Stan’s Obligatory Blog

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6/12/2014

Another field trip

Filed under: — stan @ 9:49 pm

This week, an email was sent to everyone in my office, inviting us to come and see the trenches that Kate Scharer has been working in on the San Andreas Fault. The location was near Lake Elizabeth, a bit north of Los Angeles. This is the southern end of the Carrizo Plain segment of the fault. So a group of us made arrangements to go up there for the morning.

The route up there went up San Francisquito Canyon. That was the site of the Bouquet Canyon Road Race in 1978, which I’ve long regarded as the single most miserable day I’ve ever spent on my bike. And it was also the site of the St Francis Dam disaster, which is an interesting bit of local history.

It was a nice day, but kind of windy up there on the fault line. Kate had her dogs with her, and they were running around, trying to get us to play with them. That, and they also like to go down into the trench to lie down on the cool dirt at the bottom. Kate took us on a tour of both trenches, pointing out the layers and where they were broken by past earthquakes. She showed us where the breaks could be traced from one trench to another. She also pointed out ancient animal burrows and worm holes.

After the trench tour, we took a walk up to the top of a small rise near the trench site. From there, we could take in a full 180-degree view of the fault zone.

On the way home, we stopped briefly at the site of the former St Francis dam, just to marvel at how big is was, and to try and imagine what it was like when it all came crashing down.

It made for an interesting morning.

4/19/2014

The Corriganville Movie Ranch

Filed under: — stan @ 9:23 pm

Today, we went on a tour of the former Corriganville Movie Ranch, which is a place in Simi Valley where a lot of western movies were filmed in the 1930s and ’40s. It was later made into an amusement park, and now isThis was another adventure we found through the Los Angeles Obscura Society.

It was a nice day for being outside, which was good, since that part of L.A.-adjacent can be pretty unpleasant when it gets hot around here. We headed up there and met up with the group at the entrance to the park. We were joined by our guides, and we headed off to see the ruins of the former movie sets. The landscape, and particularly, the rocks, are pretty distinctive, and they showed us photos from the movies where we could see the rocks around the actors,and from that, we could see that John Wayne had been standing on this very spot.

We also saw the concrete pool, where they filmed some of the early Tarzan movies, as well as some Robin Hood movies. The holes in the little dam at the end of the pool were for filming the underwater scenes. They said that that was where they filmed Tarzan fighting a rubber hippopotamus in one of the movies.

All around, this was a very entertaining little side trip. The Obscura Society is great for finding odd little things around the city.

4/12/2014

It only took me 19 years to get around to this

Filed under: — stan @ 7:20 pm

This weekend, Kathleen wanted to go to Tomatomania. We’d missed their events in Encino and La Cañada when we were away in Seattle and San Diego. So what was left was the stop in Fillmore. At first, I thought going to Fillmore for tomato seedlings seemed absurd. But then I thought about the clipping I have from the L.A. Times from March, 1995 about the Fillmore and Western Railway. Going there and riding the train has been on my list of things to do for 19 years now, so we decided to go and make a day of it.

We went up relatively early so that we could pick out some tomatoes before going to ride the train. We brought a cooler along to put the plants in so that they wouldn’t get baked in the hot car while we were on the train.

The train ride is about 10 miles from Fillmore to Santa Paula. It was pretty scenic, with the train cruising by endless citrus and avocado orchards. Some of them had beehives to pollinate the trees, and the train passed through big clouds of bees there. We were riding in the open-air car, but the bees ignored us.

When we got to Santa Paula, the train let us off for about an hour, so we walked into downtown and had some lunch. Then we took a walk back to the train station, stopping off to look at the memorial for the Saint Francis Dam disaster. While we were there, we found out that the restored WWII bombers that we went to see in Burbank were doing an airshow in Oxnard. We saw the B-17 fly by a couple of times during the afternoon.

On the way back, the train stopped off at The Loose Caboose, which was a very weird grab bag of stuff. Kathleen stopped to feed the goats, and we had a look at the koi ponds and turtles. It was a strange, but very entertaining place.

The trip to Fillmore made for a long day, but it was a fun time.

4/6/2014

The “Green” Street

Filed under: — stan @ 1:42 pm

Last month, when Kathleen and I took the tour of “The Crappiest Place on Earth“, there was a display in the visitor center about the Los Angeles “Green Streets” program, with some photos of their demonstration project on Elmer Ave in Sun Valley. And of course, my first thought was that we were going to get a bike ride out of this. I looked it up, and it’s just a bit northwest of Burbank Airport. And we’ve ridden there before to see the World War II bombers, among other things.

On the way out there, we stopped by to see the desert tortoises in Burbank. The guy who owns the house came out to feed them and talk to us. He was feeding them some small squashes and a head of cauliflower, and they seemed pretty excited by that. Sort of like when I saw the slow-motion feeding frenzy at the Caltech turtle pond. He also said that the tortoises sometimes mate, and that’s apparently a sight to see.

Continuing on, we went by Burbank Airport and on into Sun Valley to Elmer Ave. And yes, it looks like a demonstration project. Solar-powered street lights, basins to catch runoff, permeable driveways, and barrels to catch rainwater. I made me want to join up for the Pasadena Turf Removal Program.

After that, we headed down to Priscilla’s for snacks. The route home went across Glendale. We were going to take the pedestrian bridge over the Glendale Freeway, but at the last minute, we decided to try going across the freeway on Round Top Ave. I thought it might be a bit shorter, and that it might avoid the hill that we have to ride up after crossing the freeway. It did avoid that hill, but only at the cost of us having to ride up an even bigger hill. So that route experiment was kind of a dud. But at least it was a nice day for riding.

45 miles.

Route Map

3/10/2014

The Crappiest Place on Earth

Filed under: — stan @ 8:22 pm

This morning, Kathleen and I took a tour of the Hyperion sewage treatment plant on the beach just south of LAX. This outing was organized by the Obscura Society. We’d been on their “Field Trip Day” last fall, as well as trips to Pinball Forever and the Bunny Museum. So when we got the notice about a trip to “The Disneyland of Poop“, well, we just had to sign up.

The tour began in their visitor center, where they issued us hairnets and hard hats. Then, we got on a tram, just like at Disneyland, for the ride around the plant. We saw the big settling tanks, and the tall digesters, all of which were mercifully covered. We stopped in to the building where they load the sludge on trucks to be taken to the farm that DWP owns in the Central Valley. They said it’s used to fertilize the crops there, which are then sold for animal feed.

Next, we went to see Headworks. This is the first stage of processing, where the raw sewage is passed through coarse screens to filter out large solid objects. They said they get a lot of candy wrappers, and also a fair amount of money. And indeed, we saw a dollar bill that was raked up by the automated screen-scrapers. They told us the money is sanitized and ends up back in circulation. And here, I always thought “flushing money down the toilet” was just a figure of speech. But it’s a real thing. Mostly, though, the rakes were just continuously pulling up a foul-looking and smelling glop of toilet paper and such. Yick.

The final stage of treatment is the clarifying tanks. By now, the water is clean enough that the tanks can be open, and there were ducks and seagulls in them. At the end of the tour, we came back to the visitor center, and we went upstairs to see their little museum. They had a piece of 12-foot sewer pipe to stand in, just to get an idea of just how much sewage they process every day.

Lastly, we got a tour of one of the labs with a marine biologist who works there. She showed us a fish tank with specimens of the sorts of fish and other creatures that live in Santa Monica Bay. It is the biologist’s job to be sure that the outflow from the plant doesn’t damage the undersea habitat.

So, after all that was done, it was only about noon. Since we had taken the whole day off, we thought that going to the real Disneyland might be a fun way to round out the day. So we went from “The Crappiest Place on Earth” to “The Happiest Place on Earth”. This adventure sort of bookends the whole human experience in a way.

2/23/2014

The Metro Gold Line Extension

Filed under: — stan @ 3:00 pm

Route Map

Today’s bike club ride was yet another sightseeing ride. This time, we toured the San Gabriel Valley to visit the construction sites where Metro is building the Gold Line light rail extension from Pasadena to Azusa.

The first stop was the Arcadia station being built at 1st Ave and Santa Clara St. On the way there, we saw the new bridges they built for the tracks to go over Colorado Blvd and Santa Anita Blvd. The station is coming along pretty well.

Continuing on to Monrovia, we saw the beginnings of the Metro station there. It’s right by the old Santa Fe depot, but there’s not very much built yet. We also saw the beginnings of the maintenance yard for the light rail line that they’re building in Monrovia.

The station for Duarte is right across the street from City of Hope, and it’s looking pretty close to being finished. This is just before the tracks cross over the San Gabriel River, so we turned north to get to the bike path bridge by Encanto Park. We took that across the river and into Azusa.

The big Santa Fe railroad bridge over Foothill Blvd is being rebuilt. The old bridge is a single track, so they are building essentially two more bridges on either side of it. This is because the part of the Santa Fe line from Irwindale and east is still an active freight line. The freight track is being relocated to the side a bit to make room for the double-track light rail line.

I stopped for a photo-op at the little Stonehenge-like thing on the corner behind the CVS store. Then we went up a block to where they are building the first of two stations for Azusa. This one is being built next to the old Santa Fe depot. The second Azusa station is the last one being built for this phase of the light rail line. It’s right on the border with Glendora, and it’s right in between Azusa Pacific University and Citrus College. I guess that was the idea. There’s a big sign there, but not a lot of activity yet.

Our snack stop was at the Corner Bakery in San Dimas. We’ve been by there a hundred times and never even noticed that it was there before. But it was right by the road we ride on a lot, so we’ll probably be stopping there again in the future.

We rode Gladstone St all the way back to Irwindale, where we took one little side trip to see the site of the Irwindale Metro station. There wasn’t much there, but the big stacks of concrete railroad ties indicate that they’re going to be laying track there soon.

That was the whole of our Metro light-rail adventure tour. We’re going to go on this ride again in a few months to have a look and see how much progress they’re making.

44 miles.

2/15/2014

More things that are not what they seem

Filed under: — stan @ 3:54 pm

When Kathleen got home Friday night, she said we needed to take a walk up the street. There was a movie crew working there, and they’d turned the old St. Luke’s Hospital into a mental institution. So we walked up the street and saw the big fake concrete wall and gate. It was pretty realistic-looking. I went back to see it the next morning, and I was able to see the 2×4s and sandbags behind it.

I always like seeing the old place dressed up as different things. It usually plays a hospital, but it’s also been used as a generic crime scene, as well as a courthouse.

It’s always fun to see how they make the illusions look real.

2/9/2014

Dumb Starbucks

Filed under: — stan @ 4:39 pm

Yesterday, I saw this article on LAist:

http://laist.com/2014/02/08/dumb_starbucks_thats_the_actual_nam.php

I’m a big fan of funny art installations, and that’s basically what this is. I figured it’s probably not going to last too long, so I made plans to go see it today with the Sunday morning bike club group.

We rode out towards Hollywood by our usual route, only stopping once in Highland Park so Michael could fix his tire after running over a nail. And when we got to Dumb Starbucks, we saw that the word had gotten out. There was a line out the door and across the parking lot. And pretty much everyone thought it was pretty hilarious. Jeff and I even saw our stair-climbing friend Amber there.

As much as we wanted to see inside the place, we didn’t have time to wait in the line. So after a few pictures, we moved on. We rode across Hollywood and then down into Larchmont Village for bagels at Noah’s. After that, we came home by the usual route. It was an amusing ride. Reminiscent of the time we went to see the Kwik-E-Mart, and the time we rode to see Wilshire Boulevard dressed up as Tokyo, or 4th Street dressed as a New York City tunnel toll plaza.

41 miles.

1/21/2014

Back to the stairwell

Filed under: — stan @ 9:30 pm

I had to go downtown today to visit the Federal Building and pick up my new government ID card. I brought along my stair-climbing clothes in case I felt up for some stairs afterward. I’ve been going to physical therapy for a week, and I’m able to walk a bit now, so I thought it might be a good experiment to try if I felt up to it.

After I finished at the Federal Building, it was still too early to go to the Aon building for stair practice. So I walked down the block to L.A. City Hall. I’d heard that they have an observation deck on the top floor there, and I was curious to see it. I went and checked in at the front desk, and they told me how to get up there. I asked them if I could take the stairs. They just looked at me, even though I was standing in front of them with my “Elevators are for Wimps” shirt on and everything. But I managed to convince them that I was serious, and they showed me the way to the staircase.

The climb up wasn’t bad. I figured that if I could climb to the 27th floor at City Hall without any sciatica pain, then I was up for trying the 51 floors at the Aon building. When I got to the top, I took a walk around all four sides of the observation deck. It was kind of the Land that Time Forgot. They had signs on each side showing the major buildings and other landmarks. And it was pretty obvious that the signs date back to the late 1970s. The view of Bunker Hill had the current Aon building, completed in 1973 and the Bonaventure hotel, built in 1976, but was missing the Wells Fargo building, which was finished in 1983.

After that little sightseeing trip, I headed over to the Aon building and got changed for stair climbing. Right now, I’m just trying to practice walking upright so I can learn to do it reliably without pain. So I didn’t plan on using the railing while climbing. I walked up at an easy pace of about four floors per minute, just holding the railing for balance. And I was able to make it all the way to the 55th floor without any back or leg pain. So that was pretty good.

I rode the elevator back down, and I did it again. I went a little slower the second time up, but I was still able to stay upright. So it was a Good Thing. Still, I was kind of tired after the second time up, since I’m a bit out of practice now. So I thought I’d better stop at two. I’m going back to the doctor on Thursday, so I’ll wait for that before deciding if I’m going to go downtown for practice again that night.

10/16/2013

Mount Wilson

Filed under: — stan @ 3:43 pm

Last week, when Karina, Gary, and I were on the hike to the Bridge to Nowhere, we talked about doing Mount Wilson this week. Our original plan was to go up the trail that starts at Chantry Flat. Karina said that one is more scenic and not as difficult as the trail from Sierra Madre. But on the way home from Sunday’s bike ride, I’d gone by the bottom of the Chantry Flat road and found that it, too, was closed due to the government shutdown. So Sierra Madre it was.

I met Karina at the trailhead at 7AM. It was barely past sunrise when we started up the trail. The sign at the bottom said that the trail had been built in 1864 by Don Benito Wilson, and that it was originally intended for mule trains and horses. Which explains why the trail builders didn’t seem to care all that much about taking the most efficient path up the mountain. There were several places on the way up where the trail dropped into narrow canyons, only to climb back up and out of them on the other side. I hate it when that happens.

A good bit of the lower part of the trail is through actual forest. That’s nice, since forests are kind of rare in southern California. We came across a couple of deer on the trail at one point. They ran away when they saw us coming.

Karina woke up with a cold this morning, so she was sort of dragging. She said that if she could make it to the trail junction at the top of Manzanita Ridge, she thought she’d make it to the summit. When we got to the top of the ridge, we stopped for a few minutes, and then continued on to the junction with the old Mt. Wilson Toll Road. At that point, Karina said ‘uncle’ and decided to turn back. I kept going, since we were almost at the top, and I’d never done that trail before.

The rest of the walk to the top took about 1/2 hour. I stopped briefly at the top to refill my water bottles. Then I headed down. I wanted to see if I could catch up with Karina before she made it back to the bottom. I stopped to take some pictures on the way down, including the steps on the foundation of Orchard Camp. I figured that was the closest I’d be coming to stairs today. I managed to average almost 3 miles per hour on the way down. I reset my GPS at the top, and when I got to the bottom, it said it was just a bit over 7 miles, and it took me 2 1/2 hours to do. Karina’s car was gone, but I later heard from her that she’d only gotten to the bottom about 40 minutes before I did.

In the end, it was a fun hike. It was pretty hard. Probably harder than Mt. Baldy was, even though that’s a much higher mountain. Still, I didn’t feel too wiped out. And I started thinking about maybe doing downtown for stair practice in the evening. I thought that doing that might be a good capstone of insanity for the day.

14 miles, 4,700 feet of climbing

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