Stan’s Obligatory Blog

Happy Thanksgiving

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5/31/2006

Another ride at lunchtime

Filed under: — stan @ 6:55 pm

Route map and photo location

I went for a short ride with Vikki today at lunchtime. This time we went west, just for something different. It was a warm day, but gloriously clear and generally very nice for riding.

We rode down into San Marino, taking El Molino down to Mission. Then we went right and rode across San Marino and South Pasadena. At Arroyo, we went north towards the Rose Bowl. A left on La Loma brought us across the arroyo and up a nice little hill.

At the top of the hill we went right on San Rafael and took that up to Colorado. Then we got on San Rafael going north into the hills. We rode up the hill, passing by the old Kresge Seismological Lab before cresting the hill and coming down the other side to Linda Vista, above the Rose Bowl.

We took Linda Vista up into where it turned into Highland in La Cañada. Then we went up a bit before looping back by JPL and heading back into Pasadena. The last part of the ride was straight down Wilson Ave and back to the office.

19 miles at lunchtime, 27 for the day.

5/29/2006

My greatest ride ever

Filed under: — stan @ 1:44 pm

This is an old story. I’ve told the story on countless bike rides over the years, but I’ve never written it down. So, 28 years after the fact, here it is, to the best of my recollection. And fortunately, this was not lost to the ages. My father was there with the camera, and got some pictures. So I actually have a record of this experience.

It was May 28th, 1978. I was 18 and just graduated out of Junior racing and into Category 2. There were three big races over Memorial Day Weekend, culminating in the Tour of Somerville. This particular story concerns the Sunday race, which was the Tour of Nutley in Nutley, New Jersey. I’ve always wished that my greatest bike racing memory could have been attached to a place with a less-goofy name, but such is life.

The race was 100km around a course in downtown Nutley. It was about 60 laps. There were probably 200 riders in the field, and it was nothing particularly out of the ordinary for me at the time. There were riders from all the big teams at the time, including most of the U.S. National Team and a few riders from Europe. We started out and I just rode in the pack.

Somewhere along the way a breakaway got started and they got quite far ahead of the pack. I didn’t think much about it, since I had no (well, not many) aspirations of greatness at the time. But at about 20 laps to go, I found myself at the front of the pack. We were going along at racing speed, which was probably about 25-28mph, but I was just sort of loafing. I saw a guy in a red jersey take off from the front. I was just watching him go, figuring that he wouldn’t get far by himself. But then I saw John Quinn, who was the guy who ran my racing club, standing on the side of the road. He saw me at the front and yelled, “Go after him!” So I did. I jumped up and got on his wheel. He pulled me around for two laps before he even let me take a turn pulling. I took a quick look back and I couldn’t see the pack. When I pulled through he said something to me like, “No! Bigger gear!” So I dropped into a big gear and took a pull.

We traded off pulling for a couple of laps before I looked back and saw two other guys coming up to join us. I thought this was a Good Thing, since I didn’t think I’d last in a two-man breakaway. With four, I thought we’d have a good chance of making it to the finish without being caught. When they joined us, we settled into a pace line and life was good.

I hadn’t thought much about who these guys were, but the announcer started telling the crowd about us when we passed the starting line. It turned out that the guy who started the breakaway was Tom Doughty, who was on the National Team. The two other guys who joined us were Kent Bostick and Rick Baldwin. This was where I started to get scared. I used to get pumped up for races by reading race reports from Velo News, and so I knew that Rick had finished 8th in the 1977 National Road Championship, and I remembered reading how the National Team coach was “drooling over the raw power of big-boned Kent Bostick”. Suddenly I was feeling like I was a bit out of my element. I was a just-graduated-from-juniors kid. Yikes.

After a few laps, we got within sight of the front breakaway. But we didn’t quite catch them. To my credit, I was not the first to fade. It was either Kent or Rick who first started to lose it. But we were all getting tired. All of us except for Tom, the National Team guy. He finally got tired of pulling us and just left to join the front group. By this time there were only about five laps to go. I was still holding out hope that we could make it to the finish, but it was not to be. I ended up riding by myself, trying desperately to stay away from the pack. But at one lap to go, just as I passed the finish line, the pack blew by me like a train. I could barely turn the pedals by that time. So I just wobbled over to the side of the road and fell over on the grass.

Some people from my club picked me up and carried me over to a wall and sort of propped me up there. They gave me something to drink. I was a bit delerious at that point, but I still knew that I’d done something that everyone considered to be amazing. So even though I felt half-dead, it was fun.

So this was my greatest single day of bike riding ever. It was great fun. It was my greatest triumph and greatest defeat all at the same time. And I wish I could have had more like it. I had other days of triumph, but this was the only time where I could truly say that I’d given it all.

5/28/2006

Not for the faint of heart…

Filed under: — stan @ 9:34 pm

Route map and photo locations

Today’s ride was over to Hollywood to get a peek at a real estate listing I’d seen on L.A. Curbed. Realtors are notorious for always making every house sound like the best thing ever, so I was a bit shocked when this listing said that the house is “not for the faint of heart”. That seemed remarkable enough to warrant a look.

We started out heading west on Paloma and then got on Orange Grove to get to the Colorado Bridge. Then we took Colorado across the arroyo and down the hill into Eagle Rock.

Yosemite Drive brought us across to Eagle Rock Blvd, which we rode down to Glassell Park and Ave 36. A right turn put us on Fletcher to cross the L.A. River and into Silver Lake. Then we took Rowena and St. George to the Franklin Hills and Franklin Ave.

Crossing the Shakespeare Bridge, we came in to Hollywood, and we took Franklin all the way across to Highland, where we stopped to see the house that is ‘not for the faint of heart’. There was just a small walkway between two buildings with a few mailboxes. The house itself is behind the buildings and up the hill. 65 steps up the hill, to be exact. Since the mailbox is down by the street, the mailman won’t hate you, but I’d bet the pizza guy would. The house also has no parking, which is unheard-of here in Los Angeles. And all this can be yours for only $795,000.

Continuing down Highland, we got back on Franklin, passing by the Magic Castle, as well as the motel where Janis Joplin died. Then we turned right on Outpost. I’d ridden up this hill once before, when we first moved to Hollywood in 1988. I never rode up it again. And today I remembered why. It is a hill that is also not for the faint of heart. It starts out steep and just gets steeper at the top. And the road is rough. So it’s a tough climb.

At the top, we went right on Mulholland for the cruise down into Cahuenga Pass. Then we went over the freeway and rode through a little residential area to get to Barham Blvd, which brought us down into Burbank. We passed by Warner Bros and the somewhat shabby-looking Starlet Apartments. Then we stopped for a snack at Priscilla’s. I had a bagel and a large orange juice.

After the stop, we headed east through the equestrian neighborhood, where I got a flat. I picked up a staple in my tire, and it went flat almost instantly. I gave the camera to Tommy to take the necessary picture for the Flat Tire Gallery.

Continuing on, we took Sonora, Grandview, and Graynold up to Kenneth in Glendale. Then we went right and rode across Glendale to Verdugo Blvd. That was where Doug got a flat. His tire leaked more slowly, since it was caused by just a tiny sliver of glass. But it was flat none the less, so he got another entry in the gallery.

After the second flat fix, we headed up Verdugo to Hospital Hill, and then it was the standard route home acrosss La Cañada and Pasadena. When we got back to the park, I had 43 miles, so I took a quick ride out to Arcadia and back just to get to a nice round number.

50 miles.
cycling

5/27/2006

A visit to the Petersen Museum

Filed under: — stan @ 5:25 pm

Read the sign

Today we went over to the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles. This was an amusing little bit of history, since Los Angeles is a city that grew up and was largely formed by the automobile.

The first thing we saw there was Art Arfons’s “Green Monster” out in the parking garage. Years ago I saw a documentary about him on PBS, and it was very interesting. Art is something of the hard-luck story of the land-speed record circuit. He set the record three times, only to have each record broken just a short time later.

On the second floor of the museum they had three special exhibits. One was about Hot Wheels, including full-sized Hot Wheels cars that were built for the exhibit. To an eight-year-old boy in 1968, Hot Wheels were the stuff of dreams. And it’s tremedously funny that someone took the time and effort to actually build real cars out of them. The second exhibit was “Cars and Guitars” with lots of rock stars’ cars. That was amusing. They had a couple of Elvis’s old cars, including one that he shot in frustration when it broke down.

The third exhibit was about the future and alternate power sources. That was mostly amusing because they talked about hybrid cars and had a 1917 Woods hybrid. Apparently it was an idea ahead of its time. They said that at the time it was the worst of both electric and gasoline, and it didn’t catch on. They also had a mockup of a proposed nuclear-powered car, but I think I’m glad that that never got serious consideration.

The last part of the museum we visited was the children’s area on the third floor. Cathy and Lucinda took turns climbing into the Indy car there, and they also posed in the Model T.

And of course no visit to a museum with a kid is complete without the gift shop. Lucinda got some little trinkets and Cathy got a “Built for Speed” pinup girl shirt.

5/25/2006

More on why Cathy’s the best

Filed under: — stan @ 6:58 am

This evening we all went to the park. Lucinda played on the playground there, and Cathy did some climbing too. I don’t think I’ve ever seen another mom there who climbs with her kid. A few years ago she took a pole dancing class, and every once in a while she practices her ‘acrobatics’ on the pole at the playground. I even got a quick video of her doing the pole. (3.5 MB avi)

Like I said, she’s the best.

5/24/2006

A lunchtime bike ride

Filed under: — stan @ 8:21 pm

Today I made arrangements to go for a bike ride at lunchtime with Vikki. So I rode my road bike in to work this morning, and at lunch we headed out.

On the way in I saw that they were setting up for some filming near campus, so on the way out we passed by there. There didn’t seem to be much going on at the time, but they had a lot of equipment ready to go.

We rode east out to Arcadia. Then we turned left on 1st Ave and took that up the hill into Highland Oaks. Then we went left on Virginia to get to Santa Anita, and then went up the hill some more to get to Grand View.

We rode across Sierra Madre on Grand View, and then went up the hill a bit more to go through Upper Hastings Ranch, which meant we went up the steep hill and passed by Lucinda’s school. Then we came screaming down the hill back to Sierra Madre Blvd.

From there it was a nice level ride back to campus.

When I was on my way home, they were finally filming something. They had a car on a flatbed truck with lights all around it and they were driving it down the street filming it from a camera on the edge of the truck bed. So at last they were doing something.

It was an achingly nice day, so it was perfect for riding.

16 miles at lunch, 24 for the day.

5/23/2006

A new meme?

Filed under: — stan @ 12:18 pm

hollywood sign


Mike over at Franklin Avenue noted that it’s been 10 years since he moved to Los Angeles. And at the end of his post, he writes:

My first day in Los Angeles, after finally finding my hotel, I popped on the TV and watched the news. The lead story? The suicide death of former “Family Feud” host Ray Combs.

If life were a cliche, I would have taken some big lesson out of my first moments in Los Angeles: I’m moving to a town that turns even mild-mannered game show hosts to suicide.

But life isn’t always a cliche, although my first impressions were just as valuable: I’m moving to a town that leads its local newscasts with news of a mostly unknown ex-game show host offing himself.

Reading this, I immediately thought that this might make an interesting blog meme. What was in the news when you moved to Los Angeles? Seems like everyone here is from somewhere else, so it could make for some interesting stories. Post it here or in your blog and leave a pointer to it here. I’d like to see it.

In my case, it was July, 1982. I was just out of college and the first week I was here the big news was the “Twilight Zone” helicopter crash. I’d never really thought before about where movies came from, and that there were actual people whose job was to make movies, and that sometimes things can go wrong. I found that collision of reality and illusion kind of jarring and also strangely fascinating.

So, for everyone who moved to L.A., what was in the news when you got here?

5/21/2006

Kid improv

Filed under: — stan @ 8:02 pm

Today we had a small adventure out in the Valley. Cathy had seen a listing for a comedy improv show for kids and by kids. It was at the L.A. Connection in Sherman Oaks. Back in the ’80s they used to do a monthly “improvision” show at the Nuart Theater in West L.A. where they would show an old, bad movie with the sound off, making up new dialog along the way. It was great fun, so we thought that Lucinda might like the kids’ version.

They had twelve kids in the show. They do a class in the afternoon, with the show at the end after the class. They did a number of different sketches. They were pretty good. Lucinda liked the show, and she said that she wants to try taking the class.

We also found out that they are doing a new show on the 23rd with “Cat Women on the Moon“, which was the first movie I ever saw them do, way back in 1982. We may need to go to that.

Three American icons

Filed under: — stan @ 2:31 pm

Route map and photo locations

Today’s ride was another cemetery sightseeing tour. We rode up to Mission Hills to Eden Memorial Park to see Lenny Bruce and Groucho Marx, and then to the San Fernando Mission cemetery across the street to see Ritchie Valens.

It was cool, overcast, and the forecast called for rain later in the day. We started out from Victory park, heading west on Paloma. At Hill we turned right and went up the hill. Then we went left to get on Woodbury to get out of Pasadena and pass by JPL.

In La Cañada we took Berkshire, Chevy Chase and Descanso to get up to Foothill Blvd. Then we took a left and rode Foothill all the way across La Crescenta and Tujunga, passing by Hanson Dam and into Sylmar, where we passed the “Best Live Poultry” place.

At Maclay we went left and rode through San Fernando. We went right a few blocks to get on Workman, which turned into Rinaldi and brought us to Eden Memorial Park. The guy at the front gate looked at us kind of funny and asked why we were there. We told him we were there to see Groucho Marx. He gave us a map and sent us up the hill. At the top of the hill it became clear that he had misunderstood and given us the map to the memorial service that was being held there that day. So we turned around and went back down the hill. We stopped about half-way down and found Lenny Bruce’s grave. Years ago I took a class at UCLA Extension called “How to Perform Stand-Up Comedy”, and we talked a lot about how Lenny was in many ways the father of modern stand-up. He was one of the first to break the old ‘two guys walk into a bar’ joke-telling mold. And he was rewarded with obscenity prosecutions.

Next, we went down to the big outdoor mausoleum and followed the directions that I’d brought along. We found the door to a small room, where we found Groucho Marx. Each niche has a small holder for flowers. Groucho’s had a cigar in it, which seemed entirely appropriate.

Leaving Eden Memorial, we took a quick left on Sepulveda and went into the San Fernando Mission cemetery. Just inside the front gate between curb numbers 235 and 247 we found Ritchie Valens. I’m not quite old enough to remember the Day the Music Died, but I heard about it when I was growing up.

Next, we got on San Fernando Mission Road and rode back into San Fernando, passing by the mission. (Who’d have guessed it would be there?) Then we went back through downtown San Fernando, pausing briefly at the bike shop for a picture of the “S&M Bicycles” sign in the window. Then we took a right on Glenoaks and headed for home. There was a billboard on a bus shelter there for the San Fernando Criterium, which is coming up in two weeks. Mabye we will have to ride up there again to see it. Continuing south on Glenoaks, I saw the sign for “Stan’s U.S. Guys”. I always take pictures of signs that have my name on them.

We rode through the auto-wrecking ghetto in Sunland, and passed the stinky landfill. Then we turned left on Tuxford, which brought us to La Tuna Canyon Road. Then it was time for that nice four-mile climb up the canyon. As usual, Matt was the first to the top. Jon brought up the rear, saying something about how he needed to do more riding. I was just a bit ahead of Jon. It’s a nice climb, but no matter how you slice it, it’s still uphill.

From the top, we rode down into Montrose and then up Hospital Hill. Then it was downhill the rest of the way home. We rode for a bit with a couple of triathlon people who were preparing for their first Ironman next weekend. I told them about our regular Sunday ride, so maybe they will join us in a few weeks after they’ve recovered.

It was a nice ride.

55 miles.
cycling

5/19/2006

A portrait of the artist as ‘mildly irked’

Filed under: — stan @ 12:26 pm

This is yet another story from the obituary pages of the Los Angeles Times.

Joyce Ballantyne Brand was the creator of the iconic image of the dog pulling down the little girl’s swimsuit in the Coppertone ads. While it’s not in the same world-changing category as the invention of the tortilla chip, it’s still something that became part of our cultural landscape.

There used to be a big animatronic billboard of this on the Santa Ana Freeway with the motorized dog rocking and pulling the little girl’s swimsuit up and down endlessly.

She also worked with Gil Elvgren and became an artist and model for pinup calendars:

During World War II, one of her college professors — Gil Elvgren, a well-known pinup artist — got her a job at a studio known for producing such calendars. Brand’s women “always had some clothes on or at least a towel on,” she said in 2004. Today, her pinups are collectibles.

“She was an icon for women in a man’s world, especially when it came to her pinups,” her friend Ed Franklin told the Ocala Star-Banner. “She was beautiful and used herself as a model for many of the pinups.”

Yet in all her years of producing commercial art, nothing is better-known than the Coppertone ad:

Brand never quite understood the Coppertone billboard’s appeal and was mildly irked that it was her most famous work.

“It was hardly the only art I ever produced,” she told the St. Petersburg Times in 2004. “But that’s what everybody remembers.”

For the full story:

www.latimes.com/news/obituaries/la-me-brand19may19,1,6436495.story?coll=la-news-obituaries&ctrack=1&cset=true

And the St. Petersburg Times interview with her from two years ago:

www.sptimes.com/2004/09/05/Floridian/Real_Florida__Red_fac.shtml

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