Posted by: GeekHiker | March 7, 2010

Vancouver Olympics 2010 – Days 1 & 2 – Skeletons in Motion

(I totally screwed up leading up to this trip, you see, having planned to do many more teaser posts.  And I have no excuse for it, as this trip had been in the works for months. Hopefully I’ll make up for it in the travelogue.)

Day 01

The first day of any trip isn’t especially thrilling travelogue material.  Or maybe it just takes a far more talented author than myself to make going through the TSA line at the airport something filled with thrills, chills and excitement.

Not to say that the journey through LAX didn’t have it’s high point, namely in the form of a nice Vancouver girl (with an appreciably snarky sense of humor similar to mine that I often think I’m unable to communicate in the blog).  My type?  I don’t think so, and that’s okay.  If nothing else, it was refreshing to meet a grounded, working actress (surprisingly hard to find in L.A.).

Must be the Canadian in her.

Beyond that, the only thrilling part of the flight was one truly fantastic view of Mono Lake:

Vancouver Olympics 01
Mono Lake from the flight north

The best part, of course, was getting off the plane and meeting my friends.

First to find me was Just A Girl, whom some of you may remember from my last actual vacation a couple of years ago in Oregon.

In the intervening years, her life has changed radically, having met a fine husband, gotten a new job, and even bought a house.  I hadn’t seen her in person since the Yosemite trip, and it was good to spend time with my friend again.

It got even better moments later, as The Best Friend and her boyfriend strode up, having arrived a few hours earlier from San Francisco and returning to the airport to meet up after their stroll about town.

Baggage in tow, we headed out to JaG’s new house and met her husband (who I shall call SJ, in honor of his old blog).  On our beds were our tickets for the next day and the highly desirable red mittens, a gift from JaG to all of us.

Awesome.

Day 02

The first day in town was the “big” day: The Best Friend, her boyfriend and I had tickets to Skeleton up in Whistler.

Driving to Whistler during the games wasn’t possible: the roads were closed to all but local traffic.  Instead, bus tickets had to be purchased in advance, which JaG was kind enough to do on our behalf.  After a quick trip with JaG to her workplace, the three of us boarded SkyTrain, then transferred to a bus, and finally boarded the luxury bus up to Whistler, a two hour trip.

As it would be for the next few days, the weather was amazing: crystal clear air and gorgeous blue skies.  The bus driver we had was quick, driving up the Sea-To-Sky highway at a breakneck pace (bringing the “estimated 2-3 hour ride” much closer to two), but it did make photography rather difficult.

Vancouver Olympics 02
Looking out the bus windows on the Sea-to-Sky Highway to Whistler

We arrived in Whistler, wandered around a bit, and finally settled on Whistler Brewhouse, where we partook of some of the best IPA we’d ever had.  We ultimately downed several beers apiece.  What the heck, we weren’t driving, right?

Stuffed with good food and good drink, we boarded the bus to the Whistler Sliding Center.  We arrived, went through security (who found my portable tripod to be suspicious for some reason) and headed into the venue.  The Best Friend picked up some poutine (not exactly health food, but pretty cool nonetheless) and we settled into our seats just as the sun dropped behind the mountains.

Vancouver Olympics Pano 01
Sun setting behind the final curve on the track

For the first heat, we watched from our bleacher seats, which were located just below the giant building where the announcers and cameras are.  The view was over the final big curve of the track you’ve all seen on TV: the last one the sledders go through before heading uphill to the finish area.

Vancouver Olympics 03
Williams from Great Britain sliding through the final turn

(Interestingly, on TV the final section of track looks completely flat (at least to me).  In fact, it’s actually angled uphill at about 30 degrees to slow the competitors down.  Who knew?)

The first heat done, we realized we didn’t have to stay in our seats, but could in fact wander the entire grounds, all the way up to the start house at the top of the hill.  Since we were freezing our butts off on the cold metal seats, walking around and keeping warm seemed like a good option.

The announcer’s commentary was played on speakers throughout the venue anyway, so we didn’t miss a moment of action. The whole atmosphere was a bit like a race track, with the excited announcer calling out “Southern Track! Southern Track!” and calling every turn on a run with great excitement.  If he’d said “Let’s get ready to rrrumble!!” the illusion would have been complete.

Along the track, you can stop pretty much anywhere, often as close as a meter to the track itself.  TV footage doesn’t really communicate how damn fast these athletes go by, up to 80 miles per hour.  On the way down the hill, they whip by, making a sound something like a jet engine as they go.  It’s amazing, terrifying… and made me want to try it a little bit.

Vancouver Olympics 05
Walking along the track, so close you could practically touch it

Vancouver Olympics 04
At the start house: a skeleton slider starts his run, moving from running to laying face down on his sled

When the heats ended, and our souvenirs in hand, we headed back to Whistler Village for a quick bite of pizza before our long bus ride back to Vancouver.  This was the only bad part of the day, involving a crazy bus driver, a too warm bus, and a Frenchman next to me who should not have had the poutine, if you know what I mean.  It was refreshing to step into the crisp air back in the city.

It was a long day, but ended with the extremely cool JaG, who got up at 11:30 at night to pick us all up from the bus stop.  She is seriously awesome.

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Responses

  1. Wow, the sky was so BLUE! Sounds like an awesome beginning. Looking forward to more posts to come…

    BTW, looks like you have gotten over the cold!

  2. Did you get to see Jon Montogomery go? Good ol’ Manitoban boy!!!!! Won Gold!

  3. Oh my gosh, that looks sooooo scary and amazing. I’m glad you’re sharing your trip with us and that you’re feeling better. 🙂

  4. I have to reiterate that, if I see a cloth mohawk hat in a future post, I will have to disown you.

  5. What an amazing picture of the sledder!! You have such a good eye for photography.

  6. Green … with … envy.

  7. not sure what to be more jealous of..
    …time with old friends
    …Olympics
    …water, elevation and *greenery*

    Sounds like a grand time. btw, I don’t think I’ve ever gotten to Whistler in 2hrs from that weird left turn in downtown vancouver (even w/o traffic). Y’all must’ve been going fast!

  8. I guess it’s all about adrenaline on the Skeletons. Like a roller coaster, don’t u say?

  9. wow, as usual, amazing photos. i’m definitely jealous of your experience. i’m guessing you went sightseeing a bit outside of the olympics. is vancouver as beautiful as people say it is?

  10. Wow– I wouldn’t have expected them to sound like jet engines going by.

    Great recap and wonderful, wonderful pictures!!!!!

  11. More! More! More!

  12. K – The weather was definitely incredible the first week… and not what VANOC was hoping for!

    CMACC – I’m sure we did. Loved watching him on TV drinking the beer!

    MissMcCracken – Yeah, looks cool doesn’t it?

    TheCoconutDiaries – So, you’re forgiving the mittens?

    Spleeness – Heh, you have NO idea how many shots I had to shoot to get that!

    Homer-Dog – In a good way, I hope?

    M – It is hard to decide. From what I could tell, closing the road to Whistler to all but the locals worked like a charm…

    DesertAspie – Sure, one in which you’re on your stomach with your head a couple of inches above a solid sheet of very hard ice…

    BlakSpring – More so.

    TGAW – It’s a surprising sound, I gotta admit…

    AburdBeats – Ask and ye shall receive…

  13. OMG! You forgot to mentioned that you’re going REALLY FAST on skeleton!
    I wonder why they called “Skeleton”???

  14. oh, I’m so jealous you got the red mittens. They were LONG GONE by the time I got to BC


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