Saturday, August 29, 2009

Summer Recap

So summer is almost at an end, my Google internship is over and it's time to start thinking about school again. My internship ended August 14th, which puts me me at the end of week two of a three week break before I start classes at UBC again.

The Internship

Working at Google for the summer was a blast. The people I met at Google were not only first rate engineers, but people who genuinely seemed interested in spending their time writing useful, good, useable software. While I can't talk specifics about the project that I worked on (an as yet unreleased Google product), I can say that in the three and half months that I worked with the team I saw a tightening of focus and goals, and a real drive for improvement and towards release.

Summer Cycling

This summer I started with a goal to bike as much as I could, and I'm happy to say that at this point I'm at roughly 2500km since I started tracking in May this year. Most of the riding was done the area East of Lake Washington (the Kirkland, Redmond, Bellevue area), an area that doesn't have a lot of flat. My commute to/from Google was less than 10km, so I came up with routes that would give me long rides. I had a 38km route home, and a 18km route home so I could vary the effort and distance. Notable rides include looping around Lake Washington (90ish km), the Seven Hills of Kirkland (158km), the Seattle Century (~145km), and many other random rides mostly done solo.

5 days, 330km, 4 ferries, 1 gear, many hills, many many dried dates, much sun, and a lot of fun.

To cap off a summer of great rides, Ilana and I went on a five day bike tour of the Sunshine Coast and Vancouver Island. Day one took us from Vancouver to Horseshoe Bay, and then Gibsons via the Langdale Ferry with a final short, but very steep few km to a friend's place where we stayed the night.

Day two was a lovely 80km all the way up from Gibsons, through Sechelt, and a final 6km off of Highway 101 to Egmont to spend the night at a small harbour campsite.

Day three started with a trail ride (with fully laden bikes no less) to see the amazing Skookumchuck Narrows, a site with some of the fiercest tides I have ever seen. The way back to the ferry that would take us to Powell River would set us up for the hardest (though one of the shortest) riding days of the week. We dubbed the road from Egmont to Earls Cove with its short, but very steep hills the "6km of agony". At least we had a pleasant lunch and wait for the ferry before tackling another set of hills up from the ferry landing at Saltery Bay. Luckly the rest of the ride to Powell River was pretty tame, though the combination of a hot and mentally challenging day left us cursing the sharp climb up from the coast to our Powell River B&B that was our destination for the night.

A beautiful morning ride from our B&B after a fantastic vegan breakfast (with fresh local ingredients) was to set the tone for day four, our longest riding day at 100km. After landing in Comox with a quick stop for groceries, we started South down the scenic costal Highway 19A. With our legs "broken in" from the previous days, the climbs were enjoyable rather than a grind, and the kilometers seemed to roll by quickly. As on previous days, we stopped for snacks and water as opportunities presented themselves, often with amazing beach vistas for us to gaze at as we dug in to our stores of dried fruit snacks, fresh local fruit, and some hummus, pita, pepper, and for the non-vegan some cheese, making for a great on-the-go lunch. During the day while resting at the top of a hill I waved hi to a fully laden rider going the other way. It turned out he was here from Germany for the summer riding all across the country from Vancouver to Jasper and Baniff, down to Yellowstone, and now on the Island, completing, as he called it, "the best summer of my life". By the afternoon we were passing through Qualicum Beach and on to Parksville where we made our camp at Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park. After a ride back into Parksville for a nice dinner, we settled down for the night.

Day five took us off the quiet Highway 19A and on to the main Highway 19 where a generous shoulder was small comfort from the noise and bustle of the busy main highway. In comparison to the relative quiet and amazing scenery from the previous days, the busy highway and roads all the way to the Nanaimo ferry terminal weren't much fun. The ferry ride back to Horseshoe Bay left us contemplating the past few days, and looking forward to future tours next year and perhaps even this fall. We were both dreading the hilly, albeit scenic, lower Marine Drive route from Horseshoe Bay back to the Lions Gate Bridge, but we both found that the previous few days had turned challenging hills into a rolling pleasant ride that was a perfect way to cap off the tour. After crossing over in to Downtown we opted to take the slow scenic Seaside bike route back home rather than cutting directly across town. As we meandered back home with our somewhat out of place fully laden bikes we reflected on the beautiful and amazing past five days that aside from the ferry rides took us 330km self propelled around some of BCs great scenery leaving from our front door on a Monday and returning Friday afternoon with time to spare to end the week with an impromptu family Shabbat dinner.

For more photos check out the online album for the trip.

Critical Mass

Went to Vancouver's Critical Mass (also see their Facebook group) this last Friday. It was lots of fun riding with a rather large group of fellow cyclists through Vancouver's streets and bridges. I ran in to Robert of Bikes On The Drive Tree blog fame, and we chatted for much of the ride. I also ran in to Bill McGrath who I'd met before when I did my Libranet presentation at VanLUG. He was distributing leaflets concerning Canada's new copyright legislation for the Vancouver Fair Copyright Coalition. The ride was a pretty positive for the most part, though I was rather put off by the several people I saw drinking while riding. As far as I'm concerned, drinking while riding a bike is just as bad as drinking and driving, and doing it during an event like critical mass sends a bad message and creates negative press. I wound up the evening with a mellow sunset ride home through Stanley Park and along the Seaside bike route all the way around False Creek.

PS Oh yeah, I should probably mention that one of the guys I spoke to on the ride had ridden 125+km for the day by the time we reached the Lions Gate Bridge. He and his electric assist bike hailed from the Sunshine Coast.