I Spy… the Street View Guy

Thank you for indulging me while I turned 12MC into a travelogue for a couple of weeks and then took a brief hiatus after I returned. Your patience will be rewarded. I’m rejuvenated now, and it’s time for more geo-oddity goodness.

I like looking behind the scenes, poking behind public façades. That’s why I was trilled to go backstage at Disney World last year, as an example. I used the analogy of a train ride. One sees the backdoor; the laundry hanging on the line, a junked car rusting in the corner, unkempt lawns and unruly children, home improvement projects gone wild and such. Contrast that with an automotive journey were one observes the front door, seeing things as they are meant to be seen. I prefer the former.

Google Street View isn’t immune from this phenomenon. Every once in awhile their equipment and cameras come into view by mistake. It’s hidden from sight ordinarily. It’s not supposed to be there, but is betrayed in subtle ways by situations beyond even the mighty Google’s control. Attuned to such things, I notice when they happen and sometimes I’m smart enough to actually record the position.

Street View Dalton Highway

I’m not talking about obvious situations. One gets a clear and unadulterated glimpse of the Street View car in extremely remote locations such as Alaska’s Dalton Highway, featured in Street View Beats a Deadhorse. Google used two automobiles on purpose. I don’t know the reason with certainty so I’ll take an educated guess that it’s for one (or both) of two reasons: (1) It would be a long drive back to Anchorage to replace a camera if it broke; or (2) there is safety in numbers should an automobile die in the middle of nowhere on these punishing roads. This remains one of my favorite images even if it’s not exactly what compelled me to write today.

I’m more fascinated by accidental revelations of the Street View guy when he (or she — I’m using "guy" generically) drives past a nearby window. Google snaps a photo including the resulting reflection. Shadows also fit into this broad category although they are all-too-common on Street View. I get more excited by excellent examples of reflections.

I’m providing all images as screen grabs because Google will send their cameras through each of these places again someday and will overwrite them. Feel free to click the map links I’ve included to see the originals while they last. They’ll probably be different five years from now if you’re reading this in the future (is it 2017 already? is 12MC’s secret admirer President? did we survive the Mayan end of the world in 2012?)

Street View Manhattan

I spotted the Street View car reflected in all of its urban glory upon the walls of an office building in Manhattan (map). That’s quite a contrast to the boring paint job Google reserved for their automobiles in rural Alaska. One can see the Google Maps design superimposed clearly, with roads drawn upon it and even the little push-pin character.

I swear I have an even better example somewhere, which of course I forgot to mark. I’ll post it in a comment if I remember it.

Street View Rosslyn

Any pane of glass will do. It doesn’t have to be attached to a building. It can even be mobile. I caught a close-up of the camera apparatus reflected in a bus window just outside of Washington, DC (map).

Street View Mt Bachelor

Street View has expanded its repertoire beyond the road network. That’s no big secret. I think most of us are aware of that revaluation already. I seem to recall hearing about their expansion to ski resorts in the hazy past and never gave it much additional thought or attention.

Visual evidence returned to my mind during a visit to the Pine Marten Lodge at Mount Bachelor during my recent trip to Oregon (map). In fact, that’s how I got the idea for this article. I noticed the street view guy pictured above. It looks like a driver sitting on a snowmobile. I can see what appears to be a windshield and the upper arc of a steering wheel on the left side of the image. He dons a protective helmet and a heavy jacket. The WALL·E looking thing behind him is his camera equipment diligently recording the slopes.

Street View Cornell University

I’ve also spotted the reflection of the Google Tricycle. That’s what Google uses when it goes off-road to capture parks, campuses, and pedestrian thoroughfares.

I’d been observing the gorge and waterfall that runs through the campus of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. The tricycle, or more accurately a portion of the tricycle, revealed itself in one of the campus windows. I like that it’s so clear I can even see the window shade slats (map) along with tricycle details.

Once I spotted the Street View Car in real-life near the San Diego airport. I’d just landed, rented a car, and was preparing to drive to our office. I couldn’t catch-up to it though. The Street View car appeared in the distance and I tried to get into position while it sat at a red light. Unfortunately the light turned green, the car escaped, and the light turned red again while me trapping behind it. So much for my brush with Street View fame. The car might have been one of the Street View imitators. I don’t know. That’s how I’ll rationalize it.

Readers, of course, are encouraged to post excellent examples in the comments. It shouldn’t be too difficult to find better instances than mine.

Completely Unrelated

I love a good border war, especially when it involves a town featured on 12MC previously for a totally different reason: Gaithersburg, Rockville in Fight Over Borders.

Even More Completely Unrelated

This is article #750 on the Twelve Mile Circle. I guess that’s a milestone or something.

9 Replies to “I Spy… the Street View Guy”

    1. It’s a double reflection! Zoom in and look closely at the glass counter-top in the foreground of the mirror image (to the right of the little white bust) and you can see his torso and arm reflected a second time.

  1. If you go farther south on the Dalton Highway, to just north of the Yukon River, you’ll get a very good view of the “spare” Google Maps car. In that view the spare car clearly has the full Google Street View regalia painted on it. I’m not sure if this was a separate trip with a different car, if they sent one fully-painted car and one plain car, or if the “plain” car is actually fully-painted but you can’t tell when looking head on.


  2. Not totally related, but I found it funny. A job site I was working on a few years ago got me on Google Street View. The funny thing is they apparently really liked the picture of us, since if you go up or down the road from this spot it turns into a completely different day, cloudy and dreary, while we’re in the sun. They seemed to have changed it a bit, before you go down one more and my coworker was sitting in his truck, and you could see the street view vehicle reflected in his sunglasses. They apparently took that one down. I’m the guy by the stream with my back to the camera by the way. Never even saw them go by.


  3. Found a very good reflection of the colorful Google Stret View car while looking for a restaurant in Kansas City. Look for Remedy restaurant in Kansas City MO and then look across the street in streetview at the mirrored windows. PS th restaurant is newer than the street view photos.

  4. First- Love geo oddities and therefore 12MC. While “traveling” w/ the orange guy on various roads have seen a second Google car following the first car numerous times. My favorite is the look on the Canada inspector’s face when the Google UFO drives into and away from his station at Torquay SK http://goo.gl/maps/lHGOE. Personally saw the car (only one) the other day while doing errands near home. Weird looking and bright lime green. Dave in 80918

  5. Not many people can say that they are on the google streetview, but I can. If you click on the link, you can see a green car, and driving is me! I saw the google car, and for the heck of it I checked it out a few months later and saw it. This was in April of 2011. I still have that same car too, a 1997 Grand Am. Still runs good for a 15 year old car. 🙂


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