Stan’s Obligatory Blog


More letter-to-the-editor snark

Filed under: — stan @ 2:02 pm

Last week, the L.A. Times had an article about one man’s experience with bicycle commuting in Los Angeles. The overall message was that it’s really not bad. This matches my experience with riding here. Of all the cities I’ve spent time riding in, L.A. is one of the best for the overall experience.

My favorite tidbit from the column:

I have the pleasure of seeing the city through a different lens. Riding at a pace between 15 and 20 mph, the city is a slide show instead of a blur.

This mirrors what I’ve said for years. The bike is in many ways the perfect sightseeing vehicle. It can cover a lot of ground, but not at a speed where you will miss anything along the way.

Still, I felt that something was missing. So I sent in yet another letter to the editor, and they published it in today’s paper:

Re “A new spokesman for the thrill sport of biking in L.A.,” Column, Feb. 19

As a longtime cyclist, both for commuting and recreation, I enjoyed reading Ben Poston’s article about his experiences cycling in L.A. But he left out the best part: Cycling in Los Angeles is exciting; it’s like doing the running of the bulls everyday.

Stan Schwarz



Since the topic came up…

Filed under: — stan @ 10:23 pm

This past week, talk of alleged misconduct by the Los Angeles Police Department was in the news again. So I thought it was time to pay another visit to the man who unwittingly became the virtual ‘poster boy’ for LAPD misconduct, Rodney King.

It was a nice day for riding. A bit chilly in the morning, but it warmed up fast. The route took us through South Pasadena and Highland Park to the L.A. River bike path. Then we rode that up to the end on Riverside Drive. Then we rode over to Forest Lawn. After our experience at the Glendale Forest Lawn back in December, we made a point to stop at the information booth at the entrance to ask directions. That way, they knew why we were there, and it’s been our experience that they tend to be more accommodating when they know we’re there to actually visit someone.

We made our way up to the back of the cemetery, up on the hill. It’s actually a pretty picturesque location. Sadly, Mr King still does not have a headstone, which seems unfortunate. Even though it always seemed like he wanted to just be left alone, he became a figure in local history. Life is strange that way.

After the cemetery, we rode over the Priscilla’s in Burbank. It was a nice day to sit outside in the sun. That was where we saw the electric BMW parked across the street. Then we rode home by way of Hospital Hill and La Cañada. On the way back across Altadena, I saw that the Senior Center is showing a documentary about Brown v. Board of Education. Since that part of Altadena is largely a black neighborhood, it’s seemed appropriate.

It was a pleasant ride.

45 miles.


I love a good engineering contest

Filed under: — stan @ 9:40 pm

Last Thursday when I was on my way home from stair practice in downtown Los Angeles, I saw a sign in Union Station that said they were having a popsicle stick bridge-building competition there on Saturday. I love going to see engineering contests, so I thought this might make for a fun destination for a bike ride. So Silvio and I rode down there this morning to see it.

When we got downtown, I saw the first gas station I’ve seen with all its prices over $5.00. A sign of the times.

There were teams from a lot of local high schools there, all showing off their bridges and the story of how they built each one. It seemed that there was a bit of convergent evolution at work, since a lot of the bridges had similar looks, but there were some that were different. In particular, we talked to the faculty adviser for one of the teams, and he said that a careful reading of the contest rules said that in the final testing, force would only be applied right at the center of the bridge span. So their design did not have a lot of bracing at the ends, but had a very sturdy arch in the center. Clever. We talked to one of the other teams and asked them about the testing they had done on their bridge. They said that they had tested it up to some absurd weight over 500 pounds. That was impressive. It was fun to get to see and talk to so many nerdy high school kids.

Afterward, we headed home the same way we’d come. It was a nice day, but I needed to get back early. Still, it was a fun little diversion.

26 miles.



Filed under: — stan @ 5:00 pm

This Sunday’s bike club ride was the ‘Random Ride to Whittier’. We haven’t done this once since 2011, so it was time again. We even had a couple of new riders along this time, so we made a point to stop for the photo-op at Dork St in Pico Rivera.

It was chilly and sort-of-partly-cloudy. We rode down the Rio Hondo bike path, and we could see off in the distance that it was solid overcast down south of us. But then, seemingly without warning, we were under that overcast, and it got colder. I was very glad at that point that I’d overdressed.

We stopped for at Dork St. It looked like they got a new street sign since the last time we were there.

The ride goes down into part of Whittier, and then loops back to the San Gabriel River bike path. When we were going over the Whittier Narrows Dam, we saw some people with little-kid trailers on their bikes. But then we saw that each trailer had a German Shepherd in it. That was novel. We took the bike path north all the way to Lower Azusa Rd, where we got off. We rode up Peck Rd into Monrovia and our snack stop at Merengue.

The route home was the direct way through Siera Madre, and it was time. It felt even colder by then, so we were all pretty glad to be done.

44 miles.


Atlas Survives

Filed under: — stan @ 4:40 pm

A few weeks ago, there was a article in the L.A. Times about a company in Montebello that sells backyard survival shelters. They said that they have one on display in front of their building, so I thought this might make for an interesting bit of sightseeing. So I made up a route, and today was the day.

It was a perfect day for riding. The air was cool, the sun was warm, so it was perfect for riding down into the industrial underbelly of L.A., alongside the Santa Ana Freeway in Montebello. We went straight south through San Gabriel, and then took the Rio Hondo bike path south. We passed the petting zoo where they have the llamas. After a few miles, we turned off and rode just a few blocks to come out on Telegraph Road next to the freeway, and there it was. A big steel survival shelter on display in front of the building.

The banner on the building says what they say it will protect you from. But I don’t think it’s really much good against earthquakes. After all, they come without warning, and if you ran outside and crawled into your shelter, the earthquake would be over before you even got inside. As for all the other things, yes, I could see that it could work for them. But EMP is really only a danger to society and its electronic infrastructure. It’s not much of a danger to individual people. But hey, if it helps make somebody feel better.

After looking at the shelter, we headed back up the bike path. We took it all the way up to Arcadia and Peck Park. Then we took Peck Rd up into Monrovia and our snack stop at Merengue. It was a nice day to sit out on the patio. And when we were done, we headed home.

It was a nice ride.

40 miles.

The L.A. Times article is here:

They have a picture gallery here:,0,7445794.photogallery


Tour de Terminator

Filed under: — stan @ 5:09 pm

Today’s bike club ride was a sightseeing trip around Los Angeles to see four locations where scenes from the 1984 film, “The Terminator” were shot. I got the idea for this tour the other day when I found out that the restaurant where Sarah Connor worked in the movie was played by the Carrow’s in South Pasadena, and we’ve been by there a hundred times. So I looked up a few more locations, made a route, and here we are. I made a point of watching the movie again last night, just to be familiar with the locations and how they were shot. And now, almost 30 years later, the film really holds up quite well.

We started out from the park at 8:00. It was kind of chilly, and it didn’t help that the first 15 miles or so of the ride are downhill. We rode down into South Pasadena and stopped at Carrow’s. I leaned my bike up against the tree that Sarah Connor locked her scooter to in the film. It’s grown a bit over the last nearly-thirty-years.

Next, we rode down into downtown Los Angeles. Our first stop was on Hill St. We found the storefront that was turned into the Tech Noir nightclub in the film. The shutters were down, so it didn’t look like much. But even when they’re up, it’s just a jewelry store.

We found the alley off 7th St where Reese materialized after traveling through the time portal. It’s got a gate across it, which I guess is why the alley is so clean now.

Leaving downtown, we rode out to Larchmont to get bagels at Noah’s. By then, it had turned into a very nice day, and we had to wait a bit for a table outside. But we had our snacks and got ready for the ride home.

The route back dipped a bit south so we could get below Wilshire Blvd. This was so we could turn north on La Fayette Park Place. That was the location of the building that played Sarah and Ginger’s apartment. That particular location was only in the movie for a few seconds as an establishing shot showing the Terminator walking into the building.

All the sightseeing done, we cut over one block to Benton Way and headed for home. We rode back across Silver Lake and Eagle Rock, up the Colorado Hill, and home. It was a nice ride.

41 miles.


Slightly Chilly Today…

Filed under: — stan @ 4:07 pm

Today was cold. Certainly cold by California standards. And chilly by most standards outside of maybe Minnesota. When I got up it was 29F, or about -2C, which is the second-coldest temperature I’ve ever seen since I moved here to California in 1982. And it’s the second-coldest day I’ve gone bike riding on. The coldest was just a few years ago, and it was pretty cold. But it’s Sunday, and the bike club ride is only cancelled if it’s raining. So I got bundled up and headed out.

Kathleen had put a little pan of water outside last night just to see if it would freeze. I checked it, and it wasn’t frozen solid, but it had a crust of ice over it.

Today’s ride was a combination of two cultural landmark tours we’ve done before. One was Rubel’s Castle in Glendora. The second was visiting Sally Rand’s grave. I recently found out that there was a connection between the two, so that’s why we’re heading out there today.

First off, have a look at this. It’s a segment of “Videolog” from 1990 where Huell Howser visits the castle and talks to Michael Rubel:

A bit about the genesis of the castle is in the Wikipedia article:

Though Michael slept in one of the giant citrus refrigerators, the walls of thick cork were not sufficient sound insulation to allow him peace from his mother’s parties. In 1968 Michael fired up his cement mixer and, with a pile of discarded champagne bottles, began building himself a small get-away house in the center of his empty old 1,408,111 gallon concrete reservoir.[4] The high walls of the reservoir provided privacy and a noise barrier while he built his bottle house. Thus began a building spree that lasted twenty years, culminating in what is now called the Rubel Castle.

And the connection with Sally Rand:

Sally Rand, the silent screen actress and fan dancer, famous since the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair, never missed Dorothy Rubel’s parties, which were so extravagant that the packing house became known as ‘The Tin Palace.’

So we rode out there and had a look at the castle. It’s really quite imposing from the outside. We looked at it a bit, heard the clock bell ring. Then we headed back down the hill into Glendora, where we stopped for hot drinks at Classic Coffee.

After that, we suited up again and started back. We stopped off at Oakdale Memorial Park. Even though it had been over a year since we were last there, I remembered the area and we found Sally pretty easily. And while we’re at it, here’s a short video of her doing her fan dance:

With that, our day was complete. We rode back by way of Santa Fe Dam and through Monrovia. It was a pleasant ride, aside from the chill.

44 miles.


Bill ‘n’ Ed’s Excellent Green Houses

Filed under: — stan @ 3:15 pm

The last bike club ride of 2012 was a sightseeing trip out to Studio City to see a couple of green houses. Not like the green house we went to see in La Crescenta, but green houses. Apparently, Bill Nye The Science Guy and Ed Begley Jr live a few doors apart on a street in Studio City, and they’ve had a friendly rivalry to see whose house can have the lowest ‘carbon footprint’. Since the sorts of things to achieve this, like solar water heaters, photovoltaic panels, and low-water-use lawns are visible from outside, I thought this might make for a good sightseeing trip.

We headed out by way to Hollywood. After riding most of the length of Hollywood Blvd, we turned up Nicholls Canyon. That’s where we saw some interesting artworks in front of a couple of the houses. At the top, we turned left on Mulholland.

We took a short side trip up Torreyson Dr to see the Chemosphere house, just because it’s so distinctive. Then we headed down the hill into Studio City. The route got a bit hard to follow at times, since intersections in the hills tend to be somewhat ambiguously-marked. But Jeff had programmed the route into his Garmin, so that told us when we got off course.

After crossing Laurel Canyon Blvd, we got to the street and saw the houses. They were pretty obvious with the front-yard landscaping of native plants and big solar panels on the roofs.

Our snack stop was at the gelato place in Studio City. Carla got a very artfully-done cup of hot chocolate.

The rest of the ride home was pretty uneventful. We took the southern route across Glendale and over the pedestrian bridge across the 2 freeway. On the way back into Pasadena we saw some sort of antique car club on its way to somewhere. That was odd, and the cars were very smelly. Apparently, catalytic converters were not invented yet back then.

It was a pleasant ride, and we managed to avoid the rain.

49 miles.


It’s a Wonderful Ride – Again

Filed under: — stan @ 9:25 pm

It’s the last Sunday before Christmas, so it’s time for my “It’s a Wonderful Life” theme ride. It was kind of damp and cold this morning, but it’s not supposed to rain until later, so we can still go riding.

We headed out from the park and rode across Eagle Rock into Glendale. Then we went south to get to Forest Lawn. When we got there, we headed up the hill to where Jimmy Stewart is buried. When we got to the top, we were briefly harassed by a security guard there. She seemed to think that we should not be allowed to visit the cemetery on bicycles, and that we should come back in a car. I did mention that CVC section 21200 does explicitly say:

A person riding a bicycle or operating a pedicab upon a
highway has all the rights and is subject to all the provisions
applicable to the driver of a vehicle by this division

This didn’t make much of an impression.

But fortunately, John is a good diplomat, and he convinced her that we were not there to cause trouble, but we just wanted to pay respects to Jimmy Stewart for Christmas. So that worked out all right.

After that, we rode over to Paradise Bakery. Sadly, they didn’t have any chocolate eclairs today.

Our second and last stop was in La Cañada, which meant riding up the long hill up Verdugo Rd. But once we got to the top, it was downhill to our sightseeing stop, the house that played the Martini family home in Bailey Park. As you can see from the picture today and the picture from the movie, the house really hasn’t changed much at all. And in the third picture, I put George and Mary Bailey on the porch, just because I could.

It was a nice ride.

37 miles.


Three by Junior

Filed under: — stan @ 7:44 pm

Today’s bike club ride was yet another architecture tour. I’d gotten a link to an article on Zillow about modern-style houses that are for sale, and one of them was a house in Altadena that had been designed by Frank Lloyd Wright Jr. I’d heard of other houses he’d built in the L.A. area, so I looked up where they were, and we had a theme for the ride. We’ve done the “Five Wrights” route before, so this is sort of a companion piece to that.

The route was basically a combination of the old Toluca Lake route and the Mt Hollywood route through Griffith Park. We rode out by way of South Pasadena, then over the L.A. River and into Los Feliz. The first house was the Farrell House on Lowry Rd. We’d been by there before, but never noticed it. So we stopped and had a look. It had some stylistic elements that were reminiscent of the “textile block” houses that Frank Lloyd Wright designed.

The second house was the Sowden House on Franklin Ave. We’ve seen this one before, but never looked at it in any detail. This one looks like a Mayan temple, much like the famous Ennis House.

After that, we rode up into Griffith Park and stopped for snacks at The Trails. We found a table in the sun, and it was quite pleasant. Then we continued on up the hill and down the other side of the park. We rode past Travel Town and then across Glendale.

One the way up the long hill on Verdugo Rd, we passed a group of trees that someone decorates every year. Then we rode up our old favorite, Hospital Hill. At the top, I noticed the sign on the cross street. When you wish upon a hill…

We rode down through La Cañada and into Altadena. The last house was the Dorlan House, and like the others, it’s right by where we’ve ridden by a hundred times, but we’d never noticed it before. It had a nice modern and sleek style to it. And it turned out that when Carla was house-hunting, she’d been to an open house there, so she was able to describe the inside to us.

All in all, it was a good architecture-geek ride.

45 miles.

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