Dog Days of Summer


Marlene Smith

August, 2004


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Some say it signifies hot sultry days "not fit for a dog." Others claim it’s the weather in which dogs go mad. But the dog days are defined as the period from July 3rd through August 11th when the Dog Star, Sirius, rises in conjunction (or nearly so) with the Sun. Sirius is the brightest star of the constellation Canis Major, the "Greater Dog" in Latin. The star appears a brilliant white with a tinge of blue, but when the air is unsteady, or when it is low to the horizon, it seems to flicker and splinter with all the colors of the rainbow.

In ancient Egypt, the New Year began with the return of Sirius. It was, in fact, the "Nile Star" or the "Star of Isis" of the early Egyptians. Priests, who were the calendar keepers, sighted the first rising of the Dog Star from their temples. At the temple of Isis-Hathor at Denderah is a statue of Isis, which is located at the end of an aisle lined by tall columns. A jewel was placed in the goddess’ forehead. The statue was oriented to the rising of Sirius, so that the light from the returning Dog Star would fall upon the gem.

When the priests saw the light of the star shining upon the gem for the first time, they would march from the temple and announce the New Year. In the temple appears the inscription: "Her majesty Isis shines into the temple on New Year’s Day, and she mingles her light with that of her father Ra on the horizon."

For us as motorcyclists, we don’t need the Egyptian goddess Isis to tell us that it is hot! We know. Whether you've a new rider, or you’ve been riding for years, we have all experienced heat that can be simply unbearable at times – especially when we get stuck in traffic! As a matter of fact, riding in the summer and the heat can be just as dangerous as cold winter riding.

Perhaps we can take an example from the Egyptians and their use of camels in the desert. Years ago, a few members in the club were discussing using “camelbacks” while riding. I was not familiar with this tool. They explained that camelbacks are backpack-like soft containers that have a plastic unit inside, with a wide-mouth opening, which you fill with liquid and PLENTY of ice. A tube then snakes out of the unit, over your shoulder, and to your mouth – allowing hands-free drinking at any time during your travels. These backpacks were originally designed for hiking, but have been adapted by many sports including motorcycling.

In addition to keeping you hydrated, the frosty container rests on your back, providing some cooling during your ride. One warning though, make sure you blow the water back into the unit before drinking, as you don’t want to get a mouthful of warm water when you need that nice cool drink!

There are many ways to keep cool while riding, and it is important to do so. The most important thing you can do for yourself is to keep well hydrated, in order to prevent heatstroke. You also want to lower your body temperature whenever possible, and though the camelback helps keep your back cool, you’ll want to keep the rest of you cool too. There is other gear, such as specially designed neckwraps and cooling vests, that you can use to help keep you cool.

Though it might be hot outside, it is important to limit your skin exposure. Not only will it prevent sunburn, but, when riding, the wind wicks away moisture from your skin, further depleting your internal water reserves. Clothing has also come a long way and summer riding gear is available that is vented and designed to keep you cool and protected in the summer heat.

Perhaps the next time you are thinking about how hot and oppressive this month can be, and you are lamenting the dog days of summer, you can attribute it all to the Dog Star, Sirius. Then think about how wonderfully cool you can now be, and how the heat doesn’t even effect you, as you turn your motorcycle into the wind!

"Summer afternoon - Summer afternoon... the two most beautiful words in the English language" Henry James (1843 - 1916)

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