Stan’s Obligatory Blog

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2/7/2016

An Empty Freeway in Los Angeles is a Surreal Sight

Filed under: — stan @ 2:30 pm

Back in November, we took a ride downtown to see the 6th St bridge close-up. At the time, it had been announced that it was going to be torn down and rebuilt, but the work had not started yet. But this weekend was when the actual work got underway. The plan was to demolish the section of the bridge where it passed over the 101 freeway, just east of downtown Los Angeles. As with the famous “Carmageddon” on the 405 freeway a few years ago, this was going to require closing a section of the 101 freeway for about a day and a half. The closure was supposed to start on Friday night, and run until afternoon on Sunday. So of course, I figured the Sunday morning Foothill Cycle bike club ride should go and see it. A closed and empty freeway is extremely rare in Los Angeles. In 30 years living here, I’d never seen one before.

I’ve only been on a freeway on my bike two times. Once was when I was about 12, and there was about a two-mile stretch of the then-future Mt Nittany Expressway that was built but not opened yet. My friends and I rode our bikes there just for the novelty of riding on it. The other time I was in 1977, when I was a bike racer. One day when I was out riding, I caught a flat-bed truck carrying a bulldozer on an uphill stretch. Somehow, that truck made the perfect draft*, and I was able to draft off it for a good 10 miles, doing 40-45mph the whole way. I knew that the road we were on turned into a freeway up ahead, and I wanted to see if I could keep up with it when it hit full freeway speed. When it got going, I was able to keep up, spinning as fast as I could in my top gear. We didn’t have bike computers then, so I don’t know how fast I was actually going, but it was fast. Fast enough that, even though I was 17, I somehow realized that this was probably Not a Good Idea. I figured I’d made my point and I should probably get off the freeway at the first exit. Still, that was an experience.

Our route took us straight south to Rosemead, and then west through Monterey Park to East L.A. and Boyle Heights. We got to where 1st St crossed under the 101 freeway. There was an on-ramp to the northbound 101 which did not say it was closed. Cars were getting on the northbound freeway there, but it was pretty obvious that there was none of the usual freeway sound coming over the sound wall. So we headed south a few blocks to 4th St, which crosses the 101 on an overpass. From there, it was easy to see the completely empty freeway. There was an off-ramp from the freeway up to 4th St, so I rode down it to see it close-up and ride a quick circle on the empty freeway. Wow, that felt weird.

Continuing on, we took the 4th St bridge across the L.A. River to downtown. Then we rode the bike lanes down Spring St and 7th St before turning north and heading up to Echo Park. We stopped for snacks at Chango Coffee. Our route home went up the Arroyo Seco bike path back to South Pasadena, and then home from there.

40 miles.

* Drafting a truck on a bike was tested by the Mythbusters, and they deemed it “Plausible”, but I can personally attest that it is “Confirmed”.

Route map and elevation profile

1/17/2016

Visting the point of impact

Filed under: — stan @ 1:40 pm

I’ve recently been binge-watching the airplane disaster series “Mayday“. One of the episodes told the story of Hughes Airwest Flight 706 which crashed in the mountains just north of Duarte in 1971, after colliding with a Marine Corps fighter jet. In the process of reading more about that incident, I fell down the Wikipedia Rabbit Hole, and discovered that there had been another crash involving a mid-air collision near here, and it occurred just a few blocks off of one of our regular bike ride routes. Since it happened 41 years ago, I knew that there would be no trace of it now, but I still thought it might be interesting to visit the site.

The accident in question was Golden West Airlines Flight 261, which was a short hop from Ontario to LAX. They were heading west toward LAX, directly into the setting sun, when they were hit from the side by the second airplane, and the debris fell in Whittier.

We took our usual route down the Rio Hondo bike path to Whittier Narrows. Then we tried a little experiment, taking Durfee Rd to Peck, and then Rooks Rd down the west side of the 605 freeway. Then we resumed our regular route into Whittier. A second experiment was to take the Whittier Greenway Trail, which is an old railroad right-of-way that has been converted into a bike path and walking trail. That turned out to be very pleasant, and I think we will have to go back and see some more of it another day.

A short side trip brought us to Katherine Edwards Middle School, where the fuselage of Flight 261 fell on the playing field behind the school. Other parts fell on the neighborhood surrounding the school.

Leaving the crash site, we headed back up the San Gabriel River bike path to Whittier Narrows. Then we took a short side trip to Legg Lake to see a bit of a cyclocross race that was being held there. We also ran across a small military museum just on the north side of the 60 freeway. Then we continued north on Tyler Ave, heading for Arcadia.

We stopped briefly at the El Monte Metrolink station to see the station artwork, which recalled the days when El Monte was known as the home of Gay’s Lion Farm. Continuing north, we got to Arcadia, and then headed home from there. It was very cold when we started out this morning, but it warmed up nicely, and in the end it was a very pleasant ride.

45 miles.

Route map and elevation profile

12/13/2015

More Urban Archaeology

Filed under: — stan @ 2:28 pm

Two weeks ago, we rode into downtown Los Angeles to see the 6th Street bridge, and also to see some fossilized tracks from the former Pacific Electric Air Line. The same web site where I found out about those tracks also had a note about the old bridge over Ballona Creek in Culver City. Apparently, the bridge and old tracks are still there, and Metro just built the new Expo Line elevated tracks above it. So today’s ride was a trip out there to see the old bridge.

We started out heading into downtown L.A. bu our usual route. There was some sort of lowrider car show going on in front of City Hall. Continuing south, we picked up West Adams Blvd and took that out to just past Crenshaw. Then we went south a few blocks and got on the bike lane that parallels the new Metro Expo Line. That brought us to just past the La Cienega station, where the bike lane becomes a bike path, and crosses Ballona Creek right next to the old Air Line bridge. It’s kind of remarkable that the bridge is still there, and still in pretty good condition.

After looking at the bridge a bit, we continued west on the bike path, and then turned off on Helms Ave to go up to the old Helms Bakery complex, which has been turned into stores and restaurants. We went to a little cafe there called La Dijonnaise. The food was pretty good, and it was pleasant sitting out on the patio there.

The route home took us back into downtown by way of Venice Blvd, 9th St, and 7th St. Then we took the Arroyo Seco bike path from just east of downtown all the way to South Pasadena. It was a good way to come home, since the Arroyo bike path is essentially flat all the way.

47 miles.

Route map and elevation profile

11/29/2015

The 6th Street Bridge

Filed under: — stan @ 5:40 pm

Today’s bike club ride was a trip through downtown Los Angeles to see the soon-to-be-demolished 6th Street bridge, and also to see some remnants of the former Pacific Electric Air Line tracks.

We rode into downtown Los Angeles by our regular route down Huntington Drive. But just before Alameda St, we turned left and made our way south parallel to the river and railroad tracks. At 4th St, we took a side trip up onto the bridge there to get a view of the 6th St bridge from the north. Then we continued south a bit more, passing under the 6th St bridge. I never knew there was a ramp under the bridge leading to a tunnel under the railroad tracks and out to the river. So that’s how they got cars down the riverbed for all the movies that had car chases and races in the L.A. River.

From just south of 6th St, we got a good view of the arches on the bridge. Then we continued south on Santa Fe St to see the building that Robert’s great-grandfather built to house their family business in 1910. And the business is still there, 105 years later.

Turning west, we crossed over to Grand Ave going south. At about 35th St, there were some rails embedded in the sidewalk. They are remains of the old Pacific Electric Air Line to Santa Monica. Most of the Air Line right-of-way is now being occupied by the Metro Expo Line. But the part east of Flower St is not. We rode around to the DMV office at 37th St. There were some more rails embedded in the parking lot there. Then we headed north on Figueroa to continue our ride.

The rest of the ride was a loop through Hancock Park, and then home by way of Silverlake. And we got to see the Silverlake reservoir drained. Then we crossed the river and headed north. That was where I got a flat. But even with that, it was a pleasant ride.

49 miles.

Route map and elevation profile

11/22/2015

Atlas Still Survives

Filed under: — stan @ 2:07 pm

A few years ago, we took a ride to see Atlas Survival Shelters in Montebello. There had been an article about them in the L.A. Times, and we wanted to see the model shelter they had parked out in front of the building. With all the new angst about terrorism in the wake of what happened last week in Paris, I was curious to see how the survival shelter business was doing, so we rode back there to see today.

On the way through San Gabriel, we came across a road closure at the railroad tracks. We’d seen this before, and I remembered that there was a makeshift sidewalk to get across, so we took that, and we got a good look at the trench they are building to put the railroad tracks below grade.

After a short trip down the Rio Hondo bike path, we off in Montebello. We took a wrong turn there, and ended up having to carry our bikes down a short flight of stairs to get back on track. I’d forgotten about that, but back when I was in college, I learned to ride my bike down steps like that. And that made for my favorite college yearbook photo ever.

When we got there, we saw that they don’t have a model shelter on display in front of the factory any more. They still have one banner on the side of the building advertising the survival shelter business. But everything else was just about their regular ironworking business. And while we were there, Michael sat down to fix his leaking tire.

The ride back was pleasant enough. It was a very nice day, although we had a headwind all the way up the bike path, and all the way to Merengue in Monrovia. We had some snacks and then headed for home.

39 miles.

Route map and elevation profile

11/8/2015

Barris Kustom

Filed under: — stan @ 2:40 pm

In the L.A. Times obituary column this week, I saw that George Barris had died. He had a long career building cars for movies and TV shows, and his work is seen everywhere. So I thought this week’s bike ride should be a visit to the Barris Kustom showroom in Studio City.

The route out there started by going through South Pasadena and Highland Park to get to the new bridge over the L.A. River. From there, we planned on taking the L.A. River bike path all the way to where it ends at Riverside Drive. But when we got on it, we found out that part of the path was being used as a portion of the course for a 10k run. Where we were was the turn-around point for the run, so there were a lot of people. So we just went back to regular streets for a couple of miles. We got back on the path at Fletcher. There were still people running there, but traffic wasn’t so heavy. So we rode up the path to the end at Riverside.

The Barris Kustom showroom is a small storefront on Riverside Drive in Studio City. It wasn’t open, and there was nobody there on Sunday morning. But we were still able to look inside and see the Batmobile and a couple of other show cars on display. There were also posters on the wall for movies featuring cars that he made.

We rode a bit farther west in the Valley before looping back to our snack stop at Panera in North Hollywood. Then we headed back across Burbank and Glendale. Along the way, I saw that the “Not a Burger Stand” has now truly become Not a Burger Stand. No more Magritte-style surrealism for them. It was a nice ride, although the route turned out to be a bit longer than I thought it would be.

49 miles.

Route map and elevation profile

11/1/2015

Old oil wells in Echo Park

Filed under: — stan @ 5:01 pm

A few weeks ago, I’d planned for us to go to Echo Park to see a small lot with some old oil wells on it. As it turned out, it started raining that day, so we changed the ride to go to the downtown L.A. CicLAvia. So I thought we’d try again this week. And as an added bonus, I thought we might be able to see the new freeway sign announcing “Los Fezil

We started off by riding to downtown Los Angeles. That’s where we saw some filming going on. Something that involves a whole fleet of white Dodge cars and SUVs. We headed west on 7th St almost to MacArthur Park, where we turned and headed up Bonnie Brae to get to Echo Park. We go close to where the oil wells were, and we had to change the route slightly when we realized that the street we were going to take was actually an alley, and was actually about a 20% uphill grade. So we took the next street over, which was nice and flat.

The lot with the oil wells had a fair bit of activity going on. There were two guys there doing some work, and one of the wells was even pumping. Some time ago, I’d read that there was only one producing well left on the City Oil Field, and we went to visit it once. But apparently, they’ve turned at least one of the pump jacks here back on.

Continuing on, Silvio got a flat right near Echo Park and the lake with the fountains. We fixed that, and rode the short distance to Chango Coffee. After some snacks and drinks there, we headed up across Elysian Park and down to the river. We rode the L.A. River bike path all the way to its northern end, and along the way, we were completely unable to see the “Los Fezil” sign. So either they fixed it already, like they did with Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, or maybe it was behind some trees.

So that was our sightseeing for the day. The route home was across Glendale and over the hill to the Rose Bowl. I was a pleasant ride.

42 miles.

Route map and elevation profile

10/25/2015

Down for the Count – 2015

Filed under: — stan @ 2:46 pm

It’s the end of October, and that means it’s time for our Halloween ride. Out to Culver City and Holy Cross Cemetery to pay respects to The Count – Bela Lugosi. And I also wore my “Star Trek” bike jersey today, in case we wanted to take a side trip to Hillside Memorial Park to pay respects to Leonard Nimoy.

It was a nice day for riding. We headed downtown by way of Huntington Drive and Main St. Coming down Spring St downtown, we saw a big display in Grand Park for the Day of the Dead, so that was a photo-op. Then we had to cross the course of the Rock-n-Roll Half Marathon, which was in progress. Then we continued on south all the way to Pico, where we turned west to get to Flower St. There wasn’t an Expo Line train going down Flower St at the time, which was too bad. I like to race the train when there’s one there, since it goes just fast enough to chase, but not so fast that I can’t keep up.

We had to stop for a minute at La Cienega for a quick bike adjustment. That was where we saw the VW Micr -er- “Mico Bus”. Heh.

When we got to the cemetery, we rode up and over the hill to The Grotto. It took us a couple minutes to find Bela Lugosi. Usually, his grave is decorated for Halloween, but I think that maybe they haven’t done that yet, since it’s not until next Saturday. While we were there, Carla showed us her Halloween-themed nails.

Continuing on, we went to Hillside Memorial. In the past, we’d been able to go in the back gate, but it was closed today. So we rode around to the main gate. We asked directions, and the guy gave us a little map and showed us where to go. When we got there, we wandered around a bit until one of the maintenance guys saw us and pointed us to the right spot. Apparently, there are a lot of people stopping by to visit Leonard Nimoy. And deservedly so. I’m not the only one whose childhood hero was Mr Spock.

On the way home, we stopped for bagels at Noah’s. Our route home was supposed to be through Silverlake, but we decided to alter that and go home by way of downtown L.A. So I stopped there for a minute to get a photo of the little junkyard underneath the elevated Metro tracks that’s filled with wrecked police cars. And I wonder what’s the story of the gray car with “Do Not Shoot” painted on it. And by taking Griffin Ave, we passed by the giant dragonfly again for the first time in years.

59 miles.

Route map and elevation profile

10/18/2015

A slightly-damp CicLAvia

Filed under: — stan @ 1:16 pm

This week’s bike club ride was planned to be a visit to yet another downtown CicLAvia, followed by a side trip to Echo Park to see some abandoned oil wells there. The weather was threatening rain, and this route would also keep us close to Metro Rail stations, just in case we needed to bail out.

Pretty much as soon as we started out, we felt a few raindrops. It got wetter as we headed down Sierra Madre Blvd, and when we got to Huntington Drive, Carla turned around and bailed out. The rest of us continued on. I figured we could go a few more miles, and if it got worse, we’d just go the South Pasadena Metro station and take the train back. But as we continued on, the rain got lighter, and by the time we were coming in to downtown L.A., it has stopped. The streets were still wet, but it wasn’t actively raining any more. So we joined up with the CicLAvia route in Chinatown and rode it all the way to the other end by MacArthur Park. It was actually kind of nice, since the rain meant that a lot of people stayed away, and it wasn’t too crowded. We stopped to look at the Spheres art installation again, and I also noticed a few Egyptian Geese wandering around in the park. We’d seen some of them when we visited the Japanese Garden in Van Nuys, and I recognized them, since they kind of look like they’re wearing Lucha Libre masks. Since it still wasn’t too crowded on the streets, we decided to skip the side trip to the oil wells, and ride back to Chinatown. By the time we got there, word was getting around that the rain had stopped and streets had dried, and the route started to get crowded a bit. So we left it in Chinatown and headed up the hill by Dodger Stadium and the 9/11 memorial by the Fire Department training center to get to Echo Park and Chango Coffee. We had some snacks and drinks there.

By now, it was pretty clearly finished raining for the day, so we headed home by our regular route up Eagle Rock Blvd and then across Highland Park on York. And in the end, it turned out to be a pretty pleasant ride.

40 miles.

Route map and elevation profile

10/11/2015

Whole Yotta Love

Filed under: — stan @ 2:05 pm

Last week, there was a column in the L.A. Times by Steve Lopez about a couple who had moved in to a rented mansion in the Hollywood Hills and were throwing big parties and annoying the neighbors. But the detail that really put the story over the top for me was that they had had a mural of themselves put on the garage door. Since houses in the Hollywood Hills are on small lots, that meant that the garage door would be right on the street, so I thought we should go see it. So I went looking, and found out that the house was right on the street leading up to the dam, and we’d been by there before. Once when we went to see the monsters on Chris Brown’s house, and once when we went to see the Mulholland Dam itself.

We took our regular route through Eagle Rock to get to the L.A. River and Silverlake. Then we took Hollywood Blvd across to Argyle Ave, where we turned and headed up into the hills. The climb up to the dam is very steep in places, but with appropriate gearing, it’s not too bad. And then, we arrived at the mansion. The decorations were only slightly over the top. There was no lion in a cage outside, since their housewarming party was over. But the mural on the garage was there, and it was just as gaudy as we expected. So overall, it was worth seeing.

Continuing on up the hill, we got to the dam, and we rode across the top of it. Stopping in the middle, we looked across the lake and we could see both the Hollywood sign and the vineyard on Mt. Lee. John looked down the front of the dam, and he noticed that it has grizzly heads cast in concrete on each column. Sort of like the walrus heads on the columns of the Arctic Building in Seattle.

Leaving the dam, we had to to the very steep climb up out of the bowl that Lake Hollywood sits in, and then it was all downhill into Burbank, and our snack stop at Priscilla’s. We had drinks and snacks there, and then headed home, back across Glendale and Eagle Rock, and up the Colorado hill back to Pasadena.

39 miles.

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