Stan’s Obligatory Blog


Sea monsters and a giant tamale

Filed under: — stan @ 5:03 pm

Today’s bike ride was a sightseeing trip to see some odd landmarks. First was the Laguna de San Gabriel in Vincent Lugo Park, with its sea-monster playground, and second was the giant tamale on Whittier Blvd in East Los Angeles. The tamale is a prime example of programmatic architecture, right up there with Donut Hole and other odd buildings around Los Angeles.

It was a cool and overcast this morning, and the forecast said it might rain a bit later on. We headed south toward San Gabriel. We turned down Wells St to get to Vincent Lugo Park and the Laguna de San Gabriel playground. The last time we went to see this, it was closed for renovation, but it’s open again now. And it comes complete with a sign warning us that the historic playground “predates modern playground standards”. Good to know, I guess. Carla and I got some pictures with the sea creatures on the playground.

Leaving the playground, we continued south, crossing the 60 freeway and coming out on Whittier Blvd in East Los Angeles. There, just down the block was the giant tamale. It was built back in the 1920s, and it was originally a tamale shop. Now it’s half a hair salon and half a dental lab. But it’s still a prime example of odd architecture.

From the tamale, we headed east through Montebello to the Rio Hondo bike path. We went north, over Whittier Narrows Dam. I’d never noticed the sign at the top before. So now we know what the dam is made of, and the slopes of the sides of it. Again, good to know, I guess.

On the San Gabriel River bike path, we came across a bike accident. Another bike club group had had some sort of mishap, and the L.A. County Fire paramedics were on the scene. I’d never thought about it before, but apparently they can get the ambulance on to the bike path. One more thing to put in the “good to know, I guess” file.

Since we’d not done this particular route before, my estimate was that it was going to be about 42 miles when we were done. But by the time we were on top of Santa Fe Dam in Irwindale, I could tell it was going to be close to 50 by the time we got back. We rode up the bike path to Encanto Park, and then into Monrovia. We stopped for snacks at Merengue, and then headed home. When I got home, I had 49.4 miles. So I rode around the block a couple times, just to make it:

50 miles.


A ride to nowhere in particular

Filed under: — stan @ 12:53 pm

Today’s bike ride is a route we haven’t done in several years. I call the the Ride to Nowhere in Particular. The route just sort of meanders around, but there are no sightseeing stops or points of interest along the way. About the only unusual thing we saw was the dog skull on Lincoln Ave in Montebello. Still, it was nice day, and a pleasant ride.

46 miles.


CicLAvia to the Beach

Filed under: — stan @ 6:01 pm

Today was the latest edition of CicLAvia, and it was the most ambitious yet. They closed down streets all the way from City Hall downtown, out to Venice Beach. It’s not often, or even ever, that we get to ride to the beach from Pasadena, so today was our chance.

We rode downtown by our usual route down Huntington Drive. And once we were there, we picked up the CicLAvia route going south on Main St. The route went west on 7th out to MacArthur Park, and then south a bit to Venice Blvd, and then all the way out to the beach. We got there a bit early, so the route wasn’t officially open yet, but that was good, since it wasn’t crowded. By the time we got out to Culver City, I could feel the cool ocean breeze. That’s nice, since we just don’t get that in Pasadena. We made very good time, and we were at the beach by a little after 10:00.

We rode out as far as we could to get as close to the water as we could on our bikes. Then we stopped for a bit to watch the skateboarders. That reminded me of the documentary “Dogtown and Z Boys“, and how the 1977 drought led to great innovation in skateboarding, since the water shortage meant that there were a lot of empty swimming pools around. It was pretty entertaining watching them.

Heading back, the crowd had grown considerably, and most of the ride back was like Friday evening on the 405. Still, it was a nice day, and we made it back to downtown, and then we headed for home. I’d estimated that the total ride would be about 60 miles, and when I got home, I had 59.4. So I went and rode around the block just to get to 60 miles. It was a fun day.


Roger Ebert, 1942-2013

Filed under: — stan @ 5:13 pm

The big news of the past week was the passing of Roger Ebert, who, among other things, was the first critic to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. So, in memory of Mr. Ebert, this week’s bike club ride was a trip to Hollywood to visit his star.

We started out from the park, and we rode down through South Pasadena to Highland Park. Going down Figueroa St, we passed Chicken Boy, and then turned off to head for the L.A. River crossing into Silver Lake. We picked up Hollywood Blvd, and rode all the way down the length of it. We passed through the Thai New Year festival in Thai Town, and then into the center of Hollywood.

Mr. Ebert’s star is in a prime location, in front of the El Capitan theater, and across from the famous Chinese Theater. There was some wax on it, since I’d heard that they had had a little candle memorial placed on it for a few days.

From there, we headed south, to Larchmont Village and Noah’s Bagels. The clouds were starting to clear, and it was a nice day to sit outside. For the trip home, we did our usual route across on 2nd St and then into Silver Lake and up Benton Way. It was a pleasant ride.

42 miles.


Atomic-Age Houses

Filed under: — stan @ 4:56 pm

A few weeks ago, Zillow published an article about houses built in the post-war period with what was considered ‘modern’ design. Since two of them were in the Hollywood Hills, I figured a sightseeing bike ride was in order.

It was chilly and overcast, and the forecast said there was a chance of rain. But we headed out anyway. We rode into Hollywood by our regular route through Eagle Rock and Glassell Park. And then we turned up Gower St to see the first house. Sadly, the front of the house is nowhere near as interesting-looking as the picture in the article of the back of the house. Still, we got to see it.

Continuing on up the hill, we came out on top by Wolf’s Lair Castle. Then we rode along the ridge and passed the overlook where all the tourists get their picture taken with the Hollywood sign. Then we rode down into Cahuenga Pass and up Mulholland Drive to the second house.

The second house was slightly more visible from the road. It looked like it probably had a commanding view. We certainly had to ride uphill a pretty long way to get to it.

The sightseeing done, we headed down into Burbank and snacks at Priscilla’s. Then home by way of Glendale and Eagle Rock. The ride wasn’t any longer than one of our usual routes, but it was a lot harder, due to the hills.

43 miles.


As Time Goes By

Filed under: — stan @ 3:03 pm

I recently got the schedule for this year’s edition of the L.A. Conservancy’sLast Remaining Seats” film series. And one of them is “Casablanca“, which will show at the Saban Theater in Beverly Hills in June. So I thought we should ride out to the Angelus Rosedale Cemetery to see Dooley Wilson again, since he sang the definitive version of “As Time Goes By“.

It was a nice day for riding. We took the usual route into downtown Los Angeles by way of Huntington Drive. We took Spring St through downtown, and then turned on Olympic. That’s when Jeff got a flat.

Heading south out of downtown, I had a little race with a Metro Blue Line train going down Flower St. A little farther along, we saw one of the trains on the new Expo Line, also known as ‘the slightly different shade of blue line’. Then we headed out on West Adams.

At the cemetery, we went and paid our respects to Dooley Wilson. We also spent a little time looking around the cemetery. There is a whole section of very old graves there. At least old by L.A. standards.

From there, we headed north into Koreatown, and then west to Larchmont and our snack stop at Noah’s Bagels. The route home was our usual one up Benton Way in Silver Lake, and then home up Eagle Rock Blvd.

It was a nice ride.

43 miles.


Cameron Woods

Filed under: — stan @ 6:23 pm

This week’s bike club ride was yet another sightseeing expedition. This time, our destination was Cameron Woods. This is a single block of Orion Avenue in Van Nuys, which holds the distinction of being one of the most-filmed streets in Los Angeles. It’s an odd place, with big lots and houses and landscaping that make it able to pass for just about anywhere in the eastern U.S., right smack in the middle of the San Fernando Valley. I’d read about this some time ago when there was an article about it in the Los Angeles Times, and so we finally got to go see it today.

It was a nice day for riding. It’s the last Sunday of the month, so it’s time for our monthly ’slightly longer’ ride. We headed out, west across Eagle Rock and Glendale and into the Valley. Somewhere in Studio City we saw Ringside Liquors, advertising “Fine Booze”. Somehow, it seems that if you’re calling it ‘booze’, the adjective ‘fine’ just doesn’t fit any more.

We rode through part of Van Nuys, which looked just like we expected. Lots of auto-body shops and kind of run-down apartments. And then we turned the corner onto Orion Ave. And everything changed. We were suddenly transported to suburban Connecticut or something like that. It was very strange. We rode down to the end of the block at Victory Blvd, where Los Angeles reappeared. It was a very odd feeling.

Coming back, we rode back down Orion Ave and got on the Metro Orange Line bike path. We took that all the way back to North Hollywood, and our snack stop at Panera. Then we continued on the bike path into Burbank before turning off. The route back was pretty much the reverse of the way out. It was quite warm and sunny by then, so all told, it was pretty much a perfect day for riding.

53 miles.


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.

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