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Friday, September 29, 2006
Nantucket Day Two, Sept. 29, 2006
     The penultimate day of September finds us in Ocean Grove, New Jersey again after a fun-filled ride down the various interstates between Hyannis, MA and Ocean Grove.  (All of them are being repaired at the present time which led to several bumper-to-bumper crawls along the way).  Our second and last day on Nantucket was delightful as the pictures will attest.  With all its charm, though, we wouldn't trade any part of it for the Outer Banks.  We very much look forward to getting home in a couple of days.

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Display of indigenous veggies at the entrance to the Wawinet Inn where we stayed.

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Four-wheeling through the Great Point Bird Sanctuary near the hotel. Looks incredibly like Pea Island.

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Great Point is Nantucket's pale imitation of the point at Hatteras. The fish were not there when we were.

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This seal was cavorting in the surf while we were there. Maybe he ate all the fish.

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Great Point light. Somewhat reminiscent of Ocracoke light but thinner and taller.

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We returned to the hotel by driving down the beach. Very soft sand but our guide knew how to handle it. He was from Brooklyn, Sparky.

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Paul Mellon was permitted to build this mansion in the preserve with the understanding that it would be torn down if the Mellon family no longer wanted to use it. He donated much of the land in the preserve.

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Robert Benchley's house where little Peter Benchley got the inspiration for "Jaws". It is on a cliff that is rapidly eroding away. Many houses in the area have been moved.

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Sankaty light, not far from Benchley's house. May have to be moved in the next few years as the erosion is severe in this area. Nobody believes in beach renourishment up here.

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Oldest house on Nantucket. Forgot the exact date but early 18th century.

posted by Uncle Jack at 8:11 PM

Comments [5]

Wednesday, September 27, 2006
Greetings from Nantucket, Wednesday Sept. 27, 2006
     We got lucky again.  The weather has been fabulous for the past two days and is expected to continue for another day or two.  We spent last night in Hyannis and took the fast passenger ferry to Nantucket at 8 this morning.  Spent the afternoon wandering around Nantucket town and sopping up the atmosphere.  Tomorrow we are scheduled to take a 3 hour tour of the beach and three nature preserves in a Jeep followed by a 1.5 hour tour of the rest of the island before heading back to Hyannis on the 6 p.m. ferry. Only Donald Trump and his ilk could afford to stay on Nantucket for more than one night but we are trying to make the most of it in the short time we are here.

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Leaving Hyannis. Note the glassy water which prevailed all the way to Nantucket.

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Boats moored in the harbor at Hyannisport. No Bushes were in evidence today.

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The fast passenger ferry cranks up to 40 knots and makes the 26 mile trip to Nantucket in one hour. The car ferry takes twice as long.

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Our hotel, the Wauwinet, about nine miles out of town on a point with the bay on one side and the ocean on the other. It opened in 1876.

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Ubiquitous lady with yellow hat heads for the beach.

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The beach is magnificent here. Does not appear to have been renourished but we will do some research on the nature tour tomorrow.

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This lucky gent got into a bluefish blitz just as we got to the beach. Haven't seen a blitz in South Nags Head for quite some time. Maybe all the bluefish are vacationing here.

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A typical street in Nantucket. Almost every building on the island is gray and shingled. Not a piece of pink particle board anywhere.

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Another street scene. Houses are all jammed up together in the heart of town but the aspect is pleasing.

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Two misplaced southern plantation houses on Main Street in Nantucket Town.

posted by Uncle Jack at 5:55 PM

Comments [8]

Monday, September 25, 2006
Last day in Maine, Monday September 23, 2006

Sunday was our penultimate day in Maine and we spent it doing what we couldn’t do on Saturday because it rained all day. What we did was drive out into the countryside northwest of Camden about 40 miles to a field near the town of Unity where we experienced the final day of the 30th annual gathering of the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOGFA). We weren’t quite sure what to expect but it turned out to be a bucolic extravaganza. Rain or shine over 20,000 people turn out for this amazing event each year and it was not hard to understand why.

We staggered away after a couple of hours of lurching from one food booth to another (maple syrup donuts, fried dough, whipped cream cones, etc.) our guilty consciences assuaged somewhat by the bags of organic apples and veggies we carried back to the Mini for later consumption.

While the food was our major preoccupation this was not the case for most of the participants who attended lectures and demonstrations on organic farming methods. License plates in the parking lot suggested that the attendees came from all over New England and their enthusiasm augurs well for the future of organic farming in this region. We thoroughly enjoyed the whole thing.

Tomorrow (Monday) we head south to Hyannis, Mass. to spend the night before boarding the early ferry to Nantucket Tuesday morning. Our two weeks in Maine have been mind-bending. Uncle Jack has not been so smitten by a place since he first discovered the Outer Banks nearly 40 years ago.

There must be a zillion wonderful places to stay in the Penobscot Bay area but he doubts that they could have found one that they would have enjoyed more than their “tree house” on Hosmer Pond near Camden. For more information about it go to the website of the “lady from New Jersey” (Mrs. Margaret Buchholz of Harvey Cedars) by clicking on the link below. It has a few idiosyncrasies like the 32 steps up to the front door and the challenging spiral staircase to the loft sleeping area) but if you are reasonably agile and not excessively overweight you should be able to manage these with aplomb. If you have not yet experienced “down east” Maine Uncle Jack strongly recommends that you check it out. Warning: a visit could be life-changing experience..

http://www.camdenme.org/vacation_rentals/listing.php?ID=16&Result_Set=&location=Lakes,%20Rivers,%20Ponds&town_ID=1 ,

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Patriotic barn on the road outside of Camden.

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Organic fried dough? The Maine equivalent of a beignet or a Krispy Kreme.

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Uncle Jack learned more about organic plowing than he really wanted to know.

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When's the last time you tried to ring the bell like this?

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Foodie heaven.

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Who would have thought that an organic food festival could draw a crowd like this on a dreary Sunday?

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Rockport harbor, right next door to Camden.

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A Rockport resident.

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Preserved ruins of lime kilns in Rockport harbor park. The town was once a major source of limestone products.

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The spiral staircase in our "treehouse". Not for the infirm.

posted by Uncle Jack at 10:42 AM

Comments [606]

Saturday, September 23, 2006
Searsport, Maine Saturday September 21, 2006

Searsport is a little town of 3000 inhabitants about an hour up Route 1 from Camden. It has a long and fascinating history as a center for boat building and shipping and you can learn all about it at the Penobscot Marine Museum where we spent all day Friday. The museum consists of seven buildings---all but one of them dating to the early 19th century---full of artifacts relating to Searsport’s history. It is surely one of the finest establishments of its kind in the country and we unequivocally recommend it to anybody who gets up to this part of the world.

Little Searsport produced over 300 masters of ships that sailed the world in the 19th and early 20th centuries, many of whom became wealthy and built marvelous houses in the town, many of which are still standing. Two of them are included in the museum collection, fully furnished with the treasures brought back from Hong Kong, Shanghai, and other far-flung ports of call. Most of the rest of the houses in Searsport have been converted to bed and breakfast inns with fantastic views of Penobscot Bay.

Fabulous little town is Searsport.  Not even slightly reminiscent of Wanchese.

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Belfast harbor. On the way to Searsport. Belfast was really run down when U.J. last saw it 20 years ago but it has had a revival and looks great now. The power of tourism aided by intelligent local government which has kept the excesses of developers i

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In a lot of towns this charming old building would have been replaced by condos years ago. It's right on the harbor with fabulous views of Penobscot Bay in Belfast.

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Interior of one of the sea captain's houses in Searsport Marine Museum.

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Tiffany windows in the church which is part of the museum in Searsport.

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The art gallery is the only modern building in the museum but the architecture is harmonious.

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The museum has a marvelous collection of ships' figureheads and other decorations.

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The exquisite scrimshaw in this case alone must be worth millions. Every bit of it was donated.

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This lovely boat was once owned by E.B. White, author of "Charlotte's Web" and longtime New Yorker writer.

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There must be a hundred ship models in the museum, each one a paragon of detail and perfection.

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Exterior of the church which dates to 1815. Classic New England.

posted by Uncle Jack at 9:54 AM

Comments [1]

Wednesday, September 20, 2006
More from Camden, Maine Wed. Sept. 20, 2006

We had originally planned to stay in Camden for a week and then spend the next five days working our way down the coast to Hyannis, Mass. where we will take the ferry to Nantucket Tuesday morning. We changed those plans when we learned that our marvelous treehouse on the lake is available for another week and when we found out how much there is to see and do in the Camden-Rockland-Rockport area.

Yesterday we drove out into the countryside northwest of Camden in search of Andrews Brewery in Lincolnton whose tasty ale we had sampled at the Mainefare on Saturday. We never got there because the road in front of the brewery was closed for resurfacing but we did get to experience a few more country roads loaded with picturesque New England churches, quaint old general stores and a host of other Rockwellian delights.

This morning (Wed.) we drove to Rockland to visit the Maine Lighthouse Museum on the waterfront which turned out to be far more interesting than we expected. Without a doubt it is one of the best small museums we have visited anywhere. Highly recommended to any Outer Bankers who should come this way. Tomorrow we will return to Rockland to the Farnsworth Museum which has an excellent collection of works by Homer, Hopper and the Wyeths, all of whom have lived and worked in this area. (A couple of the Wyeths still do).

The weather has been spectacular day after day and we look forward to five more days of exploration in this incredibly beautiful part of the world. Stay tuned.

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The leaves are starting to turn. This flaming tree was near Lincolnville which is near Camden.

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Edna St. Vincent Millay went to school in Camden. She is remembered by this statue in the park across from the public library. The library is a gem. The sculpture.....

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This patriotic lobster greets visitors to the wonderful Maine Lighthouse Museum in Rockland.

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Part of the Lighthouse Museum which has the largest collection of Fresnel lenses in captivity.

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The Outer Banks lights are not neglected.

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They did have a little trouble with the spelling Chicamacomico but who doesn't. There were two short films made on the Outer Banks in this collection.

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We could use one of these in Nags Head in the run-up to the referendum on the proposed sand tax.

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View of Rockland harbor from the back deck of the museum. The mile-long breakwater is visible in the distance.

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This is the most spectacular satellite view we have ever seen. It covers the entire Maine coast in sharp detail. You can even see the Rockland breakwater clearly.

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A painting of Rockland in the style of Susan Vaughn's renderings of KDH, Manteo, etc. but much larger.

posted by Uncle Jack at 4:36 PM

Comments [4]

Monday, September 18, 2006
More from Camden, Maine Monday Sept. 17 (?) 2006

For many years people have been telling Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. how beautiful Maine is. To hear them talk you would think it was heaven on earth. Now that they have been up here for almost a week they are inclined to think those people were not exaggerating. The central coast of Maine, at least, is certainly one of the loveliest areas they have ever visited.

They have managed to tear themselves away from their delightful tree house on Hosmer Pond a few times in the past two days to explore the Camden vicinity and the more they see the more impressed they are. It is absolutely amazing that people have been living in this beautiful place for well over two centuries and in all that time they have hardly messed it up at all. What a contrast with the Outer Banks.

The high point for us today, literally and figuratively, was a trip to the summit of Mt. Battie in Camden Hills State Park which towers over the town and provides views that are even more spectacular than those from the crest of Cadillac Mountain which they visited a few days ago. Like the original man-made dunes on the Outer Banks the roads to Mt. Battie were built by federal government workers back in the 1930‘s. What a wonderful amenity for the people of this area.

To their very pleasant surprise their visit to Camden coincided today with an event called Mainefare which brings together in one place several dozen purveyors of fine foods which originate in Maine. Jams, jellies, cheeses, breads, wines, beers, organic vegetables and fruits, and more. All the artisans were doling out samples of their wares and we staggered away with stomachs and arms full of goodies.

Weather permitting we plan to drive a few miles south along the coast on Sunday and take the passenger ferry to Monhegan Island which is about ten miles out in the ocean off Port Clyde on the St. George peninsula. Monhegan is an artist colony in the summer with only about 75 year-round residents. There are no cars on the island with the exception of an old pick-up truck that is used for picking up trash and other mundane municipal duties. Until recently it had no electricity so there is little likelihood of wireless broadband service either.

(More pictures in another entry below)

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Camden harbor from sea level.

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Ditto from the top of Mt. Battie.

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More of Penobscot Bay from Mt. Battie. You can see forever from up here.

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A schooner makes its way out of Camden harbor (slowly because there was almost no wind). Many of these converted working boats carry people on cruises out of Camden.

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The absence of wind created mirror-like conditions on the pond in front of our cottage.

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Boarding the ferry for Monhegan Island, ten miles out to sea from Port Clyde.

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Leaving Port Clyde. There's that hat again.

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The Island Inn. Monhegan's biggest building.

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Monhegan's "beach". You can tell how warm it was on Sunday by observing these young Huck Finns on their homemade raft. We observed their antics while eating lunch on the rocks.

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Yet another lighthouse near Port Clyde. Two other sets of people from N.C. had signed the guest register here on Sunday including a couple from Calabash. Small world.

posted by Uncle Jack at 4:56 PM

Comments [9]

Monday, September 18, 2006
Camden, Maine pt.3 Monday Sept. 17? 2006
More pics from the Camden area.

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The breakwater at Rockland is a mile long. We decided to walk out to the end to see the lighthouse and the view of Rockland harbor.

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Lady with yellow hat leads the way.

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Twenty minutes of rock-hopping later she is almost there. The breakwater is made of huge granite blocks and took 18 years to build.

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Mystery ship in Rockland harbor.

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Rockland from the breakwater. This is a real working port with lots of ferries going hither and thither and many fishing boats and lobstermen.

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Here's one of them.

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The Owl's Head Transportation Museum nearby is world-class. Full of incredible old cars, trucks and airplanes, including this full-size replica of the Wright Flyer.

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You've heard the expression "It's a doozy"? It originated with this car, the incomparable Deusenberg.

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This little three-wheeler is a spiritual ancestor of the BMW Mini of today. See the placard in the next space.

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There are Minis, and then there are Minis.

posted by Uncle Jack at 4:29 PM

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Friday, September 15, 2006
Camden, Maine day one, Friday September 15, 2006

The travel gods continue to smile upon Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. On Wednesday, the last day of their stay in Bar Harbor, they began to consult the internet oracle once more about a place to rent in the Camden-Rockport area where they planned to spend a week. Two hours of feverish clicking on websites and follow-up phone calls had led them to the conclusion that every desirable (or affordable) accommodation within twenty miles of Camden was already reserved and that they would probably have to stay in a motel with no cooking facilities.

Uncle Jack did, out of desperation, email a lady in New Jersey who owned what looked like a perfect house overlooking a lake on the edge of Camden telling her that we would like to rent it for a week starting the next day. He was fully prepared for another rejection but mirabile dictu! In his in-box yesterday morning was a response from the lady in New Jersey saying that she had just received a cancellation notice and that the cottage was ours if we wanted it---and at a price lower than we would have had to pay for a motel room.

As a consequence of this good fortune we are ensconced in an utterly charming lakefront house with every modern convenience one could think of except internet connectivity. From time to time Uncle Jack will carry his laptop into downtown Camden to an internet café called “Zoot” where he will post entries describing their further adventures “Down East” as they say in this part of Maine.

On their way to Camden yesterday they visited a lobster hatchery and museum where they learned about the fascinating lives of lobsters and the men who pursue them. Why anyone would want to be a lobsterman is beyond Uncle Jack’s comprehension but apparently job opportunities for the uneducated are somewhat limited on the rockbound coast of Maine.

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Mock-up of a lobster boat at the lobster museum and hatchery near Bar Harbor. A retired lobsterman entertained us with funny stories told Maine style. Laconic is the word that comes to mind.

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Lobster condos in the hatchery. When each lobster reaches a certain size he or she lives in these condos alone until released to the wild. They have a tendency to eat each other otherwise.

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View of the lake from our cottage.

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View of our cottage from the lake. It's a bit like a big treehouse.

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A view of the lake from lake level. A loon was calling from across the water while Uncle Jack was taking this picture. An eerily beautiful sound.

posted by Uncle Jack at 9:52 AM

Comments [12]

Thursday, September 14, 2006
Camden Here We Come--Thursday September 14, 2006

Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. spent their last day in Bar Harbor by doing a circumnavigation of Mount Desert Island, home of both Acadia National Park and Bar Harbor itself. The island contains numerous picturesque villages such as Northeast Harbor, Southwest Harbor, Bass Harbor, etc. almost ad infinitum. Like the rest of the Maine coast the island is loaded with coves of various sizes and shapes and at the end of every cove is a harbor full of boats of every imaginable kind. Not surprisingly lobster boats predominate but pleasure boats are everywhere, too, including some fabulous yachts.

Mt. Desert Island is an interesting mixture of supremely upscale summer resort towns and working fishing villages existing comfortably side by side. There is so much undeveloped land available, including waterfront property, that the working fish houses and boatyards have not been priced out of existence. If it were not for the brutal winters this would be an idyllic place to live.

Tomorrow (Friday) after a visit to the local lobster hatchery and museum of lobstering, we will move down the coast a couple of hours to the Camden-Rockport area to spend a week or so. From all reports this is another beautiful part of Maine. We have been blessed with spectacular fall weather but the weatherman says we will get some rain tomorrow for the first time since we left home a week ago. Into each life some rain must fall……but we are not complaining. How could we?

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Our apartment in Bar Harbor is part of the Mira Monte resort complex on Mt. Desert street, two blocks from the harbor.

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We saw this Norwegian cruise ship on our walk yesterday morning.Yah, sure.

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Bass Harbor light, the most-photographed lighthouse in Maine. Rather puny by Outer Banks standards, though.

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This 3-star (?) restaurant is near Southwest Harbor.

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Probably the most picturesque book store in Maine. It's on a dock in Bernard, near Southwest Harbor.

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Bernard Harbor. We ate lunch here.

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A Japanese rock garden across the street from the book store. A memorial to someone named Nancy.

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Hinckley's famous boat yard in Southwest Harbor.

posted by Uncle Jack at 8:17 AM

Comments [7]

Tuesday, September 12, 2006
Acadia National Park, Tuesday September 12, 2006, part 2
    Uncle Jack accidentally posted the previous log before he had added some more pictures of Acadia National Park.  Here they are.

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Result of an unsuccessful beach renourishment project in Bar Harbor. (Just kidding---it was low tide).

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One of the many scenic views from the Loop Road in the Acadia Park.

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Lobster boat at work off Mt. Desert (pronounced "dessert") Island. The lobstermen have managed to preserve their fishery by strict quotas, size limits, etc.

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Tourist finds a nice spot to eat lunch in Acadia Nat. Park.

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Ubiquitous tourist enjoys a view from the top of Mount Cadillac, the highest mountain east of the Mississippi at 1530 feet.

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A view of Bar Harbor from the top of Mount Cadillac. The mountain is named for the Frenchman who later founded Detroit for which he was rewarded by having a car named after him.

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This woman gets around.

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Monument to Alessandro Fabbri who established wireless communication with Europe during the first world war from the top of Mount Cadillac. Messages were sent to and from Washington, D.C. from here.

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Uncle Jack's dinner gets weighed.

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His buddies will miss him.

posted by Uncle Jack at 3:48 PM

Comments [9]

Tuesday, September 12, 2006
Acadia National Park, Tuesday September 12, 2006

     It's a gorgeous day in Bar Harbor so we got up early and took a stroll on the mile-long Shore Path that rings the harbor before tucking into a sumptuous breakfast provided by our B & B.  After picking up sandwich materials for lunch we put the top down and headed for nearby Acadia National Park which features a 27 mile loop road with some of the most spectacular scenery on the east coast. Pictures can't do the park justice but we took a bunch anyway.

    Bar Harbor itself is about as charming as a place can be without making the visitor want to gag. (e.g., the pet store is called "Bark Harbor"). There was a terrible fire in 1947 that destroyed most of the 19th century mansions but even the now 60-year-old replacements look elegant and there are beautiful trees and parks everywhere. Obviously the residents take great pride in their community because everything is extremely well kept and, well, charming.

     We had dinner in a lobster place last night to get that out of our systems but Mrs. U.J. will be cooking tonight so we are bound to have a better meal. The lobster was fun but Uncle Jack can understand why in the old days it was considered fit food only for poor people who couldn't afford anything better.

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Part of the Bar Harbor harbor. "Picturesque" is the word that comes to mind.

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Now what do I do?

posted by Uncle Jack at 10:32 AM

Comments [4]

Monday, September 11, 2006
News from Bar Harbor, Monday September 11, 2006

    It's from Bar Harbor but not about Bar Harbor. We got here this afternoon and immediately lucked into a neat cottage/apartment right in the heart of town whence we will venture forth into Acadia National Park and Mt. Desert Island for the next three days. More about that later.

     After crossing to Cape May on the ferry on Saturday we spent the morning wandering around that delightful Victorian village ogling the incredible gingerbread mansions and trying to shut out the roar of perhaps 200 unmufflered Harleys which had wandered south on a field trip from the great rally in Wildwoods.

      When last Uncle Jack visited Cape May it had no beach at all but this time the beach was wide courtesy of the Corps of Engineers who carried out a beach renourishment project four years or so ago.  Apparently a lot of sand from the renourished beaches to the north has drifted down onto Cape May and kept it looking good.

    After leaving Cape May we took the beach highway up the coast through Wildwoods, Stone Harbor, Avalon, Ventnor, Atlantic City  and a host of others until we reached Ocean Grove where we spent the night.  That entire length of the Jersey coast has been the recipient of federal largesse in the form of massive sand replenishment programs in recent years with varying degrees of success.  Many resemble Rehoboth with two separate beaches separated by a kind of ditch.  Others seem to have lost most of their sand and what is left is flat and gray, resembling concrete.

     Several of the towns were very impressive in their general air of prosperity and tidiness like Avalon and Stone Harbor.  Atlantic City was ghastly as was Asbury Park, just north of Ocean Grove, which looked like it could be the setting for a horror movie with all its abandoned buildings and piles of rubble everywhere.

     Ocean Grove was our favorite of all the Jersey shore towns.  It really has to be seen to be believed and the history of the place is fascinating.  Those who are not familiar with it might enjoy googling it and learning more than Uncle Jack can say in this space. 

    Through an incredible stroke of good fortune we got what was probably the last room available in the whole town on a Saturday night at 8 p.m. due to a last-minute cancellation.  We stayed in a 150 year old B & B called the Manchester House which was just one of the hundreds of  Victorian houses in this one-square-mile town.

     We spent all day Sunday tearing up the Garden State Parkway and various other interstates to the vicinity of Lowell, Mass.  Not one interesting thing happened on that trip so we will skip directly to Bar Harbor in the next blog, perhaps tomorrow.

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The Emlen Physick mansion in Cape May which we toured. The only Victorian in the town that has been preserved as a kind of living museum. The rest are B & B's.

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The beach in front of the Cape May seawall. Looking good, partially because of the littoral drift of millions of dollars worth of dredged sand from the towns to the north.

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Part of the inscription on Trump Plaza in Atlantic City. The lettering is so huge you can't get it all into one picture. The Donald is a piece of work.

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Sunrise in Ocean Grove, N.J. Sunday September 10, 2006. The beach cleaners are already hard at work.

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One of the oceanfront Victorians in Ocean Grove. No cookie-cutter particle board palaces in this town.

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The Great Auditorium of the Camp Meeting Society in Ocean Grove seats 7500 and is now often used as a music venue for the likes of Tony Bennett and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band as well as symphony orchestras. A magnificent wooden structure.

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Two more oceanfront Victorians. No two alike.

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This once magnificent Casino, now derelict and abandoned, is the entrance to Asbury Park from Ocean Grove. The contrast between the two towns is almost incomprehensible.

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The owner of the Manchester Inn where we stayed bought this Mini on eBay and uses it to advertise his B & B.

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Not exactly Jennette's pier but cute.

posted by Uncle Jack at 8:43 PM

Comments [6]

Sunday, September 10, 2006
Report from Massachusetts, Sunday September 10, 2006

     The Mini has fetched up at a Best Western with in-room wireless internet somewhere in the outskirts of Boston so Uncle Jack will try to summarize our adventures of the past couple of days.

     We spent most of Friday driving to Rehoboth Beach, Delaware where Uncle Jack tried unsuccessfully to talk his way into a Holiday Inn where he thought he had reservations.  The desk clerk was very patient with him and by calling around discovered that his reservations were actually at the Econo-Lodge down the road. He has reached the stage where things like this don't even embarrass him any more because he does them so often.

     After checking in he and Mrs. U.J. drove over to the boardwalk and went for a walk on the newly renourished Rehoboth Beach.  The $18 million, 2.5 mile project, paid for mostly by the feds is in sorry shape after the passage of Ernesto over Labor Day weekend.  (Pictures below). They then repaired to a delightful brew-pub on Rehoboth Avenue called the Dogfish Head where they sipped samplers of their excellent brews and had a very nice dinner.  A justifiably popular place very reminiscent of the KDH brew-pub.

      They got up at 6 a.m. Saturday to make the 8 a.m. ferry from Lewes to Cape May.  The weather was gorgeous so the passage was most enjoyable.  More about Cape May later.

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Stopped for lunch in Onancock, Va. on the eastern shore where they were gearing up for Harbor Days, an annual blow-out. A charming town we had never seen before. Many trees and branches on the ground in the wake of Ernesto.

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Lots of old Victorian mansions like this in Onancock which must have generated some capital for some folks at some point.

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Ernesto did a number on Rehoboth's new beach. The newly pumped sand has been separated from the old beach nearly the entire length of the renourished area by a ditch in which stagnant water stands.

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A number of ocean outfalls have been uncovered on the beach where pools two or three deep have formed. Children swim in this mess all the time.

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When we visited Rehoboth in June all the ocean outfalls were completed covered with newly dredged sand. Ernesto uncovered all of them. This first application of dredge spoil was supposed to have lasted five years.

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Rehoboth now has two beaches separated by a ditch---one made up of gravelly dredged stuff on the left and the other of the fine natural, original beach sand on the right.

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This giant lobster kite is a bit out of place in Rehoboth but it attracted a lot of attention.

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Mini jostles for position in the line-up to board the Lewes-Cape May ferry Saturday morning at 7. The motorcycles were on the way to an annual rally in Wildwood, N.J. which draws, can you believe this?, over 20,000 Harley enthusiasts.

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They were first on and first off the ferry. As we learned later not a single one of those 20,000 Harleys has a muffler on it.

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Tourist in new yellow hat (to match the Mini, natch) studies the breakwater at the entrance to Lewes, Delaware harbor.

posted by Uncle Jack at 6:22 PM

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Thursday, September 7, 2006
Unrise in Sonag, Thursday September 7, 2006

     Visitors who chose this week for their Outer Banks vacations must be wondering if they made a mistake at this point. After two days of on-and-off showers and drizzle today is starting off like it could be another.  Uncle Jack walked up to the beach at 6:30 but it was immediately obvious that there would be no visible sunrise.  He strolled north toward Jennette's pier into the teeth of a strong northerly wind for a hundred yards or so and then decided to forgo the pleasure of beachwalking for another day. The ominous black clouds everywhere visible suggest that more rain is a distinct possibility at any moment.

     He will be packing up the camera and his laptop today in preparation for an early morning departure for Maine.  The Mini is hot to trot and so are Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. who have been home now for over five months.  Their goal tomorrow night is Rehoboth Beach, Delaware and on Saturday morning they will take the first ferry from Lewes, Delaware to Cape May, N.J.  They will spend a couple of days exploring the Jersey Shore and then meander through parts of Connecticut and Massachusetts on the way to Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park where they will spend a week or two.  On the way home they plan to spend a day or two on Nantucket Island. 

       He hopes to be able to concoct a weblog entry or two along the way depending on the availability of high speed internet where they stay.  He has heard that parts of New Jersey and New England are fairly primitive so it may be difficult to get on line while they are up there. Anyway check in every once in a while and you may find something new in this place.

     And now Uncle Jack must be off to New York bagels to get the last whole wheat everythings they will enjoy for a month. Ciao.


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6:30 a.m.

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Ditto, looking south.

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Everywhere the same thing.

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Soggy South Nags Head lawns are prime mushroom habitat these days.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:29 AM

Comments [15]

Wednesday, September 6, 2006
Unrise in Sonag, Wednesday September 6, 2006

     It's a dark, gloomy morning in South Nags Head.  Uncle Jack walked up to the beach at 6:30, took one picture and turned around and went back home.  The sky is completely overcast and it looks like a downpour could start any moment.  We could really use some more rain in Sonag to top up the ditches and ponds which have begun to dry up after last week's frog-strangler.

     He and Mrs. U.J. spent yesterday baby-sitting her two adorable granddaughters from Baltimore so there is nothing very interesting to report unless you are into Play-Doh and Wallace and Grommit DVD's. 

     Here's an item plucked at random from the archives to help pass the time at work today:

                            Back to the Future

Back when he was a senior in high school Uncle Jack had to read a book called “1984” in English class. His teacher thought it was a very important book and she must have been right, too, because people are still reading it even though they don‘t have to.

If you want to know the truth, though, Uncle Jack did not think “1984” was such a great book when he read it because he was reading another great book at the same time called “God’s Little Acre” and if you ask him there is not much comparison between these two books. For one thing Uncle Jack can still remember about twelve pages of “God’s Little Acre” by heart such as p. 38 where Griselda takes a sponge bath and p. 94 where she does several things that Uncle Jack cannot even tell you about in a family newspaper.

On the other hand he cannot remember one thing about “1984” except that it was full of dire predictions about what life would be like for people in 1984. The way it sounded the whole world was going to be like Uncle Jack’s high school already was in 1948. Nobody in his English class could get too excited about what was going to happen in 1984 because that was so far in the future you did not think you would live that long anyway.

Well Uncle Jack is writing this on December 31, 1983 so unless he gets run over by an impaired driver on his way home it looks like he will live to see 1984 after all. So he has decided to read “1984” again to see if any of those awful predictions came true and while he is at it he is going to read “God’s Little Acre” again to see if it was as good as he remembers, especially p. 94.

In the meantime Uncle Jack is going to make some predictions of his own about some of the big news stories you will probably not be reading in the papers during 1984:

March 1: Peat Methanol Associates announced today that the company will abandon its plans to drain thousands of acres of swampland in eastern N.C. in order to harvest peat which would be converted into methanol gas. “We got to talking about it after that government report came out last month where the feds said they won’t give us a couple billion dollars to cover our start-up costs,”

a spokesman said..” He was referring to a government study which severely criticized the project as a boondoggle that would be a waste of taxpayers money.

“We kept thinking about all those little baby shrimp suffocating in the freshwater run-off and it got so we could hardly sleep at night,” the spokesman said. “We just decided that some things are more important than money.”

April 1: The Dare County Board of Realtors held their annual spring pig-pickin’ this week and passed a resolution urging the county commissioners to declare an immediate moratorium on all construction and development in Dare County. ”We figure there’s enough shopping centers, condos, motels, time-share units, restaurants, gift shops, convenience stores and gas stations to take care of all the tourists from now to 2020,” one realtor said. “We think we ought to get the water shortage problem solved and do something about the roads before we do any more building around here,” he added. “And don’t forget to spell Realtor with a big “R” he admonished reporters.”

November 5: Communist Worker Party candidate Delbert Clinkscales became North Carolina’s new junior U.S. Senator yesterday after both the incumbent, Jesse Helms, and his chief challenger, former Governor Jim Hunt, withdrew from the heated Senate race at the last moment.

Helms told reporters that he simply could not refuse an offer to replace Yasser Arafat as chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do some things I have always wanted to do,” Helms said, but he declined to elaborate.

Hunt said his decision to quit the race was also based on a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity which the eleemosynary governor described as “a chance to do something for myself for a change.” The charismatic politician, who has demonstrated considerable skill as a fund raiser during his career, said he will become a Senior Beseecher on the staff of Charlotte TV evangelists Jim and Tammy Bakker “sometime before the Christmas begging season.”

Meanwhile the jubilant Clinkscales, an unemployed scallop shucker, told reporters that he was looking forward to having a steady job for a couple of years even though it meant leaving his comfortable double-wide near Drainfield and moving a short distance to Washington.

He seemed to lose some of his enthusiasm, however, when reporters explained that the U.S. Capital was located in Washington, D.C., not Washington, N.C. “You mean there’s another Washington somewheres?”, he asked incredulously.

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6:30 a.m. It will probably still look like this at 9:30 so there was no point in hanging around.

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On the beach near James Street Tuesday afternoon. Intermittent showers kept most people inside yesterday.

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Plenty of room for everybody in South Nags Head.

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Miss Sophia Sabatino of Baltimore, Maryland had at least two acres of beach all to herself.

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Remember these pics out of Galway, Ireland last year?

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Up she comes.

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Somebody send for a bigger crane.

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You deserve a sunrise today. This one is from September 9 last year.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:14 AM

Comments [5]

Tuesday, September 5, 2006
Sunrise in Sonag, Tuesday September 5, 2006

     Labor Day weekend has come and gone and the frenetic pace of summertime activity on the Outer Banks should begin to slow a bit now. Making a left turn on the bypass should not take more than 20 minutes from now on. The downward spiral of commerce has begun and will continue  until sometime around the end of February when the first Canadians will arrive with their ice-encrusted sailboards and begin the new tourist season.

     That's a long way away, though, and in the meantime Outer Bankers will enjoy the fall season which is arguably the real prime time around here.  Uncle Jack has to wonder what he was thinking about when he planned a trip to Maine for September but they say it's pretty up there, too.  And it's out of hurricane range,  for which there is something to be said these days.

     Uncle Jack never did actually see the sun this morning because of a huge alligator-shaped cloud mass on the horizon but it did produce some colorful effects in various parts of the sky.  The ocean has calmed down a lot and the winds are light so there is every reason to believe this will be a splendid beach day.

    He is looking forward to not getting back to work after the long holiday weekend which is certainly one of the greatest joys of retirement. He is still trying to get used to not having to do anything every day but he has to say that it really hasn't been all that difficult.

    Have a nice day wherever you are.  Uncle Jack will do his best to enjoy the Outer Banks for you today if you aren't lucky enough to be here yourself.  He is all heart.

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6:15 a.m.

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A rather fuzzy picture of a giant thunderhead in the south. Uncle Jack wasn't trying to be artsy, he just had the wrong setting.

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Another set of pretty clouds in the north.

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Not a good weekend for the Comfort Inn South. All that cosmetic tidying up they did last week has gone for naught.

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The wreckage of the old swimming pool, covered up and fenced last week, is now on display again. Mother Nature can be a relentless nag.

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The parking lot at noon on Labor Day.

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Beer can collector at work.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:45 AM

Comments [10]

Monday, September 4, 2006
Sunrise in Sonag, Monday September 4, 2006

     A rather puny sunrise this morning but it looks like it could turn out to be another perfect beach day like yesterday.  The surf is gradually calming down from its rambunctious state of the past couple of days and the wind is calm.  A nice way to end the Labor Day weekend.

     One unfortunate development in the aftermath of Ernesto is the arrival of a new crop of mosquitoes.  There is so much standing water everywhere that conditions are ideal for their propagation.  Uncle Jack got bitten several times on the way to and from the beach this morning so he will have something to occupy his free time today.  In honor of the little devils he has excavated this ancient column from the archives:


We seem to have a lot of mosquitoes around here right now and it’s got a lot of people upset. To hear some of them talk you would think the mosquitoes are the worst natural disaster to hit the Outer Banks since the Ash Wednesday storm. Uncle Jack has heard so much complaining about mosquitoes lately that he thinks it’s about time to set the record straight.

One thing he knows is that compared to the mosquitoes up in northern Wisconsin where Uncle Jack grew up, the Dare County mosquito shouldn’t even be called a mosquito. Wisconsin mosquitoes and their first cousins, Minnesota mosquitoes, are truly a breed apart. A northern mosquito is to a Dare County mosquito as open heart surgery is to a haircut.

A bite from a local mosquito, Uncle Jack has discovered, is like a good hickey. It itches for a while, it feels good when you scratch it, and then it goes away. A bite from a Wisconsin mosquito is, to use a popular local metaphor, another kettle of fish. The Wisconsin mosquito has a stinger the size of a paring knife and a bite that could rouse a dozing hippopotamus (if one ever wandered that far north).

The life cycle of a Wisconsin mosquito bite is anywhere from seven to ten days. For the first few days and nights you scratch constantly. Scratching only makes matters worse but there’s nothing you can do about it so you scratch. You scratch and scratch until the itching stops which is right after the pain and bleeding start. After a few more days scabs form over the wounds.

Kids in northern Wisconsin keep themselves awake in school by picking their mosquito bite scabs which keeps them occupied right up to Thanksgiving vacation, after which they switch over to peeling dead skin off their frozen ears.

The best place Uncle Jack ever found to get away from mosquitoes was Pittsburgh where he lived for 17 years and never saw a mosquito that whole time. Scientists discovered a long time ago that the air in Pittsburgh in those days had the exact same chemical composition as “Off” insect repellent.

He has heard that the air in Pittsburgh is much better since they shut down all the steel plants but he is afraid to go up there and find out because the mosquitoes might be back.

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6:20 a.m.

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6:40 a.m.

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A passel of pelicans passing directly overhead. Lucky for Uncle Jack they refrained from pooping while passing.

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These houses on Seagull Drive have been sandbagged so long that there is not a semblance of a beach in front of them.

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Just to the south of them several cottages, including "Koo-Koo's Nest" and "Pair-a-Dice" have been moved west leaving a wide expanse of beach for people to sit on. Beach replenishment at no cost to the taxpayers.

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Older folks have fun, too, when the surf is up. Who needs a surfboard?

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Meanwhile back at Whitecap street the sandbagged houses make beachwalking difficult. Of course one can always sit on the sandbags and watch the waves roll in.

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Sunday sunset. The end of a perfect day.

posted by Uncle Jack at 8:22 AM

Comments [7]

Sunday, September 3, 2006
Sunrise in Sonag, Sunday September 3, 2006

     Looks like a gorgeous day is in store for the Outer Banks, especially for surfers.  Big, fat, beautifully shaped waves are rolling in one after the other in the wake of the late, unlamented Ernesto.

     The sunrise was only middling this morning but the total aspect of sun, sand, southerly breeze and low humidity made the beach a very pleasant place to be at dawn.  Uncle Jack was not alone with the crabs and seagulls this morning.  Lots of folks with their dogs and cameras were out wandering around at 6:30.  This, too, shall pass as soon as the Labor Day weekend is over.


     This letter to the editor appeared in today's issue of the Outer Banks Sentinel (which you can access on line directly at no charge by googling the paper and clicking on their website).

Pay now, pay later

I am writing in response to your article of Aug. 30 and the proposed beach nourishment proposal.

May I point out that Dare County residents, in their infinite wisdom, have already voted down a proposed tax fee on last year's referendum to raise taxes marginally to start a fund for beach re-nourishment.

I personally don't care what the rest of Dare County does nor do I care about any negative results that follow Nags Head's attempts to preserve their one primary tourist resource, their beaches!

Wake up, residents of Dare County. Get off your tired butts and take a long look at your future tax situations when tourists no longer come to your beaches because they no longer exist! Pay now or pay later, you decide but the longer you wait the more expensive the costs and more dire the consequences! Thanks for listening!

Andrew Minton, William E. Wood & Assos., Nags Head

     Uncle Jack has gotten off his "tired butt" and taken a long look at his future tax situation and has decided that he wants no part of paying higher taxes until the end of time in a futile effort to keep Mother Nature from removing ill-conceived structures from our beautiful beaches.

      Dumping dredged sand on our natural beaches is not the only or the best answer to the question of how to preserve them for ourselves and  for future generations of visitors.  Tourists will continue to come to the Outer Banks in droves if we learn how to cooperate with Mother Nature and keep the beaches free of man-made clutter like sandbagged houses.

     Mother Nature levies a heavy toll on those who presume to build at the ocean's edge.  The question we are debating is who should pay this toll and how.  Dumping millions of dollars into the ocean at frequent intervals does not seem to Uncle Jack to be the most intelligent answer.


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6:15 a.m.

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6:50 a.m. Here to stay.

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A wide beach awaits the crowds. (Except where there are sandbags).

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An early morning surfer stretches before hitting the water. He could be in for a long day of paddling against these breakers.

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Mother Nature loves to move sand around. There was a three-foot drop-off at the foot of these steps 10 days ago.

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Sometimes a sandbag can come in handy, especially if you're waiting for the sun to come up.

posted by Uncle Jack at 9:04 AM

Comments [3]

Saturday, September 2, 2006
Unrise in Sonag, Saturday September 2, 2006

       Ernesto is gone but not forgotten in the swamp known as South Nags Head.  The rain stopped yesterday afternoon but it will be many hours before the standing water either seeps into the already saturated ground or evaporates. The storm water drainage system in these parts leaves a bit to be desired.

     Uncle Jack wore a warm jacket on his trek to the beach this morning for the first time in months.  A cool wind is whipping out of the west and blowing the tops off the incoming combers churned up by Ernesto.  A lovely sight.

     Cloud cover was very heavy this morning and the sun has yet to appear nearly an hour after official sunrise.  There are blue patches in the sky so the day may turn out to be a little better than yesterday for beach activities.  Swimming won't be one of them except for the foolhardy who will choose to ignore the red flags.

    It's Labor Day weekend again so Uncle Jack will once more take the liberty of trotting out his column about how this holiday was observed on the Outer Banks in the old days when George Crocker still walked among us:

              It’s Labor Day, By George

There was a time not so many years ago that Labor Day had some real significance on the Outer Banks because it meant the end of another summer season. The pace of life suddenly slowed and local merchants, store-bound since Memorial Day, would emerge, blinking, into the sunlight, seeking the healing balm of the ocean like newly hatched sea turtles. (Uncle Jack can really wax lyrical when it comes to Labor Day).

After Labor Day the tourists pretty much vanished, taking with them their wallets and credit cards, so there was little incentive to keep stores and restaurants open any longer. The late George Crocker, who 30 years ago brought modern concepts of merchandising to the Outer Banks with his futuristic Galleon Esplanade, officially signaled the end of the season with his gala “Gambler’s Sale”, for many years the premier social event of the year for tourists and locals alike.

George would don one of his most flamboyant ensembles and spend the day spinning a huge roulette wheel marked off in segments reading “20% off” up to “50% off” (and even one narrow sliver marked “FREE”). Eager customers would queue to wait for their chance to thrust a slightly shop-worn dress or bathing suit or an imported ceramic likeness of a seashell into George’s hands and watch him spin the wheel that could bring them unheard of savings on the merchandise of their dreams. Only the most cynical observers (Uncle Jack among them) would note that even at 50% off the stuff was overpriced, but who could care when the cheers of hordes of onlookers greeted every spin of the wheel?

Those glorious days are gone forever (along with George and the Galleon) and the arrival of Labor Day on the Outer Banks is about as significant as the advent of Christmas in the bazaars of Abu Dhabi. Half the work force has fled the area to return to schools that opened (against the laws of nature if you ask Uncle Jack) in mid-August forcing exhausted merchants to work even longer hours than before. In a very real sense Labor Day has come to mean “from now on you are really going to have to work”, especially now that more and more entrepreneurs are chasing fewer and fewer dollars.

For the first ten years after he discovered the Outer Banks, Labor Day had an even greater poignancy for Uncle Jack. It meant that it was time to close up the cottage, pack up the car and return to the real world of Pittsburgh where he would be forced to live in a kind of smoky limbo for nine months, struggling to breathe and pining all the while for his beloved Nags Head.

He hasn’t had to do that for over 20 years now and that is the reason why, with all the violence that has been done to the concept of Labor Day (and to the Outer Banks in general) since he moved here, he still considers himself a very lucky old dude.

As far as he is concerned there is no better place in the world to be overworked, and judging from the proliferation of businesses around here, there must be a lot of people who agree with him. Hang in there fellow merchants. With 116 shopping days left (if you stay open seven days a week) you still have a chance to break even before Christmas.


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6:20 a.m. Black clouds scowling at me.

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Nothing but black clouds do I see.

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Blue skies smilin' at me? (6:45 a.m.)

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A sand painting by Mother Nature. Sand and peat swirls. Prettier than a Pollock.

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Friday afternoon. Red flags in the sunset.

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Born to be free. If they live long enough these kids could be tomorrow's astronauts.

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Surfers were out, too, yesterday evening. This was obviously not the high point of his brief ride.

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Free sand fencing for anybody who wants to untangle it.

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View toward Jennette's pier, demolition of which may begin soon according to latest reports. To be replaced by a concrete and steel pier that should last 50 years. Even pier builders can be optimists.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:54 AM

Comments [9]

Friday, September 1, 2006
Ernesto leaves his calling card. 9/1/06

Uncle Jack is writing this at 6:30 a.m. on Friday. On an ordinary day he would be up on the beach taking a picture of the sunrise about now. This is not an ordinary day.

It’s still rather dark outside but he can see from the streetlights that Old Oregon Inlet Road is completely under water in places---something that hasn’t happened since Hurricane Isabel almost three years ago. Rain is still pelting down, driven by strong gusts of wind, as it has been for many hours. Sleep was hard to come by last night what with the combined noises of the wind, the rain pounding on the skylight and the occasional claps of thunder.

Charter cable, which brings him both TV and broadband internet, went out sometime during the night so he is spared the temptation of turning on the Weather Channel. Without the internet he is left in something of an information vacuum, but as the philosopher said “This too shall pass”  

He and Mrs. U.J. walked up to the beach just before dark last night during a lull in the rain. The ocean was wild but he didn’t take any pictures for fear of exposing his beloved new Sony to the elements, of which several were present, including H20 and NaCl. Perhaps later today it will calm down a bit and he can get out and record the scene for posterity. Who knows when the cable guy will get around to doing whatever it is he has to do to restore service.

9 a.m. The rain has stopped for the present so Uncle Jack waded up to the beach and took a short stroll on the narrow strip of sand still accessible at high tide. As he predicted there has been little or no additional erosion but with a brisk wind blowing straight out of the south a lot of sand is flying up the beach and making walking (at least to the south) very unpleasant. He didn’t stay long.

3:30 p.m.  Uncle Jack has awakened from his afternoon nap to find that all is right with the world.  The cable is back, the rain has stopped, the wind has died down and the sky is clearing. Adios Ernesto.

P.S.  Thanks to all who wrote with good wishes.  We appreciate them.

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Uncle Jack's back yard, Friday morning.

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Looking north on Old Oregon Inlet Road from Whitecap Street. Looks more like Oregon Inlet.

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Surf's up. Looking north from Whitecap Street.

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Looking south from Whitecap around 9 a.m. The noise was deafening.

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Mother Nature was using the sandbags as punching bags at high tide but she pulled her punches. No harm done by Ernesto, thank goodness.

posted by Uncle Jack at 3:57 PM

Comments [5]

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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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