What a world we live in. I'm on the bus from Whistler back to Vancouver, on the Sea-to-Sky Highway, surrounded by nothing but pine trees and the occasional vehicle. Somehow, I am managing to maintain an Internet connection via air card. The Olympics may connect the world figuratively, but cell phone towers connect us literally.
These Olympics offer a serious transportation challenge. For instance, today I went to Whistler to cover Lindsey Vonn and Kaylin Richardson in the women's super combined. To get there from Vancouver required taking a train, riding a bus for 2 1/2 hours, getting on another bus, then taking a very high and rather long chairlift up the mountain. Flying through the brisk mountain air on a chairlift at 8 a.m. will wake you up.
I shared the lift with a Russian guy. I think he used all the English he knows when he turned to me and said, "I am freezing my ass off.''
Another bus route has shown us a side of Vancouver that isn't invested in the Olympics. The trip to Pacific Coliseum for figure skating and short-track speedskating goes straight down E. Hastings Ave., through the heart of the Downtown Eastside. This is the original skid row. It's often described as the poorest postal code in Canada, and it's hard to believe there could be another. The buildings are encrusted with grime; the occupied ones have grates across the doors and windows, and the unoccupied ones are boarded up. Long lines of desperate-looking folks wait to get into the methadone clinics and soup kitchens and shelters. Patrick and Laura Plys, parents of curler Chris Plys of Duluth, are staying in Vancouver to work with the poor when the Games are over. That is a noble gesture, and one entirely in line with the Olympic spirit.
Speaking of the curlers ... the men are now 0-4 and the women 0-3. They could use some good mojo from back home.
One final bus story ... The opening ceremonies always dispatch a flood of humanity into the streets, overwhelming any attempt to move them out of the area in an orderly fashion. After the ceremonies here, probably 75,000 people were herded out in one direction, through a downpour. Tens of thousands flowed down Pacific Ave. like a well-behaved protest march (except for the bellowing of the overserved, of which there were many--this is Canada, after all). Volunteers were pointing the way to the nearest train station, which was not near at all. When I got there, the line stretched up the escalator, out the door, around the building and down three city blocks! OK, not taking the train. A taxi, maybe? Eventually, but it required walking many blocks through the party district of Yaletown trying to grab one as the previous occupants were getting out. I did finally get one, but not without learning why Vancouver is referred to as a marijuana-friendly city. I can only imagine how thick those clouds would have been without the rain.