Stan’s Obligatory Blog

Happy Halloween

6/30/2013

Oil!

Filed under: — stan @ 5:12 pm

This week, I heard that there is talk of fracking in the Inglewood oil field here in Los Angeles. I used to go through that oil field every day on my way to and from work back in my Hughes Aircraft days in the late ’80s. That got me to remember how I’d done a bike tour a few years ago to see some of the disguised oil wells that are scattered around Los Angeles. And just to add to that, my friend at work made up a map of all the oil drilling spots that he knew of in L.A., overlaid with all of the earthquakes in the basin for the last 30 years. It was interesting to see how there were some obvious clusters of small earthquakes around some of the oil fields. We’re having a heat wave this weekend, and heading west towards the coast meant it would be somewhat less hot for us. So I thought it was time to take the bike club on an oil field tour.

That is, of course, different from “a three-hour tour”. That’s a different 1960s TV show. This one is about the guy who struck oil and got rich. The funny thing is, Jed Clampett struck oil and got rich, so he moved to Beverly Hills, which sits on top of large oil field. Go figure.

Back in the 1960s, Standard Oil put out a brochure for homeowners in the west Los Angeles area to explain how they could be living on top of an active oil field. And through the magic of the Internet, we can read it today: http://www.scribd.com/doc/16684123/beverly-hills-oil-field-chevron-brochure

We started off by riding to downtown Los Angeles. Passing City Hall, we saw the preparations for Mayor Garcetti’s inauguration later in the day. Our first stop was the St. James Oil Company’s drilling yard just south of downtown. This is the only drilling island for the downtown oil field. We had visited this place once before, on the Tour de Oozing Oil in 2006.

We continued south out of downtown, and then headed west on Adams Blvd. Along the way, we passed a wall that we all thought looked like another oil island. I looked it up when I got home, and it was indeed one. It was the Adams and Gramercy drilling island, which is one of four on the Las Cienegas Oil Field, which goes roughly from about USC to somewhere west of Crenshaw. There are three other islands that work this field, so I see another oil field tour in our future.

The second official stop was the Pico and Genessee drilling island. This is the easternmost drilling site that taps the Beverly Hills Oil Field. The building looks like it could be a county administration building, complete with a big glass lobby in front, but it’s enclosed by a locked fence.

Continuing west, we came to the Cardiff well site at Pico and Doheny. This is a two-part site, with one building having a tall tower to enclose the drilling rig, and then a second building across the street that looks like a 1960s-style bank, where the storage tanks and so forth are kept.

It was about this time that I was talking to the group. We were talking about oil, thinking about oil, smelling oil. And I said, “this whole ride is about oil, so whose chain is squeaking?!?”

Our next sightseeing stop was the drilling center next to the Beverly Center. This one taps the Salt Lake Oil Field and the smaller San Vicente Oil Field. It’s so unobtrusive that most people who go to that mall don’t even notice that it’s there.

Heading east again, we passed Fairfax Ave and the exploding Ross Dress For Less store. Then we rode up the back side of The Grove to see one more drilling site that was recently shut down. That concluded our oil field tour, and we headed east to Hancock Park and bagels at Noah’s in Larchmont.

The trip home was pretty uneventful. Both John and GT got flats. By this time, it was pretty hot. and the last part of the ride began to resemble the Retreat from Moscow, but hot instead of cold. In Eagle Rock, Stewart took a detour on the sidewalk just to ride through some sprinklers. Still, we made it home all right. And it was a fun time.

52 miles.

6/23/2013

A day with the animals

Filed under: — stan @ 8:48 pm

On Sunday after the Towerthon, we spent the day playing tourist in San Diego. In our case, that meant having breakfast with my father, and then going to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park in Escondido. It was a perfect day to be outside, so that worked out well. Lucinda asked if she could do the zipline this time, so we got tickets for her and London to do that.

It was a fun and entertaining day. Highlights included feeding time for the meerkats, the new lemur exhibit, where Kathleen got closely inspected by one of the residents, and the baby antelope running around it its enclosure. Pictures of the zipline adventure are in Lucinda’s album. And the best of the animal pictures I took that day are here.

6/22/2013

Towerthon!

Filed under: — stan @ 8:33 pm

This past weekend was my second attempt at the San Diego Towerthon. And it was a mixed bag. Fun in a weird sort of way, but also funny in a weird way.

Last year, I’d gone in to this race with no expectations. I’d never done an endurance stair climb before, so I really didn’t know what to expect. And I think I did pretty well. I climbed the staircase from 1 to 25 seventeen times. That was enough times that I was able to later make the staircase chart from memory. And, more importantly, I calculated later that if I’d done it eighteen times, it would have been a vertical mile. More on that later.

So for the past year, I’ve been thinking about the vertical mile as a goal and a challenge. And I even did it once at one of the Aon building practice sessions in downtown L.A. last March. So I went into this race with a goal of doing the vertical mile.

A few days before the race, I got an email from P.J. saying that they’d had to change the course for the race, and that we were only going to be going up to 24 this time. The organizers had already said that they were going to make up some sort of special award for all climbers who went a mile or more, so they wanted to know how many times up would make a mile with the shorter climb. I ran the numbers and came up with 18.6, which meant climbing the staircase 19 times. I worked out a pace for that, and I set an alarm on my watch for 6:20, since that was how fast I’d have to do each lap, including the elevator ride down and the run from the lobby to the staircase entrance outside.

So race day dawned, and when I was in line and about to go, my friend George told me that he’d measured the steps in the staircase, and they were a bit taller than I’d figured in my calculations. They were something like 7 3/8 inches instead of 7. At that point it was too late to redo the calculations, so I just started up the stairs. I think that’s why I look a bit haunted in the starting line picture.

All the way up the first time, I kept thinking about how the taller steps threw all my careful calculations off by about 4%. Which is enough to notice over a 2-hour climb. Still, I made it up on target, and I managed to keep on pace for about 5 or 6 climbs. But then I started to fall of behind. Expectations are a terrible thing. Once I knew I was off my planned pace, I kind of lost the will to go on. And my lap times for the middle set of climbs were kind of slow. I managed to perk up a bit towards the end, but by that time, I’d lost count of how many times I’d been up the stairs. You can see in the pictures the wear that going up that staircase over and over caused.

At the end, I got to the top and then immediately flopped face-down on the floor. The top of the climb was an unfinished floor, and we discovered that our sweat-soaked shirts made sort of prints on the concrete. These were dubbed ’sweat angels’. After a suitable recovery time, we got together for a team picture before heading down for the awards.

When the posted the results, I found I’d climbed the staircase 17 times. Not bad, but not a mile. And when I had a few minutes, I recalculated, and found that with the taller steps, 18 times up made a mile on this year’s course. So I really didn’t need to aim for 19, and if I’d aimed for 18, I might have made it.

The really funny bit came later, when I was on the train leaving downtown to go back to my father’s place. I wondered just how close my 17 climbs last year were to a mile, since the steps were taller than I’d thought. So here’s the calculation:

Climb from 1 to 25 -> 506 steps
506 x 7.35 = 3,719 inches = 310 feet
310 feet x 17 climbs = 5,270 feet

This is just short of a mile. But on every lap, there were four steps we had to go up when we got out of the lobby. So doing 17 laps meant climbing those four steps 16 times, and they were about 6.5 inches. So those steps added:

16 x 4 x 6.5 = 416 inches = 35 feet

5,270 + 35 > 5,280

So the funny thing is that I actually did the vertical mile last year. But because I’d thought that I hadn’t, it became a year-long obsession. I talked about it, and other climbers took it on as a goal as well. And the whole thing took on a life of its own. Which I found tremendously funny.

Overall, even though I didn’t do as well as I’d hoped, I really can’t complain. It was a good experience, and good fun.

Full results are here: http://www.geminitiming.com/posts/san-diego-towerthon-4/

Heh

Filed under: — stan @ 1:51 pm

On Saturday morning I had to take the bus and train to get to downtown San Diego for the Towerthon. I looked up the schedules and fares on the San Diego MTS web site. And then, when I got on the bus and asked for a day pass, the driver said it was $7.

I had $6 on me. Fortunately, one of the other people getting on the bus had a dollar. She said that the same thing had happened to her recently, so she thought it was good karma to help me out.

Here’s a screenshot of their web site where it clearly says $5.

If they’re going to change the fares, they really should update their web site to reflect the change.

6/16/2013

Playgrounds Again

Filed under: — stan @ 4:34 pm

Being a member of AAA, I get their monthly “Westways” magazine, and a recent issue had a little feature about unusual playgrounds in the Los Angele area. So that got me thinking that it was time to do the Playgrounds bike ride again. And today was the day.

It was a perfect day for riding. Cool and overcast at the start, with the clouds burning off and having some nice sunshine by the time we finished.

We rode down to San Gabriel to see La Laguna de San Gabriel at Vincent Lugo Park. We’d been there recently on our way to East Los Angeles to see the giant tamale. Then we headed east across the San Gabriel Valley, out to West Covina to see the F-86 Sabre jet at Puente Park. The article said that it’s a real airplane under there, and that it’s just been filled and coated with concrete. I was knocking on it, and I suppose there might be an actual airplane under there, but for all practical purposes, it feels like a solid cast-concrete model of a airplane.

Our snack stop was at Panera in West Covina. After that, we headed home. In Arcadia, I found yet another house where the mailbox was decorated as a miniature of the house. I like seeing those.

It was a nice ride.

43 miles.

6/9/2013

Glendora – Times Change

Filed under: — stan @ 5:20 pm

Today’s bike club ride was our old route out to Glendora. There’s not much to see along the way, but I did notice one thing different. The house of the number-one railfan is for sale. That’s kind of sad. So here’s what the house used to look like:

37 miles.

6/2/2013

The Grade-F Streets of Los Angeles

Filed under: — stan @ 1:46 pm

A few weeks ago, there was an article in the L.A. Times about how many of the streets of Los Angeles are in really bad shape. In particular, they mentioned Rimpau Blvd in Hancock Park. I had a look at the interactive web map showing all the streets in the city and their grades, and I saw that part of Rimpau was repaved last year, and graded “A”, and then the section just a few blocks away was graded “F”. So I thought this might make for an amusing sightseeing trip.

The route out was our usual route through downtown Los Angeles, and then out on West Adams. We took a short side trip to Lafayette Square to look at the old mansions. Then we headed up into Hancock Park.

The grade “A” section of Rimpau was indeed very nice. Smooth pavement, no cracks. Then, when we crossed 3rd St, I saw the original builder’s stamp in the street’s concrete. The street had not been repaved since being built in the mid-1920s. And it showed. There were big cracks, holes, ruts, and it was rough. So that’s what a grade of “F” looks like.

After looking at the failed street. we headed up to Larchmont and Noah’s Bagels. We sat outside and had some snacks. Then we headed home. Along the way, we saw a police car kiddie ride, a car with a pink moustache, people getting ready to go kayaking in the L.A. River, and a sign on the hillside above Glassell Park that said “GLASSELLLAND”.

It was a nice ride.

44 miles.

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