Friday, November 01, 2013

Sea Vista Motel: Still Standing

(The old expression, "Once a reporter, Always a reporter," is certainly true with our official roving "Foreign Correspondent" and ex Rambler staffer and writer extraordinaire Warren Sparrow.  Unfortunately, his budding newspaper career was interrupted by an interest in the more profitable legal profession...eventually becoming one of the leading lawyers in North Carolina.  We are fortunate to him as a regular contributor to this website. -Ed)

By Warren Sparrow

Warren Sparrow
Vance Packard introduced me to the notion of “impulse buying.”  He associated it with grocery shopping.  This week Becky and I took it a step further:  Acting on little more than impulse, we drove 265 miles to the beach.  We made the decision four days prior to departure, securing a reservation at the old Sea Vista Motel near the southwestern tip of Topsail Island, North Carolina. 

If Sea Vista could talk, no doubt she could tell some great stories.  When she was “born,” probably not long after World War II, she was a stately three-story, beach-front motel topped by a single, fourth-floor “honeymoon suite.”  Every room had a balcony and an unobstructed view of the smooth, sandy beach and the roiling Atlantic Ocean. 

But, Sea Vista did not age well.  In fact, it is a wonder that she still stands.  Like most places along the North Carolina coast, Sea Vista fell victim to the wrath of storms and tides.  Many homes, even roads, along the coast were dumped into the ocean. 

Miraculously, Sea Vista survived but not without paying a hefty price:  All her first-floor rooms were rendered uninhabitable, having been flooded and filled with sand.  The owners of Sea Vista elected to abandon the first-floor units in an effort to salvage floors two and three and the honeymoon suite.  In an attempt to minimize the damage, the owners took out the first-floor walls in order to make it look like the building was on stilts. 
Sea Vista Motel
The plan worked but it left Sea Vista badly “disfigured.”  Despite having the worst “curb appeal” of any motel we have ever visited, Sea Vista remains a jewel in our eyes.

Therefore, we set sail Sunday morning to see our old friend by the sea, knowing she has been seriously hurt but also knowing what a wonderful heart she has.

En route we stopped at the Garner/Fuquay-Varina exit on I-40, which is about halfway between our house and Sea Vista.  There is a McDonald’s right off the exit ramp.   It was a perfect stop.  The rest rooms were clean.  We did not have to wait very long for our order.  I had, you guessed it, a No. 1 combo, a Big Mac et al.  Becky had a quarter-pounder with cheese.  For dessert we each had a chocolate-chip cookie.

About three hours later we arrived at Sea Vista, checked in and got two keys to Room 307, an “efficiency.”  It had been a year since we had been there and the place looked the same.  The first floor was covered with sand just as it was the last time we were there.  We were pleasantly surprised to find our unit had been “upfitted.”  It had been freshly painted. The appliances looked fairly new.  The d├ęcor was a cut above what we had seen in previous stays. 

The king-size bed was in excellent shape.  The screen door to the balcony was in good working order.  We were delighted.  We had these unexpected frills to go along with the big deal:  Direct, close access to the beach and ocean.

For three days we lapped it up, cooking every meal in 307.  It was overcast most of the time.  For some that might not be so hot.  For us, it was perfect.  Bright sun is something we must avoid. 

We headed home the morning of the fourth day, stopping again at the Garner/Fuquay-Varina exit.  This time we had lunch at Cracker Barrel, a chain we avoided for many years until we went to one in Morehead, KY, on our way to Kansas for granddaughter Lydia's wedding  earlier this year.  Once again, we were not disappointed.

Refreshed, we returned to I-40 and continued West until we arrived home at the end of the 265-mile drive.  There you have it.  We have old, battle-worn Sea Vista to thank for a lovely time at the coast.  She has been through a lot.  We are proud to know her.