Stan’s Obligatory Blog

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Quantum Hoops

Filed under: — stan @ 10:01 pm

Today I went to a screening of “Quantum Hoops” here on campus at Caltech. This was easily the most entertaining sports documentary I’ve ever seen. It tells the history of the athletics at Caltech, and the Caltech basketball team’s effort to break a 20-year losing streak. And, above all, it’s great fun.

The film describes Caltech as exhibiting the ‘purest form of amateur athletics’. The players are recruited out of the regular student body. There are no athletic scholarships, and no special preference for admission. One funny part of the movie talked about the basketball coach’s experience trying to recruit players. He visits basketball players who are also smart. He encourages them to apply to Caltech. And then they don’t get in.

And like all sports documentaries, there’s a climactic ‘big game’ that will have you on the edge of your seat.

The director was there, and he said that the movie should be released later this year. Go see it. It’s good.


L.A. Noir Bike Ride

Filed under: — stan @ 10:12 pm

Route map

“Ladies and gentlemen: the story you are about to read is true. Only the names haven’t been changed to protect the innocent.”

Today’s ride was through Griffith Park to Chinatown. It was a gray, damp, and drizzly day. It looked a lot like classic L.A. film noir.

Saturday, April 7. I rode to the Pasadena Elks Lodge. I was supposed to meet the others there for the trip to Chinatown. I figured there had to be dame involved. Probably one wearing spandex and carbon-fiber shoes.

We headed out across Eagle Rock and into Glendale. Then we went down Sonora to Griffith Park. There, we took a right and passed Travel Town before heading up the hill.

Coming out of Griffith Park, we took Riverside Drive down to Stadium Way. As Frank said, “you can’t miss it.” And it was obvious. So we took a right and headed up into Elysian Park.

At the gate to Dodger Stadium, we took a left and rode past the Police Academy. Then down the hill into Chinatown.

Turning the corner, I got my first look at the City. Los Angeles, California. Millions of ordinary law-abiding people live here. Sometimes, the bike ride route goes through here. That’s where I come in.

The plan was to stop at Philippe’s, but there was a long line there, so we decided to go up the street to the Wonder Bakery in Chinatown.

I talked to the lady at the bakery. She didn’t know nothin’ about our case, but she sold me a very nice barbecued pork bun.

After the stop at the bakery, we passed some sort of police activity on Ord St. There were more police cars there than I’d ever seen in one place before, and even a helicopter overhead.

That kinda thing happens all the time in L.A. And it’s probably not a good idea to be riding past it on a bike. But at least we were wearing helmets.

Leaving Chinatown, we headed out of downtown. In Lincoln Heights, I spotted three abandoned couches for the Abandoned Couches Blog. Count ‘em: 1 2 3

Next, we went up Collis to the South Pasadena border. There, we turned and headed up a steep hill.

The road suddenly pitched up hard. Then, behind me, I head a telltale click. Gene had shifted to his low gear. I knew I was in trouble. But when it comes to riding up hills, I don’t even know the word “shift”.

Coming down off the hill, we headed up Grand Ave, back into Pasadena, and back to the Elks Lodge, where it had all started. It was a pretty fun ride, even if it was kind of cold and wet.

44 miles.


It was 30 years ago…

Filed under: — stan @ 7:08 pm

This week marks 30 years since the beginning of the 1977 bike racing season. This was my last year racing as a Junior, and I’d set a goal for the year of making Category 2. In those days, if you raced in Juniors, when you turned 18 you went into Category 3. But if you could place in enough Junior races, you could graduate directly into Category 2. Since Categories 1 and 2 generally race together, it meant that if you were a 2, you got to race with the Big Dogs. So I decided that that was what I wanted to do.

I’ve written before about my greatest ride ever, when I got in the breakaway in a big race in 1978. This is the beginning of how I got to race in Category 2.

The first race of the season was the Challenge Cup Road Race at Rockland Lake State Park in New York. It was a four-mile loop with some moderate rolling hills. I figured that I had a pretty good chance of getting into a breakaway there. Since I wasn’t a very good sprinter, I thought that this was my best chance to place in the top 10.

The race was six laps, for 24 miles. Right from the start, I stayed near the front and tried to start a breakaway. Sadly, the other guys who tried it with me weren’t strong enough, and we always got caught by the pack. But I kept at it.

Finally, on the last lap, I was hanging around at the front when I saw one kid take off like a bullet. His name was Frank Kaler, and I found out later that he was known for riding time trials and pursuit, and he was very good at going very fast for 2-3 miles at a time. He was hoping to solo to the finish. I immediately got on his wheel. The way he was going, I thought that we had a pretty good chance of making it to the finish.

We went about a mile before I took a look back. We had a good lead on the pack. I said something like, “Hey, I can pull. Let’s work together and make it to the finish.” He just looked back at me with a wild look in his eye, put his head down and went faster. So I just stayed on his wheel.

About 300 yards from the finish, he started to slow down. I put my head down and poured it on. I went around him and drove straight for the finish. I was sure he was going to tail me and come around at the last second. I just couldn’t even begin to believe that I could actually win the race. Even as I went across the finish line I was still expecting Frank or someone else to catch me and come around. In the picture, it’s apparent that I was in no danger of getting caught, but at the time I was afraid to look back and jinx it.

After I crossed the line, I sat up and looked around, dumbfounded. I’d won the race. Nobody there was more shocked by this than I was. It was a complete surprise, but it was also great fun. I always thought that soloing across the finish line was the absolute best way to win a bike race, and now I’d actually done it. It was the best feeling.

In my racing years, I only won three races. This was the first one, and in many ways, it was the best.


Lida at lunchtime

Filed under: — stan @ 7:24 pm

Route map

Today was my first lunchtime bike ride of the new year. I went with Vikki and Eric from the Seismo Lab, and we did the Lida Loop.

We rode through Old Town and down past the Rose Bowl. Then, up Lida into Glendale and down Chevy Chase into La Cañada. Then back into Pasadena, passing by JPL and back across on Mendocino St. Finally, we had the nice two-mile downhill back to the office.

It was a perfect day for riding.

18 miles at lunch, 26 for the day.


A rock star scientist

Filed under: — stan @ 8:28 pm

This is an odd sight on the Caltech campus. It’s 8:00 in the morning, and all these people are lined up to get tickets to hear Stephen Hawking speak tonight. Among scientists, he’s apparently something of a rock star.


Sunday Ride

Filed under: — stan @ 10:20 pm

Route map and photo locations

Today’s ride was a route that Gene made up that went all around, but never got very far from home. We’ve done this ride before.

We started out going east a bit, and then south into San Gabriel. Then we went west and back across San Marino and back into Pasadena. Then we rode past the Rose Bowl and up to Inverness to go up the hill. And that was a very nice hill. We even got to see the new road where they had to rebuild it after it washed out two winters ago.

At the top, we headed down the other side into La Cañada. That was where Jon caught up to us. He had been a few minutes late to the park in the morning, and he’d missed the start. So he rode for something like 20 miles before he caught us. Then we went up past Descanso Gardens and down Hospital Hill.

We stopped at the little bakery on Ocean View. I’ve mentioned before that their eclairs are quite good. Several of us ordered them, and they quickly ran out. But the one I got was good.

Leaving the bakery, we headed up the hill towards the mountains, and then back down through La Cañada to get back to Pasadena. Along the way, Gene remembered that Michael owed him a few bucks, so they stopped to settle up.

After that, we headed up Windsor Rd and up to Altadena Dr. That was where we saw the horse. There are stables near there, but still it’s not every day we see a horse walking down the street.

After that, we rode across Pasadena and back to the park.

42 miles.

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