Stan’s Obligatory Blog

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Lafayette Square

Filed under: — stan @ 1:52 pm

Today’s bike club ride was a trip to see the mansions in Lafayette Square. We’ve been to see them before, but it was a nice day, and it would probably be cooler heading west.

The ride out was pretty straightforward, aside from my getting a flat on the way into downtown L.A. It turned out that I’d picked up a little thorn in my tire. But at least it wasn’t a mystery.

We had to take a little detour in downtown, since Spring St was closed between Grand Park and City Hall for some sort of music festival. So we took Grand Ave, passing by the Wells Fargo building that we practice stairs in lately.

On Flower St, there were some small plywood boxes, all labeled “DANGER”. It looked a bit like it should have said “Tasmanian Devil” underneath, but we really have no idea what the big deal was with them.

At Lafayette Square, we took a quick turn through the neighborhood. Then we continued on to Larchmont and our stop at Noah’s Bagels. After that, we headed back, across Hancock Park and Koreatown. That was where Steve got a flat. Since this was his first time riding with our group, I took a picture for the Flat Tire Gallery.

Overall, it was a pretty pleasant ride.

44 miles.


Mt Zion

Filed under: — stan @ 2:43 pm

After doing a short ’shakedown’ hike last summer, I think I’m up for hiking more again. So today was the day. I met up with Karina and Kathy and we headed up to Chantry Flat. Karina knows a route from there that goes up Santa Anita Canyon, over the summit of Mt. Zion, and then back down another part of the canyon. And perhaps most importantly, since Santa Anita Canyon usually has a small stream flowing in it, most of the route was through forest, so there would be shade.

We tried to get an early start, since parking is very limited at Chantry Flat. We got up there before 8:00, but we still ended up having to park about 1/2 mile back down the road. Then we started out, walking back up to Chantry Flat, and starting down the trail, which began with about 1/2 mile downhill into the canyon. At the bottom, we saw where the stream should have been, had we not been in the middle of an epic drought here. What was supposed to be a flowing stream was just a stream bed, with occasional little pools. Most of the bed wasn’t even visibly damp. Which is why I thought the guy with the fishing pole was being perhaps a bit too optimistic. But he did find a fair-sized pool, although I’m not sure there were any fish in it.

We hiked a good way up the canyon, and then we turned and headed up the side of the canyon, toward Mt. Wilson. There was a little side trail that went up to the top of Mt Zion, which was nice. it was one of the few times we came out of the trees and got a view. After that, we went back to the trail junction and sat down in the shade to have our lunch.

The trail back switchbacked down the south face of Mt Zion. There were some spots where there was a view, which was nice, but it was also getting pretty hot by then. At the bottom of the canyon we came through Hoegees Campground, and a bit farther along, we saw a small cave in the rocks. I went in it a bit just to see how far it went. Finally, the trail came out back at the junction at the bottom of the canyon, below Chantry Flat. From there, we had to walk back up to the road, and then down the road to where we’d parked. In all, it was about 8 1/2 miles or so.


It’s getting harder to get motivated for this for some reason…

Filed under: — stan @ 9:01 pm

Tonight was yet another session at the Wells Fargo building. Four times up the staircase. The first time, I was trying for a moderate pace. I just don’t have the will to really push the pace these days. The second time, my only goal was to make it to the top in less than twelve minutes. By the end of that climb, I was pretty tired. So the third time up was a real slog. And the fourth time, I didn’t even bother to time it. Still, I made it up. Four times is a vertical half-mile. So I really can’t complain too much. But still, it’s a long way since the times when I could do five climbs in a row, at a consistent and brisk pace.

On the way home, I saw the message board in Union Station was having trouble displaying the times for the Gold Line trains. Back in July, I was happy to see that Metro had finally given in to common sense and set the board to display useful information for once. But tonight, something was wrong. Not only did it not know when the trains were running, but it didn’t even remember the name of the line. Well, I still appreciate the thought.


A bit of aerospace history in Burbank

Filed under: — stan @ 12:41 pm

Today’s bike club ride was a trip to Burbank to see a bit of aerospace history. The site of the former Loughead -er- Lockheed plant, next to Burbank Airport, and also to see the F-104 on display in George Izay Park in Burbank. The F-104 was one of many innovative airplanes that came out of the Lockheed Skunk Works.

We rode out across Eagle Rock and Glendale to get to Burbank. I stopped for a quick photo-op with a topiary along Victory Blvd. And then we took a left on Olive Ave to get to the park, and the photo-op with the F-104-on-a-stick. Everything is more fun if it’s on a stick, I think. From there, we headed north, and we took a short side trip to see the big desert tortoises again. They were pretty active today, and we even saw some of them sparring. Apparently, they do that by drawing their head back into their shell, and then ramming the front of the shell into another tortoise. It made an odd clacking sound. We don’t know why they do that, but it probably has something to do with mating.

From there, we continued on to Burbank Airport. The old topiary has been replaced with a new one. We’ve been to see it before, but the last time we saw it, it was looking pretty bad. So they’ve replaced it with a new one. And we took a moment to look around. All the parking areas at the airport, as well as the Fry’s across the railroad tracks, and the lots on the other side of Hollywood Way all used to be the Lockheed plant. And it’s all gone now. All that’s left is the credit union. And I’ll put in a plug for them here. I’ve been banking there for almost seven years now, and it’s great. Great service, great rates, and I recommend them highly.

We stopped to peek in a the kiddy-ride boneyard on Clybourn Ave. We all thought it would be the perfect setting for the climactic scene of a mad-killer-clown horror movie. Then we headed down to Priscilla’s for snacks.

On the way home, we went through Highland Park. That was where we saw the house with the Transformers in the front yard. That was odd, but a good photo-op. All together, it was a fun ride, with lots of odd sights.

45 miles.


Back downtown for more waiting-in-line practice

Filed under: — stan @ 9:32 pm

Time for another session on the Wells Fargo building staircase. This time, Morgan from my office came along, and we rode the train downtown to do battle with the stairs.

We only got in two climbs this time. And in the end, it worked out to be a 3:1 ratio of waiting in line to actual climbing the stairs time. That’s kind of pathetic. They say that they do it this way so that the stairs don’t get too crowded, but then how come I still got stuck being groups of people who wouldn’t let me go by? It all seems kind of pointless. But this is all we have right now, so we have to make the most of it. Last year, the guards at the Wilshire-Figueroa building were very nice to us, and I made them muffins and cookies. And I also made some for the Aon building guards. They were all good to us. But I’m certainly not going to bake any award-winning muffins or cookies for the Wells Fargo security people. They act like just having us there is the biggest imposition on them. So even though the building is a good one to practice in just because it has a good staircase, they still manage to make it an annoying experience.



Filed under: — stan @ 9:31 pm

I just couldn’t muster up much enthusiasm today for trying to go fast. So I just went up the stairs, trying to maintain a brisk pace, but not really trying to push hard. Still, I managed to get in three climbs, which is pretty remarkable, given the way they make us wait in line and only let a few in at a time at the Wells Fargo building. I still fail to see what bad thing they think they are preventing by making us wait outside. But whatever it is, they seem quite adamant about it. Anyway, it was a so-so outing on the stairs.


Up we go…

Filed under: — stan @ 9:50 pm

It’s Monday, and time for yet another installment of climbing the Wells Fargo building staircase. Once again, I rode the train downtown and got checked in at the YMCA, and then headed over to the building to wait in line to get in. But this time, it wasn’t so bad. Sure, I had to wait a long time, but I got to see Michael there for the first time in several years. So we got to spend our time in line talking and catching up.

When it was time to climb, I resolved to try and do a somewhat-brisk pace, but I also resolved not to be checking my watch all the time. I just wanted to see that I made it to 6 1/2 by one minute, and then I wasn’t going to look at it again. So I made 6 1/2 on schedule, and then I just kept going. Mentally, I like to break the climb down into five-floor segments. That helps to distract from just how many floors we are climbing. And I was very pleasantly surprised on 55 when I got there in 9:53. Sure, two years ago I did 8:49, but this is still my fastest so far this year.

After a very slow elevator ride back down, we had to wait in line for another 15 minutes before we could get back in. The second time up, I was aiming for my ‘cruising’ pace of 4 1/2 floors per minute. That would get me to 55 in 11:50 or so. And I was pleased that I managed to go a wee bit faster than that.

After yet another slow elevator ride back down, there was no more line, so we headed up a third time. I didn’t bother timing it. I just wanted to go up at a relaxed pace. And at 43, I stopped to look at the mural on the landing. I’d never noticed before that someone from Gibson, Dunn, & Crutcher had added a bit to the mural. I gather that they occupy a couple of the higher floors in the building, so I guess they just went in there one day and did it.

All in all, it wasn’t a bad stair outing. I still wish it didn’t involve so much standing in line, but we take what we can get in this insane little sport.


The Kingdom of Rubelia

Filed under: — stan @ 4:15 pm

Today’s bike club ride was our old route out to Glendora. But there was a twist. The Obscura Society had arranged for a tour of Rubel’s Castle. We’ve been by there many times before, but we never had the chance to go inside. So today was the day. And in the end, I was the only one who bought a ticket to take the tour, but Kathleen drove out and met us there, and the two of us went on the tour. Everyone else just went to Classic Coffee and rode home.

Our guide for the tour was from the Glendora Historical Society, which inherited the castle from Michael Rubel when he died in 2007. We started out at the front gate and the entrance courtyard. There was a small barn and a couple of horses there. And chickens. Several chickens just running around the grounds.

The first major stop was the cemetery. Our guide said that nobody was actually buried there, but Michael just thought that a castle should have a cemetery on the grounds. He got the rejects from a local headstone maker, and later on, had some made for himself and other friends who were important in the story of the castle.

At the back of the property, there were some smaller buildings. They had garage space underneath where they had a variety of old cars, tractors, and so forth. Above were apartments, and our guide said that something like seven people live there full-time, and they help with the upkeep.

There was a barbecue pit back there, and a bird bath. The bird bath was run by an enormous engine inside a shed. There was a whole story of how they got the engine and moved it there. The story involved a truck, some dynamite, and gouging the new pavement on Route 66 on the way back to the castle. It was a pretty funny story.

Back outside, we walked under the big water tower next to the windmill that pumped water up from the well to fill it. Then we took a turn through the caboose. There was a lot of train memorabilia all around the grounds, but the caboose was the single biggest piece of it. And then it was time to go into the castle itself.

The castle is built on what remains of a giant concrete reservoir that used to store water for the citrus orchards. In the middle of the castle courtyard, there is a small house that Michael build out of rocks, bottles, and cement. He lived there for many years while building the rest of the castle around it. It was amazing to see just how much went into building the castle. There were weird objects embedded in the walls, and the walls themselves are something like six feet thick, so there are more weird objects embedded inside them that we can’t see. It’s just incredible to see such a monumental structure built out of junk. Just look at the stairs. They are made out of broken pieces of stone that they just scrounged from somewhere or other.

The clock in the big tower struck eleven while we were there. We got to look inside the tower and see the big clock mechanism working. Then we walked around and into the machine shop building that is in the center of the castle courtyard.

The last stop on the tour was the Tin Palace, where Michael’s mother held her big parties. There were more trains in there, and some memorabilia about Sally Rand, since she was one of the famous people who came to the parties there. That room also had the stained-glass painting depicting the story of bring the big engine to the castle.

The castle is a monument to Michael Rubel’s personal obsession, and it’s truly one of a kind. So it was a real treat to finally get to see inside after all these years. And on top of all that, I had a nice bike ride out there and back.

38 miles.


More fun and frolic

Filed under: — stan @ 9:36 pm

Tonight was the second time on the Wells Fargo building stairs, and I was feeling the dread on the train down there. As a result of that, I decided that I was going to take it easy, and not worry too much about my time.

When I got there, they told us that they were going to make us go back outside and get back in line to climb again. For some reason, the guards at that building have this idea that they only want to let in 10 people at a time, and only one group every five minutes. They say it’s something about not getting too crowded, but then they send all 10 off at once, so the traffic in the stairwell is still pretty congested at first. I have no idea what bad thing they thing they’re preventing by insisting on doing things this way. But I do know that, based on this, I won’t be baking them any of my award-winning cookies or muffins like I did for the guards at the Wilshire-Figueroa and Aon buildings.

The first time up, I decided I was going to try for a brisk pace, but that I wasn’t going to pay much attention to my watch while I was doing it. I just focused on doing five floors at a time, and at every floor ending in a “5″ or a “0″, I switched which leg was leading on the 11-step flight. Because 11 is an odd number, there has to be at least one single step on that flight, and so I alternate taking the single step at the beginning or the end of the flight. This evens out the load between the right and left legs. Also, by only thinking about five floors at a time, it cuts down on the “OMG… I’m only on 25, I’m wiped out, and I still have 30 more to go” feeling.

At the top, I stopped my watch, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that I’d gone six seconds faster than on Monday. I think taking a more relaxed attitude sometimes helps.

I went back down, and I had to stand in line for something like 15 minutes before getting back in. While we were standing there, Whitney from the YMCA came by. She was the one I did the original survey of the U.S. Bank staircase with. She was just there to see how things were going, and she said she would try and see if the YMCA could get the building security people to lighten up a bit.

The second time up, there were two guys who decided they wanted to shadow me up the stairs. I was planning on aiming for 4 1/2 floors per minute, which would get me to the top in just under 12 minutes. That’s my ‘take it easy’ pace. But then with those two on my tail, I just had to turn up the heat a bit. They said they didn’t want to go ahead of me, but I was determined to shake them by the time we got to the top. I maintained a steady pace, and one guy fell off the train at about 40. The second hung on up to 50, and I managed to make 55 with him about 1/2 floor behind. I managed to average just a hair under five floors per minute on that climb, which was as fast as I went in my first two races, and back then, I felt like I was gonna die! So that’s still progress.

After the second time, the crowd that thinned out considerably, and we were able to just turn around and head up a third time without waiting. I really took it easy this time. I started my watch, and then I turned it off at about 5, because there was no point even timing it. I just kind of meandered up the stairs. I stopped a couple of times to answer text messages from Lucinda. And I thought about what I wanted for dinner. I got to the top, and then headed back down, got changed, and went home. Fun times in the stairwell.


Back to the Wells Fargo stairs

Filed under: — stan @ 10:18 pm

Today was the first practice session at the Wells Fargo building. 1,125 steps to go from the lobby to the 55th floor. It averages 21 tall steps per floor, and that’s the equivalent of climbing 53 1/2 floors in that building. My best time ever on that staircase was 8:49. I didn’t think I could even come close to that today, but I was hoping to maybe get around 10, or perhaps a bit under.

I aimed for a pace of 5 1/2 floors per minute. The main staircase flights are 10/11, so I worked out a stepping pattern to efficiently make the turns without wasting steps, and to balance the load on each leg. My gloves were washed and sticky for gripping the railing. It was about as good as it was going to get.

I managed to stay on pace for about the first 30 floors. Then I started falling behind. Not by a lot, but some. And when I got to the 55th floor, my watch said 10:13. I took the requisite ’sweaty arm with stopwatch’ picture to record it, and then I went back down. I went up two more times, but they were a lot slower.

When I went home, I got cleaned up and started my laundry. And after a few minutes of not being able to find my phone, I realized it was still in my pants pocket. In the washer. So the sweaty arm photo is lost to the ages, and I had to simulate it here. But such is my dedication to my craft…

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