Stan’s Obligatory Blog

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9/5/2016

Visiting SkySpace

Filed under: — stan @ 4:36 pm

Today’s a holiday, so we went downtown to see the new OUE SkySpace on the 69th and 70th floors of the U.S. Bank building. I’ve climbed the stairs in this building many, many times, but it felt weird to be going there for any other reason. We’d made reservations online, so when we got there, we were able to go right on up. They have three floors dedicated to this, which seemed a bit odd. The entire 54th floor was just sort of a waiting area with photos and artwork to look at while waiting for the elevators up to 70. But fortunately, it wasn’t crowded, so we were able to go right on up.

When we got to 70, we walked around, looking at the view in all directions. That was kind of nice, since when we get to the top of the building at the stair climb, we’re only able to look north and west. Then I walked down to 69 to see Kathleen go down the SkySlide.

I did take a moment to paw forlornly at the door to the staircase.

It was fun having the outdoor observation decks on the east and west sides of the building. And it was novel to be able to look down on all the other tall buildings that I’ve climbed in the past. So I guess this is probably the most fun I’ve had in a tall building that didn’t involve climbing stairs.

8/7/2016

LA Current: Prime

Filed under: — stan @ 2:46 pm

Last week, I found an article about Current: LA, which is sponsoring a set of art installations around the city, all intended to have a water theme. So today, we rode to Studio City to see one of them. And to go for gelato, too.

It was a prefect morning for riding. Cool, with the marine layer keeping the sun hidden. We rode out across Eagle Rock and Glendale to Studio City. The entrance to the park was right across the street from Universal Studios, and the actual art installation was all the way at the back of the park. Three fiberglass horses embedded in the ground. “…the horses are empty slates onto which viewers can project meaning.”

As I always say, anything can be art if you say it is and can get other people to agree that it’s art.

Leaving the park, we made a brief stop at the little park with the foundations of Campo de Cahuenga. This is a little piece of history that was unearthed during construction of the Red Line Universal subway station. Then we took some little side streets to make our way over to Tujunga Ave and the gelato place.

The route home went down the L.A. River bike path, and then up the Arroyo Seco path to take us back to Pasadena.

46 miles.

Route map and elevation profile

6/19/2016

The Song Remains the Claim

Filed under: — stan @ 2:52 pm

This week, the news here in L.A. has been about the “Stairway to Heaven” trial going on at the Federal courthouse downtown. So today’s bike club ride was a “Stairway”-themed tour to visit the Rock Walk at Guitar Center in Hollywood, and then a visit to the courthouse. We’ve developed a heat wave this weekend, so going west would probably also be slightly less hot than staying local in the SGV.

There were five of us to start out, but Carla and Silvio decided to cut the ride short to get home before it got too hot. So John and Amiee and I continued on. We rode across Hollywood to Guitar Center, where we got to see Jimmy Page’s hand prints in the concrete. Then we headed down into Hancock Park, and then east into downtown L.A. It was mostly downhill all the way there. We considered bailing out after seeing the courthouse, since the Little Tokyo Metro station was right around the corner, but we decided to keep going. We rode home up the Arroyo Seco bike path until we got to the end of it in South Pasadena. At that point, we stopped in the park to sit in the shade for a bit. Then John turned off to head up past the Rose Bowl to go home to Altadena. Amiee said she was going to turn off to go home, too. At that point, I figured that since they were both turning off, then they wouldn’t be there to see me saying ‘uncle’ and taking the train the rest of the way home. So I turned into the South Pasadena Metro station and rode the train back to Pasadena. That cut off about five miles from the route. And when I got home, I saw that it was 107 degrees outside, so in the end, I didn’t feel too bad about having cheated and taken the train.

40 miles. (Including the two miles to get home from the Allen Metro station.)

Route map and elevation profile

5/29/2016

Santa Monica

Filed under: — stan @ 3:23 pm

Today’s bike club ride was a a bit of an oddity. We did a one-way ride to Santa Monica, just for the novelty of seeing the ocean and being able to take the Metro back to Pasadena. Our rides are usually about 40-45 miles, so a round trip to the beach is a bit beyond our usual range. But with the ability to make it a one-way trip, it’s easily within reach.

The day started out overcast and a little misty. Pasadena gets like that a lot this time of year. But it usually dries up once we get away from the mountains. So we started out and headed south toward downtown Los Angeles. When we got to the bridge over the L.A. River, there were a lot of people there, all looking over the side of the bridge. That was odd, since that part of downtown is usually so deserted that there aren’t even any homeless people there. But we heard that it was the same group that made the Griffith Park tea house, and they were doing a pop-up art project in the river channel. We looked over the side, and we saw “AS IF NOTHING MAGICAL HAD HAPPENED” spelled out on the side of the channel in purple flower petals.

We rode through downtown L.A. When we got to Flower St, there was an Expo Line train headed south. When the train is running at street level, it doesn’t go too fast. It goes just fast enough that I like to chase it. The popular wisdom is that bicycle racers are like dogs. They will chase anything that passes them. I used to be a bicycle racer, so I had to chase the train. Come along for the ride:

Jen and Amiee were along this week, but not last, so they missed seeing the Space Shuttle fuel tank in Exposition Park. So we took a short side trip into the park. But when we got there, the tank wasn’t sitting on the trailer in front of the Natural History Museum. Carla said that she’d heard that they moved it, but it’s so big there were a limited number of places it could have gone. I didn’t think they’d put it inside the building with the Space Shuttle, since the trees around the building didn’t look like they’d been disturbed. So I rode around the building, and the tank was inside a fence against the back side of the shuttle exhibit building. So we actually got a closer look at it this time.

Continuing west, we rode the Expo Line bike lanes down Exposition and Jefferson, all the way to La Cienega. At that point, we picked up the beginning of the Ballona Creek bike path. I’d never been on the upper part of that before. The pavement was kind of rough, but it was nice being off the street. We rode that all the way to Marina Del Rey, where we turned north on the bike path there, and headed up into Venice.

We took a short side trip to see the canals in Venice. Then we headed up to Santa Monica. The plan was to meet up with my old friend Kathleen at Urth Caffe there. But when we got there, she was already there, but she was at the end of a long line out the door. So we went to a backup plan, and we all went to the big Starbuck’s across from Santa Monica City Hall. Along the way, we saw Conrad’s “Chain Reaction” sculpture, which I think is very appropriately displayed right across the street from the RAND Corporation building.

We rarely stop at Starbuck’s, but today it was just the thing. We were able to get a table on the patio, and that was really all that mattered. We had drinks and snacks there for a bit, before doing the last part of the ride to the pier. The pier was only a few blocks away, and we rode out on it to the little ‘End of Route 66′ kiosk and sign. Then we headed the few blocks back up Colorado St to the Metro station, where we got on the train back to Los Angeles. We rode the train all the way back to Pasadena, and then the two miles from the Metro station back to the park where we’d started.

35 miles to Santa Monica. With the last two miles back to the park from the Metro station, we had 37 miles for the day, which is just about our normal Sunday ride distance. And it certainly was novel getting to ride to the beach.

Route map and elevation profile

5/22/2016

ET-94 on the Sunday Bike Club Ride

Filed under: — stan @ 3:15 pm

A few years ago, we rode down to near Exposition Park to watch the Space Shuttle Endeavour being moved to its new home at the California Science Center. And today, we rode down to the park to see the last remaining external shuttle fuel tank, which was delivered to the park yesterday.

It was cool and overcast in Pasadena when we started out, but it cleared and was pleasantly sunny as we headed south into Los Angeles. We rode through downtown L.A. all the way to Exposition Park.

Come along and ride into the park with us:

Leaving Exposition Park, we headed west on Exposition Blvd. As part of the Expo Line, they built a bike lane along the street, so we rode that all the way out to Buckingham, just past Crenshaw. Along the way, we saw westbound trains with signs saying that they were headed for Santa Monica. The new Expo Line extension from Culver City to Santa Monica just opened this weekend.

Turning north, we rode up into Hancock Park and our snack stop at Noah’s in Larchmont Village. After that, we headed home by way of Benton Way across Silverlake, and back through Eagle Rock to Pasadena.

44 miles.

Route map and elevation profile

4/17/2016

Yet Another “We Gotta Go See This…”

Filed under: — stan @ 1:38 pm

Last week, I saw an article in the L.A. Times about how people have discovered that Donald Drumpf has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and that some are visiting in order to deface it. So of course, I thought we should go see this. It’s on the north side of Hollywood Boulevard, just about 50 feet west of the entrance to the Hollywood and Highland Metro subway station. As the Walk of Fame goes, that’s prime real estate. Sadly (I guess), the star did not appear to have been recently defaced when we visited. Still, it was entertaining to see.

We took our standard route through South Pasadena and Highland Park to get to Hollywood. After seeing the star, we turned south and went to Noah’s Bagels in Larchmont Village. The route home took us through downtown L.A. and back up the Arroyo Seco bike trail. It was a warm day, and in fact, it was my first ride of the year where I didn’t need to start out with a Hoover Blanket under my jersey to keep warm in the morning.

42 miles.

Route map and elevation profile

4/15/2016

Harry Potter World

Filed under: — stan @ 9:41 pm

Today was a special treat. Kathleen and I went to Universal Studios to see the new “Wizarding World of Harry Potter” there. Just for the experience of it, she sprang for the full “VIP Experience” tickets. We got there about 8:45 or so and checked in. Then we went up to the room where they had breakfast for us. While we were there, our tour guide came and found us, and at 9:15, we set out on our tour.

Our first stop was the “Harry Potter” area. As part of the “VIP Experience”, we got to to the front of every line, which was kind of fun. Our first stop was the “Flight of the Hippogriff” ride. This was a small roller coaster, and not terribly exciting. It was about like the “Gadget’s Go Coaster” at Disneyland. But there was nothing wrong with it.

After that, we headed into the main Harry Potter ride. And on the way in to the ride, we got to walk through parts of Hogwart’s, and to see Dumbledore’s office and the Potions classroom along the way. The ride itself kind of defies description. It’s sort of a combination of a real ride and a motion simulator ride. To put it in Disneyland terms, it’s sort of like if you mashed up “The Haunted Mansion” with “Soarin’ Over California” and “Star Tours“. It was very well done.

Next was a visit to Ollivander’s to shop for wands. Which was apparently a very popular thing to do. The shop had a long line to get in. But the little show was entertaining. Then we moved on to our next stop, which was the “Despicable Me” ride. The trophy over the door going in to the ride was funny. This was another motion simulator ride. I’m usually not impressed by motion simulators where just the seats move, and the movie screen is fixed. But this one was good. Even with the screen fixed, it was a convincing effect.

Next, we headed down the hill to the lower lot for the “Jurassic Park”, “Transformers”, and “Revenge of the Mummy” rides. The Mummy ride was the one that Lucinda and I rode eight times on the cold and rainy day we spent there back in 2010. The “Transformers” ride was pretty good, but amazingly loud. I had to make some makeshift earplugs before I could stand it.

Then it was time for lunch, which was included in the VIP package. And the lunch was actually quite good. Considering that you’d probably have to spend $20 for a burger at a theme park, this lunch probably would have cost upwards of $50 each. It was really quite good. And after that, we headed down for the studio tram tour. But instead of waiting in line for the regular tram ride, they had a small tram for just two of our groups, which was about 24 people total. They took us around to see all the regular tour sites, as well as a few that aren’t on the regular tour. They took us inside one of the sound stages to see the hospital lobby set that they built for the TV show “Heartbeat”. It was pretty big, and had a lot of detail. I asked them if they had to take more time building TV sets now that TV has gone HD, and they said that they did. I’d gone to see some sets from “Star Trek: The Next Generation” back in the ’90s, and they looked pretty rough. But this set looked real enough that it looked good even up close.

We saw their collection of movie cars, and the flood set. Then they took us to Wisteria Lane, where we go to get out and go inside Bree’s house from “Desperate Housewives”. They said that most of the houses there were just exteriors, although a few had interiors. The one we went in had just a little bit of inside decoration. Just enough that they can open the front door and it looks like there’s an interior. But on a practical level, it had a bathroom, which was useful.

The next stop was the prop warehouse, where we got to see an enormous collection of all manner of props, most of which were used in any number of movies and TV shows. The only one they pointed out specially was the Evil Queen’s throne from “Snow White and the Huntsman”, which everyone wanted to get their picture sitting in. After that, they took us up the hill to the “Psycho” house and the airplane crash set from “War of the Worlds”. We got to get out there for pictures with the house, as well as the crashed airplane. Getting up close, it was obvious that the airplane was not a prop made of styrofoam and plastic. Looking into the tail section, I could see the aft pressure bulkhead, so it looked like they’d made this set out of a real airplane. They told us it was an actual junked 747 that they bought and had hauled there, and then cut up into pieces to make the crash set. And while we were looking around there, I saw a small pond and building behind the plane crash set that they said was the “Site B” raptor breeding facility from “Jurassic Park”.

After the tour, we all headed back up with our group and saw the special effects show. At that point, it was about 4:30, and we were turned loose to go do whatever we wanted for the rest of the day. Kathleen and I went back to Hogwart’s and rode the Harry Potter ride again, and I rode the Hippogriff roller coaster a couple more times. Then we did the Simpsons ride, and the Mummy one more time. Being able to just walk right up to the ride without waiting in line makes the whole theme park experience much more fun.

Overall, it was a fun day.

4/4/2016

Well, this was an amusing afternoon

Filed under: — stan @ 10:04 pm

Over the weekend, I got a message from Mark that he had been contacted by an Australian TV show called The Living Room that was here in L.A. doing some segments about various things here. And they wanted to do a piece about competitive stair climbing. So we agreed to meet with them at the Culver City stairs. I thought this might be amusing, although I’d never actually climbed those stairs before.

I rode Metro Rail out there, which was really easy, although it feels a bit subversive to be riding the train around Los Angeles. But I brought my bike, and the park with the stairs was only about a mile from the Metro station. So it was only a matter of five minutes or so to ride there.

Once we were all there, we met up with the TV crew. They had their correspondent, Chris, the producer, Leisa, and a camera guy and sound guy, along with a producer’s assistant and a person from the L.A. tourism office. They put microphones on us to record everything we said, I suppose just in case we said anything amusing. Offhand, I’d hope they can find some way to use when I was saying, “you know you’ve paced yourself right in a stair climb when you get to the top and have no memory of the last ten floors.” We ran up the stairs, one segment at a time. We’d do one short segment, and then the camera and sound guys would walk ahead of us to set up before we ran up the stairs to where they were. And at the top, we set it up where Mark was telling Chris that we had to run the last bit, and then Veronica came up behind us and passed all of us to beat us to the top.

At the top, Mark gave Chris a West Coast Labels team shirt, and we all posed for pictures and a final shot for the segment. The word is that it will be ready and air in July, so we’ll be looking forward to that. All in all, it was a fun afternoon.

3/20/2016

Hogwart’s

Filed under: — stan @ 1:21 pm

This weekend, Kathleen was going to get a haircut, and she said she could see the towers of Hogwart’s at Universal Studios from the road. So I thought that this should be the Sunday Morning Ride’s sightseeing for this weekend. The route was our old “Toluca Lake” ride, with a brief stop at the intersection of Forest Lawn Drive and Barham Boulevard to look up and see the back side of Hogwart’s. As it turned out, it was kind of foggy this morning, and when we got there, it was still kind of misty, but then again, Hogwart’s is the sort of place that is perhaps best viewed through the mist.

On the way out, Carla got a flat. I volunteered to help fix it, since my years of working in bike shops, although being almost 40 years ago, still make me one of the fastest tire-changers in our Sunday morning group. So after just a few minutes, we continued on our way. We crossed over into Highland Park, where we saw a billboard advertising a street fair celebrating Figueroa Street, complete with Chicken Boy. And the billboard was right next to the actual Chicken Boy, so I had to stop and get a photo.

The plan had been to take the LA River bike path, but the city had closed most of it in anticipation of big El Niño rains that have not yet come. So we ended up taking Riverside Drive all the way up to Griffith Park, and then through the park to Forest Lawn Drive. We were still pretty far from Barham when I first saw the towers of the castle. And when we got to Barham, it was pretty plainly visible, even with the mist. I took a quick picture before continuing on to our snack stop at Priscilla’s.

The route home went across Glendale and then up Verdugo all the way to Hospital Hill, and then home by way of La Cañada. When we got back to Pasadena, Silvio, Carla, and I took a short side trip to see a fault scarp in Altadena. I’d read about trenching studies that were done there in the lat ’90s, and I was thinking about possibly including it on the next version of the Earthquake Tour for Atlas Obscura. The scarp was fairly big and obvious, but I’m not sure it’s quite worth making the side trip with the big group. Still, it was a nice ride.

44 miles.

Route map and elevation profile

2/13/2016

Animal Tracks with Atlas Obscura

Filed under: — stan @ 5:31 pm

Today’s adventure was a visit to Animal Tracks in Agua Dulce with Atlas Obscura. Like the Working Wildlife tour last fall, this was another exotic animal tour. The tour started out with some smaller animals, including a tarantula, a scorpion, an African bullfrog, and a large albino Burmese python. After that, we walked up the hill to the main compound, where we met the other animals.

There was a fat little armadillo, some sugar gliders, a pair of ferrets, a serval, a kinkajou, and an enclosure with a wallaby and red kangaroo in it. The kangaroo had the softest fur I’ve ever felt on any animal. We also saw a pair of emus, and got to hold an emu egg, which looked a lot like a giant avocado. The last animal encounter was when they brought out a baboon, and the baboon walked up and down the long picnic table, letting us take turns grooming her.

It was a fun and entertaining morning.

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