From the small lobby, I observe scratched guest room doors equipped with heavy-duty deadbolts. I notice worn carpeting and corroded railings in the breezeway. Traveling without motel reservations on an autumn weekend, we ask to see a guest room before checking in at the six-story Carnival Motor Inn on Ocean Boulevard.
Dad and I ride the shaky and slow, dim-lighted elevator to the third floor and another well-worn breezeway. I’m about to discount the Carnival Motor Inn as another rundown motel among a string of aging oceanfront properties when I realize that 30-plus years of exposure to the salty sea air has had a corrosive effect on some of the surfaces. But as we enter Room 301, I retract my initial assessment. The basic double-bedded room is spacious and very clean. It has a mini-fridge, a microwave and anything but a basic view.
Through oversized windows, we’re greeted by the Atlantic Ocean—two tones of blue with foaming whitecaps atop four-foot waves. A private balcony overlooks the motel’s swimming pool and the beach immediately beyond that. Next door, the 21-story Best Western Carolinian seems close enough to touch.
Like so many mom and pop motels that survive along coastal resort communities, the Carnival Motor Inn offers no-frills accommodations at low rates. Certainly, the room has seen its share of traffic, but a few scuffs on the furniture and a few stains on the carpet won’t affect the quality of our visit. And we can’t complain about the price. Last night we spent $44 and some change for a room overlooking the parking lot at a Motel 6 in Knoxville, Tennessee. Tonight at the Carnival, the off-season rate for our room is only pennies more, at $45. But here, of course, we’re paying for the ocean view.