Stan’s Obligatory Blog

9/16/2012

E.T. is 30 years old now

Filed under: — stan @ 5:52 pm

I was recently reminded that this summer marks the 30th anniversary of the movie, “E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial“. So, in honor of that occasion, and because it’s a ridiculous hill-climbing-fest, we took a ride up to Tujunga to see Elliott’s house from the movie. It’s been hot all week, and promised to still be hot today.

The house itself is at the top of a very steep hill in Tujunga, but just to make it more interesting, we went there by way of La Crescenta, riding all the way up Rosemont to the base of Pine Cone Road, which figured as the backdrop to the story told in John McPhee’s book, The Control of Nature. There is a short excerpt from the book on the USGS web site, telling the story of the night in 1978 when the Genofile’s house at the bottom of Pine Cone Road was buried by a debris flow.

Go read it. I’ll wait.

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There’s a picture of the house the next day at the Crescenta Valley Historical Society.

So after grinding all the way up the long hill on Rosemont, we got to see ‘The Fort’, the Shields Canyon drainage channel, and Pine Cone Road. In the aftermath of the debris flow, they rebuilt the house, and McPhee notes:

From the local chamber of commerce the family later received the Beautification Award for Best Home. Two of the criteria by which houses are selected for this honor are “good maintenance” and “a sense of drama.”

Continuing on, we passed the Green House on Markridge. We’d been up to see that before. Then we headed up into Tujunga, and it was time to climb the hill to Elliott’s house. They filmed a few outdoor scenes there, but the neighborhood where they filmed the kids riding the bikes around was in Northridge. The Tujunga neighborhood is far too steep a hill for kids on BMX bikes.

From there, it was all downhill back to Montrose, where we stopped for snacks and drinks. At that point, a few people decided to cut the route short and head home, since it was pretty hot. The rest of us continued on with the route, which involved a completely gratuitous ride down into Glendale and then back up over the Chevy Chase hill to La Cañada. It was a two or three mile hill that was absolutely unnecessary, but it fit the theme of the day, which was to ride up a lot of hills.

At the top, we stopped for a few minutes, and that’s where we saw a rather fat mouse just standing on the pavement a few feet from us, seemingly unconcerned about anything. That was odd.

After that last big hill, it was all downhill back to Pasadena. It was a nice ride. Jeff said that it totaled something like 3.700 feet of climbing. Good times.

41 miles.

9/9/2012

Top of the World

Filed under: — stan @ 4:35 pm

Today’s bike club ride was another sightseeing trip to Downey. We’ve gone there before to see history from The Carpenters, but this time, we were going to see a bit of the history of the space program there. Our destination was the Columbia Memorial Space Center, which was built at the site of the former North American Aviation, and later Rockwell plant where both the Apollo Command and Service Modules were built, as well as the Space Shuttle.

The trip there was very straightforward. Literally. We just rode down through San Gabriel and got on Rosemead southbound. And then we went straight for something like 10 miles. We had one brief stop to look at he oldest operating McDonald’s at the corner of Lakewood and Florence. We could also see that we were getting close to our destination. The shopping center next to it was “Apollo Center”. Building the space ship to go to the moon had to have been a source of civic pride in Downey.

The space center isn’t open on Sundays, so we didn’t get to go inside. We were mostly there to see the Command Module boilerplate test model outside. We also noticed that they had the nine concrete spheres along the front walkway painted like the nine planets. Hmm. I think Mike Brown would take issue with that.

Leaving the space museum, we rode back through Downey to 3rd St Coffee. We found tables in the shade and had some snacks. We took a short side trip to see the two apartment buildings that the Carpenters bought with the money from their first two hit singles. Then we rode over to pick up the Rio Hondo bike path for the trip home. By then it was pretty hot, but it was still a nice day and a pleasant ride.

42 miles.

9/2/2012

Another celebrity grave tour

Filed under: — stan @ 5:39 pm

This Sunday’s bike club ride was yet another celebrity grave tour. Back in February, we’d taken a ride to East L.A. to visit the grave of Lincoln Perry, who, as “Stepin Fetchit“, was the first black movie star. So today we were going to North Hollywood to see Willie Best and Mantan Moreland, who were the other two earliest black movie stars. And as an extra bonus, we got to visit Aneta Corsaut, who was on “The Andy Griffith Show”, but who I always remember as Steve McQueen’s girlfriend in “The Blob“.

On the way out, we found some more topiary in Burbank at Alameda and Victory. I’ll have to add them to the Topiary Tour West route for the future. We also stopped off at the house in Burbank with the giant desert tortoises in the yard. They were very active today. I was glad the camera has a ‘fast action’ mode on it.

When we got to the cemetery, we found Willie Best on the way in. His stone is new, since he was unmarked for many years until Scott Michaels and the Findadeath.com crew arranged to get a stone made for him. He is buried close by to Oliver Hardy. Mantan Moreland and Aneta Corsaut are close together in the far back of the cemetery.

After the cemetery stop, we rode down to Riverside Drive to stop at Priscilla’s Coffee. On the way we saw a sign-painter-fail. The painter had made the sign say, “ABLAMOS ESPAÑOL”, so the had to just paste on the “H” in front of it.

The route back went down the L.A. River bike path, and then home by way of South Pasadena. It was a pleasant ride.

46 miles.

8/26/2012

I hate it when this happens…

Filed under: — stan @ 10:02 pm

Tuesday is the day I have to submit my cookies and recipes for the L.A. County Fair. So, in honor of the occasion, I wanted to take the bike group for a ride out to and around the fairgrounds in Pomona. I made up batches of both cookie recipes to bring along to share.

In the morning, I was faced with the essential problem that a road bike is just not a good cargo vehicle. But I managed to figure out a way, using a small cardboard box, a rubber band, and some masking tape. I figured that as long as I didn’t hit any big bumps, it would be fine.

The ride out was pretty uneventful. Until we got to Covina. I noticed that my back wheel was way out of true, to the point that it was rubbing on the frame. So I stopped and got out my spoke wrench to true it back up. But when I looked at it, I saw that one of the spokes had pulled right out of the rim, and there was no fixing that with just a spoke wrench. So I fiddled with the spokes around the bad one to get the wheel straight enough to ride, and then I got ready to head home.

The plan had been to break out the cookies at our snack stop. But I wasn’t going to make it that far. So we found a Starbucks a couple blocks from where we were and we had a cookie-tasting. I’m pretty happy with how those recipes turned out.

After the impromptu stop, the group continued on the route. And John and I headed back to Pasadena, taking care not to put too much stress on the wounded wheel.

I hate it when things break like this. And this has happened before, and not that long ago.

38 miles.

8/19/2012

Remembering the Blacklist

Filed under: — stan @ 12:44 pm

This Sunday’s bike club ride was another art excursion. This time, we rode to the garden in front of the Fisher Art Museum at USC to see Blacklist. This is an art installation about the Hollywood Blacklist from the days of the House Un-American Activities Committee in the late 1940s and early ’50s.

It’s been hot all week, so I thought that going down into Los Angeles might be a bit cooler than Pasadena. So we rode down Huntington Drive and into downtown L.A. From there, we followed alongside the new Metro Expo line down to USC, where we pulled in to the garden in front of the museum. We spent a little time there, walking around and reading all the quotes carved into the stones. On one hand, it’s hard to believe that such things happened in the United States. But on the other hand, a lot of the things they were saying back then are the same things we hear today, only with the word “communism” replaced by “terrorism”.

After taking in the art, we rode out a bit on West Adams, and then north to Larchmont, where we stopped for bagels at Noah’s. Then it was home by way of Silver Lake. The ride back to Pasadena trends uphill, and the temperature went up right along with the elevation. But it was still a fun ride.

44 miles.

8/5/2012

Stonehurst

Filed under: — stan @ 2:19 pm

Today’s bike club ride was a sightseeing trip to the Stonehurst Cottages in the northeast San Fernando Valley. Since we went to see the Watts Towers last week, it seemed appropriate to go see yet another local oddity that was built by one man with a vision and a lot of time on his hands.

We’ve done this ride before, and it’s a fairly pleasant one, with just a few hills.

The prop company in Sun Valley still had the pair of giant hands outside their building. I found another hot-rod mailbox for my collection. We toured around the cottages, and marveled some more about the single-minded determination of Dan Montelongo for building them. And of course, we saw the beer-keg mailbox.

Our snack stop was at Goldstein’s Bagels in La Cañada. It was a pleasant ride.

45 miles.

7/29/2012

The Watts Towers

Filed under: — stan @ 2:41 pm

This Sunday’s bike club ride was a sightseeing trip to Watts to see the Watts Towers. I’ve always been fascinated by strange things that are the product of someone’s strange obsession. And since the towers were built by Simon Rodia out of junk he found over a period of more than 30 years.

The route was basically straight south to Whittier Narrows, where we got on the southern portion of the Rio Hondo bike path. That took us down through Pico Rivera and Downey to the Los Angeles river. Then we got off on Imperial Highway and rode across Lynwood. We crossed Alameda Blvd, and I took a moment to look down into the trench to see the railroad tracks that they built to carry the freight that is shipped into the port of Los Angeles.

When we crossed into Watts, we saw “111st St”. I presume that is pronounced, “eleventy-first street”.

Then we got to the towers. There is a small park around them, and there are plaques that tell the story. There are docent-led tours there, and Carla said that they are interesting. Someday I’ll have to go see that.

I rode down to the end of the block to see the Blue Line tracks there. I rode the train to Long Beach once, and I didn’t know that the tracks go right by the towers.

On the way home through Montebello, we saw some emus and llamas by the side of the bike path. That was odd. The sign said “Montebello Barnyard Zoo“.

It was a nice ride, with some cultural interest, and almost no hills at all.

49 miles.

7/15/2012

Mt Washington

Filed under: — stan @ 4:31 pm

This Sunday’s ride was the old Mt Washington route. It’s a slightly shorter route than our usual rides, but it does include a nice hill. We’ve done this ride numerous times, and nothing really remarkable happened along the way. Still, it was a pleasant ride.

38 miles.

7/8/2012

The reluctant icon

Filed under: — stan @ 5:11 pm

Today’s bike club ride was the old Toluca Lake route, with a stop at Forest Lawn to pay respects to an icon of our times. A very reluctant icon, to be sure, but still someone who had a major effect on Los Angeles and its culture. We were going to see Rodney King.

The ride out was pleasant. It was a nice day, and we made good time. Along the L.A. River bike path, I noticed that they’d put up new LED street lights. Maybe that will take care of the problems they were having with homeless people digging up the wires under the old street lights to sell the copper.

When we got to Forest Lawn, we made our way up the hill, almost all the way to the back of the cemetery. The entry in findagrave.com wasn’t very specific about the location, but I was able to figure it out from looking at the pictures. He does not have a marker yet, probably because he died quite suddenly and unexpectedly. The whole Rodney King story is really quite sad. I don’t think he deserved any of the bad things that happened to him, but at the same time, it’s complicated. After all, it was all the bad things that happened to him as a person that led to some real reforms in the LAPD, and that has been a real improvement for the city of Los Angeles. In the end, he will be a footnote in the history books, but on the other hand, that’s more than just about any of the rest of us will ever be.

Continuing on, we rode into Burbank. We passed the Starlet apartments, which had their sign repainted. It looks quite nice now, and not nearly as down-and-out as it used to. Besides the faded colors on the old sign, I always thought the thing that made it was the rough splotch of paint across the pool, almost certainly covering up the word ‘HEATED’ that must have been there before.

Our snack stop was at Priscilla’s, which is a good place to stop on a hot day. The tables outside are shaded, and really quite pleasant.

The route home took us up into La Cañada, and then back across Altadena to the start. It was a nice ride.

45 miles.

7/1/2012

Levitated Mass

Filed under: — stan @ 7:32 pm

Today’s bike club ride was a route out to Hancock Park and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art to see the new “Levitated Mass” installation outside the museum. We’ve been reading about this for some time, since it was apparently a major undertaking to bring the rock to LACMA from the quarry in Riverside. The rock was too big to fit under a lot of overpasses, and too heavy for some bridges, so it had to take a very circuitous route to get to the museum. And now it’s installed just outside. So we went to see it.

Starting out, right away, Chris got a flat. Then we continued on, into downtown Los Angeles. When we got to Chinatown, we met up with GT, who had ridden in from Burbank. And he promptly got a flat, too.

While GT was fixing his tire, we got to see the guy pushing the cart with the roasted pig on it. That was an odd sight.

There was a big line outside one of the buildings downtown, but with no outward indication of what could be so popular at 9:00 on a Sunday morning.

Passing L.A. Live, we saw the outside of the X Games, as well as some oddly-dressed people who were on their way to the convention center and the Anime Expo.

When we got to the park, the rock was right there. There was a guard posted by it. He insisted that we could only walk under the rock, and we couldn’t ride our bikes through. I’m not really sure what that was supposed to help, but that’s what we did.

After looking at the rock, we left the park, passing the giant chrome Lenin-head at 4th St and La Brea. Then we rode across Hancock Park to the Noah’s Bagels in Larchmont Village. We had snacks there, and then we headed home by way of Benton Way in Silver Lake.

By the time we got back to Pasadena, it was getting a little hot. But all told, it was a nice ride.

43 miles.

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