Last Wednesday (25 June) for the 11th year in a row (yes, that’s right—it’s been 11 years!) I had the pleasure of participating in the Denver Area Bike to Work Day sponsored by the Denver Regional Council of Governments. In order to keep it interesting—after all, there’s nothing worse than a boring 37-mile bike ride to get to work—I’ve tried to look for new and different ways to spruce up the event for me every year, like searching out the free LaMar’s donuts, or capturing the event as a photo essay from ground level.
Since last year’s Bike to Work Day, I have become a full-time work-from-home, or “Sun Open Work,” employee. [An aside: Sun calls its flexible work program, “Open Work.” It is one of the better programs of its kind in the industry and makes it much easier for me to work with my globally-dispersed team. Basically, as long as I have network access and a phone, I can work anytime, anywhere.] Given my change of status—now as a WFHer—which means I did not have to go all the way to Sun’s Broomfield, CO campus on Bike to Work Day, I, instead, decided upon more of an Open Work alternative. Rather than biking to my basement office (Rich Brown beat me to that idea. See the photo in his “Life as a Telecommuter, Part 1” blog entry), I decided upon a slightly more ambitious adventure. Since all I needed was a network link and since this was to be my 11th Bike to Work Day, the combination naturally leads to: “Bike to Work Day from 11 Different Wi-Fi Hotspots.” Crazy? Well…
To prepare, I found the locations of various restaurants, coffee shops, and bookstores in the area that I knew had free Wi-Fi. The Panera Bread chain was first on my list because they are seemingly everywhere and they have a good, reliable Wi-Fi setup. Similar to Panera, next on my list was the Paradise Bakery and Cafe chain. Not as ubiquitous as Panera, still they have several locations here in the Denver area and they, too, have free Wi-Fi. For coffee shops, I went with Peaberry Coffee—a local chain with several stores in the south Denver area where I WFH. Finally, there was the Tattered Cover—Denver’s premier independent book-seller.
After superimposing the locations of the Paneras, Paradises, Peaberrys, and Tattered Covers on a Denver Area Bicycle Route map, I created a more-or-less circular route. I decided to ride east from my home office through the communities south of Denver, turn north through the Denver Technology Center (the area to the southeast of Denver), work my way into the city limits of Denver along the Cherry Creek bikeway, then finally head back home down the South Platte River bike trail.
I mapped out a route that looked like this:
The blue pushpins mark the Wi-Fi hotspots I hoped to visit. The blue line signifies my route. I started at the Panera at Aspen Grove in Littleton (the blue pushpin on the southwest side of the map), then traversed the marked locations cyclonically (or counter-clockwise here in the Northern Hemisphere) due east through Highlands Ranch (along the bottom of the map) then up to Tattered Cover’s main store on Colfax Avenue in Denver (at the top of the map) before returning down the South Platte River (the western side of the map) and back home.
And just what did these hotspots look like? Well, I took a digital picture of each as I went along. The façades follow:
In the end, I managed to travel a total of 57.5 miles, a bit less than what a round-trip ride to Broomfield would have been for me. The total ride time was about 4 hours. However, with the various con-calls I attended at some stops, and email storms I responded to at other stops, my “Bike to Work Day from 11 Different Wi-Fi Hotspots” took about 12 hours to accomplish. In addition, I learned a few things about the Wi-Fi services these establishments provide:
- The Panera Bread Wi-Fi network was robust and reliable. It worked well with a laptop running OpenSolaris (by far the slickest operating system on the planet), the current Vista incarnation of Microsoft Windows, and with iOS on an iPod Touch.
- The Cherry Creek North merchants have set up and support a Wi-Fi network throughout the Cherry Creek North shopping district. Like Panera’s network it seemed reliable and robust and I could connect to it with the devices and OSes I had. Kudos to Cherry Creek North.
- Peaberry Coffee’s Wi-Fi network did not work with my iPod Touch (the authentication software tried to pop up two windows from the browser, but the second pop-up always failed). It did, however, work just fine from a laptop. On the other hand, Peaberry’s had the best coffee on my trip and they had pretty decent burritos as well.
- I didn’t actually use the Paradise Cafe network because I could link up nicely with the Cherry Creek North Wi-Fi when I was at the only Paradise Cafe I visited.
- Tattered Cover’s Wi-Fi network is a bit flaky. It seemed slower than the others I used on the trip and it dropped my connection more than once. It connected with both the iPod Touch and my laptop.
Last, but never least, this year’s artwork on the t-shirt was colorful, modern, and, depending on your preference, either cutely stylish or stylishly cute. I have added it to my ever-growing collection of B2WD T-Shirts.
Eleven years, eleven mostly successful Bike to Work days. I’m thinking next year I’ll try really something different… 🙂