to his miraculous ministry, as Uncle Jack described in a column a few years ago:

                                                                                                                                     This week started out like it was going to be Uncle Jack's lucky week. On Monday he got this very nice letter from the Reverend Ewing who is the minister of the Church by Mail in Atlanta, Georgia.
His letter was mixed in with a lot of catalogs from people who want Uncle Jack to buy truffles and smoked almonds and yachts and stuff like that but it really stood out and caught Uncle Jack's eye because right on the front of the envelope it said "Dear Jesus, I pray that you will bless this home, Spiritually, Physically and Financially" and on the back it said "Bless the hands that open this sacred faith letter that can change their lives and give them the Desires of their Hearts," and all of this was underlined with a yellow magic marker so you could hardly miss it.
Uncle Jack could hardly get the Reverend Ewing's letter open because his hands were shaking so hard, just like they were when he got the letter from the Readers Digest last year that said he might already be a millionaire. He did finally get it open and the letter turned out to be better than the envelope.
In the letter the Reverend Ewing said he felt the Holy Spirit leading him to pray for somebody at Uncle Jack's address and he said "Do you need help???? Do you need a continuous flow of money blessings?" and then he said he would send Uncle Jack a very nice Prosperity Cross that he could wear around his neck or put in his tackle box or whatever he wanted to do with it ABSOLUTELY FREE!!
Uncle Jack thought this was pretty amazing because he could not figure out how the Reverend Ewing, who lives way down in Atlanta, Georgia, could have found out that Uncle Jack is going to need a continuous flow of money blessings for the rest of his life because Social Security just isn't doingit.                                                                                                  The only thing that worries Uncle Jack a tiny bit is that the Reverend Ewing's letter was addressed to "Boxholder, Rural Route 2, Nags Head, N.C." and Uncle Jack actually lives on Route l so he is wondering if maybe somebody else was supposed to get the Prosperity Cross.
If Uncle Jack did get somebody else's letter by mistake he will be glad to split the money blessings with them when they come but in the meantime he is just going to take for granted that the Lord really does move in mysterious ways just like the Reverend Hokum always said he did.

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Through the magic of digital photography here is a screensaver from a morning in August 2004.

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This well-bundled beachgoer was determined to soak up some rays in spite of yesterday's chilly breeze off the ocean.

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Pelicans had a tough time in the wind, too, but it brings out the best in them.

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Always photogenic. They are probably up there flying around in the rain right now but Uncle Jack is not about to go find out.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:02 AM

Comments [5]

Wednesday, June 1, 2005
Dawn of a new month.
       Uncle Jack will let the pictures speak for themselves this morning. This recycled column from yesteryear is presented as a public service for those who may be having a slow day at the office.                           

                                   Winnebago Blues

Dear Uncle Jack,
One night last week I was racing up to the ABC store to get some cough medicine for my baby but I got behind this big Winnebago with Kansas plates going 25 mph and by the time I got past them it was too late. The ABC store was closed so I had to turn around and go back home and explain to my baby why I couldn't get her cough medicine and she got sore and made the kids go to bed instead of watching "X Files" and she pulled the plug on me, too, if you know what I mean.
Needless to say this whole experience made me pretty disgusted and the reason I am telling you all this Uncle Jack is that I know you are the kind of person who has to get to the ABC store in a big hurry sometimes so you know how I feel. I thought maybe if you published this letter it would galvanize our lawmakers into action to do something about all the slow drivers on the bypass. Why don't they pass a law that would make it a felony not to drive as fast as the law allows at all times?

                                   Junior Johnson
                                   South Nags Head

Dear Junior,
Uncle Jack knows exactly how you feel and you surely have his sympathy. He, too, has spent many an hour creeping along behind large recreational vehicles on the bypass and wondering if he would ever get where he is going which is usually but not always the ABC store. He has to confess he does enjoy reading all those colorful travel stickers they put on the back of those RV's but he wonders sometimes how you could get to all those scenic and historical places such as Knott's Berry Farm in California and Tarpon World in Florida all in one lifetime if you never drove over 25 mph.
He is sorry to tell you he does not think there is much the lawmakers can do about this problem so from now on you should do what Uncle Jack does and plan ahead so you do not have to make so many emergency trips to the ABC store. One way to do this is to take out a home equity loan and stock up on whatever you think you will need between now and the end of the tourist season. Uncle Jack is fairly sure you can deduct the interest from your income tax so that makes it a pretty good deal if you are careful not to lose your house.
On the other hand if you live in South Nags Head you are probably going to lose your house to the ocean sooner or later anyway so it might not make any difference.
Uncle Jack does not think it would be a good idea to make those Winnebagos go faster because if you ask him the only thing worse than being behind a large RV when it is going 25 mph is being in front of one when it is going faster than 25 mph. Anyway Uncle Jack knows that all those slow-moving people with the funny license plates are the ones who provide him with the financial wherewithal to live on the Outer Banks instead of just visiting once in a while so he is willing to put up with a slow trip to the ABC store from time to time.

                                          Uncle Jack

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Picture 1 6;40 a.m.

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Picture 2 6:40 a.m. Looking north toward Jennette's pier.

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Picture 3 Looking southeast toward the Outer Banks pier.

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Picture 4 6:47 a.m. Right on time.

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Picture 5 Not a bad start for a brand new month.

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Picture 6 Now that the season is here it's getting crowded on the beach at dawn.

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Picture 7 Only two osprey showed up this morning. It must be hard getting juveniles out of bed in the morning no matter what the species.

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Picture 8 Uncle Jack got his new license plate so he and Mrs. U.J. are ready to roll.

posted by Uncle Jack at 6:52 AM

Comments [4]

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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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