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We Are *Here*: Google Goes Deep at Davidson

Posted: Thursday, Jun. 14, 2012

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John Syme

John Syme graduated from Davidson College with a bachelor of arts degree in French in 1985. He worked as a general-assignment reporter at The Winston-Salem Journal, where he later wrote freelance travel stories during his first solo cross-country road trip in the summer of 1989. He worked as a copywriter at a Charlotte advertising agency, as a research translator at a French nutrition center outside Paris, and as a politics and education newspaper reporter in Charlotte. He returned in 2001 to Davidson, where he is senior writer, alumni editor and instigator of the "Road Trip 2009" blog, which evolved into his current blog, "Daybook Davidson."

I guess it should come as no surprise that when you catch a special-assignment thrill providing a campus bike escort to visiting Google Maps cameramen and then rush back to your office to blog about it, somebody has already Tweeted a picture. That is the way of the world. Me, I like a little context with my hyperlinks.

This morning, I pedaled over to Baker Sports Complex parking lot right on schedule at 9:05 a.m., but my workaday fashion sense and Google day common sense were not intersecting. It was already hot and muggy and I, peabrain, was wearing jeans and a long-sleeved shirt. By 9:07 I felt sweat rolling down my back. So while the Google guys finished outfitting their car camera and trike camera, I hotfooted it into Baker and snagged some workout duds—the airy kind of shorts with tiny holes and a white T-shirt—from Head Coach for Men's and Women's Swimming and Diving John Young. He looked at my soaking button-down as he handed me the togs. "Keep ’em," he said. Thanks, John, proud to be an honorary member of the team!

Back out on the hot asphalt, the Google truck and trike were ready to roll. We were cautioned to hang back out of the shot as much as possible. We joshed about hiding behind trees. I followed the SUV. My partner in surveilling the Google Maps surveyors, director of digital communications Doug Minor, accompanied the trike. I'd seen the trike driver warming up some prodigiously athletic legs before taking off. Turns out I had missed my chicken-limbed guess that the generator and motor on the back of the bike was for pedal assist. Not! That was to run the 360-degree camera assembly, only. Trike Guy powered the whole unwieldy business, locomotively speaking. Still, I hoped for his sake he would figure out not to go Down the Hill but once, because it can be a pluperfect son of a sailor to get back Up more than once, especially dragging a rig like that, I'd imagine.

I'm purposely leaving off the Googlepersons names here, partly because Truck Guy (sounds better than SUV Guy) and Trike Guy asked us not to photograph them directly so I figure they'll be happy enough not to see their names in print, too. And partly because I don't know how to spell their names anyway. I did get to chat with Truck Guy, who, predictably enough, finished first. He and Trike Guy are a team, two young guys on a Google Maps expense account driving their green Google Maps "rolling advertisement" SUV mostly up and down the Eastern Seaboard, taking in-depth shots of, well, pretty much anything and everything. This includes, for instance, the pixels necessary for a detailed online version of the walk from Baker Sports Complex parking lot to the front door of the complex itself. There is perhaps a somewhat limited worldwide audience for that granular a level of visual Davidson data, I would imagine, but perhaps such a tool indeed would be useful for a visitor who's Not From Around Here: "You are here. Park there. Walk this way. Welcome to the Thunderdome." Cheer Wildcats.

By late morning, Doug and I were soaking sweat, turning pink, and pretending not to wobble on jelly legs from trying to keep up with Truck and Trike, both of whose legs, as noted, are built like brick tree trunks. Doug and I pedaled on over to Union for quick carbs in the form of Snickers and high-test colas. I even whipped up a Witch Doctor (sans pickle) and had a bite of banana to get some potassium back in my leg cells, or whatever it is they tell you about bananas and exercise. Google it.

On the way back out to finish tracking Trike and Truck, we passed professor of french Homer Sutton working on a computer terminal over by the big screen TV. "Don't you take more than your quota of knowledge out of that thing!" I warned him. "I'm putting in!" he replied.

Aren't we all, I thought. Aren't we all

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