Stan’s Obligatory Blog

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10/5/2014

CicLAvia 2014

Filed under: — stan @ 8:00 pm

Today was the latest CicLAvia, and we went to ride it. We haven’t been to one of these since April of last year, but I’d noticed that the route this time went through the 2nd St tunnel downtown, and I thought that riding through that would be a hoot.

We rode through Temple City and Rosemead before heading into East L.A. It was basically the same route we took to the first CicLAvia, back in 2010. Once we got past East L.A. College, we could see the CicLAvia route on our left. We turned and rode one short block to Cesar Chavez Ave and got on.

There was a guy riding an old-fashioned high-wheeler bike, which was kind of novel. I stopped to look at the mariachis at Mariachi Square. And then we turned south to 4th St, which took us over the L.A. River and into downtown. I stopped for a photo on the 4th St bridge, since it was a place where I could see every downtown skyscraper I’ve ever climbed all at once.

Passing through downtown, we arrived at the 2nd St tunnel. This tunnel is used in lots of car commercials and movies filmed in downtown. And while we were riding through it, I noticed that the street had been striped with a bike lane. It was done with a buffer zone and plastic pylons, so it might not be all that bad to ride through, even on a normal day.

When we came out of the tunnel, it was just a short ride up Glendale Blvd to the end of the CicLAvia route. At that point, we took off across Echo Park to our snack stop at Chango Coffee

I’ve recently gotten a new bike, the first since 2004. It’s a bit odd to by riding a bike that’s shiny and new and not covered with dirt. And I was even (accidentally) color-coordinated with it today. That was weird.

Anyway, it was a nice ride.

42 miles.

9/21/2014

Big and small and smaller houses

Filed under: — stan @ 2:17 pm

Today’s bike ride was another architecture tour. This week, I’d seen an item on Curbed L.A. about “big and small house”, which was a 900-square-foot house designed by Anonymous Architects. It’s on top of a hill in Glassell Park in northeast Los Angeles. In making up a route to go there, I saw that we could then continue on and go see what used to be the smallest house in Los Angeles. It was sold, torn down, and rebuilt since we last saw it, and so it’s a wee bit larger than it used to be, but it’s still pretty seriously tiny.

We started out riding out through Eagle Rock and Glendale, and then down into Glassell Park. Then we turned and headed up a fairly steep hill to go see the big and small house. It was a hard climb, but the house is in a very nice setting, perched on the edge of the hill.

From there, we rode down the other side of the hill to Figueroa St, and then turned south, crossing the L.A. River to get to Riverside Dr. Then we stopped in at the former smallest-house-in-L.A. The house that used to be on that lot was about 300 square feet. The new house doesn’t look much larger, but it’s two stories, so it’s got to be a bit more.

Continuing up the L.A. River bike path, John got a flat, so we stopped at the Frog Spot to fix it. Then we continued on up the river to the end of the path, where we turned off into Glendale and went to Paradise Bakery. They still have the best chocolate eclairs anywhere.

Coming home, we went back across Glendale, traveling up and over the hill on Chevy Chase and Linda Vista to come out by the Rose Bowl. It was a nice ride.

42 miles.

9/14/2014

A ride to Hollywood

Filed under: — stan @ 1:12 pm

This past week, I’d read about Mel Brooks getting his hand prints in concrete in front of the Chinese Theater in Hollywood. The article said he’d worn a prosthetic finger, just so his hand prints would have eleven fingers. I thought this would be worth a bike ride to go see, so off we went.

It was a nice day, but promising to get very hot later on. We rode over to Hollywood and joined the throngs of tourists in front of the Chinese Theater. But the guard there told us that the actual piece of concrete that Mel Brooks was on was tucked away in a back room to cure for about eight weeks before it would be hard enough to be put out on the walkway in front of the theater. So I guess we have to come back later.

Leaving Hollywood, we rode up Outpost Dr, which is a very steep hill that goes up to Mulholland Dr. From there, we rode down Mulholland, stopping at the overlook above the Hollywood Bowl. There is a drinking fountain there, so we were able to refill our bottles. We also stopped for a look at the vineyard planted on Mt Lee, just to the left of the Hollywood sign. It’s pretty obvious, so I still can’t quite understand why we never noticed it before. Then we continued down into Cahuenga Pass and over the hill into Burbank.

We stopped for snacks in the shade at Priscilla’s, and then we headed for home. It was getting very hot by then, so we decided to alter the route and not go home by way of the big hill in Glendale. Instead, we headed down the L.A. River bike path, and home by way of York Blvd into South Pasadena. By the time we got there, we were all kind of suffering in the heat, so we stopped off at my office at Caltech for a few minutes to cool off and get some ice water. That perked us up enough to make it the last few miles home.

43 miles.

8/31/2014

Lafayette Square

Filed under: — stan @ 1:52 pm

Today’s bike club ride was a trip to see the mansions in Lafayette Square. We’ve been to see them before, but it was a nice day, and it would probably be cooler heading west.

The ride out was pretty straightforward, aside from my getting a flat on the way into downtown L.A. It turned out that I’d picked up a little thorn in my tire. But at least it wasn’t a mystery.

We had to take a little detour in downtown, since Spring St was closed between Grand Park and City Hall for some sort of music festival. So we took Grand Ave, passing by the Wells Fargo building that we practice stairs in lately.

On Flower St, there were some small plywood boxes, all labeled “DANGER”. It looked a bit like it should have said “Tasmanian Devil” underneath, but we really have no idea what the big deal was with them.

At Lafayette Square, we took a quick turn through the neighborhood. Then we continued on to Larchmont and our stop at Noah’s Bagels. After that, we headed back, across Hancock Park and Koreatown. That was where Steve got a flat. Since this was his first time riding with our group, I took a picture for the Flat Tire Gallery.

Overall, it was a pretty pleasant ride.

44 miles.

8/24/2014

A bit of aerospace history in Burbank

Filed under: — stan @ 12:41 pm

Today’s bike club ride was a trip to Burbank to see a bit of aerospace history. The site of the former Loughead -er- Lockheed plant, next to Burbank Airport, and also to see the F-104 on display in George Izay Park in Burbank. The F-104 was one of many innovative airplanes that came out of the Lockheed Skunk Works.

We rode out across Eagle Rock and Glendale to get to Burbank. I stopped for a quick photo-op with a topiary along Victory Blvd. And then we took a left on Olive Ave to get to the park, and the photo-op with the F-104-on-a-stick. Everything is more fun if it’s on a stick, I think. From there, we headed north, and we took a short side trip to see the big desert tortoises again. They were pretty active today, and we even saw some of them sparring. Apparently, they do that by drawing their head back into their shell, and then ramming the front of the shell into another tortoise. It made an odd clacking sound. We don’t know why they do that, but it probably has something to do with mating.

From there, we continued on to Burbank Airport. The old topiary has been replaced with a new one. We’ve been to see it before, but the last time we saw it, it was looking pretty bad. So they’ve replaced it with a new one. And we took a moment to look around. All the parking areas at the airport, as well as the Fry’s across the railroad tracks, and the lots on the other side of Hollywood Way all used to be the Lockheed plant. And it’s all gone now. All that’s left is the credit union. And I’ll put in a plug for them here. I’ve been banking there for almost seven years now, and it’s great. Great service, great rates, and I recommend them highly.

We stopped to peek in a the kiddy-ride boneyard on Clybourn Ave. We all thought it would be the perfect setting for the climactic scene of a mad-killer-clown horror movie. Then we headed down to Priscilla’s for snacks.

On the way home, we went through Highland Park. That was where we saw the house with the Transformers in the front yard. That was odd, but a good photo-op. All together, it was a fun ride, with lots of odd sights.

45 miles.

8/10/2014

The Kingdom of Rubelia

Filed under: — stan @ 4:15 pm

Today’s bike club ride was our old route out to Glendora. But there was a twist. The Obscura Society had arranged for a tour of Rubel’s Castle. We’ve been by there many times before, but we never had the chance to go inside. So today was the day. And in the end, I was the only one who bought a ticket to take the tour, but Kathleen drove out and met us there, and the two of us went on the tour. Everyone else just went to Classic Coffee and rode home.

Our guide for the tour was from the Glendora Historical Society, which inherited the castle from Michael Rubel when he died in 2007. We started out at the front gate and the entrance courtyard. There was a small barn and a couple of horses there. And chickens. Several chickens just running around the grounds.

The first major stop was the cemetery. Our guide said that nobody was actually buried there, but Michael just thought that a castle should have a cemetery on the grounds. He got the rejects from a local headstone maker, and later on, had some made for himself and other friends who were important in the story of the castle.

At the back of the property, there were some smaller buildings. They had garage space underneath where they had a variety of old cars, tractors, and so forth. Above were apartments, and our guide said that something like seven people live there full-time, and they help with the upkeep.

There was a barbecue pit back there, and a bird bath. The bird bath was run by an enormous engine inside a shed. There was a whole story of how they got the engine and moved it there. The story involved a truck, some dynamite, and gouging the new pavement on Route 66 on the way back to the castle. It was a pretty funny story.

Back outside, we walked under the big water tower next to the windmill that pumped water up from the well to fill it. Then we took a turn through the caboose. There was a lot of train memorabilia all around the grounds, but the caboose was the single biggest piece of it. And then it was time to go into the castle itself.

The castle is built on what remains of a giant concrete reservoir that used to store water for the citrus orchards. In the middle of the castle courtyard, there is a small house that Michael build out of rocks, bottles, and cement. He lived there for many years while building the rest of the castle around it. It was amazing to see just how much went into building the castle. There were weird objects embedded in the walls, and the walls themselves are something like six feet thick, so there are more weird objects embedded inside them that we can’t see. It’s just incredible to see such a monumental structure built out of junk. Just look at the stairs. They are made out of broken pieces of stone that they just scrounged from somewhere or other.

The clock in the big tower struck eleven while we were there. We got to look inside the tower and see the big clock mechanism working. Then we walked around and into the machine shop building that is in the center of the castle courtyard.

The last stop on the tour was the Tin Palace, where Michael’s mother held her big parties. There were more trains in there, and some memorabilia about Sally Rand, since she was one of the famous people who came to the parties there. That room also had the stained-glass painting depicting the story of bring the big engine to the castle.

The castle is a monument to Michael Rubel’s personal obsession, and it’s truly one of a kind. So it was a real treat to finally get to see inside after all these years. And on top of all that, I had a nice bike ride out there and back.

38 miles.

8/3/2014

Fried Apple Pie!

Filed under: — stan @ 1:10 pm

This week, I saw some talk on the Net about the old-fashioned fried apple pie that McDonald’s used to serve. Apparently, they did away with it some years ago, and only a few locations still serve it. And one of them is the oldest operating McDonald’s, which we’ve visited before in Downey. So today, we headed to Downey just to see it again.

We took the direct route there, straight down Del Mar Ave through San Gabriel, and then down Rosemead to Downey. Along the way, I got a flat, and when I was inspecting the tire to find the sliver of glass that caused it, I noticed that the tire was worn out and on the brink of failure. I was ready to turn back at that point, but Amiee pulled out her phone and looked up where there were bike shops near us. There was one very near the old McDonald’s, and a couple others nearby, and they were supposed to be opening soon. So we ended up continuing on the ride.

We stopped at the McDonald’s. They had a sign in the window saying that they serve the original fried apple pies, with a small hand-written sign below it saying they were out until Monday. But that was all right, since I don’t think any of us were actually planning one getting one.

The first bike shop turned out to not open until 11, so that didn’t help, so we continued on the the snack stop at 3rd St Coffee. While we were there, Amiee called the other two bike shops, and by then, both said they could help us. Leaving the coffee shop, we rode to the first one, only to find a sign in the window that they had moved. So then we rode to the third shop, J & M Bike Shop in Bell Gardens. It’s not a pro shop by any stretch, but they were nice, and they did have a suitable tire for a reasonable price. So I bought it and put it on my bike, and we were ready for the ride home.

Going back up the Rio Hondo river trail, we had a nice tail wind all the way back to Arcadia. That made up for the swampy and hot monsoon weather we’ve been having. So, even with the tire troubles, it was a fun ride.

47 miles.

7/27/2014

The George Harrison Stump

Filed under: — stan @ 1:50 pm

This week, there was an item all over the news about how the George Harrison Memorial Tree in Griffith Park had been killed by an infestation of beetles. So of course we had to go see this.

It was an overcast day, which was nice, since that meant it probably wouldn’t get too hot. We rode out by our standard route to get to Hollywood and Griffith Park. Then we rode up the hill to the observatory. Once we got there, we took a short rest, and then I started looking for the stump of the tree. It was at the far end of the parking lot, right by the start of the short trail up to the top of Mt Hollywood. In all the times we’ve been up there, I’d never noticed it before. But it was in a separate planter, with a plaque on a rock marking it. So it’s kind of sad, but also kind of funny.

Continuing on, we rode up Mt Hollywood Dr. We passed the spot where the sightseeing shuttle bus brings people for a sideways view of the Hollywood sign. Then, we rode down the other side, into Burbank. We stopped for snacks at Priscilla’s, and then we headed home by way of the L.A. River bike path, and then up Figueroa St. In Highland Park, it actually started raining a bit. That was odd, considering the season, but it wasn’t enough to require us implementing our exit strategy. So overall, it was a nice ride.

47 miles.

7/13/2014

The Frog Spot

Filed under: — stan @ 5:49 pm

I’d read this week that the Friends of the L.A. River have put up a little visitor center along the river, next to the southern end of the bike path. So this Sunday’s bike club ride was a trip there to visit it.

It was a nice day for riding. We headed through South Pasadena and Highland Park, where we passed the one and only Chicken Boy. Then we crossed the river and got on the bike path. About a mile or so up the river, we came to the Frog Spot. We stopped there in the shade for a bit before continuing on. At Fletcher, we saw kayakers going in to the river. While I think that’s a nice use of the river for recreation, it’s just not the same since we took the sewage treatment plant tour last March and found out why there is now water in the L.A. River year-round. The river used to be almost completely dry in the summer, but after they opened the relatively-new Donald C. Tillman sewage treatment plant in Van Nuys that discharges enough treated water into the river to make it run like a real river all the time now.

We continued on to the end of the bike path, and then rode Riverside and Moorpark out to Studio City and the gelato place we like. We stopped for snacks there before heading back.

44 miles.

7/6/2014

Glendora Mountain for the 4th of July

Filed under: — stan @ 1:21 pm

It’s become traditional that they close Glendora Mountain Road for the 4th of July weekend. I guess that’s to keep people from driving up there and setting the mountain on fire with fireworks. But in any event, it makes for a nice place for bike riding on that weekend. So we were going to take advantage of it.

We rode out the Glendora and headed up the road. At the gate, we just lifted our bikes over and started up the hill. The ‘hill’ in this case is about 8-9 miles of about a 5% grade. Not terrible, but enough that we gain a lot of elevation by the time we reach the top. It was pretty hot today, and for the first time in a long time, I ran out of water. Fortunately, Pat knew where there was a park with a drinking fountain at the bottom of the hill. So we all stopped there and refilled our bottles before heading home.

It was a nice ride, and we weren’t the only ones taking advantage of it. We met one guy on the road who had ridden his bike from Huntington Beach just to ride the mountain while the road was closed.

55 miles.

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