Stan’s Obligatory Blog

Happy Thanksgiving

10/25/2015

Down for the Count – 2015

Filed under: — stan @ 2:46 pm

It’s the end of October, and that means it’s time for our Halloween ride. Out to Culver City and Holy Cross Cemetery to pay respects to The Count – Bela Lugosi. And I also wore my “Star Trek” bike jersey today, in case we wanted to take a side trip to Hillside Memorial Park to pay respects to Leonard Nimoy.

It was a nice day for riding. We headed downtown by way of Huntington Drive and Main St. Coming down Spring St downtown, we saw a big display in Grand Park for the Day of the Dead, so that was a photo-op. Then we had to cross the course of the Rock-n-Roll Half Marathon, which was in progress. Then we continued on south all the way to Pico, where we turned west to get to Flower St. There wasn’t an Expo Line train going down Flower St at the time, which was too bad. I like to race the train when there’s one there, since it goes just fast enough to chase, but not so fast that I can’t keep up.

We had to stop for a minute at La Cienega for a quick bike adjustment. That was where we saw the VW Micr -er- “Mico Bus”. Heh.

When we got to the cemetery, we rode up and over the hill to The Grotto. It took us a couple minutes to find Bela Lugosi. Usually, his grave is decorated for Halloween, but I think that maybe they haven’t done that yet, since it’s not until next Saturday. While we were there, Carla showed us her Halloween-themed nails.

Continuing on, we went to Hillside Memorial. In the past, we’d been able to go in the back gate, but it was closed today. So we rode around to the main gate. We asked directions, and the guy gave us a little map and showed us where to go. When we got there, we wandered around a bit until one of the maintenance guys saw us and pointed us to the right spot. Apparently, there are a lot of people stopping by to visit Leonard Nimoy. And deservedly so. I’m not the only one whose childhood hero was Mr Spock.

On the way home, we stopped for bagels at Noah’s. Our route home was supposed to be through Silverlake, but we decided to alter that and go home by way of downtown L.A. So I stopped there for a minute to get a photo of the little junkyard underneath the elevated Metro tracks that’s filled with wrecked police cars. And I wonder what’s the story of the gray car with “Do Not Shoot” painted on it. And by taking Griffin Ave, we passed by the giant dragonfly again for the first time in years.

59 miles.

Route map and elevation profile

10/24/2015

A bit of aerospace history

Filed under: — stan @ 6:19 pm

Back in the late ’80s, I spent a few years working at Hughes Aircraft Radar Systems Group in El Segundo. Part of our department was moved to offices at the old Hughes Helicopter plant near Culver City. I had occasion to go over there a few times, and I’d heard that the land there had been built up after Hughes Aircraft was divided up and sold in the ’90s. So when I got something from the L.A. Conservancy about a tour of the remaining buildings there and how they were being renovated as new office spaces, I figured a visit was in order. I called up my old friend Kathleen, who I first met while we were both working at Hughes, and we made plans to go visit the old place.

The tour started in Building 15, which is an enormous wooden structure that was built in 1943 to accommodate building the H-4 Hercules, otherwise known as the “Spruce Goose”. It was impressive to see how they were able to build such a big building out of wood. Our docent said that the only metal parts were hinges, nails, bolts, and the reinforcing plates on the support arches. But I put my long lens on the camera and got a close-up picture of one of the plates, and we could see the wood grain of the plywood. So even the reinforcing plates were made of wood. They told us that the enormous building had been used as a sound stage since the early ’90s, and that it was used for movies that needed to build large indoor sets that would be used for an extended time.

The next stop was the building that used to be the company cafeteria. The docents told us about the design of the building, and also about how the Hughes cafeteria was known for serving good food for the employees. Kathleen and I could verify that. The cafeteria where we were in El Segundo was quite good. The old cafeteria building has been fixed up, and now it’s offices for a video game design company.

The next building was formerly the company fire station. It’s been turned into offices and studio space for Youtube. We didn’t get to see much on the inside there, since the studios were all in use. And the final two buildings were formerly office buildings in the Hughes days. And they’re still office buildings. The are leased by an advertising company. But because of that, we were not allowed to take pictures in those buildings.

It was fun seeing the old place again.

10/18/2015

A slightly-damp CicLAvia

Filed under: — stan @ 1:16 pm

This week’s bike club ride was planned to be a visit to yet another downtown CicLAvia, followed by a side trip to Echo Park to see some abandoned oil wells there. The weather was threatening rain, and this route would also keep us close to Metro Rail stations, just in case we needed to bail out.

Pretty much as soon as we started out, we felt a few raindrops. It got wetter as we headed down Sierra Madre Blvd, and when we got to Huntington Drive, Carla turned around and bailed out. The rest of us continued on. I figured we could go a few more miles, and if it got worse, we’d just go the South Pasadena Metro station and take the train back. But as we continued on, the rain got lighter, and by the time we were coming in to downtown L.A., it has stopped. The streets were still wet, but it wasn’t actively raining any more. So we joined up with the CicLAvia route in Chinatown and rode it all the way to the other end by MacArthur Park. It was actually kind of nice, since the rain meant that a lot of people stayed away, and it wasn’t too crowded. We stopped to look at the Spheres art installation again, and I also noticed a few Egyptian Geese wandering around in the park. We’d seen some of them when we visited the Japanese Garden in Van Nuys, and I recognized them, since they kind of look like they’re wearing Lucha Libre masks. Since it still wasn’t too crowded on the streets, we decided to skip the side trip to the oil wells, and ride back to Chinatown. By the time we got there, word was getting around that the rain had stopped and streets had dried, and the route started to get crowded a bit. So we left it in Chinatown and headed up the hill by Dodger Stadium and the 9/11 memorial by the Fire Department training center to get to Echo Park and Chango Coffee. We had some snacks and drinks there.

By now, it was pretty clearly finished raining for the day, so we headed home by our regular route up Eagle Rock Blvd and then across Highland Park on York. And in the end, it turned out to be a pretty pleasant ride.

40 miles.

Route map and elevation profile

10/11/2015

Whole Yotta Love

Filed under: — stan @ 2:05 pm

Last week, there was a column in the L.A. Times by Steve Lopez about a couple who had moved in to a rented mansion in the Hollywood Hills and were throwing big parties and annoying the neighbors. But the detail that really put the story over the top for me was that they had had a mural of themselves put on the garage door. Since houses in the Hollywood Hills are on small lots, that meant that the garage door would be right on the street, so I thought we should go see it. So I went looking, and found out that the house was right on the street leading up to the dam, and we’d been by there before. Once when we went to see the monsters on Chris Brown’s house, and once when we went to see the Mulholland Dam itself.

We took our regular route through Eagle Rock to get to the L.A. River and Silverlake. Then we took Hollywood Blvd across to Argyle Ave, where we turned and headed up into the hills. The climb up to the dam is very steep in places, but with appropriate gearing, it’s not too bad. And then, we arrived at the mansion. The decorations were only slightly over the top. There was no lion in a cage outside, since their housewarming party was over. But the mural on the garage was there, and it was just as gaudy as we expected. So overall, it was worth seeing.

Continuing on up the hill, we got to the dam, and we rode across the top of it. Stopping in the middle, we looked across the lake and we could see both the Hollywood sign and the vineyard on Mt. Lee. John looked down the front of the dam, and he noticed that it has grizzly heads cast in concrete on each column. Sort of like the walrus heads on the columns of the Arctic Building in Seattle.

Leaving the dam, we had to to the very steep climb up out of the bowl that Lake Hollywood sits in, and then it was all downhill into Burbank, and our snack stop at Priscilla’s. We had drinks and snacks there, and then headed home, back across Glendale and Eagle Rock, and up the Colorado hill back to Pasadena.

39 miles.

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