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Outer Banks Guide > Outer Banks Blogs > Eve Turek's Natural Outer Banks Blog
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Thursday, August 27, 2009
On the road again. Thursday August 27, 2009
       Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. will be leaving early Friday morning for Camden, Maine where they will spend a week revisiting old haunts and seeing what is new since last year. From all accounts they were lucky not to be able to spend the summer there again because it has been the wettest in the history of the Weather Bureau. It looks like tropical storm/hurricane Danny may arrive at about the same time they do so they may get a sample of the prevailing weather themselves.
       En route to Camden they will spend the night in Fitchburg at the home of Miss Adeline Van Hazinga, Uncle Jack's only begotten great grandchild, who has just celebrated her first birthday. According to her grandmother, Emily, who recently visited Adeline, she is perpetual motion incarnate. Hopefully Uncle Jack will be able to slow her down enough to take some pictures which, like all proud great-grandfathers, he will be happy to share with his readers.
       He has no idea when he will be able to post his next blog entry but in case it takes a while here is something from the archives to read in the interim. It should be especially meaningful to Eve and Pete and all the other Outer Banks merchants who have been down in the trenches all summer.

                                   Joy of Retail

Dear Uncle Jack,
       I read that article you wrote about how awful it is to run a retail store and have to put up with kids running around and wrecking stuff and babies crying and all that. Well if you ask
me that is only one side of the story because I have been behind the counter for almost 45 years and I can honestly tell you I have enjoyed every minute of it, kids and all.
       As far as I am concerned there is no other job in the world where you get to meet so many interesting people and there is never a dull moment. For example just last week this couple
from Canton, Ohio came into the store who have been married 52 years and they do not have any children or grandchildren and they do not have a Winnebago camper and they have never been to Disney World.
       You do not meet fascinating people like this very often if you are in some dull field like accounting or brain surgery and that is why retail is so interesting and exciting for me. I hate to say this but it sounds to me like you are too grouchy to have a very rewarding career in retail and maybe you should go into some other line of work such as law enforcement where you can hit people with a club or shoot them if you don't like
what they are doing.
                                                               Macy Bloomingdale

Dear Macy,
       Uncle Jack would like to thank you for taking valuable time away from your cash register to write and give him your views on a subject that is near and dear to your heart and also his.
He did not mean to give the impression that he does not enjoy his life in retail because nothing could be further from the truth. He cannot think of anybody in the world that he would want to trade places with except maybe Hugh Hefner and he hopes he can go on retailing until the perfect end which would be where he would drop dead in ecstasy right after some customer bought $999 worth of pictures and paid for them with ten $l00
       Uncle Jack agrees with you that there is no job where you can meet so many interesting people every day as you can behind the counter of a retail store. And he is not talking about the
kind of people you meet on the graveyard shift at the 7-ll either. He means the kind of people you can meet in any retail store on the Outer Banks at any time and he will give you an example.
       During the slow period right after lunch one day last week Uncle Jack was busy scraping bubble gum off the carpet when in walks this nice-looking middle-aged woman wearing one of those leather helmets like you see on wimp hockey players
sometimes. This was one of the hottest days of the year not to mention humid and he will tell you this woman was a sweaty mess from top to bottom and if you want to know the truth she did not smell too good either.
       It turns out she was riding her bicycle from Orlando, Florida to Washington, D.C. and she and Uncle Jack had a nice chat about how much fun she would have the next day riding her bike up
route l58 through Currituck County which is two-lane most of the way with soft shoulders while he would be spending just another ordinary day cooped up in his little air-conditioned store.
       He can tell you she really got him thinking about what he is missing in the adventure department and for a while there he was thinking maybe he should chuck the whole retail way of
life and get himself a l0-speed and chase her up the road. Then he looked at the thermometer and thought about it some
more and he decided he would be better off if he stayed right in his store and waited for another interesting person to come in instead.
                                                               Have a nice day,
                                                               Uncle Jack


posted by Uncle Jack at 6:20 PM

Comments [2]

Sunday, August 23, 2009
Bye bye Emily (and Bill), Sunday August 23, 2009
       Daughter Emily departed Bawlmer for Concord, CA yesterday after a whirlwind week. A good time was had by all and she is looking forward already to her return. She was definitely charmed by Charm City and vice versa.
       Uncle Jack has been keeping an eye on Bill as he roared up the coast over the past few days. He did regret not being in South Nags Head to take pictures as those magnificent waves rolled in but he did find a few pics in the archives from similar storms of years past. Enjoy, if that's the right word.

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Ophelia wandered around offshore for a few days back in 2006 and churned up waves a lot like Bill's. James Street in Sonag suffered.

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Steps leading to the basement.

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Thanksgiving 2006. Carpenters rejoice. (It's an ill wind...."

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Pushing sand back to the beach after Ophelia. Sisyphus redux.

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Sargassum weed pushed in by a storm in 2006.

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Surfside Drive after Ophelia. There was a street here at one time and an entire row of houses in front of it.

posted by Uncle Jack at 2:54 PM

Comments [6]

Thursday, August 20, 2009
Showing Off Charm City, Thursday August 20, 2009
       Thanks to daughter Emily's visit this week Uncle Jack has discovered some delightful new facets of his adopted city that will bear much further exploration in the future. These include the Maryland Historical Society museum, the George Peabody Library and the Enoch Pratt Public Library---all downtown---and the tiny early-18th century enclave of Dickeytown which has resisted change for 200 years while being fully engulfed by the creeping suburbanization of Baltimore.
       He also revisited, Emily in tow, many places he has been before like Fells Point, Federal Hill, the Baltimore Museum of Art, the Walters Art Museum, the American Visionary Art Museum, Guilford, Tuscany-Canterbury, and the Wells Liquor Store on York Avenue---as well as another boat ride around the harbor. Needless to say, Emily has been bowled over by Bawlmer and is already looking forward to her next visit.

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Emily and friend in Fells Point.

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Unusual educational establishment in Charles Village. Not affiliated with Johns Hopkins.

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A row of very old houses in Dickeytown, once a thriving mill town on the banks of the Gwynn's Falls river. Now a hard-to-find neighborhood in Baltimore.

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This old house is now the Dickeytown Gallery, just about the only business in the tiny town.

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The mills are gone but the river flows on before it disappears into a tunnel under downtown Baltimore.

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This picturesque building might have been a warehouse when it was built in 1823.

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A lush back yard in Dickeytown. It slopes toward the river.

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Child's playhouse in Dickeytown (which was named for the family who owned most of it at one time).

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The stacks in the George Peabody library, now part of the Johns Hopkins libraries. Open to the public and free. An awesome treasure for the city.

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A room full of artistic and natural curiosities from 17th century Holland in the Walters gallery, also free to the public.

posted by Uncle Jack at 5:40 PM

Comments [7]

Sunday, August 16, 2009
Financial Planning, Sunday August 16, 2009
       It was another hot week in Baltimore so Uncle Jack pretty much stayed inside his air-conditioned condo and continued shuffling through the box of old newspaper columns he discovered a few days ago. In lieu of anything else to write about he is recycling another one today. His daughter Emily arrived yesterday from California for a week's stay so he will be busy introducing her to the charms of Charm City this week, the air-conditioned ones at least. Stay tuned.

                            Lots of Luck

Uncle Jack is probably not the only one who has been doing a lot of fantasizing since that senior citizen out in Illinois won $195 million in the Powerball lottery last week. At least that’s how much he would have gotten if it was spread out over a lot of years, but he did what Uncle Jack would have done and decided to take $104 million right away in one lump sum.
              The winner, a Mr. Carpaci, is exactly Uncle Jack’s age so he does not have a whole lot of time left to spend his money so it was probably smart to look at the short term and take the quick hundred million. This is especially true because the first thing Mr. Carpaci says he plans to buy is a Harley Davidson motorcycle. This is definitely not the first thing Uncle Jack would buy if he won the lottery. It is more likely the last thing he would buy because the last place he would want to be the next time he has what they call a “senior moment” is in the saddle of a Harley screaming down the highway at 60 mph.
Anyway, by the time the various branches of government get through with Mr. Carpaci he will be lucky to have $50 million left but that is still enough to provide for a fairly carefree old age if you are a basically frugal person like Uncle Jack.
              He has been thinking a lot about what he would do with $50 million if he wins the next Powerball lottery and he has come to some fairly definite conclusions. The very first thing he would do (after establishing a new wine cellar) would be to start lining up a liver transplant. Uncle Jack is fairly sure that his abused liver is an even bigger threat to his longevity than Mr. Carpaci’s Harley is to his. He figures that a $10 million gift to the Duke University Medical Center would move him up to somewhere near the top of the liver transplant list and then he could breathe a little easier.
              Also Uncle Jack would insist that his liver, which has nearly turned to stone at this point, be turned over to the Duke University Geology Department for research purposes, especially to study the impact of the merlot he has been buying at the K-Mart for the past few years. At $4.99 for a 1.5 liter bottle it’s a good value as long as it isn’t killing him. If his petrified liver can provide guidance to future wine drinkers he will feel that he has not lived his life in vain.
              After he got his liver taken care of Uncle Jack would then devote the rest of his life and fortune to improving the lot of all the indigent jazz musicians he has met on his many trips to New Orleans. First he would build an intimate nightclub in Nags Head with great acoustics and a bandstand large enough for at least seven musicians plus a good drum set and a first-rate piano with ivory intact on all the keys.
       Then he would rent a couple of those mini-hotels on the oceanfront and invite a dozen of the best traditional jazz players in New Orleans and elsewhere to come to Nags Head and spend the summer playing in his nightclub which would have free admission for senior citizens and also an open bar with complimentary beverages of all kinds including Geritol. The evening sessions would begin at 7 p.m. sharp so everybody, including the musicians, could be home in bed by 10:30.
       In the off season Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. would travel First Class from one traditional jazz festival to another, all over the world, lavishing tips on the underpaid musicians wherever they went. He would think of himself as sort of the Mother Theresa of downtrodden jazz musicians everywhere.
              Now all he needs is for somebody to give him $5 so he can buy a Powerball ticket.

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Sea Foam motel after Isabel.

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Building the big berm with sand trucked in from Currituck after Isabel. Here today gone tomorrow.

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August sunrise

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Ain't that purty?

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Isabel did it.

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This mini-hotel in South Nags Head was still under construction when Isabel took out half the fancy septic system.

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Sea Ranch condos in KDH after Isabel.

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More post-Isabel debris in South Nags Head. Two feet of sand had already been removed from the Beach Road. The drainage ditch is filled with sand at left.

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Sunrise in November 2009.

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Sunrise Saturday Dec. 1, 2007

posted by Uncle Jack at 8:10 PM

Comments [8]

Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Sittin' on de Dock of eBay, Tuesday August 11, 2009
       When Uncle Jack packed up to leave Nags Head for his new home in Baltimore he threw a lot of stuff into boxes with the intention of unpacking and sorting it all out when he finally got settled in his new digs. Eight months later he is at last getting around to opening some of those mystery boxes.
       One of them, he discovered this morning, contains a treasure trove (some would say trash dump) of stuff he wrote for the Outer Banks Current and Sentinel many years ago. He got a big kick out of reading some of these old pieces, most of which he had completely forgotten about, because they brought back wonderful (and not so wonderful) memories of his long tenure on the Outer Banks.
       Having reached the doldrums of August in Bawlmer when the heat tends to discourage all outdoor activities other than his early morning walks, he has decided to transcribe a few of these hoary stories into Word documents and share them with his long-suffering readers whose interest in Charm City may be limited at best.
       The first one recalls an event early in his eBay career when he still had a dial-up connection with all its attendant frustrations. How he managed to survive several years of selling on eBay with a dial-up connection is a mystery to him now. He read in the paper this morning that General Motors is going to start selling new cars on eBay and he fervently hopes they have broadband or they will go crazy.
                     Sittin' on de Dock of eBay

       This turned out to be a pretty good week for Uncle Jack even though it didn’t start out that way. If you want to know the truth it started out like it was going to be the worst week since Hurricane Dennis blew the roof off his framing shop.
       Last Friday morning he was sitting in front of his big computer putting up things for sale on eBay, which he usually does morning, noon and night since he discovered how much money he can make by putting things up for sale on eBay. He was listening to jazz from a New Orleans radio station on his computer and he was tapping away on his keyboard making money like crazy when a message popped up on the screen telling him that he was no longer connected to the internet.
       Because this usually happened several times a day he uttered his usual oaths while he tried to hook up to the internet again. But this time the problem was serious---his phone line was dead. And not only was his computer phone line dead but so was his house phone.
       Suddenly he was not making money any more and panic overtook him. He raced to his shop and called the “Customer Service” number at Sprint where a very pleasant lady informed him that a repair person would be out to check his phone line sometime on Tuesday, four days hence. Uncle Jack promptly burst into tears and sobbed his tale of woe about how he needed his telephone to put stuff up on eBay and make money to buy food for his children and she must have felt sorry for him because she said she would mark his request “urgent” so he rushed back home to wait for the repairman.
       Uncle Jack kept looking out the window and watching for the Sprint truck every few minutes until it got dark but finally he forced himself to confront reality---the repairman was not coming and he would make no more money that day by putting things up on eBay. Needless to say he did not sleep well Friday night thinking about all the money he did not make that day and on Saturday morning he raced up to his shop again to call the “Customer Service” lady to ask if the repairman would be coming in the morning or in the afternoon. This time the “Customer Service” person was a man who almost gleefully informed him that Sprint was no longer doing “Customer Service” on Saturdays.
       Refusing to accept this absurdity as truth, Uncle Jack asked for a number he could call to protest and demand that a repair person be dispatched to the vicinity of his computer at once. He called the number only to hear a recorded voice telling him that he should call back on Monday morning when the office would be open and presumably “Customer Service” would resume. A tsunami of panic washed over Uncle Jack when he realized he would make no more money putting things up on eBay until Monday morning at the earliest and possibly not until Tuesday. His panic turned to anger at the telephone company whose callous disregard for his cash flow made a mockery of the term “Customer Service” which obviously meant something different to them than it does to Uncle Jack.
       He raged also at the Gateway Computer Company which had whisked his ailing laptop away by overnight FedEx two weeks earlier and was holding it incommunicado (possibly for ransom) at a repair facility in Texas. With his laptop he could have connected to the internet at his shop and gone on making money without a hitch right through the weekend, but it was not to be. Needless to say he did not sleep well Saturday night.
       It was not until Sunday at noon that he began to come to his senses. He was sitting out on his deck in the sunshine sipping a chilled glass of zinfandel and eating a gourmet lunch fashioned by Mrs. Uncle Jack out of a bit of leftover filet mignon and havarti cheese when it suddenly hit him that but for the grace of God and the ineptitude of the telephone company he would be sitting in his dark, stuffy little office in front of his computer putting up stuff for sale on eBay.
       It was good to be reminded that there is more to life than making money by putting up stuff for sale on eBay---especially when you are lucky enough to be living on the Outer Banks of North Carolina on a gorgeous fall day.
       Maybe that’s what the telephone company really meant by “Customer Service”.

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Sometimes sunsets can be even more spectacular than sunrises, like this one back in 2007.

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Dawn on New Year's Day 2007. Cold, cold, cold.

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Not too cold for these little guys who must have forgotten to migrate.

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Winter beach. You vant to be alone? This is the place, Greta.

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New Year's Day, 2007. The largest single sand structure Uncle Jack ever saw in South Nags Head. Perhaps done by Mayan tourists.

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Another view.

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Cypress stumps on the beach. Something not often seen by summer visitors.

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Picturesque South Nags Head in the winter of 2007. Looks pretty much the same today, sad to say.

posted by Uncle Jack at 6:20 PM

Comments [7]

Sunday, August 9, 2009
Stormy Weather, Sunday August 9, 2009
       It's been a quiet week in Charm City with fewer than usual mass murders and water main breaks. Nothing much from which to fashion an electrifying weblog entry. By far the most exciting event was the arrival in the farmers market yesterday of the season's first real home-grown, vine-ripened local tomatoes. As every tomato lover knows this called for a trip to the grocery store to buy a couple of loaves of Pepperidge Farms Original Sandwich White and a jar of Heilman's mayonnaise---indispensable ingredients, along with salt and pepper, of the many delicious tomato sandwiches Uncle Jack will ingest in the next couple of weeks.
       He hasn't taken any new pictures lately but he did stumble across a set of pics in the archive of a spring northeaster back in April of 2005, just before he and Mrs. U.J. set off on a cross-country trip in their brand-new Mini. The hurricane forecasters are saying that we might not get a bad blow this year so with any luck these pictures will give readers their only taste of a bad storm this season. Wouldn't that be nice?

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South Nags Head, a.k.a. Foam city.

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Tons of sand washed over the dunes and filled the "navigational channel" along Old Oregon Inlet Road.

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The house in the foreground had a huge faux dune in front of it before this started.

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Four years later all the sandbags and the faux dune in front of this house are gone and the house is no longer occupied.

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These bags were an expensive exercise in futility for the Town of Nags Head. Meant to protect Surfside Drive, they washed away soon and so did Surfside, leaving a wide beach in that area.

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Surfside Drive before the big clean-up.

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The oceanfront home owner's eternal struggle.

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Thanks to the installation of hundreds of sandbags after this storm the house is still there, the first house north of what remains of Surfside Drive.

posted by Uncle Jack at 12:55 PM

Comments [2]

Tuesday, August 4, 2009
You are what you eat. Tuesday August 4, 2009
       Mrs. U.J. persuaded Uncle Jack to eschew his usual afternoon nap in favor of a trip to the nearby Charles Theater to see a film called "Food, Inc." He is glad she did even though it is one of the most distressing documentaries he has ever seen. It is painful to learn about awful truths and that is what this excellent movie serves up.
       In case you haven't seen it yet he will tell you that it shows in graphic, revolting detail how much of the food we eat is manufactured by the relatively small handful of companies that produce it for mass consumption. It also explores the failure of government agencies like the Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration to protect American consumers from the worst side effects of our present industrialized methods of food production, distribution and marketing. It explains why our "cheap" food is anything but cheap when all the societal costs are factored in.
       Lucky for Uncle Jack he has had Mrs. U.J. to shield him from most of the depredations of Big Food but even she emerged from the theater determined to do even better. They don't eat much meat, for example, but they are probably going to eat even less in the future. The film shows what goes on at the Smithfield company's slaughterhouse in Tar Heel, N.C., the world's largest, and he can tell you you will need a strong stomach to eat another piece of Smithfield bacon. (Or any other bacon for that matter).
       The higher cost of organically grown food is often given as reason many people cannot afford to       eat it. A quote from one organic farmer stuck in Uncle Jack's mind, to wit: "I had a woman complain about my eggs that cost $3.00 a dozen while she was drinking a 75 cent can of soda pop." (Uncle Jack wonders where she got the pop for only 75 cents when nowadays a bottle of water costs at least a buck.)
       Anyway Uncle Jack thought it was a terrific movie and he hopes everybody will get a chance to see it no matter what the consequences. With so many congressmen and senators on their payrolls we won't see much in the way of consumer protection from Washington but at least individuals can take some control over their own eating if they know the facts.      

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We went to the "big market" downtown on Sunday to check it out. There are 5 times as many vendors as their regular neighborhood Saturday market. This guy brought lots of peaches.

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An estimated 8000 people shop at this market between 8 a.m. and noon. Fortunately they are all very polite.

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We walked for an hour early this morning in a new nearby neighborhood called Tuscany/Canterbury. This is a typical tree-lined street, straighter than most.

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Almost every front yard has a flower display of some kind.

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A few have lawn ornaments. This one is a bit unusual.

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Calvert School in Tuscany/Canterbury is one of the toniest in Baltimore. This is one classroom building.

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The playing fields of Calvert with more of the school buildings in the background. What money can buy.

posted by Uncle Jack at 5:48 PM

Comments [5]

Sunday, August 2, 2009
Home again, Saturday August 2, 2009
       Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. are pleased to report that they made it home safely on what is probably one of the worst travel days of the year, the first Saturday in August. They left Nags Head in the dark at 5:30 a.m., stopped for coffee and day-old Krispy Kremes at Border Station in Moyock, cruised through the Monitor-Merrimack tunnel, joined the northward stream of traffic on 64 west, peeled off to head toward Washington on 95 and maintained a steady 70 mph all the way to the Lorton exit about 30 miles south of the Beltway.
       There they took their place at the tail of a three-lane, bumper-to-bumper, parade of vehicles creeping toward D.C. at something less than a snail's pace. They began to wonder if this is what they were in for all the way to Baltimore when miraculously the dam broke and once again they were hurtling toward the Beltway at warp speed. The cause of the slowdown this time was a spectacular wreck in the southbound lanes of 95 involving an overturned tractor-trailer and several cars. Naturally every driver in the northbound lanes slowed to a crawl to get a good luck at the carnage (and perhaps a few pictures) while passing the scene. (Uncle Jack could not resist as the pictures below prove).
       Even with the lengthy slowdown they made the trip in only 6.5 hours and arrived at the Saturday Farmers Market just in time to load up on peaches and sweet corn for the week. They were pleased to discover that it was cooler in Baltimore at high noon than it was in Nags Head at 5 a.m. which confirmed their decision not to return to the Outer Banks until October at the earliest by which time the ghastly heat and humidity should have moderated somewhat along with the insane traffic on the bypass. With any luck they could be there for Bike Week.

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The wreck appeared to have happened more than an hour before we reached the scene. Damaged cars were being removed and mobile cranes were working on the truck wreckage.

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The overturned trailer blocked all but one lane. Part of the cab is resting against the light standard.

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By this time the workers had managed to open one lane but the resulting traffic jam backed up southbound traffic for over 40 miles, including a lengthy section of the Beltway. Lots of folks were late getting to the Outer Banks yesterday no doubt.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:07 AM

Comments [5]

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