Here is a bittersweet drink for saying goodbye to life in Surf City as we know it.
I have a cocktail recipe for you so we can toast goodbye to the old, rusty Surf City swing bridge, its bridge tenders and the end of life on the island as we know it.
Even during my brief hiatus for maternity leave the world found a way to change and so did Topsail Island. In December the old bridge came down, a new one opened up and there were dozen of restaurant openings and closings throughout our region (special thanks to writer Allison Ballard who detailed them in my absence.)
I knew the day was coming we would have to say goodbye to the bridge, but I secretly hoped the N.C. Department of Transportation would get caught up in other projects and forget it was on the docket. I hoped we in Surf City, with one of the last swing bridges on the coast, would get to keep our treasure a bit longer.
It's true -- being a journalist is the ultimate ticket to see the world. I bet drivers whipped by the little bridge tender tower dozens of times and never got to peer inside. I met one of the bridge tenders in 2017 and glanced at what life was like in that little tower. Picture a tiny square room with a television, wifi, control panel an whatever book the bridge tender was reading. At night the room was almost totally black, except one desk lamp so she could see out onto the water.
She told me about all the things she had seen up there -- deer crossing the waterway at dusk, dolphins jumping out of the water into the sunrise -- all things a speedy driver might miss.
But sometimes, when she would swing the bridge for a boat, drivers went nuts. Middle fingers poked through sunroofs, cars honked and curse words were hurled toward the tower. But, she said, for those 10 minutes the bridge was open, traffic was stopped, she was god.
Only she possessed authority to force a pause in a world of immediacy.
Drivers had no choice but to put their cars in park, roll down the windows and take in the ocean air, listen to the radio or just the water churning underneath. Dads would hoist kids up on their shoulders outside their cars to see the boats crossing.
I looked out over the bridge with her on the tiny balcony as cars hummed by that night, stirring up gusts of wind seagulls surfed on. We agreed: the world moves too fast. Now a first time mom, I see this to be especially true.
We talked of the fate of the bridge and how the island could change. It might bring in people too restless to sit and stare at the ocean all day -- they'd want Broadway shows and Ripley's Believe It Or Not museum, noisy amusement parks and IMAX theaters, outlet malls with back-to-school clearance sales.
Worst of all -- what if this high rise bridge brings in mean people who don't wave at all the strangers biking past them? Under the rule of the old bridge, everyone was mandated to wave.
The new bridge was one of our first destinations with baby after the hospital. I'll give you this -- the views from the top are spectacular. The promise of less Fourth of July traffic is intoxicating.
Like the old bridge, traveling over the high rise sparks some serious joy. For families this bridge will mark the official start of vacation.
The bartenders at Beach Shop and Grill (701 S. Anderson Blvd., Topsail Beach)came up with this cocktail recipe to encapsulate this feeling and it is featured on their spring menu. Ingredients for the "Swing Bridge," cocktail are below, but the ingredients all thoughtfully have the flavor of bittersweet. Grapefruit, elderflower and lemon bitters are there to mimic the exciting feeling of traveling over the new bridge and seeing the island fly beneath you. The bright color is meant to be new and refreshing. I highly recommend biking over to Beach Shop and asking them to make you one.
Toast to the old bridge, the new and for new opportunities. It's bittersweet to see our lives, and the landscape of Southeastern, North Carolina, change all around us.
Reporter Ashley Morris can be reached at Ashley.Morris@StarNewsOnline.com.