Escaping the Heat

Here on North Carolina’s Crystal Coast, we are lucky to be in close proximity to lots of water. Usually until July the water provides a moderating influence on our temperatures. Even as we approach the last week of June 2018, a breeze off the water can turn a hot day into one that can be tolerated.

Those of us who live here are used to the heat. Some say that our blood has thinned because of the heat and we cannot no longer take the cold. Somehow our thin blood managed to get us through the mighty cold winter of 2017-18 when we saw temperatures in the teens which are almost unheard of here along the water.

You will find that we residents work outside, exercise, or visit the beaches early or late in the day. We leave the heat of the day even when it is tempered by ocean breezes mostly to visitors.

Like most places in the South, we have our cocoons of cooled air that protect us from the worst of the heat. Visitors will often be surprised that we keep our house during the day at seventy-seven Fahrenheit but a higher indoor temperature makes it easier to come and go from the outside. The larger the temperature differential the harder it is to convince yourself to go outside. Walking into a house with the temperature at seventy-two Fahrenheit when you have come from almost ninety degree weather is like walking into a meat locker.

Once upon a time when dirt roads were the norm in North Carolina, escaping the heat was a serious task. You played in the dark woods in the summer because it was hot in most yards. You valued shade trees and most people had a favorite one. A small brook was an inviting place to cool your feet and swimming pools were rare luxuries.

We lived in the Piedmont on a red dirt road in Lewisville, North Carolina, just to the west of Winston-Salem. We were lucky to get access to the swimming pool at Tanglewood but it was only for a couple of weeks during the summer when the school activity bus took us for swimming lessons in the morning. We would have a hot dog for lunch and alternate between swimming and playing putt-putt until we were exhausted and the old bus left for Lewisville.

Even if you take two weeks of swimming out of the summer in North Carolina, you still have lots of hot weather left. I was almost a teenager before we got an air conditioner for one room of our house. We had awning over the windows and a big cedar tree that provided some shade. We played a lot at night and part of the reason you went to movies was you got to sit in an air conditioned theater. On really hot nights I would slip into our air conditioned living room and sleep on the sofa.

All the summer heat worked on all of us and everyone hoped for a real escape from the summer heat. Luckily, my mother always figured out how to do that. Depending on how mother felt, we would head off to the beach or the mountains. She will fill her 1953 Ford with nieces and me and off we would go.

While the mountains were cooler, it was easier to get personal with the beaches. Mother was not much for hiking mountain trails but she loved to walk the beautiful beaches of the North Carolina coast. Almost every day was finished with a nighttime hike on the beach. It was a great escape from the dust and heat of a Piedmont summer.

Even the beach houses were not air conditioned in the early fifties but no one seemed to mind. You did not go to the beach to stay in a room, you went to be on the beach. The room was for sleeping, showering and having a few meals. There were also no swimming pools because there was plenty of water at the end of the sand.

We stayed out until exhausted and sleeping was easy even with just fans in the windows. Even today when I cannot find relief from the heat and the water in the neighborhood swimming pool is too warm, I head for the ocean. I will usually bypass the busy beaches and head to one of my favorite quiet ones. There I will wade out just far enough so that I can turn and be hit between the shoulders with a wave. An ocean wave will drain the heat from my body almost as well as a dip in an outdoor swimming pool in Maine.

You can find additional information at my Crystal Coast webpage including details on our recently released sixth edition of A Week at the Beach, The Emerald Isle Travel Guide.

You may contact me at the following email address: david "at" crystalcoastlife dot com or use this contact form.