The View From Your Window Contest: Winner #221


A reader asks:

Is this a speed test this week?!

Not for everyone:

The Florida Panhandle? This is somewhere south of the Mason-Dixon Line.

Another heads west:

Definitely on the West Coast with a temperate climate that allows both exposed plumbing and palm trees. I could find nothing about “Zone’s” other than it’s a tech company and also a catering firm on the East Coast. The rounded blue roofs look like they may cover platforms for a lite-rail system. It might be San Francisco, but I’ll bet on Portland, Oregon.

Just south, actually:

We’re in the US (“Private Property, No Parking” signs on the fence). The combination of cloudy skies, tightly packed buildings, tightly packed cars, and sparse palm trees screams Southern California to me, and particularly reminds me of the Pacific Beach neighborhood in San Diego.

Another gets closer:

Los Angeles? Boy, I could be totally wrong about this, but it looks so much like an early painting of Richard Diebenkorn’s.

One key clue led to hundreds of correct entries:

Thanks for the ridiculously easy contest. It’s a good opportunity to let the incorrect guessers know that they need an eye exam.

Another explains:

A building in the distance labeled either “Zane’s” or “Zone’s.” I’d searched these terms, along with words like restaurant, gym, store, and nightclub by themselves with little success. Once I deduced it was in California, I searched, “zanes california” and found this: It’s a restaurant located in Hermosa Beach, California.

Correct! A happy rookie:

OH MY GOD I ACTUALLY GOT ONE! Have tried several times in the past, but always pastedImageended giving up relatively quickly and lamenting the apparent futility of it all. Never even bothered submitting a guess. Now I know this isn’t the trickiest one in the world. No doubt I will be one of dozens to get it (or at least get the building right). No matter. To me, it is huge.

This picture screams SoCal. After that, the two biggest clues are the sign in the background and the building with the curved chimney. I decided to focus on the sign. And, after a fruitless search for “Zone’s” in various search engines and databases, I realized the “o” was an “a.” Zane’s. So a simple “Zane’s SoCal” led me to Hermosa Beach. After that, focusing on finding two blue houses side by side, Google Street View walked me to the Sea Sprite Motel and Apartments.

Thanks for the great work and for picking one us mere mortals had a fighting chance at!

Playing the contest is like Nintendo, it seems:

It finally happened. Dozens of such VFYW contests and humbled each time, until now. The best analogy I can think of takes me back to playing Super Mario Brothers on the original NES as a child. I could get to the final level, but time and time again I’d fail to best the evil boss at the end to save the princess. And then, one fateful day, it all came together. Perhaps through sheer luck, or maybe by logging enough hours to hone my skills, I made it through King Koopa and rescued Princess Peach.

My reward? A brief thank-you from that ungrateful princess. Then, the option to get sent off on a new quest altogether!! What the hell? Mario had risked fire-spewing lava and defeated a series of mutant reptiles, and all he gets is a mere “thanks” and an invitation for more life-risking adventures?! I’d assume if you get the title of “princess” one’s family could offer a little more in the tangible reward department.

I digress.

This view is from the Sea Sprite Motel (& Apartments) in Hermosa Beach, CA. It’s taken from the top floor, but I cannot tell which unit. Interestingly enough, the view from the other side of the building would be of the Pacific Ocean.

Fortunately, in the last 25 years I have learned to enjoy the satisfaction of a job completed as reward unto itself.

Another agrees:

Husband: “But if it’s that easy, won’t everyone else guess that too?  You won’t win.”

Me: “Yes, but it’s not about winning, it’s just exciting to get one right!”

A detailed visual walkthrough:

Using the awnings in the midfield of vision, and the blue house with small parking lot, it can be traced back to the second floor of Sea Sprite Motel and Apartments at 1016 The Strand. Because the window doesn’t seem to have a horizontal split, I am going with the window with the vertical split, circled below.


The map view is below showing the hotel, the building with the curved awnings, and Zane’s in the background:


Here is the view from the alley looking at the small parking lot and the tan building in the rear with the darker blue house behind that:


Another rags on LA:

The vague location came to me immediately. It was the general seaside atmospherics – the low cloudy sky of the Los Angeles beach areas that I grew to know years ago when I lived out there. Hunter Thompson once called it “the shitmist,” but I never thought of it that way. That gentle overcast was just a relief from the usual relentless sun.

Another reader looks to Hollywood:

This one might be a gimme for movie and TV buffs, since all kinds of things are shot in Hermosa Beach, given its proximity to LA. John Cusack ate in a diner across the street in Steven King’s 1408 and the Sea Sprite is visible through the windows behind him:


It also starred in a pool party scene from Gilmore Girls:


And, bizarrely, in a scene from Monk set in San Francisco but shot 400 miles to the south and photoshopped into the Bay Area via a digital Bay Bridge:


This is an obvious fraud, since there are only 2-3 days per year one might throw a pool party next to the Bay Bridge. In SF, everyone in that scene would be hypothermic.

And you can’t have LA without pulp:

Marlowe crawled back to consciousness and tried to remember what it was that Zane had told him last night just before somebody put his lights out.  Who was it swung the sap?  Eddie Mars’ boys?  They were waiting for him outside that steakhouse, the one on the corner of Pier and Hermosa Avenues, where he’d dropped in to get the lowdown from the kid (not the one looking for the black bird, the other one). 

The bar there was nice and dim and they poured a decent gimlet, but still Marlowe hadn’t been ready to believe that it could be this easy. “Hell,” he reflected, “that dame didn’t need a private dick.  Type ‘Zane’s California’ in any search engine and she gets the motherload.  It’s Hermosa Beach, not Santa Monica or Hollywood, but this is still Raymond Chandler country: sunburnt stucco and palm trees.” 

It took nothing to retrace steps from the steakhouse to the Sea Sprite Motel at 1016 The Strand and to wait there for the hard guys to make their next move.  “Next time I’ll get a window facing the beach,” he thought.  “The surf’s loud enough, you might as well get to see it.”

Sea Sprite

Another player finally found a way to incorporate a teen soap opera into a contest entry:

Palm trees. California! But WHERE in California?? Oh no!

It’s in times of need just like this that I humbly turn to the “World’s Greatest Compendium of Locations where The O.C. was Filmed“.  And, as always, TWGCOLWTO.C.WF puts the competition to shame. What you need to know about the Sea Sprite Motel at 1016 The Strand, Hermosa Beach, CA:

  • A cheap motel where pornographer Lance Baldwin stays.
  • Episode 16 (of season 2), when Sandy Cohen goes to the blackmailer Lance’s apartment to try to negotiate the ransom for the porno tape which Julie made when she was young. We see it again later when, after Julie has confessed her sordid past to Caleb, Caleb also goes to Lance’s apartment at the Sea Sprite motel and shows him the extortion money. But after getting his hands on the tape, Caleb double-crosses Lance, takes back the $500,000 cash, and has two thugs beat Lance up.

I have no idea what room, but let’s say … 12, because my research indicates that’s where all the shit went down:


And I choose to believe that our photo submitter was this guy:


Readers truly went to extraordinary lengths to distinguish themselves this week:

Since you will undoubtedly have lots of correct answers, I better up my game, here’s more info:

Trivia: Dizzy Gillespie, Tito Puente and Mose Allison stayed there, as did Ice Capades performers.

Personal Connection: I’ve now spoken to the 7185647desk clerk on the phone, as I called the hotel to ask for the room number of my guess. Sounds like quite a few Dishheads are calling and even stopping by to scout it out! End unit is #17, my guess is #16, he said some folks were guessing #15. Pretty certain the right answer is the window I indicated in my original post which I now know is in room #16.

Given the apparent on-site investigations, I expect the winner will provide at least one of the following: (a) a picture of themselves at the window posing with the motel’s owner and/or (b) a DJI drone video fly-through out the window showing the view, circling over the hotel for some areal footage, ending with a stunning sunset shot over Hermosa Beach (roll credits).

Another shares a story from their eventful stay at the Sea Sprite:

My wife and three young kids stayed at the Sea Sprite for July 4th in 1998. We had just moved to California and wanted to see the fireworks (and we did not drive on the Jewish sabbath, thus the need for a local hotel – as well as local parking).  We did not realize that the Strand in Hermosa Beach was a central vortex for 20-somethings gone wild.  We survived the interesting cultural experience, and my wife’s car survived the partying that occurred in the parking lot and everywhere else.

The problem surfaced when we drove just a few short miles home.  Our other car was stolen off our street in Redondo Beach.  So I called the Redondo Beach police and told them that my car was stolen.  The officer replied, “Why do you think that your car was stolen?” I replied, “I went to where it was parked, and it is no longer there!”  Without missing a beat, he replied, “In the police business, that is what we call a clue.”

Turns out, it was just taken for a joy ride. About ten days later, as another Redondo Beach police officer was writing a second ticket for illegal parking, they gave me a call and said if I could pick it up in the next 20 minutes, they would tear up the tickets. And so it was.

A visual entry:

Zane's Restaurant - Google Maps 2014-09-07 23-55-10 2014-09-07 23-56-05

There’s also a good jazz scene in town:

The VFYW this week looked immediately familiar, as this is an area I have spent a lot of time visiting over the years. As a certifiable jazz nut, I have spent a lot of time just down the block at the famous Lighthouse Cafe, arguably the home and birthplace for the type of “cool” jazz that defined the “West Coast” jazz as opposed to the hard bop made famous in New York and locales further east. While the Lighthouse is now a venue for a wide range of musical styles, it was made most famous during the 60s and later years as a fantastic venue to hear the very best West Coast jazz musicians:

Another reader:

I finally know what Chini must feel like. This was a five-minute window, and it only took five minutes because I was working out which of the windows it must have been taken from. In fact, my nine year old took one look and told me to start looking in California. I found myself frustrated that it wasn’t more difficult, seeing as how I planned to devote a full day to the search. Crazy, eh? I get frustrated when I can’t find it, and frustrated when I do. Madness, this.

And here’s the Chini, the myth, the almost-screwed-up-this-week legend:

VFYW Hermosa Beach Actual Window Marked - Copy

So the only real trick with this one is how you read the store sign at left. If you read it properly, as “Zane’s,” you were a four-second Google search away from finding the right spot. If, like some people I know real well, you looked at it on your iPhone and thought it said “Zone’s” you instead spent a nice chunk of time searching for a business that doesn’t exist. Epic. Chini. Fail. Thankfully, the uber LA-ness of the scene and the Bank of America sign rescued me later on Saturday.

This week’s view comes from Hermosa Beach and looks northeast along a heading of 38.99 degrees from the second floor of the Sea Sprite Motel, most likely room 16. As an aside, kudos to your viewer for picking a motel straight out of my Jersey Shore childhood. Most Dish readers stay at posh hotels and fancy B&B’s. Nice to see someone kicking it old school for once.

A tie-breaking idea:

Since this week’s contest features such an easy clue, I think the winner should be the person who guesses nearest to the number of correct entries. 162!

More than twice that actually. In fact, here is a relatively accurate pie chart for this week’s guesses:

Screen Shot 2014-09-09 at 12.10.26 PM

And as is usually the case in an incredibly easy contest like this one, our winner comes from our prestigious list of winless guessers of difficult contests from the past:

Sea Sprite Motel, back of the building, second floor looking northeast, second room from the south end of the building. Got it from the Zane’s restaurant sign, which I mistook for Zone’s. It’s either room 16 or 17. I’m going with 16 based on the angles.

Congrats! From the reader who submitted the view:

Looking east from the third floor bathroom window of room 16, Sea Sprite Motel, Hermosa Beach, California. Here’s another view from the motel:

View from a window

Lastly, a reader figures out our dastardly plan:

So, I’ve never entered a VFYW contest before, because I never really had any clue how to start. I always counted myself lucky if I guessed the right continent. And since I figured this out, I’m sure virtually everyone did. But now you’ve got me hooked. There go my Saturdays.

See you then! Until then, see if you can spot your entry in this comprehensive collage:


(Archive: Text|Gallery)