Stan’s Obligatory Blog

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Off to the Races

Filed under: — stan @ 3:27 pm

Today’s bike club ride was another special one-way ride. Out to Westchester, next to LAX, to see the L.A. Circuit Race. I knew that my old racing friend Cleave from the ’70s was going to be there. Remarkably, 40 years later, he’s still racing.

The route out there was almost the same as the route we took when we rode to Santa Monica last year. Through downtown, and then out to the west side by way of the Expo Line bike lane. At La Cienega and the old Air Line bridge, we picked up the Ballona Creek bike path and rode that down to the ocean by Marina Del Rey. Then we turned left and headed up the hill to Westchester.

When we got to the race I took a moment to ask around to see if the young girl racer we’d met on the Metro last fall was racing there. Sadly, the people from her club said she’d crashed, and her arm was in a cast. So I continued on until I found the group from Lightning Velo in Long Beach. And Cleave was there, having just finished racing. We talked a bit about racing in the old days in New York, and the races they used to have on Tuesday and Thursday evenings on Long Island. The one instruction we were all given at the start of each of those races was from the race master, Mr. Ando. He would tell us, “Don’t-a cross-a da double line-a!”

I hung around and watched the mens’ Category 3 and Category 4 races for a bit. I talked to a woman who turned out to be my age whose son was racing in the Category 4 race. She said he was going off to college in New York in the fall, so I told her what I knew about the racing scene there. NYC had a very good racing scene back in the ’70s, and it seems to be still going strong. The last time I saw it was in 2007, when I was there and made a point to go see the Wednesday evening races at the velodrome in Queens.

Leaving the race, it was time for the 10 or so miles back to the La Cienega Metro station. Which turned out to go by very quickly. There was a stiff tailwind coming off the ocean, and I was able to pretty much go top speed all the way there. Then I got on the train and rode it back to Pasadena.

45 miles, including riding home from the Allen Metro station

Route map and elevation profile


Revisiting a bit of history

Filed under: — stan @ 3:09 pm

Today was a special short ride to go back and see the roads that were the course for the Acton Road Race, which was one that I rode in 1978. I wrote up the story of that day some years ago, but I’d never been back there until today. I’d only had a vague idea where the race was until last year when Kathleen and I went to Animal Tracks in Agua Dulce. That was when I realized that the start and finish line for the race was on Escondido Canyon Road, just north of the overpass over the 14 freeway.

I had a look at the map and mapped out the course. There aren’t that many roads up there that go through, so there really was only one way for it to go. And as it turns out, the loop was only 22 miles, rather than the 24 they told us it was on race day. And my recollection of it was that it had some climbs, but I don’t recall any major scary downhills. But today, seeing it in person for the first time since 1978, I find it amazing that I rode those descents in a full-speed racing pack and really didn’t think anything of it. It really was fun to be young and fearless.

The part of the course I really wanted to see what the big climb on Sierra Highway. That was where I lost contact with the pack on the last lap, but managed to catch up. This was the only race where I ever lost contact but was able to catch it again. And certainly the only race where I caught the pack after being dropped and went on to place in the top ten. So it was fun to see the site again. And since Jen was along for the ride, I got to tell the story again, even if telling a 39-year-old bike racing story made me feel a bit like Grandpa Simpson. But the important thing was that I had an onion on my belt…

Since there wasn’t really any place to leave the car near the starting line of the race, we parked at Vasquez Rocks and rode from there. And after riding the loop, along with a quick trip through Agua Dulce to get some cold water and see the sights, we went back in to Vasquez Rocks. I wanted to find the place where Captain Kirk faced off against the Gorn in the “Star Trek” first-season episode, “Arena”.

27 miles.

Route map and elevation profile


San Dimas

Filed under: — stan @ 7:46 am

Today’s bike club ride was a trip to San Dimas to see the final day of the San Dimas Stage Race. I like to go see a race every once in a while. I used to be a racer, and it’s fun to go and see a race and remember what it felt like to be racing.

It was cloudy and kind of chilly when we started out. But the clouds were good in that they cut down on the ‘riding into the rising sun’ glare that we usually have to deal with when we’re riding east.

When we got there, one of the men’s masters races was going on. We got to see the last five or so laps of that. And that was followed by the one of the women’s races. Back in my day, they didn’t have different categories for the women’s races, since there were so few women racers in those days. So I guess this is progress.

After watching a bit, we rode back to the Bagelry for a bagel and then headed home.

45 miles.

Route map and elevation profile


A Little Piece of History

Filed under: — stan @ 2:57 pm

Today’s bike club ride was one to visit a little bit of my personal history. Back in 1978, I was bike racing, and I was here in Los Angeles that spring. And the first big race I rode in was the Griffith Park Road Race on March 19, 1978. The race was on the order of 50 miles, since that was pretty standard for Category 1-2 races in those days. And when we went around for the first lap, I realized that the course reminded me very much of the course we used to race in the Tuesday and Thursday evening training races at Old Westbury, on Long Island. It was a short loop with a long out-and-back dog-leg with a U-turn at the end. I remember seeing signs for the Merry-Go-Round, so I knew pretty much where it was, and the dog-leg was the out-and-back on Crystal Springs Drive. So today’s ride was to go back and visit the race course again.

The race itself went by in a blur. There were about 100 riders, and we were going fast the whole time. Nobody managed to break away. I don’t remember even making it to the front of the pack. I just stayed in the middle of the pack, hanging on. In the end, it was a pack sprint for the finish, and I recall that the winner was Jerry Ash. I had just graduated out of Juniors, so I felt pretty good to be racing in Category 2, and it didn’t seem particularly hard at the time. Which seems kind of ridiculous now, since I can’t even begin to think about riding my bike as fast as I could then. And even if I could, I think I’d be terrified by the speed…

After visiting the old race course, we rode back through the park and got on the L.A. River bike path and rode down to Spoke. We had some snacks there, and then continued on down the river and then up Figueroa St. The route home was up the Arroyo Seco, and then back across South Pasadena, through Caltech, and then my regular route home from work.

44 miles.

Route map and elevation profile
Note that the map is incomplete. I forgot to turn my GPS thingy on until 4.4 miles into the ride.


Down for the Count 2016

Filed under: — stan @ 2:46 pm

This year marks the tenth time we’ve done our traditional “Down for the Count” Halloween ride to Culver City to visit Bela Lugosi’s grave. The weather today was looking threatening, but most of the route was very close to one or another Metro Rail line.

We rode through downtown L.A. I thought we’d see the Rock-’n'-Roll Half Marathon, and we did see a few runners, but it seemed like it was all over by the time we got there. Streets that I thought were supposed to be closed for the course were open to traffic. That seemed a bit odd.

South of downtown, we picked up the bike lane built on Exposition, next to the Metro Expo line. We rode that all the way to La Cienega, where we got on the Ballona Creek bike path. We took that to Overland, and then rode to Holy Cross Cemtery. We came in the back entrance, and then rode up and over the hill to The Grotto, where there are a lot of famous people buried. As usual, someone had come by and left a set of vampire fangs on Bela Lugosi’s grave. And we were all a little surprised when Jen perked up when someone mentioned that Bing Crosby was buried nearby.

Leaving the cemetery, we rode back into Culver City to our snack stop at La Dijonaise in the old Helms Bakery complex. Just as we got there, it started raining. We got a table inside and had some snacks. When it was time to leave, it looked like the rain had stopped. But once we started up Venice Boulevard, it started raining again. It wasn’t pouring down, but it was raining hard enough that it really was not fun to ride in. So we turned off on La Cienega and rode over to the Metro station there.

When we got up on the platform to wait for the train, there was a young girl there who started talking to us. It turned out she’s a bike racer. So I got to talk to her for most of the ride back to downtown. She told me stories about what racing is like now, and I told her some of my old-school racing stories from the ’70s. She said her dad used to race, so it’s possible we might have even been in some of the same races way back when.

33 miles

Route map and elevation profile


More old-school bike racing pictures

Filed under: — stan @ 8:41 pm

I finally got to go through and separate the pictures from the 1978 Longsjo Classic in Fitchburg, MA. Apparently this is a stage race now. But back then it was a single-day criterium in downtown Fitchburg. The course was about a mile, and it went up and down a hill in town. The race itself was something like 100km.

I don’t remember a lot about the race itself. I rode the whole thing, staying snug inside the pack. I didn’t try to do anything fancy. But it was still a fun time. About the only real memory I have of the race is that I spent a good part of it following Jon Schuster. He was a Category 1 racer with the Indy USA team, which was the big team of the day. A lot of the National Team members rode with them, including the Stetina brothers. Wayne Stetina won the race that day. But I followed Jon because he was big. Like a moose. And when he moved through the pack, it was like the Parting of the Red Sea. Everyone just got out of his way. And I just sort of followed along. It was fun.

So have a look at the photos from that day. It’s old-school late-’70s bike racing at its best.


And here’s what I did with it…

Filed under: — stan @ 8:41 pm

So I’ve been writing down my old bike racing stories, and I told the story of how I got my Category 2, back in 1977. But there’s one more piece to the story. After the race in Maine, I sent my license off to the USCF New Jersey representative. A few days later, it came back with a nice little “2″ sticker next to “Category”. I was immensely pleased. So pleased, in fact, that I wanted to use it immediately. And I had a perfect chance.

On Sunday, September 4th, 1977 there was a race in Harrisburg, PA. This was a criterium around the State Capitol building. The course was four corners, flat, and just under 1 mile around. The first picture is a screenshot showing the location of the course. The feature race that day was 40 miles for Category 2 and 3. This was unusual, since 1 and 2 usually rode together. So of course I decided that that was the race I was going to ride.

The 2+3 pack was pretty big. Probably close to 100 riders at the start. I remember that two guys broke away relatively early, and I missed it. But a little later, I took off to try to start a second breakaway. A guy I knew named Clarence came along. He was from New York, and I knew him from racing at Kissena Velodrome, and I knew he was strong. So we were good to go. A third guy joined us, but I didn’t know him. The photo shows when we were first starting the breakaway. I’m on the right, and Clarence is on the left. We got within sight of the front breakaway, but we weren’t able to catch them. But we still got a good lead on the pack, and we held it to the finish.

Coming out of the last corner, I didn’t even try to contest the sprint. I just rolled across in 5th place. I figured that that was a pretty good showing for a Junior rider’s first outing in Cat 2.


The day I got my Category 2

Filed under: — stan @ 6:01 pm

August 21, 1977 was the day that I finally made Category 2. The race was in Waterville, Maine. It was the finish line the Maine International Bicycle Race, which was a rarity in that it was a true point-to-point road race. It began near the Canadian border and traveled south for 100-mumble miles to the finish in Waterville. But because just watching a pack of sweaty bike riders roll into town and sprint for the finish isn’t terribly exciting for the locals, the organizers also held a Junior race in town for the spectators. The race was a criterium around downtown Waterville, and it was 25 miles, which was long for a Junior race. Most were 10-15 miles. So I wanted to ride it, since I usually did better in longer races.

I got the use of the car for the weekend and set out looking for some other riders to come along. My friend Cary wanted to go. Unfortunately, he didn’t have a driver’s license. It was about a seven-hour drive from New Jersey in those days with the 55mph speed limit, and I wanted to find someone who could share the driving. So my other friend Gene came in. He had his learner’s permit, which meant he could drive if another licensed driver (me) was in the car. So this was good enough for us. And it’s probably best that we never stopped to think whether or not this was also going to be legal in the five other states we would be passing through to get there.

So Gene and Cary came to my house and we loaded up the car. Two bikes went on the roof rack, and the third was stuffed under the hatchback. With all our stuff, there was barely room for the three of us in the car.

The ride up to Maine was pretty uneventful. When we got there, it was night, and we went looking for a place to stay. We picked a motel and Gene and I went in to see about getting a room. The manager was suspicious, and kept asking us if we had any girls with us. We told him we were there for the bike race, and pointed to the car outside with the bikes on the roof. So he let us have a room.

We unloaded the car and started getting our bikes ready for the race when there was a knock on the door. The manager had decided to come and check again to see if we had any girls with us. Since we’d told him that there were just two of us, Cary grabbed his bike and went to stand in the shower with it while the manager came in. He looked at the bikes, wheels, and racing clothes strewn around the room and he was satisfied.

Our next priority was finding something to eat. Cary wanted to have something good, and not fast food. So we ended up at the only ‘nice’ restaurant in sight. The Silent Woman was the place, and we looked pretty out-of-place in there. It was all adults and families, and a trio of teenage boys looked pretty odd there. But the food was good, so we were happy.

The last priority was deciding how to divvy up the two beds. As you might imagine, this was a gravely important task for teenage boys. We drew lots, and I won. So I got a bed to myself while the other guys had to share.

In the morning, we headed over to the race. The course was pretty nice. It was basically triangular, with two long straights and a wide hairpin turn at one end. There was a slight grade, but nothing worth getting excited about. There was also a tremendous hole in the road that was marked off with sawhorses and cones. The race had a pretty good turnout, and the pack stayed together for about half the race. Then a breakaway formed. I don’t remember how it started, but I managed to get in it. There were three of us, and we got a good lead on the pack. We managed to stay away to the finish, and I didn’t even contest the final sprint. So I came in third, which was the finish that put me over the top for my Category 2 upgrade.

My goal for the year had been to make Category 2. I had one first-place finish, a fourth-place finish, sixth place in Rahway in July, and sixth place in Pittsburgh. So with this third place finish I met the requirements for my upgrade. That was the thing I was most excited about. My actual prize for the day was a pair of pedals and a little silver-plate trophy bowl.

I used the pedals for many years until they broke from metal fatigue. But I still have the little bowl. And the memories of that day. It was a fun time.


La Verne

Filed under: — stan @ 8:40 pm

I got a chance to do two rides this weekend, so the Saturday ride was out to La Verne and back.

We met at Library Park in Monrovia and headed east from there. In Duarte, we were treated to the sight of a helicopter being used as a crane. It was lifting a series of large boxes from the parking lot up to the roof of the building.

We rode pretty much straight east, all the way across Glendora and San Dimas, where we turned and rode up San Dimas Canyon Road. Then we made a loop up in the hills, coming out right next to Live Oak Reservoir. I’d never seen it in daylight before, but I recognized it immediately. Back in 1978, when I raced with the Claremont cycling team, we used to to evening workouts on the road around that reservoir. We rode our track bikes, and we did intervals, time trials, and practice races. The thing I always remember about those times was how our coach, Steve, used to ride with us. When we got going fast, he always looked like he was going to die. His face was red, and he was sweating hard. But he always beat us in the final sprint. He had ridden on the 1968 Olympic team, so he was actually a very good rider.

After passing the reservoir, we dropped down a very steep hill. Gene said that he got up to just over 48mph on it. Then we rode into La Verne and stopped in the nicely shaded patio at Coffeeberry.

On the way back, we took the direct way. It was very hot by then, so we stopped for water several times. At the Santa Fe Dam Nature Center, we saw a number of oddly-placed stuffed birds. There was also a stuffed bobcat. Outside, we saw a roadrunner go by, so not all the birds there were dead and stuffed.

The last funny thing we saw was the car in Duarte with the two Hello Kitty dolls strapped to the front like so many dead deer.

It was an amusing and fun ride.

55 miles.


Kissena Velodrome

Filed under: — stan @ 8:23 pm

Here’s a picture from last week when we visited:

Now here’s a picture of me riding on about the same spot on the track, back in 1979:

Those trees next to the track are a lot bigger now, nearly 30 years later.

In one respect this is a good thing, since now the backstretch is shaded, and riders are not blinded by the setting sun. But on the other hand, that used to be my favorite place to attack, since everyone was blinded by the setting sun…

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