How I Bonded with my Windows Phone - a cycling misadventure

I had an interesting bike ride on Saturday, where I unexpectedly got to do some serious bonding with my Windows Phone. And since we have a big Windows Phone event coming up next month, where I’ve been heads-down learning the developer tools, I had to share this story, especially since this is the longest blogging hiatus i’ve ever taken in 7 years.

I’m in the middle of training for my first triathlon (a half-ironman: 1.2 mile swim, 50 mile bike ride, 13 mile run) with Team in Training. Cycling is my favorite, so when I go riding, I’m gone for hours. As I pack my gear for the ride ahead, I look at my new Windows Phone sitting next to my old faithful Blackjack phone. I debate whether to take the device that’s only been used for 12 hours, or do I take my blackjack device? I decide to take my Windows Phone, thinking “what’s the worst that’s going to happen?”

A guy from Team in Training says I should check out Calaveras Road in East Bay. He says, “it’s a bit hilly” but there are very little cars and awesome views. So I think, cool, why not try it. Those who cycle in the Bay area are already laughing, knowing what’s about to happen.

Lesson Learned #1 – always check elevation gains on maps

So I head out from Calaveras Road heading towards East Bay. Incredibly steep, but I’m doing it and having fun. I get to a little park nearby and I ask a fellow cyclist for directions to Sunol Regional Wilderness (it didn’t look very far on my little cycling map I carry with me, maybe 15 miles). He says, “oh, it’s just over that road, if you can get up ‘The Wall,’ but after that it’s all downhill.’”  I had to walk my bike up “The Wall” it was that steep for about 500 yards, and I thought about turning back, but I thought it would be cool to see the Reservoir. And it’s all downhill, so no big deal. I just forget to ask what “all” means.

Lesson Learned #2 – Mountains can be steeper on one side than on another side

I reached the Reservoir and start the downhill. Everything’s great, except I’m starting to realize that I’ve travelled much farther on this side of the mountain going downhill than on the other side going up. I start to calculate how much water I have (I can only fit one bottle on my bike frame) and how many gel packs I have (I took 3 with me and have used 1 thus far). I’m thinking “my cycling map says there’s a park nearby at the bottom of the Reservoir. If I’m going to head back, I have to refill my bottle. Can’t be much farther to the bottom.”

Lesson Learned #3 – Always, always, always know what the distances are between major milestones

Now nearly 25 minutes have gone by since starting my descent, and I’m still mostly going downhill. Now I’m in a really uncomfortable situation. I can’t turn around because I don’t have enough water to make it. I’ve been riding for nearly 20 miles now, and anything beyond 30 miles I “hit the wall” meaning if I don’t have proper water and gels, I get serious muscle fatigue and risk injury or passing out from exhaustion. So I pull over and consult the cycling map. There’s still that park nearby where I can refill my bottle – priority number one. Now I’m thinking I should call a taxi or a friend to get me, so priority number two is to find a small town. I continue down the mountain.

Lesson Learned #4 – When asking other cyclists for directions while riding, their answers will not be completely accurate.

As I continue the descent, and it’s now been 45 minutes so I’m committed to the Taxi idea. I start asking cyclists who pass me where’s the park to refill my water bottle. No one says I need to turn on a particular road to reach the park. And the cycling map didn’t say anything about the park entrance.

I miss the park entrance.

Now, I’m way beyond the park , and I’m still going downhill. Turning around isn’t an option, because i won’t make it back up that elevation gain to the park.

I pull over. In the distance I can see an interstate, so I know I’m getting close to a small town. I decide I’m going to chill out here until I can flag down other cyclists.  I’m in front of a construction site, so it’s high visibility, so both cyclists and cars will see me. There were enough cyclists on the road that I knew I wouldn’t wait long. After a few minutes, a group of 3 come by. I flag them down, apologize profusely for interrupting their ride, and explain that “I’m a little lost” (it sounded better than “I climbed over that mountain and now I’m too tired to climb back over it”) and how I’m looking for a store where I can call a Taxi from. They said there’s one just 5 miles down the road. They ask if I’m okay, and I’m like “yeah, just embarrassed beyond belief.”

I’m at mile 22, so 5 miles is still in my comfort zone, and I still have a couple of gels left. I finish the bottle (no more water) and a gel.

Lesson learned #5 – Karma always wins

After 5 miles, I reach the small little market (in the city of Sunol). I pull out my Windows Phone realizing this will be the first time I’m going to make a call using it. The shop owner gives me her phone bill envelope, so I can give the Taxi the address to GPS it. Now I stare at my phone, thinking “how do I use this thing?” I press the phone icon, and at the bottom I see the “…” which usually means “more” when displayed on application buttons. Sure enough, it displays textual info to the icons, so I find the people icon that takes me to all my phone contacts from my old blackjack. I call the taxi (when you travel a lot, taxis go on your speed dial), give the dispatcher the address, and request a van since I have a bike. Oh the embarrassment.

I hang out with another cyclist (who also lived in Seattle and moved down here because of the weather) and a husband/wife who retired from teaching in Florida and now ride motorcycles in CA. I also buy some food and Gatorade since I’m so done for the day. We chat about life, the weather, and CA wines.

As we chat, I notice the phone vibrating and faintly ringing. This was an old feature I missed from the flip phone I had before my blackjack, being about to vibrate and ring at the same time. I couldn’t hear the ringer, so I was glad the default was set to both. The taxi driver is having trouble finding the place. I’m new to the area, so I realize I might have misread the street. I decide to try to look up directions on the phone while the taxi driver is on the line. As I bring the phone down from my ear, the UI turns back on. I unlock the device, press the start button, and go to Maps. I again press the “…” thingy to figure out the icons, and to my relief there’s a “me” button. I’m able to locate myself (as I silently kick myself for not doing this earlier), and I tell the driver where the major roads and crossroads are.

Something you need to know about me is that I have a natural talent for breaking software. If I’m not shown how to do something first, I can almost guarantee I’ll break the UI. That’s why I loved software testing. The bugs always found me. This is why I bonded with my Windows Phone. No only did the UI made sense, but more importantly itworked as I expected it to.** This is huge for me.

Not too long later, and after showing my new best friends of the day my cool phone, the taxi van arrives. The driver helps put my bike into the van.  A group of cyclists pass by and see what’s happening. The pack leaders point and laugh about me getting a cab. I think it was to tease someone else in the group. But I could care less. I’m getting home, safe and injury free.

As the taxi drives by them on the road, I lower my window and wave at them, grinning that I’m in the taxi and they are about to do 20 miles of nothing short of pure terror (at least from my point of view).

Reaching the interstate, the taxi cab driver says, “So, um, what happened?” I said, “I just moved here and had no idea what that road was like. There’s no way I can get back over that mountain, so I called a taxi. Never in life had I had to call a taxi before to pick me up. My friends are going to tease me beyond belief.” The taxi cab driver just starts laughing. So do i.

When we reach my house, he asks where to drop me off. I said, “Anywhere. I might as well ride the last few hundred yards home.” He cracks up laughing again. I tip him twenty for the inconvenience of trying to find the random little market on the side of the road, for helping me get the bike into the van, and for Karma for everything working out well.

He says, “This was definitely a first for me, picking up a cyclist.” And I said, “and I hope this will be my last!”

And just a reminder, if you’re in the Silicon Valley area and want to ramp up on Windows Phone development, check out our one-day Windows Phone 7 Unleashed event! We’ll have Windows Phone handsets there for you to test your apps on!