Sitting on a media bus every day going back and forth between the rink, you develop a certain connection with the people and places you pass along the way.
There's the old Asian man arranging the fruit on the stands outside the produce market. The sweaty people riding stationary bikes in the window of the fitness center one floor above a doughnut shop. The panhandler who patrols the same corner every day, rain or shine. They have all become a part of my Olympic experience.
You come to marvel at all the Canadian flags hanging from apartment balconies, inside first-floor picture windows, outside storefronts and staked up in front yards. There is a real sense of national pride among the people who live here in Vancouver, as well as those who have come from across Canada to take part in the Olympic experience. I've really been impressed by it.
You know what else impresses me about this place? We must pass at least five stores that sell supplies to make homemade wine on our way to the rink. Who knew you could grow so many grapes in western Canada.
One thing I've noticed so far at these Olympics. The buses don't seem to be the germ factories I've dealt with at other Games. Nothing says "Olympics" like sitting on a bus next to some Bulgarian hacking up a lung. Maybe that's because these 66-seat deluxe motor coaches are usually one-tenth full.
It reminds me of Nagano in 1998 when my photographer and I were exiled to Nozawa Onsen to cover the biathlon. We would be the only ones on the bus riding up and back. That is until race day when we would be joined by two Slovaks, a Russian and a Finnish journalist who thought he was on the bus for the figure skating venue. Of course they'd all be sitting in the seat next to me spreading every form of Croatian bird flu.
But I digress.
After watching the U.S. Women make chop suey out of China yesterday, I left the UBC Thunderbird Arena and the beautiful University of British Columbia campus for what was likely the last time.
The U.S. Women still have two games to play here but it's not likely that I'll be there to chronicle their double-digit victories. Due to a scheduling snafu, the U.S. Men's Team plays around the same time as the women so my focus will shift to their games, which will be played at the GM Place.
The arena is actually called the Hockey Canada Place, probably because General Motors wouldn't pony up the cash to keep the naming right for the Games.
Anyway, it will be a nice walk -- 1.5 kilometers -- from my hotel to the rink, so I'll be bidding adieu to the buses, and the 35-minute commutes, which would be considerably shorter, by the way, if our driver wouldn't yield to so many pedestrians in the crosswalks.
Still, it's sad that this chapter in my Olympic experience is coming to an end. I'm going to miss the old neighborhood.