For anyone who has endured the worst that Minnesota winters has to offer, there are two things they know – it's coming and it's going to be cold. Thanks to the effects of global warming, Minnesota winters for the most part have become less severe, the snowstorm that blankets the state with snow until spring comes later and spring tends to come a little earlier.
That would be hard to justify this week. Storms that began on Sunday and lasted through Wednesday afternoon brought rain, sleet, snow and bitterly cold winds in excess of 60 mph to much of Minnesota, including Eden Prairie, where Greg Camarillo makes his residence. Due to the sustained winds of more than 45 mph for more than four hours on Tuesday, the storm was briefly tantamount to Level 2 hurricane. It was an anomaly – the heavy stuff isn't coming down for a while yet – but a pre-Halloween slap in the face from Mother Nature caught everyone somewhat by surprise.
Those facts are little consolation to Camarillo. He was prepared for a frigid Thanksgiving. He was ready for a bone-chilling Christmas. But before Halloween has even come and gone? That just wasn't fair in his mind.
"Tuesday was one of the worst days of my life," Camarillo said with a halfhearted smile. "The guys on the team just laughed at me and said that it's just the beginning."
Before people start thinking that Camarillo is a pampered crybaby athlete – the type Denny Green would supposedly have no room for – they need to know his unique background. He was born and raised in Southern California. He played his college ball at Stanford. His four-year pro career was played in San Diego and Miami – two of the warmest climates in the country. He can count on one hand days that he spent outside in cold temperatures without being excessively bundled up.
He has played in cold-weather games, but those are like the average person flying on airplanes. While some fly all the time, most only do it once or twice a year. Cold-weather preparation was part of his immediate to-do list when he came to the Vikings, but his backup plan is consistent – avoid being outside like the plague.
"I purchased all the clothing and boots and whatnot, but I just plan on being indoors a lot," Camarillo said. "It's not even Halloween. It's a nice thought coming from Florida, where it's ridiculously hot, to be cold sometimes. You're almost never cold in Florida. But to be frozen? That's another subject."
Isn't that impossible? Not if you make a concerted effort to avoid it and map out your cold weather exposure in your own meteorological game plan.
"From my car to the entrance right here (to the Vikings locker room at Winter Park), that's it," Camarillo said. "That's about 150 yards of outdoors. That's good enough for me. After that 150 yards, I'm inside."
Camarillo has never had to board the windows and hunker down to brace himself for a hurricane while living in Florida, but said he's been through the tropical weather that creates awful storms. He has a frame of reference to draw from and said Tuesday's storm may have been the worst he's seen.
"I've never been through a full-out hurricane, but I have been through a tropical storm, which is just a little bit less strong winds," Camarillo said. "What I was seeing Tuesday night was similar to that, except really cold. I don't know which one was worse, but neither of them were fun."
Camarillo knew that day was coming – driving on icy roads is going to be a new adventure he doesn't relish – but he may have thought the horror stories of Minnesota weather were a little overblown. The first day he got to Winter Park, it was 90 degrees. It didn't rain almost the entire month of September and temperatures were warmer than normal. But, he said that, despite warnings to the contrary, he may have come a bit complacent thanks to the unseasonably good fall weather … until last week's weather wake-up call.
"I've got some good friends who are from here, so I was prepared somewhat for the kind of weather you get here in November, December and January," Camarillo admitted. "But I was ready for this kind of stuff in October."
He knows the worst is yet to come weather-wise for the rest of the season and he said it isn't intolerable. In small doses, he has enjoyed the cold weather. But he has never been in a situation where his car won't start and frostbite can take effect in a matter of mere minutes. He's been in inclement weather, but not the bone-chilling cold that he is preparing for.
"I've never been in negatives (temperature)," Camarillo said. "I've been in cold weather. I've gone skiing and snowboarding and I've played in the snow. I've played in cold-weather games, but the temperature was mainly in the 20s. From what I've heard about how cold it can get here, I've never dealt with anything like that … yet."
What makes the transition to Minnesota weather more pronounced is his own background. Florida in the summer can be blistering hot and humid. There is as little escape from the heat in Miami as there is the cold in Minneapolis. If you head outside, you feel it within seconds. If given a choice, Camarillo said Minnesota wins out, at least partially.
"I'd rather be cold that hot, but I'd rather be burning up than freezing – if that makes sense," Camarillo said. "If you've got to go extremes, I'd rather be hot playing football than cold."
Camarillo's future with the Vikings is far from certain, but, if he impresses the coaching staff this season, he has a good chance of hooking on long-term. May he someday will make a home in Minnesota? His longtime girlfriend may be harder to convince, but he said he isn't sure about enjoying the full Minnesota winter experience. He said he has no intention of getting rid of his home in Florida regardless of his contract situation and, although things my change, he will keep his warm-weather lifeline.
"If you have a family with you and you like it here year-round, that's what you do," said Camarillo, who noticed Sidney Rice eavesdropping on the conversation. "But (pointing to Rice), I'm like this kid. When the season is over, we're both going somewhere warm."
He said that he has learned a lot about his new teammates and the Twin Cities area and occasionally gets asked his thoughts about Minnesota weather. He said he has been able to determine if someone is a native or not because Minnesotans have a weather-related "tell" that tips their hand.
"When somebody says the winters aren't that bad, I immediately know that they're from Minnesota," Camarillo said. "Everybody else will tell you its cold, but they will say it's not that bad."
As he was wished the best of luck in his Winter Wonderland, Camarillo was reminded that it isn't always just the cold that it is the problem. It can be the wind chill.
"Wind chill? What is that exactly? I've never quite figured out how that works," Camarillo asked.
Good luck, Greg.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.
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