Escalating play

Bored of day trips? Make a game of riding a motorbike
Published April 3, 2010

Two years ago, M1 endorsement freshly printed on my license, a simple ten-mile morning commute gave me the thrill of a lifetime. Within months, I was making occasional trips into the mountains for the same sense of adventure. When runs to Alice’s grew routine, I joined various group rides to broaden my horizons. And last summer, my drive to find joy on two wheels escalated to a 2,000-plus mile, week-long journey through the Pacific Northwest.

Another interstate conquest will have to wait until later this year, but in the meantime I’ve got to maintain my love affair with motorcycles–not that it’s difficult. In recent weeks, I’ve found fascination in a game of Bay Area photo tagging. The premise: One guy takes a photo of his bike in front of a notable landmark or otherwise memorable spot and challenges other motorcyclists to match the photograph with their own bikes. The “winner,” as it were, then gets to pick the next photo tag location, urging the game’s players to scan their brains for memories or use Google Maps to piece together clues that lead to newly-discovered locales, some more inspiring than others.

I watched carefully as the game unfolded for the first couple of weeks, unable to identify any of the target locations. Clearly, I’ve a lot more adventuring to do. But eventually, one player got lazy and set the next location at a yogurt shop, with enough information in his photograph for me to Google its whereabouts. I figured it out around midnight, and as the target was a mere two miles from my apartment I geared up and rode the DR out to snap the winning picture.

I wasn’t about to set up another easy shot for the game. The next morning, I took a friend out to Mines Road in Livermore, and while we enjoyed pulled-pork sandwiches at The Junction I spotted the next photo tag: a welcoming metal sculpture-thing inconspicuously laid up against the outside wall of the restaurant. I lined up the photograph, snapped it, and later uploaded the shot to puzzle other riders.

It didn’t take long for other players to identify the location, and one dedicated rider traversed Mount Hamilton at night–by no means a casual endeavor–to match the photo.

Curled up the narrow mountain road that leads to the breath-taking view of the North Bay

A later challenge photograph pictured a bike somewhere high, overlooking the bay and San Francisco’s downtown buildings. I didn’t recognize the location, but started scouring Google Maps to figure it out anyway. With a view of the northern face of the city, the western side of the Bay Bridge and some lower hills, the photograph must have been taken from northwest of San Francisco, across the Golden Gate, somewhere in Marin. I checked the roads of Sausalito, guessing maybe the photo tag was on a hill overlooking Angel Island for the view of the city. Nothing Google gave me matched. I looked further northwest, using Google’s topographic maps to find the highest location in the area, and by chance spotted a viewing point at the top of Mount Tamalpais. Gotta be it.

With a four-day business trip to New York in my near future, I had to match the Mount Tam photo quick. No time for the weekend, an after-work evening would have to do. And so as fast as I could after leaving the office, I grabbed my camera and headed north across the bridge, snaked onto the better-than-remembered Panoramic Highway, and curled up the narrow mountain road that leads to the breath-taking view of the North Bay.

I got the shot, just minutes before the sun set (I took a second photo another mile up the mountain with much less light just moments later), which meant I enjoyed the descent back into San Francisco in darkness. I had to take the next photo tag picture on the way home, since I was flying out in the morning, and so got a bit lazy myself. But with a lack of light, a dying camera battery and no tripod, the lazy shot ended up an interesting challenge. Not that it took the tenacious Bay Area photo tag players long to figure it out.