Stan’s Obligatory Blog

4/29/2012

The cupcake ATM

Filed under: — stan @ 2:25 pm

A few months ago, I read an article about how Sprinkles cupcakes in Beverly Hills had installed a ‘cupcake ATM’ on the front of their store. This is an automated machine that sells a selection of their cupcakes 24 hours a day. The very idea is quite absurd, but it’s also funny. And of course, I immediately looked up where it was so I could plan a bike ride there to see it.

On the way across Hollywood, we stopped to see Carol Burnett’s star in front of the old Pacific Theater. We’d heard the story as part of the Neon Cruise last night, so I wanted to stop and see it.

In West Hollywood, we went past Dicks St, which we’ve been out to see before. Then it was on into Beverly Hills to see the Cupcake ATM. We got there just as the store was opening. There was a line outside waiting to get in. But we were there for the machine, so I went straight for that. It has a touch screen menu that was easy to use, but it really needs an awning over it. It was very hard to see in the sun. It played a little earworm ‘I love Sprinkles’ jingle when it wasn’t being used. I guess that’s its way of being its own carnival barker.

I selected a Dark Chocolate cupcake. I put my credit card in, and the machine started making a lot of mechanical noises for a few seconds before the little cylinder on the front rotated around to reveal a single cupcake in a little box, ready to go. It was packaged quite nicely. I took it out and ate half of it right there. Then I stuffed the box in my pocket. I was curious to see how well it would travel.

You can see it in action on youtube.

We had a quick bathroom break at Will Rogers Park in Beverly Hills before heading up Benedict Canyon. When we got to Mulholland Drive at the top of the hill, I took out my cupcake. The top had separated from the bottom on the ride up. So there are limits to how well it can travel in the little box. But it was still tasty. It was about as good as a bought cupcake can be. I’m a bit of a snob when it comes to baked goods in general.

We rode along Mulholland for a while, stopping briefly to look at the mailbox at Fire Station 97. Then we turned off down into Studio City to stop at the gelato place we like there. After that, we headed home by the shortest route. This was a bit longer than our usual ride, and it was getting late. When I got home, I had 59.7 miles, so I went around the block once, just to make it a nice route number with a zero on the end.

60 miles.

4/28/2012

More weirdness by bike

Filed under: — stan @ 8:12 pm

On Saturday morning, I went out for a little ride. I wanted to go see the Doo Dah Parade. It’s only about a mile from my house, but it didn’t start until 11:00. So I rode there by way of Duarte.

In Monrovia, I saw a house that had bushes that were trimmed so they looked like they came out of a Dr Seuss book. A few of them had very flat tops, and I was curious if I could stand my water bottle up on one of them. So I did. I had to put my walled on the bush to spread the load out, but then it made a fine little table.

In Bradbury, I saw a golden mailbox. I suppose it only gets good mail. No bills or jury duty summons ever could sully the golden mailbox. Then, around the corner, I saw the chromed stamped steel mailbox with a hot-rod flames flag. That was a good one, too.

When I got to Duarte, I saw another flat-topped tufted bush, so I stood my water bottle up on it for a picture.

There was a school sign that said “DOLPHINS WILL ROCK THE TEST”. That’s not what The Onion told me.

On the way back through Arcadia, I stopped to look at the tennis-playing light fixtures, and I also saw some peafowl wandering about.

When I got back to Pasadena, it was time for the parade, so I went to see that. Here are the pictures:

http://www.1134.org/gallery/index.php/stan/random/doodah2012

24 miles.

4/22/2012

Fern Dell and the Haunted Picnic Table

Filed under: — stan @ 8:41 pm

Today’s bike club ride was the “Fern Dell and The Trails” ride to Griffith Park. This is the first time we’ve done this one since last summer.

It was cool and overcast when we started out. We had a good-sized group today. The route out took us through Eagle Rock and then down to the L.A. River and Silver Lake. We had to take a small detour there, since there was a sign that said that Glendale Blvd was closed for a short stretch. So we went up Riverside to detour around it. Then we headed up Hillhurst into Griffith Park.

The ride up to Griffith Observatory is always a joy. That is, it’s a joy if you like riding up steep hills. It’s a pretty hard climb, but we got to the top all right, and we rested for a few minutes on the lawn there. Then we headed down Western Canyon Road to Fern Dell and The Trails.

The cafe was as crowded as I’ve ever seen it. There was a line, and about half the tables were full. That was kind of unusual. I also had a laugh at the stuffed crow nailed to the roof of the building. Shades of the Dead Parrot. I also thought it was funny that they made a point of telling us that the plastic utensils are biodegradable, even though they looked and felt like regular plastic. And I was also amused by the choice of sugar, liquid sugar, raw sugar, and honey.

When we left The Trails, we had to ride back up the hill into the park, and this time, we continued on all the way up Mt Hollywood. When we got to the top, my phone was making its ‘barking sea lions’ sound for an incoming message. Carla said that Silvio had gotten a flat on the way up. So I rode back down to find them. When we got his tire fixed, we started up again. Just over the top, John and I stopped to have a look at the ‘Haunted Picnic Table‘. This is a pretty good prank. The guy who made that story up made a very convincing-looking fake L.A. Times web page for the article. The key is that ‘rn’ can look like an ‘m’ in the location bar of your browser. So we stopped for a photo-op with the crushed picnic table before headed down the hill.

At the bottom of the hill, I heard the sea lions barking again. This time, Carla said that Silvio’s tire had blown out back up near the top of the hill. So we turned around and rode back up the hill to find them. About halfway up, we found everyone else coming down. They said that Silvio was throwing in the towel. He was walking down the hill, and had called home for a ride. So the rest of us continued on.

There were some fire engines and an ambulance parked by the river where the bike path starts. I have no idea what they were doing there, but they looked like they were doing something.

We rode down the bike path all the way to the end where Riverside goes over the river and turns into Figueroa. From there, we rode up Figueroa into Highland Park, and then across the arroyo to South Pasadena.

All told, it was a pleasant ride. It was supposed to be about 45 miles, but with all the extra riding up and down Mt Hollywood, when I got home, I had 49.5. So I rode back down the block once just to make it come out to a nice round 50.

50 miles.

4/15/2012

Lions and Tigers and Bears! Oh my!

Filed under: — stan @ 8:21 pm

This week’s bike club ride is a theme ride with a kind of silly theme. It’s April 15th, and that’s a day that many people associate with something painful. So I thought it was time that we go and ride up Mountain Lion Hill again. That’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done outside of a skyscraper stairwell. But then, I’d been reading this past week about Glen Bearian, the bear that came down out of the mountains to feast on Costco meatballs from suburban freezers in Glendale. I looked it up, and the neighborhood where he was stealing meatballs is not far from the mountain lions on Pine Glen Road. So a theme emerged. I had lions and bears. All I had to do was find a tiger and we would have the holy triumvirate of Lions and Tigers and Bears! Oh my!

Tigers are kind of thin on the ground here in southern California, so in the end, I had to settle for a school in Glendale with a tiger mascot painted on the wall by the front door. Close enough. And we were off.

We rode up into La Cañada and down Hospital Hill into Montrose. And then the long uphill grind up Briggs in La Crescenta. That’s a hard hill, and when we got to the top, the fun was just beginning. That was where we got to Pine Glen Road and Mountain Lion Hill. That’s about a 20% grade, and it goes on for a good while. But at the top, we got a very nice view. Then we headed down Pine Cone Road.

The next major turn was on Santa Carlotta in La Crescenta. But it appears that they’ve changed the street signs since the last time we were there. We missed the turn, and when I got to within sight of Foothill Blvd, I knew something was wrong. I turned around and headed back up the hill, and I got all the way to the top without finding it. It turns out the turn was on Orange, and then the name changed a block later. But that meant I was back on the route.

A turn down Boston Ave brought me to the neighborhood where the bear was found. They had a big rolling sign set up to remind anyone to call 911 if they saw a bear.

Our snack stop was supposed to be at the little bakery on Ocean View in Montrose, but it seems to have changed owners, and it’s not open on Sundays any more. So we ended up at the Coffee Bean across the street. We got a table in the sun, so it was pleasant.

After that, we rode down into Glendale to pass by the school on Broadway, just so we could complete the triumvirate of Lions and Tigers and Bears. Then it was home across Eagle Rock and up the Colorado hill back into Pasadena.

It was a slightly shorter ride than usual, but with the hills, it was still good.

36 miles.

4/8/2012

F-104 on a stick!

Filed under: — stan @ 1:17 pm

Today’s bike ride was a trip out to Burbank and North Hollywood. It was a aviation theme, with sightseeing stops at a Lockheed F-104 mounted for display in a park in Burbank, not far from the former Lockheed plant where it was designed and built. And a visit to the Portal of the Folded Wings Shrine to Aviation at Valhalla Cemetery in North Hollywood.

The ride out there was pretty straightforward. When we got to Burbank, we met up with GT, and he told us about a place he knew that was not far from our route. He said there was a house there that looks like something out of a Tim Burton movie, and that the house across the street has giant desert tortoises living in the front yard.

We got to the park on Olive Ave, and had a look at the airplane. The F-104 seems to be the living embodiment of the engineer’s old adage about being able to make a brick fly if you put a big enough engine on it. After that, GT showed us the way to the odd house and the tortoises. I’d expected them to be just snoozing, but they were pretty active, lumbering around the front yard of the house.

From there, we rode up into North Hollywood to see the Shrine to Aviation. This is located appropriately, being in the part of the cemetery that is just off the end of Runway 15 at Burbank Airport. So there are airplane going by overhead all the time.

Here’s a little video taken out the right-side window of a jet taking off from Burbank. The cemetery is the green area that the plane goes over right after the end of the runway, and the shrine is directly below.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=9bePj5Btick

Our snack stop was at Priscilla’s in Toluca Lake. Then we got on the L.A. River bike path. That morning, we’d heard about there being a spectacular tanker truck crash and fire at on the 134 freeway, and we rode right by there. Part of the freeway was still closed, and it was pretty obvious where the fire had blackened the overhead ramps for the interchange.

Finally, on the way back through Highland Park, we ran across a steel giraffe in a yard there.

It was a nice ride.

47 miles.

4/1/2012

Historic Lafayette Square

Filed under: — stan @ 10:12 pm

Today’s bike club ride was a sightseeing trip to Lafayette Square in Los Angeles. This is a little pocket of old mansions just west of downtown, surrounded by much more downscale neighborhoods.

We rode downtown by way of Huntington Drive and Main St. We had to stop for a train by the L.A. River, but it was moving, and we soon got past it and rode through downtown. On the south end of downtown, we saw a test train on the soon-to-be-opened Metro Expo Line.

After a few miles on West Adams, we turned north and got to La Fayette Square. It’s largely closed off to the surrounding area. Most of the streets are blocked, and there are only a couple of ways in and out. We came in through a sidewalk entrance on the back side of the area. We rode around a bit, marveling at all the enormous old houses.

Our snack stop was at Noah’s Bagels in Larchmont Village. After that, we made our way home by way of Silver Lake and Eagle Rock, and up the Colorado hill back into Pasadena.

It was a nice ride.

42 miles.

3/25/2012

Tut tut, it looks like rain

Filed under: — stan @ 5:44 pm

The weather forecast for today was grim. It was supposed to start raining any minute, and when it did start, it was supposed to be hard rain. So of course, I went riding. I pulled out my Metro Rail Tour. That’s the route that travels around Los Angeles and the San Gabriel Valley, but never goes more than about two miles from the nearest Metro Rail station. That way, if it starts raining, we have a bailout plan.

As it turned out, the weather scared everyone else off, but I still went on the ride.

When I got to the L.A. River, the road was blocked by a freight train parked across the road. The train showed no sign of moving any time soon, so I backtracked a bit and went over on a street where the bridge went over the railroad tracks. When I was passing the park where the old railroad yard used to be, I stopped to get a picture of the towers in downtown. Now that I’m intimately acquainted with several of them.

I rode through downtown and west into Hancock Park. Still no rain. I skipped the snack stop in Larchmont, since I didn’t need to stop for anything, and I headed over to Silver Lake for the route home.

I decided to try an experiment to see if I could find a new way to get from Benton Way in Silver Lake to Riverside Drive. So I turned down one of the little streets that led east into Echo Park. I just sort of noodled around and looked for a way through that didn’t involve riding up and truly scary hills. In the end, I found a way, but I’m not sure it’s an improvement over the regular way we go. But I came out on Alessandro St in Echo Park. So while I was there, I figured I’d go see how the Fargo Street Hill Climb was going. The guys riding the Elliptigos up the hill were pretty impressive.

Coming down onto Riverside Drive, I turned and headed for Figueroa St. That basically parallels the Metro Gold Line, and I rode that up into Highland Park before turning off to go to South Pasadena. Going up El Molino, I saw Kiera riding the other way. We stopped to talk for a bit, since I haven’t seen her since before her baby was born.

By now, it was really looking like it wanted to rain. So I made a break for home. But then I got a flat when I was riding across the Caltech campus. So I sat down and fixed it as fast as I could, and then took off for home again. I got to about one mile from home when the rain came. It wasn’t too bad at first, and I was only out in it for about five minutes. But I still hate getting rained on when I’m riding.

Still, it was a nice ride.

42 miles.

2/19/2012

A bit of forgotten history

Filed under: — stan @ 10:52 pm

Today’s bike club ride was a sightseeing trip to Calvary Cemetery in East Los Angeles to visit the grave of Lincoln Perry. Mr Perry was the first black movie star, and he is remembered for his character, “Stepin Fetchit”. His movies are rarely seen any more, and when they are, most of his performance is edited out. His character embodied all the worst racial stereotypes of the day, and he’s widely regarded as an embarrassing footnote now. But still, he was the first black actor to become a millionaire in the movies. So his is a conflicted legacy.

We rode south through San Marino and San Gabriel, and then west along the 60 freeway to get to East Los Angeles. When we got to the cemetery, there was a guard at the entrance. He said we couldn’t just go riding in there, but we explained why we were there, and he was very accommodating. He led us to the section that findagrave.com had told us was where Stepin Fetchit was buried, and he helped us look for the grave marker. But after about 10 minutes of all of us walking around looking, we couldn’t find it. So there is a distinct possibility that his grave is unmarked. The guard told us that we could call the office during the week and ask them, and they would know.

After the sightseeing stop, we headed west to downtown Los Angeles. We rode across the 4th Street bridge, which gave us a very nice view of all the skyscrapers where I’ve had the incomparable experience of climbing the stairs. Then we turned south, where we saw a test train running on the new Metro Expo Line.

Our snack stop was at Noah’s Bagels in Larchmont Village. And after that, we headed home by way of Benton Way in Silver Lake, and then up Figueroa Street.

It was a nice, if slightly-longer-than-usual ride.

49 miles.

2/12/2012

Playgrounds

Filed under: — stan @ 3:30 pm

Today’s bike club ride was one we’ve only done once before. A while back, I was looking at Roadside America, and they had a bit about a park in West Covina that has a full-sized model of an F-86 Sabre jet in the playground. I thought that this might make for an interesting sightseeing pairing with the sea monster playground at Vincent Lugo Park in San Gabriel.

Sadly, the park in San Gabriel is still under construction. The city parks department says that the sea monsters will not be altered, but the rest of the park is being rebuilt. And so, for the time being, we can only look at the monsters from a distance.

Heading east from there, we rode out to West Covina, where we saw the F-86. Interestingly, the plane is made of solid cast concrete, so I’m not sure it would pass muster for playground equipment safety today. But the F-86 was used in the Korean War, so this model probably dates back to the early 1960s, when we didn’t worry about such things.

Our snack stop was at Panera in West Covina. Then we rode home by way of the Santa Fe Dam Nature Area.

It was a nice ride.

42 miles.

2/5/2012

CVC Section 21453 Circular Red or Red Arrow

Filed under: — stan @ 11:07 pm

This is a rant. California license 4SHZ840, if you ever put your license plate into Google, this is why I was yelling at you.

First off, let’s have a look at a bit of the California Vehicle Code:

Circular Red or Red Arrow

21453. (a) A driver facing a steady circular red signal alone shall stop at a marked limit line, but if none, before entering the crosswalk on the near side of the intersection or, if none, then before entering the intersection, and shall remain stopped until an indication to proceed is shown, except as provided in subdivision (b).

(b) Except when a sign is in place prohibiting a turn, a driver, after stopping as required by subdivision (a), facing a steady circular red signal, may turn right, or turn left from a one-way street onto a one-way street. A driver making that turn shall yield the right-of-way to pedestrians lawfully within an adjacent crosswalk and to any vehicle that has approached or is approaching so closely as to constitute an immediate hazard to the driver, and shall continue to yield the right-of-way to that vehicle until the driver can proceed with reasonable safety.

(c) A driver facing a steady red arrow signal shall not enter the intersection to make the movement indicated by the arrow and, unless entering the intersection to make a movement permitted by another signal, shall stop at a clearly marked limit line, but if none, before entering the crosswalk on the near side of the intersection, or if none, then before entering the intersection, and shall remain stopped until an indication permitting movement is shown.

(d) Unless otherwise directed by a pedestrian control signal as provided in Section 21456, a pedestrian facing a steady circular red or red arrow signal shall not enter the roadway.
Amended Sec. 1, Ch. 14, Stats. 2001. Effective January 1, 2002.

So I was out riding on Saturday morning. Coming home, crossing Lake Avenue on Mendocino Street. I had the green light, and I was coming through the intersection. And suddenly, there was a silver-gray Lexus coming across the intersection, right in front of me. If I was in a car, I’d have honked the horn at her. Being that I was on my bike, and had no horn, I yelled at her. She had her window open, so she heard me and stopped, looking a bit surprised. This sort of thing happens from time to time, and it’s generally not a big deal. She made a mistake on the road. I think it was most likely an honest mistake, and that she meant no harm. It happens to everyone. Nothing bad happened, so it’s all right.

So I kept going. Then she pulls up next to me and starts yelling at me from the moving car:

“I stopped at that light before I turned! I didn’t do anything wrong!”

People make mistakes. It’s just part of being human. We all do it from time to time. In this case, the mistake she made was a pretty minor one. No harm was done, so that should have been the end of it. A truly proper and gracious response on her part would have been to say something like, “Oops. I didn’t see you. Sorry about that.” This is very rare. In fact, in nearly 40 years of riding, I can count the number of times I’ve heard this from a motorist on the fingers of one hand. And still have several fingers left to spare. But that’s all right. It’s all part of the gig when you ride a bike. Still, for her to come after me and start yelling at me about how she didn’t do anything wrong and that, by implication, this is all somehow my fault, well, this crossed the line. This is no longer an honest mistake. This is acting like an asshole.

Now, I’m of the opinion that there are two kinds of people in the world:

  1. People who make mistakes, but are willing to own up to them;
  2. Assholes.

So I want to convey this to her, but I can’t give the fully-detailed and nuanced response above, since I’ve got to fit it in eight words or less as she’s driving away from me. So the abbreviated version came out like this:

“Through traffic has the right of way, ASSHOLE!”

By this time, she’s passed me, but she slows down, and I can hear her yelling at me more from inside the car. I can’t make it out. But by this time, I’m feeling more than a little threatened. After all, in any physical altercation between our respective vehicles, I’m the one who stands to end up dead.

So she pulls over a little bit ahead of me and stops. I see her starting to get out of the car, still yelling at me. I just ride past, and I say something to the effect that I don’t want to talk to her any more. I also made a point of showing her that I’d taken pictures of her and her car. Then I turned down the first side street. I put on some speed down the hill, and went down lots of little streets, just to lower the chances that I’d encounter her again.

There’s no good way to wrap this up. Yes, I think I lost my cool, and that didn’t help the situation. It’s just that people who won’t admit they made a mistake is a major peeve of mine. So driver, if you ever read this, this is how you managed to take a not-especially-bad situation, and turn it into something truly horrible and disturbing. And I sincerely hope to never, ever see you again on the road.

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