Whoa! What a Tuesday we had last week, right? It was simply was one surly, sweaty day on Hilton Head Island. I know this because I was out all day with appointments, and the air just caved in on me like it had mass and weight, not to mention heat.
In the northeast, the news occasionally calls out an “ozone day,” usually during the dog days of August. It has to do with high levels of pollutants like carbon monoxide or nitrogen dioxide, ozone or particulate matter (does it really matter what this is?) due to the many industrial companies that made up the New England economy during the 20th century. When Paul and Al on 94 HJY Rock called out “ozone day,” everyone just stayed inside, laying low by the air conditioners and watching “The Sopranos” marathons. Usually, the noxious day would end with a rainstorm, which had the effect of dissipating the air, which meant the next day found everything back to normal.
But, not down here.
Down here on Hilton Head, I sometimes like to call out an “algae day.”
Because an algae day in the Lowcountry can really kick your derriere with pollen, humidity, heat — and don’t forget the noise. Yes. We suffer extra sensory issues, like the high-pitched crickets that screech so loudly that my ears pop the way they do on an airplane. That whirring pierces the air louder and longer on hot algae days. You know what I’m talking about. Just when you can’t get any more uncomfortable or itchy from perspiration and clouds of no-see-ums, the cicadas go at it. And then the cows start.
So, after a few errands on the north end, I drove into Jarvis Creek Park and parked my green-with-pollen red Sentra. Armed with my Canon Rebel, I felt very much like the “tepid” reporter to whom my husband Johnny D once referred.
“Are you trying to say, ‘intrepid reporter,’ Johnny?” I asked as my tripod slid through my backpack and crashed onto the floor that day.
“Why, what’d I say?”
“You said tepid.”
“I’m just saying, you’re not like Angelina Jolie in that movie!”
“She was an INTREPID REPORTER, Johnny! And I’m not trying to be Angelina Jolie!”
But, now, on this particular morning, I realized he was right.
I was the “tepid” reporter.
It felt like a hundred degrees, on an 80-degree day, and a bright green shag carpet of pollen grew over the lake before my eyes. It was like watching a time-lapse video version of climate change in a documentary. And I mean a serious green. Tiger could practice putts on this stuff.
Then it hit me. I knew where I needed to go to escape Hilton Head’s “algae day.”
Featured on postcards and marketing brochures, Plantation Drive is a long Southern road known for its shaded tunnel that meanders through live oaks. Branches have grown curved over time, cloaking the traveler in cool tones of earthy greens and lacy Spanish moss trails, allowing just enough dappled sunlight to get you to the Lighthouse Road junction.
Now I know that some of you are convinced that Hurricane Matthew changed some of our cherished island landmarks, that the storm left things looking different and, in places, well, less shady.
And they’re partially right. Sure, some things have changed. Just look at side-by-side photos of Plantation Drive pre- and post-Matthew.
But what hasn’t changed is that thing the storm couldn’t really touch — the way it feels to live on Hilton Head.
Even on its worst, sweatiest, most pollen-green day, it’s still the best place to be.