[Ed: I wrote this post during the drive to the each on August 1st, but haven't had a chance to publish it until now.]
I'm currently on hour number six of the nearly eight and a half hour long drive to Sunset Beach my family embarks on, yearly. My parents bought a new minivan after I left for the beach, and it is completely chock-full of luggage and beach chairs and umbrellas and boogieboards. We've driven from Maryland, through Virginia, and are somewhere in the middle of North Carolina, headed for Wilmington. Once there we will hang a sharp left and head straight for the Atlantic. The water is warm there, and the beach is wide: covered from end to end in bleached white sand like grains of sugar. (Photographs forthcoming.)
I am a bit apprehensive about our arrival, however. One of the best things about our little barrier island was that the only way to access it was over a one-lane floating pontoon bridge. Many of the barrier islands along the inter coastal waterway used to have a bridge just like hours, but over the years they have all been build up to the point that the bridges had to be replaced with big, high causeways to allow for traffic and emergency vehicles. Sunset beach has largely escaped this phenomena because it is only about a mile long and a half-mile wide. No buildings are allowed to be build over stories high, either, which has kept away the big hotels and high-rise condos that are on the other islands.
I am hopeful that even though the city has decided to build a causeway, citing traffic and emergency vehicle access concerns, they will continue to keep the ordinances in place which will keep our island haven free from the commercial interests of the surrounding beaches. One of the truly unique aspects of Sunset is how uncrowded, relaxed and rustic it is. Up until a couple years ago, internet was largely unavailable. We used to have to use dial-up to check our e-mails. Most of the beach cottages (Built on stilts!) only had one TV in them, so all of us largely stayed together in the living room in community. Recently, the owners of the house we rent put an additional TV in the master bedroom, but that doesn't seem to have affected the dynamic too much.
Evening entertainment options include: put-put golfing in North Myrtle, flashlight walks along the beach in search of crabs (or if you're really lucky, turtle hatchings), board games with family and friends, and Mom's favorite...Boobs and bonnets movie night. I should probably explain that last one, but I'll just let you marinate in the idea for a while instead.
Anyway, I'm very sad that the floating bridge will be replaced. It will certainly change the feeling I am used to getting when we would inevitably have to wait for the bridge to open with our windows open...the salt-air and smell of the marshes filling our nostrils. I have 24 years of repeated experience which induce a pavlovian response each year upon our arrival. I will have to do without that this year. Perhaps over the course of the next 24 years I will get used to it.
Still though, Sunset Beach will always be Sunset Beach, no matter what the evil town council does to it and no matter how crowded and commercialized it gets. I have my memories, and even if I have to be that grumpy guy who thought it was better back in my day, I am willing to take on that mantle with pride.
You kids get off my lawn!