Stan’s Obligatory Blog

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6/26/2016

Be vewy, vewy quiet…

Filed under: — stan @ 2:31 pm

Today’s bike club ride was yet another celebrity grave tour. In this case, we went to see Arthur Bryan, who created the voice of Elmer Fudd in the Warner Brothers cartoons of yore.

We rode out across Eagle Rock and Glendale to Burbank. We took the short side trip to see the tortoises, but they were gone. One of the neighbors told us that the man’s wife wanted to have a front lawn again, so the big tortoises had to go.

When we got to the cemetery, we rode in and found Mr Bryan. As it turned out, he was fairly close to where Oliver Hardy is buried. After that, we stopped by the Portal of the Folded Wings to see the space shuttle memorial.

Our snack stop was at Priscilla’s, and after that, we headed home by way of Glendale and up and over Linda Vista and Lida St.

43 miles.

6/25/2016

Strawberry Peak At Last

Filed under: — stan @ 5:46 pm

There is a tendency of people in Los Angeles to regard the San Gabriel mountains as being like sort of a painted backdrop to the city. I know that I tended to think of them that way when I first moved here in 1982. But one day, my friend Gordon mentioned going hiking in the mountains, and I realized that these mountains were a real place where we could go and actually get out in actual nature.

My first-ever hike in the San Gabriels was Strawberry Peak via the Colby Canyon trail, which I climbed with Gordon in January, 1983. I liked it a lot. The trail was interesting and entertaining, and the view from the top was pretty amazing. I went back there again by a different trail in the summer of ‘83. In the summer of 1986, I hiked up Colby Canyon to Strawberry Peak with my mother and my cousins Irene and David. And that was the last time I was at the top of the mountain. I made an attempt in the summer of 2007. And I made two attempts with my hiking partner Karina in January and April of 2015. None of those trips made it to the top. But today, I finally made it back up there again.

Today’s trip was with Jen, who is the new Staff Seismologist at Caltech. She came into that position after Kate Hutton retired. I told her about the trail, and she was game to try it. So we headed up into the mountains and hit the trail. The first two miles were pretty easy, just walking up the trail to the saddle between Strawberry Peak and Josephine Peak. We stopped there to sit in the shade for a bit before striking out for the summit. The trail went up the crest of the ridge, and it included two sections of steep rock climbing.

We got to the first rock section and climbed up it. Then we followed the ridge for a while before reaching the second section of rock. The second was much longer and harder than the first. My memory of this trail was that it was interesting and entertaining, but this time, I was just marveling that the climb was about ten times harder than I remembered it being. I think that this is effect of 30 years passing since the last time I did it. We made it to the top, but I was the laggard here. Jen just scrambled up the rocks and left me behind. I was carefully picking my way, and moving very slowly. I think that was largely why in the end, the hike was a bit over six miles, but it took us seven hours.

At the top, we sat down and had lunch while looking at the view. We were up there for about a half-hour before heading back down. And the climb down the rocks was an exercise of carefully picking hand and foot holds. Again, I was the slow one, and I blame old age for my perhaps excessive caution. But we made it down the rocks all right, and made it back to the saddle and the water tank where we got to sit in the shade for a few minutes before heading back down the canyon trail. The last two miles down the canyon went pretty fast. I kept thinking about the bottle of ice water that was in the cooler in the trunk of the car. But when we finally got there, the formerly-iced water was warm. I guess it really was that hot today. Despite that, it was a fun time. And I finally made it up to the top of that damn mountain again, for the first time in 30 years.

Route map and elevation profile

6/19/2016

The Song Remains the Claim

Filed under: — stan @ 2:52 pm

This week, the news here in L.A. has been about the “Stairway to Heaven” trial going on at the Federal courthouse downtown. So today’s bike club ride was a “Stairway”-themed tour to visit the Rock Walk at Guitar Center in Hollywood, and then a visit to the courthouse. We’ve developed a heat wave this weekend, so going west would probably also be slightly less hot than staying local in the SGV.

There were five of us to start out, but Carla and Silvio decided to cut the ride short to get home before it got too hot. So John and Amiee and I continued on. We rode across Hollywood to Guitar Center, where we got to see Jimmy Page’s hand prints in the concrete. Then we headed down into Hancock Park, and then east into downtown L.A. It was mostly downhill all the way there. We considered bailing out after seeing the courthouse, since the Little Tokyo Metro station was right around the corner, but we decided to keep going. We rode home up the Arroyo Seco bike path until we got to the end of it in South Pasadena. At that point, we stopped in the park to sit in the shade for a bit. Then John turned off to head up past the Rose Bowl to go home to Altadena. Amiee said she was going to turn off to go home, too. At that point, I figured that since they were both turning off, then they wouldn’t be there to see me saying ‘uncle’ and taking the train the rest of the way home. So I turned into the South Pasadena Metro station and rode the train back to Pasadena. That cut off about five miles from the route. And when I got home, I saw that it was 107 degrees outside, so in the end, I didn’t feel too bad about having cheated and taken the train.

40 miles. (Including the two miles to get home from the Allen Metro station.)

Route map and elevation profile

6/12/2016

Little Orphan Oil Well

Filed under: — stan @ 5:25 pm

This past week, I saw an article about how two houses in Echo Park were found to have abandoned oil wells leaking natural gas and hydrogen sulfide in their front yards. Since we’ve gone on other rides to see oil-related sights in that area, I thought this might make for an interesting bit of sightseeing.

We started off with the usual 14 miles downhill into downtown Los Angeles. The only thing different this time was that I got flat along the way. And when I was checking the tire to find what had caused the flat, the little flake of glass embedded in it sliced my finger open. So I ended up bleeding all over everything while I fixed the tire. But I finally got it fixed, and we were back on the road.

In downtown, we paused for a moment to look up at the U.S. Bank building and see the glass slide they have installed from the 70th to the 69th floor. This is supposed to be opening in two weeks.

We rode down through downtown to check in on the Allenco Energy drilling island near USC. We’d been to see this a few times before, and it was in the news again this week. Apparently, the city has forced it to shut down until such time as they can enclose it in a fake building to control the smelly gases that leak from the site. It was quiet there, and we didn’t smell anything, so I guess it’s working…

Heading back into downtown, we passed the old apartment building on Olive St that had the oil oozing up in the basement back in 2006. Then we took 7th St out of downtown, and then turned north into Echo Park. We rode through one block where they were filming something, but we didn’t pause long enough to get any idea what. Then we arrived at Firmin St, where the orphaned oil wells are. One was pretty obvious, since it was inside a little chain-link fence enclosure in front of one house. The other one was across the street. The well itself wasn’t that obvious, but there was a posted notice from the state about how they had ordered that the well there had to be plugged and sealed off.

Continuing on, we went to our snack stop at Chango Coffee in Echo Park. Then we headed back past Dodger Stadium. This time, I’d remembered to check to be sure that there was not going to be game today, so the ride through the park there was pleasant. Then we headed back to Pasadena by way of the Arroyo Seco bike path.

39 miles.

Route map and elevation profile

6/5/2016

The Googie Bowling Alley Sign

Filed under: — stan @ 5:06 pm

We recently went to the Museum of Neon Art at their new location in Glendale to see the Sign Geeks exhibition of photographs of neon signs. There, they had one piece about the old Premiere Lanes sign in Santa Fe Springs. This is a great example of 1950s-style Googie design, and they had been working to have the sign preserved in some way after the bowling alley was torn down in 2010. I recently read that the city had approved development of the land, and that the sign would be coming down to be taken to the Valley Relics Museum in Chatsworth. So I figured that this might be our last chance to see it before it’s gone. We’ve done other rides to see famous examples of Googie architecture, so that was today’s ride.

The route was very similar to the route we took to downtown Whittier to see the antique street lights with the swastikas on them. Since the side trip to Santa Fe Springs would add several miles, I modified the route to cut off some distance at the beginning. So we started out just heading south, all the way to Whittier Narrows. We picked up the San Gabriel River bike trail, making the short side trip to go see Dork Street in Pico Rivera. then we rode the Whittier Greenway trail all the way to Greenleaf Ave. There was a nice segment of the trail where we rode over an old railroad bridge that took us diagonally above and across the very large Five Points intersection. Then we headed south to go see the sign.

Santa Fe Springs is apparently an industrial town. It looked a lot like Vernon did when we went to see the Farmer John packing plant a few weeks ago. We made it all the way to Telegraph Rd. where we saw the sign, standing tall over the vacant lot where the bowling alley used to be. We looked at it for a bit, and took some pictures. Then we headed back up into downtown Whittier and our snack stop at Mimo’s Cafe.

Coming back, we rode up the San Gabriel River and Rio Hondo bike paths, and then home through Arcadia. It was a pleasant ride to see a little bit of local history.

47 miles.

Route map and elevation profile

5/29/2016

Santa Monica

Filed under: — stan @ 3:23 pm

Today’s bike club ride was a a bit of an oddity. We did a one-way ride to Santa Monica, just for the novelty of seeing the ocean and being able to take the Metro back to Pasadena. Our rides are usually about 40-45 miles, so a round trip to the beach is a bit beyond our usual range. But with the ability to make it a one-way trip, it’s easily within reach.

The day started out overcast and a little misty. Pasadena gets like that a lot this time of year. But it usually dries up once we get away from the mountains. So we started out and headed south toward downtown Los Angeles. When we got to the bridge over the L.A. River, there were a lot of people there, all looking over the side of the bridge. That was odd, since that part of downtown is usually so deserted that there aren’t even any homeless people there. But we heard that it was the same group that made the Griffith Park tea house, and they were doing a pop-up art project in the river channel. We looked over the side, and we saw “AS IF NOTHING MAGICAL HAD HAPPENED” spelled out on the side of the channel in purple flower petals.

We rode through downtown L.A. When we got to Flower St, there was an Expo Line train headed south. When the train is running at street level, it doesn’t go too fast. It goes just fast enough that I like to chase it. The popular wisdom is that bicycle racers are like dogs. They will chase anything that passes them. I used to be a bicycle racer, so I had to chase the train. Come along for the ride:

Jen and Amiee were along this week, but not last, so they missed seeing the Space Shuttle fuel tank in Exposition Park. So we took a short side trip into the park. But when we got there, the tank wasn’t sitting on the trailer in front of the Natural History Museum. Carla said that she’d heard that they moved it, but it’s so big there were a limited number of places it could have gone. I didn’t think they’d put it inside the building with the Space Shuttle, since the trees around the building didn’t look like they’d been disturbed. So I rode around the building, and the tank was inside a fence against the back side of the shuttle exhibit building. So we actually got a closer look at it this time.

Continuing west, we rode the Expo Line bike lanes down Exposition and Jefferson, all the way to La Cienega. At that point, we picked up the beginning of the Ballona Creek bike path. I’d never been on the upper part of that before. The pavement was kind of rough, but it was nice being off the street. We rode that all the way to Marina Del Rey, where we turned north on the bike path there, and headed up into Venice.

We took a short side trip to see the canals in Venice. Then we headed up to Santa Monica. The plan was to meet up with my old friend Kathleen at Urth Caffe there. But when we got there, she was already there, but she was at the end of a long line out the door. So we went to a backup plan, and we all went to the big Starbuck’s across from Santa Monica City Hall. Along the way, we saw Conrad’s “Chain Reaction” sculpture, which I think is very appropriately displayed right across the street from the RAND Corporation building.

We rarely stop at Starbuck’s, but today it was just the thing. We were able to get a table on the patio, and that was really all that mattered. We had drinks and snacks there for a bit, before doing the last part of the ride to the pier. The pier was only a few blocks away, and we rode out on it to the little ‘End of Route 66′ kiosk and sign. Then we headed the few blocks back up Colorado St to the Metro station, where we got on the train back to Los Angeles. We rode the train all the way back to Pasadena, and then the two miles from the Metro station back to the park where we’d started.

35 miles to Santa Monica. With the last two miles back to the park from the Metro station, we had 37 miles for the day, which is just about our normal Sunday ride distance. And it certainly was novel getting to ride to the beach.

Route map and elevation profile

5/22/2016

ET-94 on the Sunday Bike Club Ride

Filed under: — stan @ 3:15 pm

A few years ago, we rode down to near Exposition Park to watch the Space Shuttle Endeavour being moved to its new home at the California Science Center. And today, we rode down to the park to see the last remaining external shuttle fuel tank, which was delivered to the park yesterday.

It was cool and overcast in Pasadena when we started out, but it cleared and was pleasantly sunny as we headed south into Los Angeles. We rode through downtown L.A. all the way to Exposition Park.

Come along and ride into the park with us:

Leaving Exposition Park, we headed west on Exposition Blvd. As part of the Expo Line, they built a bike lane along the street, so we rode that all the way out to Buckingham, just past Crenshaw. Along the way, we saw westbound trains with signs saying that they were headed for Santa Monica. The new Expo Line extension from Culver City to Santa Monica just opened this weekend.

Turning north, we rode up into Hancock Park and our snack stop at Noah’s in Larchmont Village. After that, we headed home by way of Benton Way across Silverlake, and back through Eagle Rock to Pasadena.

44 miles.

Route map and elevation profile

5/15/2016

Ciclavia Watts

Filed under: — stan @ 2:46 pm

Today was the first Ciclavia – Southeast Cities event. This marks the first time they have put on an event like this in that area. I had a look at the route, and I saw that one of the end points was right by the Watts Towers, so that was our destination for today. We’ve been to see the towers before, but this is the first time in several years.

It was cool and overcast, with a hint of maybe-it-might-rain-but-probably-not. Because it was going to be a little bit longer ride than we usually do, I made the route as direct as possible. We headed directly south through San Gabriel, all the way to the Rio Hondo bike path. Then we rode that all the way to where it meets the Los Angeles River. There, we crossed over and got on the L.A. River bike path going north. After a short distance, we came to where the Ciclavia route met up with the bike path. We got off there, and joined the party.

Because this was the first such event held in the area, it seemed less crowded than other ones we’ve been to. There were still a lot of people, but it wasn’t the 405-at-rush-hour experience that the ride back from Venice was. We rode the route all the way to the end at the Watts Towers, where we played tourist for a few minutes. At that point, we had a quick huddle and decided to just take the direct route back across Lynwood to get back to the bike path for the trip home.

We stopped at a little Mexican bakery in Lynwood for snacks. Then we got back on the bike path and headed home. And we had a tailwind all the way home, which was a nice treat.

52 miles.

Route map and elevation profile

5/8/2016

Another bit of Cold War history

Filed under: — stan @ 2:14 pm

A few weeks ago, I read an article about how the National Park Service is preserving sites used by the Manhattan Project during the development of the atomic bomb. Sadly, these are all too far away for us to ride to. But along the way, I found another article in a related vein. It was about how nuclear-armed missiles used to kept at sites in the middle of cities, including Los Angeles. Most of these sites are gone now, with the land being used for other purposes. But the one in Van Nuys is basically intact, although the missiles were removed in the ’70s. So today’s ride was to go and see it.

The Nike-Hercules system was built in the 1950s as defense against Russian bombers. One of the sites near San Francisco has been turned into a museum, which we visited a couple years ago. So even though we can’t go inside the site here, we know what it looks like. And it’s still odd to think they kept nuclear warheads right here in the city. The site is right next to the Tillman Water Reclamation Plant, which we’ve visited before.

We basically took the shortest route there and back, since Van Nuys is a bit farther than we usually roam. The Valley is pretty flat, so we made pretty good time. When we got there, we could see that the old launch site really is basically unchanged. The doors to the underground missile magazines are still there. But it’s all surrounded by a fence, so we couldn’t see it all that close up.

Heading back, we took the Orange Line bike path back to North Hollywood and our snack stop at Panera. We rested there for a bit, and then headed back. We took the Chandler Bikeway across Burbank, and then straight across Glendale and Eagle Rock, up the Colorado hill, and back into Pasadena. It was a pleasant ride.

53 miles

Route map and elevation profile

5/1/2016

The Farmer John Hog Mural

Filed under: — stan @ 2:02 pm

Today’s bike club ride was a new one for us. We rode down to Vernon to see the big hog murals painted on the walls of the Farmer John packing plant there. We took our basic route into downtown L.A., and then just took Santa Fe Ave all the way south to Vernon. Along the way, took a quick look to see how construction of the tunnel entrance for the Regional Connector. We also passed through the Arts District around the 6th St bridge, which was where we saw the chicken with the Big Boy head on it. That was kind of creepy and funny at the same time.

We passed under the freeway on the south end of downtown, and then rode over the bridge over the railroad tracks there, and then we were in Vernon. It’s an odd place, since basically nobody lives there. We rode for a while there to get to Vernon Ave, and then we were at the Farmer John plant. It’s a big building, and the murals wrap around two sides facing the street. And then on the inside, just inside the gate, there’s the mural of the pig angels flying, presumably to Hog Heaven. The whole thing is very impressive in a weird way.

Leaving Vernon, we headed west to come out at Adams and Grand, where we turned north, back into downtown. We passed by the big steel origami horse, and then we saw Olde Good Things, which is apparently a treasure trove of weird old stuff. We rode into downtown, all the way to 7th St, where we turned west. Then we took Bonnie Brae St up to Echo Park.

In Echo Park, we took a short side trip to see the new anti-Scientology billboard that recently went up on Glendale Blvd. Then we headed over to Chango Coffee. Our plan was to ride from there over to Chinatown, but it turned out that there was about to be a Dodgers game, and roads around the stadium were completely full. So instead, we headed out of Elysian Park and went up Figueroa St. Then we were able to get on the Arroyo Seco bike path right at the beginning of it, just off Ave 43. This brought us all the way back to South Pasadena. Then it was just a short hop to get home.

44 miles.

Route map and elevation profile

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