Stan’s Obligatory Blog

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4/22/2017

Revisiting a bit of history

Filed under: — stan @ 3:09 pm

Today was a special short ride to go back and see the roads that were the course for the Acton Road Race, which was one that I rode in 1978. I wrote up the story of that day some years ago, but I’d never been back there until today. I’d only had a vague idea where the race was until last year when Kathleen and I went to Animal Tracks in Agua Dulce. That was when I realized that the start and finish line for the race was on Escondido Canyon Road, just north of the overpass over the 14 freeway.

I had a look at the map and mapped out the course. There aren’t that many roads up there that go through, so there really was only one way for it to go. And as it turns out, the loop was only 22 miles, rather than the 24 they told us it was on race day. And my recollection of it was that it had some climbs, but I don’t recall any major scary downhills. But today, seeing it in person for the first time since 1978, I find it amazing that I rode those descents in a full-speed racing pack and really didn’t think anything of it. It really was fun to be young and fearless.

The part of the course I really wanted to see what the big climb on Sierra Highway. That was where I lost contact with the pack on the last lap, but managed to catch up. This was the only race where I ever lost contact but was able to catch it again. And certainly the only race where I caught the pack after being dropped and went on to place in the top ten. So it was fun to see the site again. And since Jen was along for the ride, I got to tell the story again, even if telling a 39-year-old bike racing story made me feel a bit like Grandpa Simpson. But the important thing was that I had an onion on my belt…

Since there wasn’t really any place to leave the car near the starting line of the race, we parked at Vasquez Rocks and rode from there. And after riding the loop, along with a quick trip through Agua Dulce to get some cold water and see the sights, we went back in to Vasquez Rocks. I wanted to find the place where Captain Kirk faced off against the Gorn in the “Star Trek” first-season episode, “Arena”.

27 miles.

Route map and elevation profile

4/16/2017

Another ride to Hollywood

Filed under: — stan @ 1:59 pm

Today’s bike club ride was a slight variation on our usual route to go up to the Hollywood sign. The route out was the same as always, but coming back, instead of going up and over the hill into Burbank, we went back down and in to Hollywood.

On the way in, we took one small detour to stop and see the Chandelier Tree. After that, we continued on into Hollywood, turning up Beachwood Dr toward the sign. At the left turn at Belden, we started the real climb. This is probably one of the steepest streets that we ride up on a regular basis. At the top, we turned right and made our way to the spot where the street ends just below the Hollywood sign. From there, it looks like it’s just a short distance away, but it’s actually something like 500 vertical feet above us.

After looking at the sign, we rode down to Lake Hollywood, where we rode the loop around the reservoir and over the dam. This time, we were trying out a new route down into Hollywood. And it turned out that taking Deep Dell Pl and Holly Dr was a pretty good way to go. It had a nice little tunnel to pass under the freeway, where we were able to get on Franklin Ave.

We rode a few blocks down Cahuenga to the corner of Sunset and Groundwork Coffee. This is the little coffee shop were were at the time we heard about the Metrodome roof collapsing from the weight of the snow on it.

The route home involved taking Fountain Ave east out of Hollywood, then taking the L.A. River bike path south to its end. Then up Figueroa to get to the Arroyo Seco bike path. It was a nice ride, and the traffic seemed much less than usual, which may have been due to it being Easter. In any event, it was nicely quiet out there today.

43 miles.

Route map and elevation profile

4/9/2017

The TV Hall of Fame

Filed under: — stan @ 2:28 pm

I’m subscribed to the newsletter from Roadside America, which is a compendium of odd things to see all across the country. And this week, I found out about the TV Hall of Fame. They have a giant Emmy statue, surrounded by an outdoor garden with busts of famous TV people. And it’s all behind the TV Academy building at 5220 Lankershim in North Hollywood. We’ve been out that way lots of times, and I never knew it was there.

We rode out by the familiar route across South Pasadena, and then down Figueroa to the L.A. River. Then up the bike path, past the Zoo, and then out Riverside Dr across Toluca Lake. We made a somewhat roundabout route to end up in North Hollywood, where we found the TV Academy building. And just as advertised, there was a giant Emmy statue in the middle of the courtyard. We took a few minutes to wander around and look at the statues of famous TV people. The had a full statue of Johnny Carson right out front. Merv Griffin was nearby, and I always remember when we saw his headstone at the Westwood cemetery.

Other full-sized statues included Carol Burnett, Jack Benny, Lucy and Desi, and Carroll O’Connor and Jean Stapleton as Archie and Edith Bunker. We once went to see Carol Burnett’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. I also thought it was appropriate that they had a bust of Philo Farnsworth. The TV Hall of Fame wouldn’t be complete without the inventor of television.

After that, we went around the corner to Panera in North Hollywood. We had some snacks before heading back home by way of the Chandler Bikeway across Burbank. Then up and over the Linda Vista hill to the Rose Bowl. By then, it had turned into a pretty nice day.

47 miles.

Route map and elevation profile

4/8/2017

Fight for Air – 2017

Filed under: — stan @ 8:36 pm

Today was the 2017 “Fight for Air Climb”. This is the stair climb up the Aon building in downtown Los Angeles. This was the first stair climb I ever did, back in 2009. And even though this marks the ninth time I’m doing this event, I’m not really trying to compete seriously any more. I’ve built a whole social circle in this sport, and I’ve gotten some recognition for making charts of the staircases, so I still like doing them just for the physical challenge, and to see all my friends there.

When it was time to go, I started my watch. My target pace was the same as I used in 2013, when I did a Vertical Mile in the Aon building one evening during a practice session. As it turns out, the climb from the ground up to the 4th floor is almost exactly the equivalent of four regular floors in the building, so I just aimed to check my watch at 4 1/2, 9, 13 1/2 and so on, and I managed to keep those markers right on the one-minute boundaries. The 1,393 steps to the roof works out to be the equivalent of 63.3 regular floors in that building. When I got near the top, I saw I was closing in on 14 minutes, which was pretty much right on target, since 9 times 7 is 63, and I was aiming to be doing 9 floors every two minutes. I tried to run right at the end to try and make the roof just under 14 minutes, but that didn’t quite work out. But my time of 14:02 was not bad for just taking it (relatively) easy.

My main criterion these days for measuring these things is to look at the results and see how many people my age or older went faster. If I can count them on the fingers of one hand, that’s a good day. And today, there was only one. So this was a good outing.

Results are here: https://my.racewire.com/results/33305/37785

4/2/2017

The Whittier Greenway Trail

Filed under: — stan @ 2:38 pm

We have ridden the parts of the Whittier Greenway Trail before, but today’s bike club ride was a trip to go and ride the whole length of it.

We took the direct route down to Whittier Narrows, and then the San Gabriel River bike path to get to Whittier, where we picked up the Greenway Trail. We stopped for a few minutes by Palm Park to look at the elaborate birdhouses there. The sign said they were intended to pay tribute to the architectural history of Whittier, and that the columns they were mounted on were salvaged from buildings that were damaged in the 1987 Whittier Narrows Earthquake.

Continuing on, we rode over the long railroad bridge that carries the trail over the big intersection of Whittier Blvd, Washington Blvd, and Pickering Ave. That was nice, although the other places where the trail crossed streets were not so elegant. A lot of the street crossings were kind of awkward, and really broke up the rhythm of riding on the trail.

At the end, we turned around and headed back the way we came. At Greenleaf Ave, we turned off and rode into downtown Whittier to Mimo’s Cafe for some snacks and drinks. Then we headed over to the San Gabriel River bike path for the ride home. It was a pleasant ride.

47 miles.

Route map and elevation profile

3/26/2017

San Dimas

Filed under: — stan @ 7:46 am

Today’s bike club ride was a trip to San Dimas to see the final day of the San Dimas Stage Race. I like to go see a race every once in a while. I used to be a racer, and it’s fun to go and see a race and remember what it felt like to be racing.

It was cloudy and kind of chilly when we started out. But the clouds were good in that they cut down on the ‘riding into the rising sun’ glare that we usually have to deal with when we’re riding east.

When we got there, one of the men’s masters races was going on. We got to see the last five or so laps of that. And that was followed by the one of the women’s races. Back in my day, they didn’t have different categories for the women’s races, since there were so few women racers in those days. So I guess this is progress.

After watching a bit, we rode back to the Bagelry for a bagel and then headed home.

45 miles.

Route map and elevation profile

3/19/2017

A Little Piece of History

Filed under: — stan @ 2:57 pm

Today’s bike club ride was one to visit a little bit of my personal history. Back in 1978, I was bike racing, and I was here in Los Angeles that spring. And the first big race I rode in was the Griffith Park Road Race on March 19, 1978. The race was on the order of 50 miles, since that was pretty standard for Category 1-2 races in those days. And when we went around for the first lap, I realized that the course reminded me very much of the course we used to race in the Tuesday and Thursday evening training races at Old Westbury, on Long Island. It was a short loop with a long out-and-back dog-leg with a U-turn at the end. I remember seeing signs for the Merry-Go-Round, so I knew pretty much where it was, and the dog-leg was the out-and-back on Crystal Springs Drive. So today’s ride was to go back and visit the race course again.

The race itself went by in a blur. There were about 100 riders, and we were going fast the whole time. Nobody managed to break away. I don’t remember even making it to the front of the pack. I just stayed in the middle of the pack, hanging on. In the end, it was a pack sprint for the finish, and I recall that the winner was Jerry Ash. I had just graduated out of Juniors, so I felt pretty good to be racing in Category 2, and it didn’t seem particularly hard at the time. Which seems kind of ridiculous now, since I can’t even begin to think about riding my bike as fast as I could then. And even if I could, I think I’d be terrified by the speed…

After visiting the old race course, we rode back through the park and got on the L.A. River bike path and rode down to Spoke. We had some snacks there, and then continued on down the river and then up Figueroa St. The route home was up the Arroyo Seco, and then back across South Pasadena, through Caltech, and then my regular route home from work.

44 miles.

Route map and elevation profile
Note that the map is incomplete. I forgot to turn my GPS thingy on until 4.4 miles into the ride.

3/12/2017

“Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi…”

Filed under: — stan @ 6:06 pm

Today’s bike club ride was yet another celebrity grave tour. This time, it was a visit to the Hollywood Hills Forest Lawn to see Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds. It was forecast to be a very nice day, and there was no chance of rain, so it was safe for us to venture forth far away from the nearest Metro Rail station.

We rode through South Pasadena, and then all the way down Figueroa St to the L.A. River. Then we rode over the nice new bridge that put us right onto the L.A. River bike path. We took the bike path all the way up to the exit by the zoo. Then we got off and made our way over to Forest Lawn.

We checked in at the information booth at the entrance to tell them why we were there and where we were going. I’d looked up the location on findagrave.com, but it turned out my mental picture of the orientation of the building was faulty, so I was looking in the wrong corner at first. But there were other people who knew, and we got directions to the proper spot in the building. I’d brought along a little R2-D2 figure for the photo-op.

While we were there and talking about some of the other famous people we’d been to see there, it came out that Chris had never been to Rodney King’s grave. So we took a short side trip up the hill to visit him.

Leaving Forest Lawn, we rode over to Priscilla’s for snacks. While we were there, we met Fred. Fred is a little rescue dog, and he was very cute and had a nice personality.

The route home included the usual slog up Verdugo and Hospital Hill, then the long downhill glide back from La Cañada to Pasadena. It was a nice ride.

45 miles.

Route map and elevation profile

3/9/2017

ME72 2017

Filed under: — stan @ 5:43 pm

Today was the annual ME72 Engineering Contest at Caltech. I try and go see it whenever I can. It’s generally very entertaining.

The basic premise is that teams of students have to build a machine or machines to engage in a contest. With advances in technology, the contests have become more elaborate. And in recent years, they’ve even added a requirement that the machines operate autonomously for the first 40 seconds of each contest.

This year’s contest was to build three machines to navigate an obstacle course and deliver a baseball into a hole at the far end of the course. The first machine had to drive through a field of concrete-filled pylons, and then transfer the ball to the second machine. The teams got extra points if their machine could make its way through the pylons autonomously. The second machine had to drive up and over a teeter-totter, and then up a 30-degree slope, across the flat top of the platform, and then transfer the ball to the third machine that was waiting on the other side. The third machine then had to open a small gate and carry the ball to the goal.

It turned out that this set of tasks was quite difficult, and in the first round, only the V15TA team was able to get all the way to the goal. In the end they made it to the goal in several matches, and only Team Soul was able to make it all the way even once. Based on that, we all figured it was going to be V15TA in the end, and that’s what happened. In the final match, their machines performed a flawless run from start to finish. It was pretty impressive.

3/5/2017

626 Golden Streets

Filed under: — stan @ 1:25 pm

Today’s bike club ride was to go to the 626 Golden Streets event. This was supposed to be last fall, but was canceled then due to heavy smoke from a fire in the mountains above Duarte. So today was the rescheduled date, and we were headed there.

The event was a Ciclavia-style thing, with a route of closed streets for us to ride on all the way from the Mission St Metro station in South Pasadena to the downtown Azusa Metro station. That’s something like 17 miles. So we started out by riding to South Pasadena, where we picked up the event route. It wasn’t too crowded, and we were able to maintain a pretty good pace most of the way.

We rode to the far end of the route, where we continued east into Glendora for out stop at Classic Coffee. Then we headed back the same way. The ride back was pleasant, until it started raining in Monrovia. At that point, Carla and I decided to bail out and take the train back to Pasadena. The rest of the group decided to take a chance and keep riding. But I figured that I already had 40 miles, and with the two miles to get home from the Metro station, that would make 42 for the day, which was fine, and I really don’t like riding in the rain.

40 miles.

Route map and elevation profile

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