Snow, Tragedy and Motor Sports at The Donner Pass

March 11, 1911 –  Just three years before 1911 a new craze had gripped the United States and Europe.  Automobile racing.

Picture from Time.com

People didn’t smile for pictures in 1911

In 1908 a race sponsored by the New York Times and a French newspaper created the “world’s most grueling race.”  This became known as the New York to Paris Road Race.  Thirteen cars were entered but only six ended up racing.

They would travel from Lincoln Square in New York City to San Francisco then to Valdez, Alaska.  From there cars were shipped to Japan then drove through the Siberia Tundra in Russia and then finally after 22,00 miles in Paris.

During the trip drivers faced bad weather, muddy roads and something we all face today:  bad drivers.

There is one really funny event that happened during the New York to Paris race.  Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, basically the guy that pushed World War I along put a car in the race.  He claimed it was superior to any other car in the field.  It was towed out of the mud by the American Thomas Flyer car driven by Schushter.

Did you think any era was immune to bad drivers?

The Donner Pass

Won't cost you a thing but your life..

Won’t cost you a thing but your life..

From the turn of the 1900s and beginning with the New York to Paris Road Race increasing numbers of people began to travel towards California.  Local hotels began seeing an economic opportunity and staged their own races where “gasoline buggies” and bikes would race.

So in the spring of 1911 the Tahoe Tavern in Tahoe City held it’s own race offering a brilliant silver trophy.  Mark McLaughlin who writes for the Tahoe Tribune writes extensively about the race and said (link):

When businesses realized future tourism dollars were going to arrive by car, not passenger train, they began to pressure the state and county governments to improve mountain roads. Years before the first highway was constructed over Donner Pass, intrepid drivers were fighting their way over this portion of the rugged Sierra, using block and tackle and tying ropes around their tires for traction.

This race would have a lengthy delay.  When the March 11th storm hit, it left 40 feet of snow drifts on the ground completely blocking the pass.  A winner of the race until June of that year.

Nature can create weather patterns of legendary proportions.  Just ask Napolean.  Or the residents of New Orleans.

Courtesty of StormKing.com

Courtesty of StormKing.com

But the racers in 1911 were lucky.  What they may have remember is another group of people who tried to get through the pass which at that time had no name.  But the story of that family and their companions gave rise to one of the most tragic episodes in the migration of humans from one place to another.

Nearly seventy years before, the Donner Family left their home to journey west in the hopes of finding riches in California.  The gold rush was one of America’s first get rich quick schemes and the Donner Party was one of its most tragic victims.  In February 1847 with no food, no hope of getting through the massive snow drifts…the Donner Party engaged in cannibalism.

Such was the mystique of this pass.  Massive movements of people, historical road races and yes…tourism.  Two things remain constant about the pass:  motorists and violent snow storms.

I can personally tell you that travelling through the Donner Pass you’re surrounded by beauty.  Even in June you can see snow capped mountains, sparkling waters and majestic pine trees.  In a place with such amazing beauty you tend to forget that much of the history in the west passed through the Donner Pass.

Here’s a question for you.  If you were to go on a winter road race in through the Donner Pass, what gear would you bring?

Here’s an idea:  12V Heated Jacket Liner with Wireless Remote:  Link

Sources:

Donner Pass Race, New York to Paris – Tahoe Daily Tribune

http://www.tahoedailytribune.com/northshore/6256548-113/tahoe-race-car-donner

New York To Paris The Hard Way

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/10/automobiles/10RACE.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

What the Donner Party Ate In The Final Days

http://news.discovery.com/history/us-history/donner-party-cannibalism-remains-111010.htm

Hello Fans…Your Game Time Temperature Is -59 Degrees Below Zero

January 10, 1982 –

That day a huge football game was scheduled between the visiting San Diego Chargers and host Cincinnati Bengals.  Not just an ordinary regular season game, this match up decided who played in the Super Bowl.  But this game would be unlike any before it.  Yes, there have been cold football games, but this one possibly was one of the coldest in the history of professional football.

The first person on the field for the Chargers was Hank Bauer.  Bauer made it a point to run out on the field and begin his pre-game routine of fielding punts and kickoffs.  Just one problem…

Picture from Sheila Gray

Probably didn’t keep you warm

Warming up was going to be virtually impossible.  See the ambient temperature outside was -9 Fahrenheit.

Oh but it gets worse.  Add 35 mph winds and now you have an actual temperature that’s -59 below zero!  The prior week San Diego played the Miami Dolphins in South Florida and the temperature there was in the 80s with high humidity.  In fact so humid that star tight end Kellen Winslow was helped off the field from exhaustion.

Just to give you an idea how cold that is, the coldest inhabited place on earth is a place called Oymyakon, Russia where on February 6, 1933 the temperature was recorded at -90F below zero.

By the end of the game, anything having to do with being warm would become a joke you told friends or over drinks.

Just to keep his feet warm, Bauer kept his cleats on top of the heater near the Chargers’ bench.  The cleats began to melt but Bauer said he couldn’t feel any heat coming from his footwear.  Players on the Cincinnati side wanted to show some bravado by not wearing more layers of clothing and exposing their skin to the brutal conditions.  After a few minutes in the cold they opted to rub Vaseline on their arms to keep the skin from cracking.

Even Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Fouts had icicles hanging off his beard.

While the players struggled with the frigid conditions, fans didn’t fare much better.  Fans like Bengal supporter Gary Berliner sat on the floor of the men’s restroom wrapping paper towels around his feet.  Why?  “It’s a wood product, it’s the best insulation,” Berliner said.  He had multiple pairs of socks on which caused his feet to perspire and of course made them even colder.

Now if you had a ticket to a major sporting event and had to go, what piece of clothing or equipment would you bring to stay warm?

Heated Stadium Seat Cushion – take a look by clicking here

Sources:

“A ch-ch-chilling recollection of the Ice Bowl”  by Frank Luska

http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/playoffs07/columns/story?columnist=luksa_frank&id=3198023

“Cold reality: ’81 AFC title game a struggle from start to finish” by William Bendetson

http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/playoffs07/news/story?id=3198404

Coldest Inhabited Place on Earth – http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/picturegalleries/9877325/The-coldest-inhabited-place-on-Earth.html

Fans’ Burning Spirit Helps Them Survive – Martin Hogan Jr. Jan 11, 1982

http://retro.cincinnati.com/Topics/Article/392/Fans-Burning-Spirit-Helps-Them-Survive

How JFK Ran The Country In Severe Back Pain

Eight Different Medications Just To Get Through The Day…

So let’s just imagine you’re the President of the United States and every morning you make a trip to your doctor’s office.  You have brutally severe back pain.  The doctor gives you eight, yes, eight different medications ranging from pain killers to antispasmodics and even antidepressants.

Everyday starts off this way because otherwise, it’s going to be incredibly painful and impossible to function normally.  Top that off by dealing with politicians, ruthless despots and problems at home.  Such was the life of John F. Kennedy and how he dealt with severe back pain before and during his presidency.  Now the causes of his back pain were widely debated.  Theories ranged from football and war injuries to steroid injections taken as a child for digestive problems.

Just to give you an idea how secretive his back pain was, JFK’s medical records weren’t released until around 2002…a full 39 years after his passing.  You probably had a better chance breaking into the CIA offices than you did learning about his medical problems.  The same was true for Franklin Roosevelt, even photo opportunities were carefully scripted to cover up illnesses and ailments.

The types of treatments JFK had to endure were as intense as the pain in his back.    One story relates to his first year as president in 1961.  Kennedy could be heard screaming in pain when Jacqueline Kennedy rushed in from another room to call for the White House doctor Dr. Janet Travell.  All the good doctor could do was numb his pain with an injection of procaine deep into the back muscles.

But this only worked as a temporary measure.

Treating back pain today isn’t all much different.  In fairness, treatment depends on the type of back problems you’re having but here’s a list of treatments by WebMD.  So what do you do when you’re in severe back pain and trying to still go to work?  The easy answer is to see a doctor, get plenty of rest and stay away from the office.  But let’s be honest, most of us just don’t have that luxury.

JFK had to tough it out.  He had a country to run and domestic and international problems that weren’t going to wait for his pain to go away.  Imagine Fidel Castro or Nikita Khrushchev saying, “hey wait the President of the United States has back pain.  Let’s wait to threaten the western hemisphere with nuclear weapons!”

So what’s your method for dealing with muscle pain at work?  Leave some comments below and let us know!

Portable Back Heat Wrap:  Check it Out!

Sources:

NY Times, “In J.F.K. File, Hidden Illness, Pain and Pills”

http://www.nytimes.com/2002/11/17/us/in-jfk-file-hidden-illness-pain-and-pills.html?pagewanted=all&src=pm

Practical Pain Management – “JFK Pain Story”

http://www.practicalpainmanagement.com/pain/myofascial/autoimmune/john-f-kennedys-pain-story-autoimmune-disease-centralized-pain

The WORST Way To Deal With Muscle Cramps

What You Don’t Know Actually Does Hurt You

OK, so there we were…match point in our ever important Sunday afternoon round robin tennis match. Just one more point and we win…free drinks at the Dave & Busters.  Victory would be sweet while sipping my adult beverage and playing Skeeball with my wife.

And then it happened…

Diana my wife’s normal playing partner leaves a ball short, I come charging in to get it and plant my right foot like I’m Rafael Nadal at the French Open.  As I’m about to pop the ball back over I fell on the ground in the fetal position writhing in pain.  My entire lower part of my leg was twisting itself in knots.  Immediately two things came rushing into my head in this exact order:

  1. Wait…no Dave & Busters?
  2. How do I make this pain stop?

Unfortunately the agony of defeat required more attention than sharpening my game playing skills.  So I propped myself up and began limping towards the bench and began wondering what happened. One of the members of the round robin is a doctor and tells me:  “Sean, you have serious muscle cramps of the five star caliber…”

Now if you’re like me, muscle cramps are the worst thing ever.  You may be in the middle of the night having the greatest night of sleep ever and BOOM!  You feel like someone just threw your legs in a blender.  First the jumping out of bed, then the hobbling around and once it goes away.  The nightmare isn’t over because now you’re waiting for it to come back again.

 Avoiding The Worst Way To Deal With Muscle Cramps

First thing the doc asked me about while I was on the bench was if I got muscle cramps quite often.  Which I do.  Here’s what he said:

The worst way to deal with muscle cramps or pain is not using any preventative measures.  You need to get plenty of fluids, avoid over exertion and get more potassium in your system.”

And it’s true.  Most of the injuries we incur actually are preventable.  But I pressed on and asked him, OK so how do I deal with them now.  Amazingly enough there’s one other cause of muscle cramping which is poor circulation according WebMD’s Pain and Management Center (link attached).  Now there’s two questions we have to answer:  a) how do we try to prevent muscle cramps?  and b) how do we deal with them once they happen?

To answer A, what you need to focus on is this:

Now for B, you still need to replace lost fluids, sodium and potassium but there’s also another interesting thing you need to keep an eye on.  After reading 11 articles about muscle cramps (yes I’m a nerd) you also need to watch out for poor blood circulation to your legs.  One of the easiest ways to get the blood flowing again in  your muscles is by providing them with heat.  Heat will stimulate the flow of blood and provides the benefit of speeding up the time it takes you to heal.

One suggestion we can make to help your muscles heal if they’re cramping is the At-Home Heat Therapy Wrap.  Take a look by clicking here.

How To Deal With “The Year Without A Summer”

So picture this…you’ve taken a time machine back (you borrowed Marty McFly’s flux capacitor just humor me) and you’re in the year 1816.

Europe was just beginning to recover from the French Revolution and Napoleanic Wars when a volcano in Indonesia blew its top.  The previous year, Mount Tambora which at the time was an active volcano erupted.  In fact, nearly a third of the mountain blew apart during the eruption sending tons of debris and dust into the atmosphere.  This dust formed its own giant layer literally blocking out the sun in parts of North America and Europe.

What must have completely confused everyone is the bizarre weather patterns that followed.  As Spring gave way to Summer, people prepared to harvest crops when instead of warm sun they got…winter.  In parts of the United States like New York and Massachusetts locals were treated to frigid winds, snows in June and outright mayhem.  Crops failed, food prices skyrocketed and starvation became a real threat.  Even the rain didn’t look right.  During rainstorms in some areas, the drops were red instead of clear because of the dust in the atmosphere.

The rich and famous didn’t escape.  In Virginia, Thomas Jefferson had recently retired to his estates and looked forward to years of selling his crops but instead went deeply into debt to finance his farms.

To give you a feel for how people felt during The Year Without a Summer, here’s an article from The Boston Independent Journal dated June 17, 1816:

“On the night of 6th instant, after a cold day, Jack Frost paid another visit to this region of the country, and nipped the beans, cucumbers, and other tender plants. This surely is cold weather for summer.

On the 5th we had quite warm weather, and in the afternoon copious showers attended with lightning and thunder — then followed high cold winds from the northwest, and back back again the above mentioned unwelcome visitor. On the 6th, 7th, and 8th June, fires were quite agreeable company in our habitations.”

The insane weather actually inspired a classic horror tale, one you’re familiar with.  In Switzerland, the intense winter weather inspired Lord Byron, Percy Shelley and Mary Wollstonecraft to write horror stories.  Frankenstein came alive because of the Year Without A Summer.

So here’s the question for you, what would you do to deal with a summer without heat or sun?

Not sure, here’s some ideas:

Tri-Zone Base Layer Top – link

Battery Heated Fleece Jacket – link

Source:  Robert McNamara, History Channel – link