This story featured in the March 2012 Issue.

Photo: Aaron McKinney

I heard Pope John Paul II was a kayaker. True?

Does the Pope wear a funny hat? Depends on your view of fashion, but there's no disputing the late pontiff was an avid paddler. As a young pastor in Krakow in the early 1950s, Karol Wojtyla, later John Paul II, frequently led his flock on ski and paddling trips, some as long as three weeks. In his autobiography, Rise, Let Us Be On Our Way, he tells of being summoned from one such trip to Poland's Lyna River in 1958 to be notified of his appointment to bishop. Upon returning to the expedition a few days later, he writes, "I thought maybe this was the last time I could go canoeing. Later, it turned out that there were many opportunities … as a matter of fact, I continued until the year 1978." Sadly, by canoeing, he actually means kayaking—he co-owned a Klepper folding kayak, named the Pebble, which he would overturn and use as an altar for his wilderness masses. Photos gathered from the Internet by's David Johnston show Wojtyla, then in his 30s, looking cool and contented in sunglasses in front of the boat on the banks of a river. Biographers like to write about the paddling race he entered in 1955 on the Dunajec River. His boat, less durable than later bulletproof Popemobiles, was punctured by an apparently radicalized rock, and sank near the finish line. "Only the breviary did not get wet," he later said. Eddy wasn't raised Catholic, unless you count his devotion to short plaid skirts, and has no idea what a breviary is, but he can definitely get behind a priest this cool. Though pretty sure the Church will make John Paul II a saint someday, Eddy prefers not to wait, which is why he's inducting the paddling pontiff into the Great White Bear's Council of Super Saints, alongside Amelia Earhart and Johnny Appleseed.

Can I use my stun gun to cure spider bites?

In 1990, the FDA banned the sale of specially made stun guns marketed for this purpose. The reason: quackery. However, Oklahoma family physician Dr. Robert Unsell continues to treat victims of brown recluse spider bites with electric current. Bites from that critter can be particularly severe—killing lots of local tissue—and Unsell says he's had success in neutralizing the venom with electricity, preventing further damage. His website claims that, "The current will influence the hydrogen bonds of the enzymes, destroying their secondary and tertiary structure," and, "will reduce metal ions and zinc, copper, magnesium, iron, or calcium ions, which are firmly bound to some venom enzymes and are mandatory cofactors for these enzymes," amongst other things. Eddy has no idea what that means, so he called wilderness medicine expert Buck Tilton, who said flat-out that "electric shock has no proof of efficacy with spider bites." Instead he suggests cooling the bite with ice or water to prevent the venom's spread, and then consulting a doctor (not Unsell) if things look bad. Eddy wanted to add his own electric shock trials to the medical canon, but all the spiders he found refused to bite, even when dropped into his tentmate's sleeping bag. When he tried tazering said tentmate's mosquito bites instead, punches were thrown. Further trials have been hampered by the court order prohibiting Eddy's possession of the tazer, along with firearms, knives, pepper spray or sharp sticks, until June 22.

Are there portable hydro generators suitable for a canoe trip?

Eddy's dreams of bringing along Jeffrey, his real robot companion, into the wilderness were shattered. First, mother accused Jeffrey of being nothing more than a Tickle Me Elmo mounted on her Roomba vacuum. Then he spoke with Homepower magazine Senior Editor Ian Woofenden, who says that such systems are simply too heavy and cumbersome to be practical for expedition travel. There are some propeller-style models, he said, that are made to be towed behind non-motorized barges, but those models weigh 30 pounds at a minimum, before adding the inverter, battery, and whatever materials it would take to suspend the device in the current. The alternative is to set up classic impeller models on a side-stream, but that would include hundreds of feet of tubing—suitable for a summer-long mining operation in the Yukon, but hardly for a two-week trip. Better, says Woofenden, to use portable solar arrays that are becoming widely available, and have ample capability to charge, say, a tazer.