Monday, August 8, 2011

Bus Stop Hop 2011: Bring your best wheels. Wear comfortable shoes.

Yesterday was the 10th annual Bus Stop Hop. For those who don't know what it is, it is an event hosted by the British Columbia Paraplegic Association in partnership with TransLink. In short, it is similar to "The Amazing Race" where you try to hit certain locations and find certain objects/facts faster the teams competing against you.

The twist to this? You must use public transit to reach those places. This includes the bus, SkyTrain, SeaBus and Aquabus. There were fifteen teams and each team consisted of two able-bodied participants and two participants with mobility impairments. My team had one absentee, so we had someone from TransLink (who was originally there to shadow us and take photos) become our unofficial fourth member. The two rolling people on my team consisted of one manual wheelchair user (yours truly) and one power wheelchair user.

It was my first time at the event and it was cool to meet so many new people, and to come across those I've met before -- definitely one of the better networking events I've come across. This year's event was apparently the largest one ever in its ten years of existence.

The day started and ended at Performance Works on Granville Island, and the locations that were required were Vancouver International Airport, the bus cloverleaf on Granville Street at West 5th Avenue, Lonsdale Quay and Science World. At each location, you must obtain a fact and write it down, get a signature from a staff member there, or complete a task.

In addition, there was a trivia sheet that each group completes for points, as well as extra tasks for bonus points. This means that even if a team came in first in terms of time, they can still slip to second or third place because of points.

Each team had their own strategy. It seemed like the majority of them decided to start inward and move outward -- in other words, start at Granville Island and move farther and farther before reaching Vancouver International Airport (the furthest destination). After all, Granville Island had the most tasks and bonus points in the race so many seemed to decide to get them out of the way first.

...which probably meant chaos at the same locations. So our team decided to do almost the opposite -- start farthest away and move inwards to the final destination.

Our idea:
  • Go to the 5th Avenue bus loop: [first location]
  • From there, catch the 50 False Creek South bus to the Canada Line.
  • Take the Canada Line to Vancouver International Airport: [second location]
  • Take the Canada Line to Waterfront Station.
  • Take the SeaBus to Lonsdale Quay: [third location]
  • Take the SeaBus back to Waterfront Station.
  • Take the SkyTrain to Science World: [fourth location]
  • Take the Aquabus from Science World to Granville Island: [fifth location] *
  • Complete all the Granville Island bonus tasks.
* Remember this step. You'll see why later.

In short, our routing was planned to look like this:

View Bus Stop Hop route 1 in a larger map

We had it all planned out. So while everyone else tackled locations closer to home, we set out for the 5th Avenue bus stop.

And then my wheelchair decided to malfunction.

What happened was that my footplate's bolts were loosening up and the footplate slid to the point where it was scraping the ground. It was kind of dire for a few moments as we went up the hill adjacent and below the Granville Street Bridge. Somehow, we made it and as the task at the stop was bring handed off to my partner, I took the time to make a pit stop repair; thankfully my partner had a tool kit handy (lesson learned; I'm going to the hardware store tomorrow).

EDIT: Access Eco BC blog has a photo of the wheelchair malfunction. My "greatest" moment captured on camera!

We were the first team to that location and we had luck on our side at the start. We did not have to wait for more than a few minutes for any of the buses or SeaBuses until our return from Lonsdale Quay.

At the airport, we finally ran into some of the other teams. But we were confident; we were certain that nobody else had the 5th Avenue bus loop yet, so we were probably one stop "ahead" of the others. We completely blazed through all of the locations until after Lonsdale Quay, when we narrowly missed a SeaBus by a couple of minutes, resulting in a 15-minute wait for the next trip. Our momentum hit a snag.

Our next stop was Science World, which was conveniently under renovation. There was a bit of confusion as the lady at the information desk was not told about the Bus Stop Hop; this lapse allowed some of the other teams to catch up in the meantime.

After that, we thought we were home free -- one more Aquabus ride back to Granville Island to complete the final tasks, and that was it!

Or so we thought.

Because, you see, this is 2011. This is the digital age. That means unless something has "LOL" or "OMG" in it, we are not likely to read it.

We completely missed the tidbit in the instructions saying that the Aquabus was only running accessible services between Granville Island and... David Lam Park. From Science World, taking transit to David Lam Park was difficult if not nearly impossible on a Sunday schedule with two wheelchair users at the same time.

So we decided to hike it.

My partner kicked his power chair into high gear and I went into my wheelchair racing mindset. Our TransLink staff member had to leave after Science World, so our lone able-bodied team member had to jog it -- in her sandals/flip-flops.

It was no short trip by any means and she had to actually run to keep up with the team's high-speed power wheelchair user and rabid (though occasional) wheelchair racer. I have no idea how she did it, but she survived all the way to David Lam Park. (I had to hold on to my power wheelchair partner for a lift for about 10% of the way, so it was quite insane.)

So eventually THIS became our route (pay attention to the False Creek area):

View Bus Stop Hop route 2 in a larger map

After accomplishing the tasks there, we arrived back at base camp on Granville Island, answered the trivia questions and sent our stuff in. Third place! (We later slipped out of that position due to points, but anyways... THIRD PLACE!!! -- in our deluded little minds where leprechauns rule the Earth.)

All in all, it was pretty fun. Just waiting for the aches to kick in from yesterday's wheeling sprint from Science World to Yaletown. It hasn't happened yet but it probably will in a bit, which should be awesome.

Random post-blog thought:

(Next year, maybe have a friend stand by at Science World with a racing wheelchair. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice...)


  1. you could have taken the 84 UBC from science world. But it has 30 minute frequencies on sundays, and the wheel chair might have been occupied.

  2. Definitely, but the Aquabus counted for extra points in the race.

    Looking back, perhaps taking the SkyTrain from Main St to Granville, then Canada Line from Van City Ctr to Yaletown to connect to the Aquabus would've been a smarter move.

  3. You must really be an expert with google maps, with all those lines and icons.

  4. Not really. I just find most computer programs (including online tools like Google Maps) really easy to pick up and learn.