Stan’s Obligatory Blog

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7000 feet

Filed under: — stan @ 3:51 pm

Route map and photo locations

Did I just call Crown Ave a “killer hill“? What was I thinking? Today we rode up the mountain that starts at the top of Crown Ave.

The plan was a sightseeing trip to see the remains of the old Nike Ajax antiaircraft missile site at Barley Flats. This involved climbing the mountains.

I met up with James in front of his house, and we headed up. We rode across Pasadena and La Cañada to get to Angeles Crest Highway. Right away, we passed Starlight Crest, which is the top of the big hill on the Wednesday lunchtime ride. Then we started climbing in earnest.

Angeles Crest is nice. It’s not steep, but it’s a consistent climb. Probably about 5% or so. This went on for about 9 miles until we got to the ranger station at Clear Creek. At this point, we stopped to refill water bottles, and then continued on. The road drops down a few hundred feet before starting a steeper climb up to the turnoff for Mt. Wilson at Red Box.

Then, we continued on to get to Barley Flats Road. This is a little turnoff that goes to the old missile launch site. As Gene says, “but it looked flat on the map!” This road was a steep hill, and it just went on and on. It was about half-way up this hill when I said ‘uncle’ and shifted to a lower gear. And to make matters worse, there were flies buzzing around our heads the whole way up. And because it was steep uphill, there was no way to go fast enough to outrun them. Finally, about two miles and 1000 vertical feet later, we came to the Flats and a locked gate with a big “NO TRESPASSING” sign on it. So this was the closest we got to the missile launch pads.

Next, it was time to go back down the big hill we’d just ridden up. Ordinarily, this would be the fun part, but the road was very rough, and littered with rocks and giant pine cones. So it was kind of a harrowing descent. Then, when we got to the bottom, we took Angeles Crest back to Red Box.

At Red Box, the sign said it was 5,600 feet, but I don’t believe that. If that were so, then it would only be about 400 feet of climbing to get to the top of Mt. Disappointment from there. And that road was two miles of uphill hell. First, we had to climb under a gate to get on the road. Then it was steep and littered with rocks. It was about two miles to get up the mountain, and I used my lowest gear the whole way.

Mt Disappointment was the radar and command post for the Barley Flats missile site. There are the foundations of some buildings just below the summit, and some large concrete pads at the top where the radars were. But the whole thing is used for radio relay equipment now.

There is a small flat spot just before the final pitch to the summit. When I got there, James was sitting down and resting. I said something like, “we’re almost there and we can’t have come this far and not make the summit”. And I headed up the final steep hill. About half-way up, I had to stop and lie down. I was just fried. We rested a bit before tackling the final hundred yards to the top. When we got there, I finished my water and James gave me the last of his Gatorade. It wasn’t a hot day, but I was getting dehydration cramps on the last part of the hill.

After a brief rest and sightseeing at the top of the mountain, we headed back down. Again, it was a tricky descent, with big rocks all over the road. When we got back to Red Box, I refilled my water bottle. Then we headed for home.

After the long descent down to Colby Canyon, we had to do a short climb up to Clear Creek. This was hell. My legs were cramping the whole way, so I had to go slowly. But when we got to the Clear Creek ranger station, we knew it was literally downhill all the way home.

The descent on Angeles Crest is nice. The road is pretty good, and it’s enough of a grade that it’s a pleasant downhill without being scary. It’s 9 miles down to Foothill Blvd, and we didn’t have to pedal at all for that whole distance.

The last part of the ride was back home across Pasadena. James said that his bike computer estimated that he’d burned something like 5,000 calories. When I got home, I immediately ate all the leftovers in the refrigerator.

It was a nice ride, but it turned out to be much harder than I’d expected.

66 miles and about 7,000 feet of climbing.


Twins! And a killer hill

Filed under: — stan @ 6:10 pm

Route map and photo locations

Today’s lunchtime ride was the same as last week’s. We rode up Crown Ave in La Cañada so Vikki could get some more hill practice in preparation for the Furnace Creek 508.

We started out from the office, pausing briefly for a picture, since we were twinsies in our matching Caltech jerseys. Then we headed up Wilson to Mountain and then west to Arroyo.

We took a left at Woodbury and rode out toward JPL and Foothill Blvd. Then we went left and then right to head up the hill. This time I said ‘uncle’ and shifted before we got to the steepest part of the hill. Not that that helped a whole lot. It was still a killer hill.

At the top of Crown Ave, we got a nice view of the mountains, as well as about 100 feet of flat road to rest on before it went up some more. On the second steep pitch on Starlight Crest I heard that telltale sound: “SSSSSSSSSSSSSsssssssssssssssssssss…..” I had a flat. Fortunately, there was a nice shady spot by a water tank to sit and fix the tire. And we appreciated the brief rest. Vikki took the obligatory picture for the Flat Tire Gallery.

After the flat fix, we finished climbing the hill and headed back down on Angeles Crest Highway. At the bottom, we got on Chevy Chase and then Berkshire through La Cañada to get on Linda Vista and pass the Rose Bowl. Then we took Holly and Green back across Pasadena to the office.

19 miles at lunch, 27 for the day.


Toluca Lake and some sightseeing

Filed under: — stan @ 2:15 pm

Route map and photo locations

Today’s ride was a sightseeing trip out to Toluca Lake. The stops were an elaborate homeless camp on an island in the Los Angeles River, and also F*art in Eagle Rock.

We started out doing the usual route across Pasadena, down the Colorado hill into Eagle Rock, and then across on Hill Dr. That was where my phone rang. It was Vikki. She had brought two of her Furnace Creek 508 teammates out for the ride, but due to some confusion, they had thought the ride started at 8:30. So I gave them directions so they could catch up to us, and we continued on.

In Glendale, I spotted a pair of abandonded couches, so I snapped a photo for the Abandoned Couches Blog. Then we continued on to Sonora, where we went left to get to Riverside Dr and the L.A. Equestrian Center. We rode through Burbank to Toluca Lake and our snack stop at Priscilla’s.

We had some bagels, juice, and such at Priscilla’s. When we were ready to leave, I called Vikki and found out that they were almost there. So I rode back down Riverside to find them, stopping to get a picture of the “Not a Through Alley” sign, which I thought was funny. After all, alleys are almost by definition not intended for through traffic. So I don’t know why they felt the need to actually put a sign up to that effect.

Once we were all together again, we headed back on Forest Lawn Dr into Griffith Park. Then at Riverside we got on the Los Angeles River bike path. We took the bike path all the way down to Fletcher, stopping briefly to see the very elaborate homeless camp in the riverbed. I guess it’s not a bad place to camp when it’s not the rainy season here.

Turning left on Fletcher, we headed back north to Eagle Rock Blvd, which we took all the way to the end at Colorado. Then we stopped to see the sign and window displays at F*art. Looks like an interesting place. Love the knife block. Then we went right to Yosemite for the trip across Eagle Rock. At Townsend, we took another right and rode up and over a short but steep hill. Gene said, “but it looked flat on the map!” Coming down the other side, we got on Meridian and took that to Ave 64.

A quick right on 64 and left on York brought us into South Pasadena and Monterey Rd. We took that across San Marino and then up Sierra Madre Blvd back to the park. At this point, I had 42 miles, and it was still early. So I rode with Vikki and her teammates out to Arcadia and back. On the way back through Sierra Madre, we paused to collect one more abandoned couch. Then we finished up the ride and came home.

It was a very pleasant ride.

52 miles.


That’s Italian?

Filed under: — stan @ 7:47 pm

We went to the Feast of San Gennaro in Hollywood today. This was a little street fair and carnival with an Italian theme.

When we got there, we had to go into the petting zoo so Lucinda could pet some animals. Then we had promised her she could ride one of the carnival rides. It looked like she had fun.

Next, we got lunch. I got a sausage and peppers sandwich, which was quite good. Just like the ones I used to get at Brothers Pizza in New Jersey. But the weird part was that when we sat down for lunch, they were having a Mass on the main stage. The stage with “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” on it. That was a bit strange, and the combination of the two sort of made my brain hurt a bit.

After lunch, we wandered around some more. Then we went to see the balloon animal guy. This was the first time I’d ever seen a balloon octopus. Of course, I immediately thought of P.Z. Myers and his love of cephalopods.

I’m not exactly sure what all of this had to do with Italian culture. It was a kind of strange, but still fun day.



Filed under: — stan @ 7:39 pm

I recently read The End of Faith by Sam Harris. This is his 200-mumble-page rant about religion and why it’s the root of all evil in the world.

I think he made some good points. For instance, he said that the core beliefs of a lot of the world’s major religions are actually pretty absurd. If one person believed them and was ranting about it on a street corner, we’d think he was crazy. But because millions of people believe it, we think it’s normal.

Personally, I don’t get worked up about religion. I was raised without it. Like I always say, religion and football were the same in my house. They were both thing that other people did on Sundays. When I see people going to church I tend to think, “look at the natives and their quaint rituals”.

Some choice bits from the book:

How many hours of human labor will be devoured , today, by an imaginary God? Think of it: if a computer virus shuts down a nation’s phone system for firve minutes, the loss in human productivity is measured in billions of dollars. Religious faith has crashed our lines daily, for millenia.

Surely there must come a time when we will acknowledge the obvious: theology is now little more than a branch of human ignorance. Indeed, it is ignorance with wings.

Quoting Christopher Hitchens: “what can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence”

Faith is like a rhinoceros, in fact: it won’t do much in the way of real work for you, and yet at close quarters it will make spectacular claims upon your attention.

Overall, this was a pretty entertaining book. But I don’t think that it’s ultimately going to make any difference in the world.



Filed under: — stan @ 8:14 pm

Lucinda liked riding the horses at Lake Tahoe so much that we signed her up for horseback riding lessons here. It’s kind of amazing that there are places right here in the city where you can do such things.

Today was her first lesson. Cathy had jury duty, so I had to leave work early to take Lucinda over there. The directions were rather involved, but we made it all right. The place is down in the arroyo, right below JPL and just above the freeway. But despite being just steps from the city, it felt like we were out in the country.

There were three little girls in the class. They were all about the same age. For the first class, they started out brushing the horses and getting to know them. Then the instructor showed them how to tack them up and get ready to ride. They rode with just pads, rather than full saddles. Because they had no stirrups, they had to use a large log to get on the horses.

Once they were all on the horses, they rode over to the small ring to start out. They rode a few times around the small ring before going to the big ring. There, they got to trot and canter a bit. Lucinda got to canter a little, too. The instructor said that she was a fast learner, and that most kids don’t get to do that on their first day.

Overall, she said it was great fun, and she can’t wait for next week so she can do it again.

Crown Avenue

Filed under: — stan @ 7:28 pm

Route map and photo locations

Today’s lunchtime ride was something different. Vikki wanted to do a hill, but we didn’t have time to go out to Chantry Flat, so we decided to do Crown Ave in La Cañada.

We started out from the office and went straight up Wilson to Mountain. Then we turned left and rode out to the 210 freeway. Going up Forest Ave, I saw two abandoned couches, so I collected them for the Abandoned Couch Blog.

At Woodbury, we turned left and took Oak Grove across the arroyo into La Cañada, where we turned on Foothill. Then it was time for Crown Ave. This is a very nice and very steep hill. It was so steep that I actually had to say ‘uncle’ and shift to a lower gear. Then, when we got to the top we turned left on Starlight Crest. And yes, by then I was seeing stars.

There was a little flat spot at the top before we had to climb some more. One of the houses had a little patch of grass fenced off with ‘Private Property’ signs. It wasn’t clear just exactly what was so special about that patch of grass.

Finally, we came out on Angeles Crest and headed down the mountain. The view from up there was pretty commanding. It was just another reminder of why Los Angeles is special. The city comes right up to the mountains, and it’s still amazing that we can ride our bikes right to the edge of the wilderness and be back all on our lunch hour.

The ride down was predictably fast. When we got to the bottom, we rode down past the Rose Bowl on Linda Vista. Then we took Green St. back across Pasadena to the office.

18 miles at lunch, 27 for the day.


La Tuna Canyon

Filed under: — stan @ 8:44 pm

Today’s ride was “La Tuna Canyon Inverse”, which is my favorite way to do La Tuna Canyon. It’s the way with the four-mile hill. I like long hills, when the climb lasts long enough to really savor.

We took the direct route out of Pasadena, going across the Colorado Bridge and then straight across Eagle Rock, Glendale, and Burbank to get to Sunland. There, we turned and got on La Tuna Canyon Road. Almost immediately, a big group of riders blasted by us. It was the regular Hollywood ride that starts from Griffith Park and goes up La Tuna Canyon. After they left us, a second group caught up. This time, we tried to stay with them. I managed to sort of keep up, but they were going pretty fast.

At the top, we all regrouped and headed down the other side into La Crescenta. We rode with the big group until we got to Montrose, where we stopped at the Oven Fresh Bakery. I got an apple-spice muffin and a chocolate eclair. I wanted to see how their eclair compared to the ones at Paradise Bakery.

While we were sitting there, I noticed a magazine there with a teaser on the cover: “Avoid Getting Old”. I’ve been given that advice many times, but nobody has ever told me just how to do it.

When it was time to actually eat the eclair, I had to pause to savor the aroma, like a fine Cuban cigar. Then I ate it. It was good. The white stripes on top were mint, which was a nice little addition. The chocolate frosting was a bit darker and stronger flavor than the ones at Paradise, and it was very good.

From there, we headed up Hospital Hill and then back into Pasadena. When we got back to the park, it was very early. So Gene suggested we ride down to the new Performance Bicycle store. So we headed over there. We stopped off at my office to visit the water cooler, and then rode to the store. Gene bought a new chain. Then we rode home across Pasadena. At Lake Ave, there was a guy twirling a big arrow advertising a new condominium complex. He was pretty acrobatic, so I got out my camera and caught him in mid-air.

It was a very nice ride, and a nearly perfect day.

50 miles.

Inkslingers’ Ball

Filed under: — stan @ 2:40 pm

This weekend is the 15th Annual Inkslingers’ Ball. We go to this every year, and it’s always a fun time. Sadly, this might be the last time that they have it at the Hollywood Palladium. I’d read recently that the building was sold, and the way things go here in Los Angeles, it might not even exist any more by next year.

I went over in the afternoon on Saturday, arriving about 3:00. It was kind of quiet compared to previous years, but there was still a pretty good crowd.

I found Big Rick there, doing photos in the corner. We talked for a bit, then I continued wandering around. I had brought along a big stack of photos that I’d taken at past shows, and whenever I see someone I’ve photographed, I give them a copy. I gave away a fair number of photos. And, of course, I took a bunch more.

At one point, I was approached by a very cute girl wearing nearly nothing. She was selling raffle tickets. What was I to do? I’m not made of stone. Needless to say, I didn’t win. But she was very cute anyway.

One person I saw was a girl we’ve seen at a number of recent shows. Being bad with names, I can’t remember hers. But she’s the one who’s always wearing wild outfits. But this time she wasn’t working. She was dressed normally. And she wasn’t wearing huge platform shoes, so it turns out she’s really not tall. That was kind of strange. I didn’t recognize her at first, what with being eight inches shorter and all.

Dinner break was down the street at Fabiolus Cafe, which is something of a tradition by now. Then it was back into the Palladium for more fun and frolic. It was about this time that Cathy came over. We saw Shannon and her posse there. Shannon told us about her experience on CSI. Apparently, the season opener episode story line involves a tattoo shop, so they hired her to play the tattoo artist. She said that the show will be airing next week.

We saw Anna from Anagram Fine Art. She always has a booth there, and Cathy likes talking to her. They get to trade mom-stories and compare notes, since they’re both moms who sometimes feel like they don’t quite fit in with the regular PTA crowd.

While they were talking, I noticed that Kylie Ireland was there. We had met her briefly on Thursday night at the “O” party, so I went over to say hi. I got a picture of her and her tattoos. She said that she’d have more tattoos, but that porn producers don’t like them.

Overall, it was a very fun evening.


O What a Night!

Filed under: — stan @ 6:00 pm

We have a friend who is a pornographer. He’s also one of the smartest and funniest people we know. And he’s married to Nina Hartley, who most people know from the AVN Hall of Fame. She’s also quite charming. Thursday night they invited us to a party for his new movie, “O – The Power of Submission“, which is his hard-core ‘re-imagining’ of the erotic classic, The Story of O. Needless to say, we thought this sounded like great fun. Followed immediately by the question, “what are we going to wear?”

The party was at Boardner’s in Hollywood. We paid to park close by, since we didn’t want to have to walk far to get there, what with Cathy in six-inch stripper shoes. When we got there, we went in the door and saw a roomful of normal-looking people. That was odd. But then the bartender told us that the party was around the back, and to go down the alley next to the building. When we went there, we saw girls in latex spanking dresses and we knew we were in the right place.

The party was in the back room and patio area. This was a bit of a problem, since the floor there was very rough. This is bad for women in tall stiletto heels. And there were lots of women in tall heels there. There was also a door connecting the patio to the front room, where all the normal people were. When people from the front came down there, they looked through the door, and their eyes got big. It was pretty funny.

We expected to see a lot of people we know there, but as it turned out, there weren’t all that many. But that was all right. We met several of the cast members of the movie. Carmen Luvana was nice. She seemed very together, and everyone said that she was the consummate professional, always on time and pleasant to work with. But our favorite was Adrianna Nicole. She was smart and funny and we liked her a lot.

Overall, it was a very fun evening, and certainly something a bit outside our normal routine.

Of course, we have no pictures. There were a few officially designated photographers there, but otherwise it was one of those ‘cameras not allowed’ kind of events.

Have I mentioned lately that I love Los Angeles?

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