Stan’s Obligatory Blog

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.

6/29/2014

Another San Fernando Earthquake tour

Filed under: — stan @ 1:59 pm

Today’s bike club ride was a tour to see some sights related to the 1971 San Fernando Earthquake. It’s a slightly longer ride than usual, but that’s all right since it’s the last Sunday of the month. And we had a nice treat today, with Vikki joining us for the first time in a long time. After all these years, she’s back working in the earthquake business, so she wanted to come on the earthquake-themed ride.

We headed out across Eagle Rock and Glendale, and up through Burbank. Basically, we got on Glenoaks and just kept on going. We rode through the auto-wrecking ghetto of Sun Valley, all the way to San Fernando, and the McDonald’s there. There is a little hill in between the drive-through lane and the parking lot. That little hill was part of the mapped surface rupture from the 1971 earthquake. When they built the McDonald’s, they just smoothed it over and planted grass on it. It’s one of the nicer-landscaped fault scarps around.

Just beyond the McDonald’s, we turned and headed toward the mountains. The old VA hospital was essentially destroyed by the 1971 earthquake, and it was never rebuilt. The functions done there were all moved to the newer facility in Mission Hills. That’s the place we visited last year, since one of the buildings there was used to play the American Embassy in Tehran in the movie “Argo“. And the old VA hospital grounds in San Fernando were turned into a county park. It’s a pretty big and very attractive park, and there’s really no sign of what used to be there.

Coming back, we headed back down Glenoaks, and then turned up La Tuna Canyon. As always, the five-mile uphill ride was a joy. Sort of. Still, it was a fun ride, and I’ve finally seen where the old VA Hospital was.

56 miles.

6/8/2014

The Gold Line Extension tour

Filed under: — stan @ 1:54 pm

Route Map

Today’s bike ride was a repeat of our tour of the Metro Gold Line Extension. It’s been four months since we last did it, so we wanted to see how the construction is coming along.

The first stop was the new Arcadia station. They have made visible progress, although the tracks are not yet built there. They’re put in the tracks down the center of the freeway, though. And they’ve started construction on the big parking structure next to the station.

The Monrovia station is coming together. The tracks to the east of it to Duarte are in, and they look like they’re almost finished ballasting and leveling the new tracks there.

Heading east on Duarte road, we were stopped at the light at California when Metro bus pulled up alongside us and the driver proceeded to harass us. He said we were not ’sharing the road’. I snapped a picture of the bus as he pulled away to document the time this occurred and the bus number. We caught up with the bus down the road, but the driver was nowhere to be seen. Still, I got the numbers on it, and I told every one that I felt a letter coming on.

The far point of the ride was when we rode through Azusa and a bit of Glendora. We saw the two Azusa stations under construction. The first one is pretty far along, while the second one seems to still be just a sign saying it’s coming.

On the way back, we saw the site of the Irwindale station. There’s still not a lot there, but it’s definitely more than last time.

Addendum, June 17:
After we got home, I spent some time reviewing the relevant sections of the Vehicle Code. I even found a “Bike Pocket Guide” on the Metro web site that explicitly says that what we were doing was proper and appropriate. Then, I contacted the City of Pasadena Bicycle Coordinator to find out who I should contact a Metro about this incident. He supplied me with a name and address. So here is the letter I wrote to Metro about their jerk driver who harassed us: metro-harassment.pdf

44 miles.

5/18/2014

This was much harder than I’d expected

Filed under: — stan @ 6:19 pm

Over the years, we’ve ridden our bikes up to just below the Hollywood sign many, many times. The spot we go to is pretty close below the sign, but I recently found out that there is an actual road up to the summit of Mt Lee, just above the sign. Actually, I’d know that the road existed for a long time, but what I just found out is that there is a small gate to allow hikers through. I figured it would be interesting to carry our bikes through and try riding it.

As always, the ride up to the top of the Hollywoodland neighborhood was very steep, but we got to the top just fine. We walked our bikes through the gate, and started up the road. At first, it was a pleasant enough winding mountain road. And then it got steep. And there was sand on the road. It turned out to be a very difficult climb. Pat later told me it was 500 vertical feet from the gate to the top of the mountain. I guess it’s sort of deceptive. Looking at the sign, one doesn’t realize how high the hill is, since it’s not obvious that the letters themselves are 45 feet tall.

We finally made it up to the top. The view was great, and we spent a few minutes looking at it before heading back down. Between the hikers and the steep hill and the sand on the road, I thought it prudent to go very slowly down the hill. But we made it down all right. And then we had to make our way to the other side of the canyon to get to the road to Burbank. And as it turned out, that involved dropping halfway down the canyon and climbing back up the other side. Which was yet another ridiculously steep hill. Sheesh. But we made it across, so we could go down past the dog park and around the reservoir, which meant we had to climb up the hill on Lake Hollywood Drive. By this time, even I’d had enough of the hills.

We stopped for snacks and drinks at Priscilla’s. And they were nice enough to refill our water bottles, too. We dropped a few extra dollars in the tip bucket, since they were very nice about it.

On the way home, we stopped to see the site of an oil pipeline break this past week. The article talked about how the oil sprayed out on the walls and roof of The Gentlemen’s Club, which was right next to the break. No word on whether or not they sent dancers out to wrestle in it. But the cleanup crew was hard at work scooping up the sand that they’d put down to contain the oil. And the smell of oil was quite strong. Sort of like the time we did the Tour de Oozing Oil, back in 2006.

From there, we took the straightest and flattest route home, straight across Glendale and Eagle Rock. We groaned up the Colorado hill back in to Pasadena, and then we were done.

42 miles

5/11/2014

Overtaken by events

Filed under: — stan @ 4:56 pm

This week, I saw an article about an old house here in Pasadena with a swastika-shaped pond in front. Of course, being that I like going to see odd things, I immediately looked up where it is, and made a route to ride there.

We made our way up the hill on Sierra Madre Villa. And the house was pretty high up the hill. But when we got there, it was very obvious. The swastika is big, and right off the street. The article said that the house was built at least 20 years before the rise of the Nazis, and the swastika was taken from an Indian design. The article implies that the swastika, being Indian, is backwards from the Nazi symbol. But a quick image search shows that this swastika is oriented the same as the Nazi one. In any event, the front-lawn decor of this very old house has obviously been overtaken by events.

From there, we went back down the hill. The route I’d made just made a big loop, not really going anywhere, since the two sightseeing stops were at the beginning and the end of the ride.

When we got to Encanto Park in Duarte, John got a flat. We stopped and fixed it, and the continued on. We made it about two or three miles before it went flat again. This time, Jeff had a close look at the tire, and found a small chip of glass embedded in the tire tread. After taking that out, we fixed the tire again, and we were off.

We skipped our usual snack stop, since we’d had a lot of stopped time fixing the flats. The final sightseeing stop was something odd I’d found on Atlas Obscura. It is an old milestone dating back to the early 1900s from the first Foothill Boulevard that was built from downtown Los Angeles to the San Gabriel Valley. It’s just standing by the curb on present-day Colorado Boulevard, in front of a McDonald’s. It’s just very odd that it’s still there.

After that last stop, we headed home. It was a pleasant ride.

39 miles.

Route Map

5/4/2014

The Back-Yard Boat

Filed under: — stan @ 1:45 pm

Last Sunday, there was an article in the L.A. Time about a guy who’s building a 64-foot boat in his back yard in Sun Valley. Since 1977. And of course, I thought we should go see it. I figured that 64 feet is about three times the size of a car, so it should be pretty easy to spot in the Google Maps aerial view. I had a look, and it turned out to be very near Elmer Ave, the “green” street we went to see recently.

We headed out by basically the same route as usual to get to Burbank. In Eagle Rock, we saw that someone had placed a giant baby bird in a nest on top of one of the tall concrete posts at a construction site. It looked impossible, but I’d guess they probably were able to reach it with a pole from up on the hillside behind the post.

In Burbank, we took a few minutes to stop and see the tortoises again. They were very active today.

After passing the airport, we arrived at Arminta St in Sun Valley, and the boat was right there. We looked at it from the street for a few minutes. Then Mr Griffith came out to talk to us, and he offered us a tour of the boat. This was a real treat, and we all walked in and up the ladder to see the inside. He showed us the two big motors below decks, as well as the sleeping quarters. Up on the deck, there was a hatch to a refrigerated hold that he said would hold 10 tons of fish. He told us that he thought it would be finished by August or September this year. We all thanked him for the tour, and then we headed back down into Burbank and our snack stop at Priscilla’s.

It was a very nice day, and not terribly hot. On the way back, we went through Glendale, and then up and over the Chevy Chase and Linda Vista hill, coming down by the Rose Bowl. Not the easiest way back, but it’s something different from our usual route back up the Colorado hill in Eagle Rock.

44 miles.
Route map

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