Stan’s Obligatory Blog

8/31/2013

A gallery afternoon

Filed under: — stan @ 6:33 pm

This Saturday was a gallery day for us. We went to A+D to see the “Never Built: Los Angeles” exhibit. This is a show of models, drawing, and other materials from projects that were proposed, but were never built. The projects on display covered a full range from things that might have been pretty useful to things that were clearly absurd. For instance, the model showing proposed development behind Union Station was perhaps a bit grandiose, but it really wasn’t absurd. By comparison, the proposal for an offshore causeway freeway from Santa Monica to Malibu was perhaps the most absurd idea floated there. Most of the others fell somewhere in between. There was a map of the original plan for the freeway system, of which about one-half has been built. There was also a drawing showing Disney’s original plan for Disneyland in Burbank. They said it never made if off the drawing board because the city of Burbank thought it would have too much of a ‘carnival atmosphere’ and not be a good thing for the city. So Disneyland ended up in Anaheim. All told, this was an interesting exhibit.

After “Never Built”, we headed west to the Annenbery Space for Photography in Century City. The exhibit there is “Helmut Newton: White Women – Sleepless Nights – Big Nudes”, which presented a selection of his photography over the years, along with a short documentary film about his life. His style was very distinctive, and has influenced a whole generation of photographers.

This all made for a fun afternoon.

8/18/2013

Johnny Ramone and John Waters

Filed under: — stan @ 11:35 pm

This evening was the 9th Annual Johnny Ramone Tribute at Hollywood Forever cemetery. This year, the event included a screening of “Cry Baby“, and a personal appearance by John Waters to introduce the film. Add to that that Johnny Depp, Traci Lords, and others from the movie were going to be there, Being a big fan of both the Ramones and John Waters, this was an event not to be missed.

Since Kathleen was laid up at home recovering from her surgery last Thursday, Lucinda and I made plans to go to this, along with my friend Lisa from the West Coast Labels stair-climbing team. I made us a too-big picnic to bring along, and dug out our Tommy Bahama chairs, and we were ready to go.

We set up camp on the lawn, and Lisa got in line to get autographs from John Waters. I didn’t bring anything for him to sign, largely because everything I have by him is already signed. And as it turned out, that was a good thing. She waited in line for a long time, and then they cut the line off just before she got to the front.

Lucinda spent some time sightseeing in the cemetery and taking pictures. They had Johnny Ramone’s statue decorated for the occasion, and they turned on the lights as darkness fell.

Before the film, they held question and answer session with John Waters and the others from the film on the stage. Lucinda was excited when she found out that the panel would be introduced by none other than Dita. They took some questions from the crowd and talked about making the movie. Then John Waters took the stage by himself to introduce the film. As always, he was very funny to listen to. After he finished, we watched the movie, and as always, it was very entertaining. It had been years since I saw “Cry Baby”, so all around, this was a very fun evening.

More Los Angeles History

Filed under: — stan @ 3:16 pm

Today’s ride was a visit to what’s referred to as the Corralitas Red Car Property in Silver Lake. This is a strip of land that used to be the right-of-way for the Pacific Electric Glendale line. It runs from right next to the Glendale Freeway to the top of the hill overlooking Fletcher Drive and Riverside. At one end, the tracks used to run where the present-day freeway stands, and at the other end, there used to be a high trestle across the valley where Fletcher Drive runs now. The footings for the trestle are still visible on the hillside.

We rode out from from Pasadena, across Eagle Rock and Glendale, and then down to the L.A. River bike path near Griffith Park. We took that to Fletcher Drive and then took some streets to get to Riverside Drive, near the Glendale Freeway underpass. Then, after a short side trip up the hill behind the school on Riverside, we were there. The right-of-way is essentially a dirt road now. The people in the neighborhood park cars on it, and the tire tracks show that it’s driven on a fair amount. We rode out to the end where the trestle used to be. From that angle, the footings for the trestle make it pretty obvious where it used to be. I looked, and I found a good picture showing the trestle from about the same angle here: http://www.pacificelectric.org/pacific-electric/western-district/the-final-days-of-fletcher-trestle/

From there, we turned around and rode the length of the trail back to where it ends by the freeway. Then we got back on the streets and rode down Riverside to Stadium Way. After our experience a few weeks ago, I’d looked to make sure there wasn’t a Dodger home game today, since we’d be going right past the stadium. We rode through and down into Echo Park to Chango Coffee.

After the snack stop, we rode up the steep hill out of Echo Park, passing the gates of Dodger Stadium. We also passed the Los Angeles Fire Department academy, and the World Trade Center memorial there. Then, we turned east up Broadway and headed for home by way of Huntington Drive.

It was a perfect day for riding, and an interesting bit of Los Angeles history.

38 miles.

8/11/2013

Just Another Dam Ride

Filed under: — stan @ 4:10 pm

A few weeks ago, Kathleen and I went to a talk at the downtown library about the St Francis Dam disaster. Back in 1978, I rode in a bike race that went up Francisquito Canyon, and I remember seeing the ruins of the dam during the race. At the time, I didn’t know the history of it, but I could see that they were ruins of something big in the canyon.

To this day, it appears that there is still some disagreement about the fundamental cause of the dam collapse. But one thing that they talked about that I’d never heard before was that the St Francis Dam was one of two dams that William Mulholland and the DWP built to store water from the Los Angeles Aqueduct. The St Francis Dam collapsed not long after being filled to capacity, while the other dam still exists, holding back the Hollywood Reservoir. Apparently, soon after the St Francis disaster, people looked up at the dam above Hollywood and realized that it was essentially the same dam as the one that had failed catastrophically in Santa Clarita. So the DWP embarked on a program to basically fill in the canyon in front of the dam with dirt, and then to plant trees on the slope. Ostensibly, this was to reinforce the dam, but it also had the effect of making the dam much less obvious. From below, it just looks like a little bit of concrete wall on top of the hillside.

“Dam? What dam? There’s no dam here!”

Of course, I decided that we needed to go see this close-up. I’d heard recently that the path around the reservoir is open now for hiking and bicycling, so I dusted off the “Chris Brown’s House” route and, with a few modifications, we were ready to go.

I told everyone that I thought that this might be a slightly easier ride than the others we do that go by Lake Hollywood, since we would not be riding up the hill all the way to the Hollywood sign. But it still turned out to be pretty hard. The climb up the canyon to the dam was quite steep. But when we came around the last bend, I could see the dam. Sort of. It just looked like a hillside. The trees that the DWP planted are all quite large now, and it’s not obvious at all that there’s a dam there.

At the gate to enter the path around the reservoir there was a sign saying that photo and video equipment is not allowed. In the modern age, I don’t see how they could possibly expect that anyone would follow a rule like that.

We went in the gate and rode across the dam. I stopped to look over the side at the slope and trees, and over the other side to look at the lake. It really took a stupendous amount of dirt to construct that slope. I found a picture of it from Popular Science from 1933 or so. Look how small the dump truck is, and then imagine how many loads of dirt it took:
look how small the dump truck is

On the far side of the dam, I found a little display case with a faded certificate in it. It was dated 1966 and signed by the chief engineer for the DWP.

Continuing on around the lake, we got back to the main road and groaned up the Lake Hollywood hill. Then down the other side into Burbank for snacks at Priscilla’s.

On the way back, Martha showed us how to get to the Glendale Narrows Riverwalk. This is a short walking and bike path they built along a stretch of the L.A. River. It was a nice little shortcut.

All told, it was a nice day for riding, and an interesting bit of history, too.

38 miles.

7/28/2013

Oil, Part Two – Edward Doheny and the City Oil Field

Filed under: — stan @ 5:34 pm

Last month, we did a bike tour of the oil fields of Los Angeles. Today’s ride is the second part of our tour of the history of oil in L.A. Today, we visited sites related to Edward Doheny and the Los Angeles City Oil Field.

The route took us downtown to start. We rode through downtown and then headed west on Adams. Then we turned into the Mt. Saint Mary’s Doheny Campus, which is the site of Doheny’s mansion. The guard at the gate didn’t want to let us ride onto the campus to see it. A college campus where bicycles are not allowed? Really? I think that’s absurd. We duly noted his warning, and rode in anyway. The mansion was quite impressive. Apparently, this tract of land used to be a gated community with lots of mansions, but over time, Doheny bought the whole thing, and in the end, he willed it to the college.

The campus is also the site of another oil drilling island, this one the easternmost of the Las Cienegas’ oil field. It had a high wall around it, so it wasn’t obvious, aside from the mechanical sounds and slight oil smell coming from it.

Heading west, we rode to Hancock Park and our snack stop at Noah’s Bagels in Larchmont Village. We saw the puppy we’d met last month there again. He’d grown considerably. After that, we started for home.

We rode east, back toward downtown Los Angeles. Then we headed up to our second stop, which is the last producing oil well in the L.A. City Oil Field. It’s one block east of Alvarado St, in a little fenced-off lot. Word is it produces something like 3.5 barrels of oil a day.

Continuing north into Echo Park, we arrived at the Echo Park Pool. The parking lot there was the site of Edward Doheny’s original well on the City Oil Field. This was the first well dug that produced significant oil from that field, and it set off an oil rush that lasted for many years.

From there, we headed north, passing through Angelino Heights and all the old Victorian mansions there. Then we rode past Dodger Stadium. They had just opened the gates for a game that afternoon. But the traffic wasn’t too bad. We rode through Elysian Park and then home by way of Figueroa St.

It was a nice ride, with some interesting sights.

48 miles.

7/14/2013

The Chandelier Tree

Filed under: — stan @ 2:36 pm

Last week, I ran across a story about a tree in Silver Lake that is decorated with vintage chandeliers. So of course, I thought we should go see it. I looked up where it is, and it’s just a block off our regular route into Hollywood. So with a little modification, our Fern Dell route would take us there. It was a nice day for riding. And as an extra bonus, on the way back, we would go down the L.A. River bike path, and maybe get to see where flaming gasoline poured into the river from the tanker truck crash on the Glendale Freeway last night.

The ride down to Silver Lake went by pretty fast. We got there and turned up the side street off Rowena Ave, and there was the tree. It would be nice to see it at night some time. I brought along some quarters to put in the parking meter out front to contribute to the electric bill for lighting the tree.

After seeing the tree, we rode up into Griffith Park. We went by the Greek Theater and up to the observatory. And after a few minutes rest up there, we went down the hill to Fern Dell. When we got to The Trails cafe, there was a long line. This is a nice place, but they’re not particularly fast in their service, and with that long of a line, we thought it might take a very long time. So we turned around and rode back up over the hill to Toluca Lake and Priscilla’s.

After snacks, we headed back, down the L.A. River bike path. Just past Fletcher, the path was cordoned off, and there was a police car there to keep people from going on the section of the path where it goes under the freeway. I presume that was because that was the portion of the freeway that was potentially damaged by the fire last night. So we took the detour, which went by Rattlesnake Park. That was good for a photo-op on the rattlesnake. Then we got back on the path below the area where the fire was, and we continued on our way.

We rode back by way of Highland Park. It was a pleasant ride.

51 miles.

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.

6/2/2013

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.

5/19/2013

Monsters

Filed under: — stan @ 6:05 pm

Last week, there was an article in the L.A. Times about how Chris Brown had painted cartoon monsters on the wall in front of his house, and how his neighbors were upset about that. And of course, my first thought was that we should go on a ride there to see them. So that’s what we did today.

His house is almost at the end of a cul-de-sac in the Hollywood Hills, just below Lake Hollywood. So I recycled the ‘Atomic Age Houses‘ route for most of the ride, and we headed out.

We rode the normal way across Eagle Rock to get to Hollywood. And then we turned off Franklin and headed up the hill. The streets there are typical Hollywood Hills streets. Narrow, winding, and steep. But then we came around the last bend, and just after the ‘ROAD ENDS 600 FT’ sign, we saw the monsters. There were several painted on the wall in front of the house, and more on the house itself on the upper levels. I really don’t get what the neighbors are complaining about. After all, they say that the monsters scare their kids. But how many of them also have DVDs of “Monsters, Inc” for their kids to watch?

After looking at the monsters, we had to backtrack down the hill a bit before we turned and headed up the main hill to the top, near the Hollywood sign. We passed Wolf’s Lair Castle, and then rode down the hill, past the dog park, and then up the big, steep hill behind the reservoir. And after all that, it was time for snacks at Priscilla’s.

The last part of the ride was a direct route home, across Glendale and Eagle Rock. It was a nice ride.

40 miles.

4/21/2013

CicLAvia to the Beach

Filed under: — stan @ 6:01 pm

Today was the latest edition of CicLAvia, and it was the most ambitious yet. They closed down streets all the way from City Hall downtown, out to Venice Beach. It’s not often, or even ever, that we get to ride to the beach from Pasadena, so today was our chance.

We rode downtown by our usual route down Huntington Drive. And once we were there, we picked up the CicLAvia route going south on Main St. The route went west on 7th out to MacArthur Park, and then south a bit to Venice Blvd, and then all the way out to the beach. We got there a bit early, so the route wasn’t officially open yet, but that was good, since it wasn’t crowded. By the time we got out to Culver City, I could feel the cool ocean breeze. That’s nice, since we just don’t get that in Pasadena. We made very good time, and we were at the beach by a little after 10:00.

We rode out as far as we could to get as close to the water as we could on our bikes. Then we stopped for a bit to watch the skateboarders. That reminded me of the documentary “Dogtown and Z Boys“, and how the 1977 drought led to great innovation in skateboarding, since the water shortage meant that there were a lot of empty swimming pools around. It was pretty entertaining watching them.

Heading back, the crowd had grown considerably, and most of the ride back was like Friday evening on the 405. Still, it was a nice day, and we made it back to downtown, and then we headed for home. I’d estimated that the total ride would be about 60 miles, and when I got home, I had 59.4. So I went and rode around the block just to get to 60 miles. It was a fun day.

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