2009-04-13 49 -122
Today's Vancouver geohash would have been a thirteen hour round trip by road, ferry and kayak, but in the neighbouring graticule of Surrey it falls in what looks like a residential back yard, not far from the Fraser Highway in the city of Langley.
The translink website said that there was a bus stop on a community shuttle route on that very corner, so I decided that the bus was an excellent way to do this geohash.
My 2.5hr transit expedition to the hash point covered all four examples of public transit in Greater Vancouver - and exactly one segment on each. From my starting point in North Vancouver, I took the seabus across burrard inlet, the skytrain all the way to Surrey, a regular bus to Langley, and then, with my first transit pass expired, I pulled out a new ticket to board a community shuttle for the last leg of the trip to the hash point. There was no coin box apparent on the community shuttle, and the driver grinned at my obvious confusion and said "It's free."
The mini-bus meandered around Langley, then let me off at the geohash bus stop, but it disappeared around the corner before I thought to get my camera out to take a picture of it.
While waiting for my GPS to figure out where it was, I consulted the map I had printed before leaving, then noticed that the building directly across from me had a driveway and open space clear through to the backyards in which the hashpoint was located.
I was slightly nervous about going on somebody's property (having never done a city hashpoint before) and wasn't sure if I should knock on a door to ask permission before entering or explain what I was doing if stopped. There didn't seem to be anybody around, so I walked up the driveway, following the GPS arrow. It led me around a small outbuilding named "the Studio" then to the corner of a garden and a very tall hedge, where it indicated 3m remaining, straight into the hedge.
I walked back out to the street to see if I could find a way to the other side of the hedge, but the neighbouring house had a fenced backyard. Since my GPS didn't have an accuracy display and the accepted accuracy of GPS was more than 3m anyway, I decided to head back to the hedge and garden. As I walked up the driveway for a second time, I saw somebody in a red jacket crossing the end, hunched over a GPS.
I didn't want to shout across a stranger's yard, so I just walked after the person, who I suspected was Robyn. Around the corner of the studio, and there she was, staring at the hedge. I got my camera out and said "Hi!"
This trip could be done entirely on public transit, so I left the car, the bike, the kayak, and (inadvertently) T-Rex all in the garage and walked half a block to the bus stop. The bus came at twenty after two and took me to the SkyTrain station, where the correct train arrived right away. I watched my progress on the GPS and was amazed how closely the green track of my actual route was aligning with the pink line to destination. It was as if the train tracks had been laid in a direct line towards the geohash. The line wiggled a little through New Westminster and then continued straight to Surrey, where I transferred to another bus, that continued the beeline to the geohash until just a few stops before mine. I got off the bus only 1.25 km from the geohash, and the direction to destination arrow pointed straight up a road. So of course I followed it.
With 400 m to go, the direction to the geohash started to drift slightly to the left, so I crossed the road, and went into a park that was there. It turned out to be a very small park, but I came out the other side on a residential street and zigzagged slowly towards the geohash on more such streets. About 100 m from the point, a group of people were standing in the street chatting. They didn't look like geohashers, but maybe. I held my GPS in the traditional posture of obviousness and said "hi" as I strolled up.
"Are you keeping track of where you walk?" asked a man, who I assumed was standing on his own front lawn.
"I'm playing a game, trying to find a point," I explained. "In fact, it's right behind your house. I might come back and ask to look for it if I can't find another way."
"I haven't seen anything strange back there," he said. I explained that it wasn't a physical thing, just a place, and continued around the corner, seeing if I could get closer.
The GPS counted down to 67 metres, pointing behind a house. It was four o' clok, so I put a chalk mark "X 67" and an arrow on the ground. Another geohasher might recognize that someone else was here trying to meet up. The road was a cul-de-sac, but there was a pedestrian walkway through to the main road, so I followed it, now heading down the fourth side of a rectangle surrounding the geohash. The GPS pointed fifty metres down a road that was sort of like a driveway, but seemed to be shared by more than one house, so not quite a private road. Half way along it, I came across a covered porch where some people were sitting to smoke.
"Hello," I said. "Does your property go all the way to the hedge there?"
"Oh." Rats. "Whose is it?"
"I don't know. You can go look. There's a garden." I think the people are members of a group home of some sort: recovering addicts or something. So they live there but it's not their land per se. I thank them and walk around the Studio building towards an impenetrable hedge. The GPS counts down to ... one metre, with a precision of 3 metres. I'm within the error circle. Woo!
And then someone says "hi." It's Rhonda. What a textbook expedition! It's a public transit, ambassador, meetup geohash.
We chatted and took a few pictures. Rhonda's GPS showed that the hashpoint was no longer 3m through the hedge but 14m. While Robyn took the confirmation picture of her GPS, Rhonda's showed the hashpoint drifting closer until it was only 7m away. The map printout quite clearly showed that the hashpoint was at the corner of the garden and the hedge, however.
On the way back out of the yard, we stopped to chat with a few people who were having a smoke on a covered porch. Robyn introduced us, and explained why we were in their yard.
"It's a game, today we had to find a spot in your back yard. Like that game where you throw a dart at a map, then go wherever the dart lands, only a computer chooses the spot."
"And you do this every day?"
"No, for example yesterday's spot was in the middle of the Georgia Strait. We do this when we can."
She clearly thought we were completely insane but probably harmless, and gave us permission to make a chalk marking in case anybody else showed up later, but not to take her picture.