Stan’s Obligatory Blog

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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.

2/7/2016

An Empty Freeway in Los Angeles is a Surreal Sight

Filed under: — stan @ 2:30 pm

Back in November, we took a ride downtown to see the 6th St bridge close-up. At the time, it had been announced that it was going to be torn down and rebuilt, but the work had not started yet. But this weekend was when the actual work got underway. The plan was to demolish the section of the bridge where it passed over the 101 freeway, just east of downtown Los Angeles. As with the famous “Carmageddon” on the 405 freeway a few years ago, this was going to require closing a section of the 101 freeway for about a day and a half. The closure was supposed to start on Friday night, and run until afternoon on Sunday. So of course, I figured the Sunday morning Foothill Cycle bike club ride should go and see it. A closed and empty freeway is extremely rare in Los Angeles. In 30 years living here, I’d never seen one before.

I’ve only been on a freeway on my bike two times. Once was when I was about 12, and there was about a two-mile stretch of the then-future Mt Nittany Expressway that was built but not opened yet. My friends and I rode our bikes there just for the novelty of riding on it. The other time I was in 1977, when I was a bike racer. One day when I was out riding, I caught a flat-bed truck carrying a bulldozer on an uphill stretch. Somehow, that truck made the perfect draft*, and I was able to draft off it for a good 10 miles, doing 40-45mph the whole way. I knew that the road we were on turned into a freeway up ahead, and I wanted to see if I could keep up with it when it hit full freeway speed. When it got going, I was able to keep up, spinning as fast as I could in my top gear. We didn’t have bike computers then, so I don’t know how fast I was actually going, but it was fast. Fast enough that, even though I was 17, I somehow realized that this was probably Not a Good Idea. I figured I’d made my point and I should probably get off the freeway at the first exit. Still, that was an experience.

Our route took us straight south to Rosemead, and then west through Monterey Park to East L.A. and Boyle Heights. We got to where 1st St crossed under the 101 freeway. There was an on-ramp to the northbound 101 which did not say it was closed. Cars were getting on the northbound freeway there, but it was pretty obvious that there was none of the usual freeway sound coming over the sound wall. So we headed south a few blocks to 4th St, which crosses the 101 on an overpass. From there, it was easy to see the completely empty freeway. There was an off-ramp from the freeway up to 4th St, so I rode down it to see it close-up and ride a quick circle on the empty freeway. Wow, that felt weird.

Continuing on, we took the 4th St bridge across the L.A. River to downtown. Then we rode the bike lanes down Spring St and 7th St before turning north and heading up to Echo Park. We stopped for snacks at Chango Coffee. Our route home went up the Arroyo Seco bike path back to South Pasadena, and then home from there.

40 miles.

* Drafting a truck on a bike was tested by the Mythbusters, and they deemed it “Plausible”, but I can personally attest that it is “Confirmed”.

Route map and elevation profile

11/14/2015

Working Wildlife

Filed under: — stan @ 9:53 pm

Today was a tour of Working Wildlife, which is a ranch in Frazier Park where they train animals for movies and TV. This was yet another Atlas Obscura adventure. As it turned out, it was the same day as the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation’s stair climb, so I had to leave right after climbing the building in order to have the requisite 90 minutes to make it all the way out there. But I made it just in time, and it was a fun time talking to the animals.

At the beginning, we got a little history of the ranch, and got to meet a few of the smaller animals. Our host and guide was Jeff, who is one of the trainers, and the nephew of the owner. The lemur, porcupine, and the binturong got to just walk up and down the table and meet us directly. And after that, it was time to meet some larger animals. We saw a few foxes before heading over to the lions. We saw a couple of mountain lions, and then some African lions. They all seemed to have a good relationship with Jeff, since they all came over to him and wanted to be petted and scratched just like very large cats. I seem to recall he said that the pumas are the largest cats that purr.

The last stop was to see the bears. They also came over to be petted, although, like with the lions, the petting did not involve us, since the bears and lions don’t know us. The only other part of the operation we didn’t see was the wolves. Apparently, they trained the wolves that were used in “True Blood” and other TV shows, but the trainers were working with the animals and didn’t want them to be distracted by visitors. Still, it was all very interesting to see.

11/8/2015

Barris Kustom

Filed under: — stan @ 2:40 pm

In the L.A. Times obituary column this week, I saw that George Barris had died. He had a long career building cars for movies and TV shows, and his work is seen everywhere. So I thought this week’s bike ride should be a visit to the Barris Kustom showroom in Studio City.

The route out there started by going through South Pasadena and Highland Park to get to the new bridge over the L.A. River. From there, we planned on taking the L.A. River bike path all the way to where it ends at Riverside Drive. But when we got on it, we found out that part of the path was being used as a portion of the course for a 10k run. Where we were was the turn-around point for the run, so there were a lot of people. So we just went back to regular streets for a couple of miles. We got back on the path at Fletcher. There were still people running there, but traffic wasn’t so heavy. So we rode up the path to the end at Riverside.

The Barris Kustom showroom is a small storefront on Riverside Drive in Studio City. It wasn’t open, and there was nobody there on Sunday morning. But we were still able to look inside and see the Batmobile and a couple of other show cars on display. There were also posters on the wall for movies featuring cars that he made.

We rode a bit farther west in the Valley before looping back to our snack stop at Panera in North Hollywood. Then we headed back across Burbank and Glendale. Along the way, I saw that the “Not a Burger Stand” has now truly become Not a Burger Stand. No more Magritte-style surrealism for them. It was a nice ride, although the route turned out to be a bit longer than I thought it would be.

49 miles.

Route map and elevation profile

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