Stan’s Obligatory Blog

9/22/2013

The Glendora Bougainvillea

Filed under: — stan @ 4:02 pm

Today’s bike club ride was the route out to Glendora to see the Glendora Bougainvillea. The weather is nice, so we can ride inland now without it being too hot, so this seemed like a good choice for today’s ride.

The bougainvillea had more flowers on it than we’ve seen the other times we’ve gone to see it. That was nice. We also saw a big new development of townhouses right by where the Metro Gold Line light rail station is going to be in 2018 or so. And on the way home, we got to see some of the progress in building the initial Gold Line extension to Azusa.

It was a perfect day for riding.

40 miles.

9/15/2013

This Old House

Filed under: — stan @ 2:00 pm

This week, I saw an article on Curbed LA about some very old houses for sale in the Los Angeles area. And it turned out that a few of them were not far from here, so that was the theme for this Sunday’s bike club ride. I made a route to go by and see three of the old houses.

The route was basically a big loop around the San Gabriel Valley. We started out heading up to Altadena, where we saw the first house. This one didn’t have a name. The article said it was built in 1891, which made it the newest of the three we were going to see. After that, we continued on up into La Cañada, where we rode up St Katherine Drive to the top of the big hill. We didn’t really need to ride up and over that hill. It was purely gratuitous. But it did give us a chance to see the half-built house at the top that has been sitting half-built for several years. This time, it looks like it has some new wood, so maybe somebody’s going to finish building it.

Heading back down the hill, we rode down Orange Grove to the mansion district below Colorado. That was where we saw the Hood-Cox House, which was the oldest of the three, having been built in 1886. It had a little plaque about it on one of the trees in the front yard.

After that, we rode down into South Pasadena, where we stopped for snacks at Union Bakery. Then we headed east, out to Monrovia. This was also purely gratuitous. It was just extra distance to make the route come out to 40 miles. At one point, we ran into a closed bit of road due to construction on the Metro Gold Line extension in Monrovia. But we found a little temporary sidewalk that they’d built for pedestrians to get around the closure, and that was good enough for us to ride through.

On the way home, we went through Sierra Madre. We went all the way up to Grandview Ave, since we were going to see the 1888 Pinney House, which was just off of Grandview. After riding up that hill, I remember why we go up there so rarely. Nobody wants to climb that hill at the end of a ride. But we did it today, just so we could stop and see the ornate house.

From there, it was all downhill to get home. Which was good. It was pretty hot, and we’d ridden up several large hills. But it was interesting to see the old houses. There aren’t many buildings that old around here. So it was a nice ride.

40 miles.

9/8/2013

The Neutra Tour

Filed under: — stan @ 3:15 pm

I recently got a new app called “Field Trip” on my phone. It keeps track of where I go, and it pops up notices of interesting things to see and do in the area. So yesterday, it popped up a notice about a piece of art on the wall outside the Los Angeles County Hall of Records in downtown Los Angeles. The piece is called “Topographical Map”, and it is a stylized depiction of Los Angeles County. In the process of reading about this, I found out that the Hall of Records is one of only a very few office buildings designed by Richard Neutra. For some time, I’ve wanted to go see the houses on Neutra Place in Silver Lake, so putting these two together to make a tour seemed like a perfect combination.

We rode into downtown by the usual route, down Huntington Drive. On the bridge over the L.A. River, we had to stop for a Metrolink train. That’s the first time we’ve ever seen a train going by on that particular crossing, which always seemed odd, since it’s right near Union Station.

When we got to downtown, we went to the Hall of Records. “Topographical Map” depicts the geology and geography of Los Angeles County, complete with channels carrying water to represent the Los Angeles Aqueduct and the California Aqueduct. We also took a few minutes to look at the Hall itself. It was built in 1961, and bears all the hallmarks of the modernist style of architecture that Neutra was known for.

Continuing through downtown, we passed Grand Park and “Exxopolis“, across from City Hall. We rode down almost to USC before heading west on Adams.

We made a loop, coming up in Hancock Park for snacks at Noah’s Bagels in Larchmont Village. From there, we headed back east to Silver Lake and Benton Way. A short detour off Silver Lake Blvd brought us to Neutra Place. There were several Neutra houses on that short street.

The final part of the ride was our usual route home by way of Eagle Rock. We were all glad that the heat wave from last week had ended, and it turned out to be a very nice day for riding.

41 miles.

9/1/2013

A ride to Downey

Filed under: — stan @ 12:57 pm

Today’s bike club ride was the route to Downey and the Columbia Memorial Space Center. It sits on a piece of land that used to be part of the old North American Aviation plant where they built the Command and Service Modules for the Apollo Program, as well as the second stage of the Saturn V moon rocket. Then, in the late ’70s, it was where the Space Shuttle was designed. Downey’s connection with the Apollo moon program can still be seen in things like the little strip mall called “Apollo Center”.

We stopped for drinks and snacks at 3rd Street Coffee in Downey. After that, we rode over to the Rio Hondo bike path for the ride home. The day got pretty hot, but not to the point of being unbearable.

41 miles.

8/25/2013

Vacation in Tehran

Filed under: — stan @ 2:00 pm

It’s the last Sunday of the month, and that means it’s time for our ’slightly longer’ Sunday morning bike ride. Today’s destination was the Veterans Administration campus in North Hills. One of the buildings there was used for filming some of the scenes outside the American Embassy in Tehran in the film “Argo“.

The route out there was basically the La Tuna Canyon ride, but with about an eight-mile side trip at the apex of the route. We rode out across Glendale and Burbank until we got to Sun Valley, where we’d normally turn right and head up the canyon. But instead, we turned left and headed out into the San Fernando Valley. It was a fair distance to get to North Hills, but it was very flat. The only real downside was that it was a very hot day.

When we got there, we had to look up which building it was. Then we followed the signs to get there. As it turns out, the part of the building that was used for filming was on the back side, so we didn’t get to see it directly from the road. Also, the main building near the entrance is apparently used in “Grey’s Anatomy”, which I didn’t know, but one of the other people on the ride recognized.

On the way back, we stopped at a gas station and got some cold drinks. I sucked down a 1.5 liter bottle of cold water. It was hot.

When we got back to familiar territory, we’d ridden a bit over 40 miles, and now it was time to ride up La Tuna Canyon. That was a real grind. I was almost happy that I got a flat along the way. At least it was a legitimate reason to stop for a while. We regrouped at the top, and then headed down the other side, in to Montrose.

We stopped for bagels at Goldstein’s in La Cañada. Then, from there it was downhill all the way home.

56 miles.

8/18/2013

More Los Angeles History

Filed under: — stan @ 3:16 pm

Today’s ride was a visit to what’s referred to as the Corralitas Red Car Property in Silver Lake. This is a strip of land that used to be the right-of-way for the Pacific Electric Glendale line. It runs from right next to the Glendale Freeway to the top of the hill overlooking Fletcher Drive and Riverside. At one end, the tracks used to run where the present-day freeway stands, and at the other end, there used to be a high trestle across the valley where Fletcher Drive runs now. The footings for the trestle are still visible on the hillside.

We rode out from from Pasadena, across Eagle Rock and Glendale, and then down to the L.A. River bike path near Griffith Park. We took that to Fletcher Drive and then took some streets to get to Riverside Drive, near the Glendale Freeway underpass. Then, after a short side trip up the hill behind the school on Riverside, we were there. The right-of-way is essentially a dirt road now. The people in the neighborhood park cars on it, and the tire tracks show that it’s driven on a fair amount. We rode out to the end where the trestle used to be. From that angle, the footings for the trestle make it pretty obvious where it used to be. I looked, and I found a good picture showing the trestle from about the same angle here: http://www.pacificelectric.org/pacific-electric/western-district/the-final-days-of-fletcher-trestle/

From there, we turned around and rode the length of the trail back to where it ends by the freeway. Then we got back on the streets and rode down Riverside to Stadium Way. After our experience a few weeks ago, I’d looked to make sure there wasn’t a Dodger home game today, since we’d be going right past the stadium. We rode through and down into Echo Park to Chango Coffee.

After the snack stop, we rode up the steep hill out of Echo Park, passing the gates of Dodger Stadium. We also passed the Los Angeles Fire Department academy, and the World Trade Center memorial there. Then, we turned east up Broadway and headed for home by way of Huntington Drive.

It was a perfect day for riding, and an interesting bit of Los Angeles history.

38 miles.

8/15/2013

Scouting the West Side

Filed under: — stan @ 8:00 pm

Kathleen had to have surgery today, and due to the requirements of it, we had to go to the West L.A. Kaiser hospital. They said it would take 2-3 hours, and that I should be available during that time. Since just sitting in the waiting room is just excruciating, I made sure they had my cell phone number, and I brought my bike along to scout out some possible sightseeing for the Sunday morning bike club ride.

Since we’ve done a couple of rides to see different aspects of the history of the Los Angeles oil fields, I’ve done a bit of reading about this. And I ran across an article about fracking wastewater disposal that mentioned polluted water bubbling up out of the ground in a dog park on the west side of L.A. They weren’t very specific about where it was, and when I finally tracked it down, it turned out to actually be in Culver City. But as it turns out, this is just a couple of miles from the Kaiser West L.A. facility, so I had my first sightseeing destination.

To get there, I rode down Venice Blvd, which isn’t nearly as bad as it sounds like it would be on a Thursday morning. There is a bike lane, and it was really only a problem going under the big bridge under construction for the Metro Expo Line. Then I turned on Culver Blvd and rode over to the park in Culver City. There was a line of pawprints painted on the sidewalk marking the way to the dog park. When I got there, it was an acre or so of dirt, complete with oil wells pumping away just up the hillside beyond the fence. There was also a little fenced-in enclosure across the street from the entrance, with humming equipment inside that was pretty obviously something to do with the oil field.

Another recent sightseeing theme on the Sunday morning ride was to see the Mulholland Dam and the Hollywood Reservoir. This came out of having gone to a talk about the St. Francis Dam disaster in 1928, which is considered to be one of the worst civil engineering failures of the 20th century. During that talk, they mentioned that the dam collapse is largely forgotten in Los Angeles, possibly because all the death and destruction it caused happened far outside the city. So during the question-and-answer period, I asked the panel to compare this to the 1963 Baldwin Hills Dam collapse, which is also kind of forgotten, even though it happened within the Los Angeles city limits, just about 8 miles west of downtown. They said that they thought that that was probably because of the combination of the fact that the destruction it caused was much less than the St. Francis Dam, and also because it happened in December, 1963, just weeks after the Kennedy assassination. In any event, I’ve wanted to go see the site of the Baldwin Hills Dam for some time now, and it’s only a few miles east of Culver City and the dog park. And to add to the connection, the prevailing thinking now is that the dam collapse was probably caused by ground subsidence due to operations in the Inglewood oil field just south of the reservoir. The remains of the dam and the bowl of the reservoir have since been landscaped and turned into Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area.

So I rode over to Baldwin Hills, and I headed up a street that looked like it might lead to a way in to the park. The main entrance to the park is on La Cienega Blvd, but on the section that was built decades ago as a section of the planned Laurel Canyon Freeway. Even though it’s officially just a street, I really don’t want to be riding my bike on the freeway, so I was looking for another way in to the park. I rode up a steep hill to a place where I had a good look at the former dam, complete with the dip in the wall where it broke. I continued on up to the end of the street, where there was a locked gate. So I asked someone who was out walking in the neighborhood. She said that she thought there was a way in off the street on the other side of the former reservoir, so I rode back down the hill and up the other side, only to find more locked gates. I finally did find a gap in the fence with that looked like a goat path that may have led into the park. But that’s not really what I was looking for. The only lesson I can draw from this is that for some reason, the powers that be REALLY, REALLY don’t want people to come to this park by bicycle. Still, I did get a pretty good view in through the gates to see the nicely landscaped bowl of the former reservoir.

On my way back down the hill, my phone made some noise. It was a message from the nurse that Kathleen’s operation was nearly done, and that everything had gone well. So I headed back to the hospital. As I’d learned back in 2007, going for a bike ride is a good way to pass the time while waiting for these sorts of things. So it worked out well for both of us.

8/11/2013

Just Another Dam Ride

Filed under: — stan @ 4:10 pm

A few weeks ago, Kathleen and I went to a talk at the downtown library about the St Francis Dam disaster. Back in 1978, I rode in a bike race that went up Francisquito Canyon, and I remember seeing the ruins of the dam during the race. At the time, I didn’t know the history of it, but I could see that they were ruins of something big in the canyon.

To this day, it appears that there is still some disagreement about the fundamental cause of the dam collapse. But one thing that they talked about that I’d never heard before was that the St Francis Dam was one of two dams that William Mulholland and the DWP built to store water from the Los Angeles Aqueduct. The St Francis Dam collapsed not long after being filled to capacity, while the other dam still exists, holding back the Hollywood Reservoir. Apparently, soon after the St Francis disaster, people looked up at the dam above Hollywood and realized that it was essentially the same dam as the one that had failed catastrophically in Santa Clarita. So the DWP embarked on a program to basically fill in the canyon in front of the dam with dirt, and then to plant trees on the slope. Ostensibly, this was to reinforce the dam, but it also had the effect of making the dam much less obvious. From below, it just looks like a little bit of concrete wall on top of the hillside.

“Dam? What dam? There’s no dam here!”

Of course, I decided that we needed to go see this close-up. I’d heard recently that the path around the reservoir is open now for hiking and bicycling, so I dusted off the “Chris Brown’s House” route and, with a few modifications, we were ready to go.

I told everyone that I thought that this might be a slightly easier ride than the others we do that go by Lake Hollywood, since we would not be riding up the hill all the way to the Hollywood sign. But it still turned out to be pretty hard. The climb up the canyon to the dam was quite steep. But when we came around the last bend, I could see the dam. Sort of. It just looked like a hillside. The trees that the DWP planted are all quite large now, and it’s not obvious at all that there’s a dam there.

At the gate to enter the path around the reservoir there was a sign saying that photo and video equipment is not allowed. In the modern age, I don’t see how they could possibly expect that anyone would follow a rule like that.

We went in the gate and rode across the dam. I stopped to look over the side at the slope and trees, and over the other side to look at the lake. It really took a stupendous amount of dirt to construct that slope. I found a picture of it from Popular Science from 1933 or so. Look how small the dump truck is, and then imagine how many loads of dirt it took:
look how small the dump truck is

On the far side of the dam, I found a little display case with a faded certificate in it. It was dated 1966 and signed by the chief engineer for the DWP.

Continuing on around the lake, we got back to the main road and groaned up the Lake Hollywood hill. Then down the other side into Burbank for snacks at Priscilla’s.

On the way back, Martha showed us how to get to the Glendale Narrows Riverwalk. This is a short walking and bike path they built along a stretch of the L.A. River. It was a nice little shortcut.

All told, it was a nice day for riding, and an interesting bit of history, too.

38 miles.

7/28/2013

Oil, Part Two – Edward Doheny and the City Oil Field

Filed under: — stan @ 5:34 pm

Last month, we did a bike tour of the oil fields of Los Angeles. Today’s ride is the second part of our tour of the history of oil in L.A. Today, we visited sites related to Edward Doheny and the Los Angeles City Oil Field.

The route took us downtown to start. We rode through downtown and then headed west on Adams. Then we turned into the Mt. Saint Mary’s Doheny Campus, which is the site of Doheny’s mansion. The guard at the gate didn’t want to let us ride onto the campus to see it. A college campus where bicycles are not allowed? Really? I think that’s absurd. We duly noted his warning, and rode in anyway. The mansion was quite impressive. Apparently, this tract of land used to be a gated community with lots of mansions, but over time, Doheny bought the whole thing, and in the end, he willed it to the college.

The campus is also the site of another oil drilling island, this one the easternmost of the Las Cienegas’ oil field. It had a high wall around it, so it wasn’t obvious, aside from the mechanical sounds and slight oil smell coming from it.

Heading west, we rode to Hancock Park and our snack stop at Noah’s Bagels in Larchmont Village. We saw the puppy we’d met last month there again. He’d grown considerably. After that, we started for home.

We rode east, back toward downtown Los Angeles. Then we headed up to our second stop, which is the last producing oil well in the L.A. City Oil Field. It’s one block east of Alvarado St, in a little fenced-off lot. Word is it produces something like 3.5 barrels of oil a day.

Continuing north into Echo Park, we arrived at the Echo Park Pool. The parking lot there was the site of Edward Doheny’s original well on the City Oil Field. This was the first well dug that produced significant oil from that field, and it set off an oil rush that lasted for many years.

From there, we headed north, passing through Angelino Heights and all the old Victorian mansions there. Then we rode past Dodger Stadium. They had just opened the gates for a game that afternoon. But the traffic wasn’t too bad. We rode through Elysian Park and then home by way of Figueroa St.

It was a nice ride, with some interesting sights.

48 miles.

7/26/2013

More in metal fatigue

Filed under: — stan @ 7:14 am

Here’s the latest installment in my ongoing series, “I’ve never seen one of these break before!”

Yesterday, when I was riding in to work, I noticed that my bike seat felt weird. Like the seatpost was loose. So when I got to the office, I had a look, and I saw that one of the saddle rails had broken. At which point I said, “I’ve never seen one of these break before!”

So when I got home, I replaced the saddle with a spare one I had lying around. So everything is good.

Part one of the series is here: http://www.1134.org/blog/2007/12/30/ive-never-seen-one-of-these-break-before/

Part two is here: http://www.1134.org/blog/2009/03/01/ive-never-seen-one-of-these-break-either/

And part three here: http://www.1134.org/blog/2009/06/15/metal-fatigue-strikes-again/

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