Stan’s Obligatory Blog


Fargo Street

Filed under: — stan @ 8:39 pm

Today’s ride was down to Echo Park for the fabled Fargo Street Hill Climb. Word on the street is that Fargo is the steepest hill in Los Angeles, and I’m inclined (so to speak) to believe it.

We started out going through San Marino, South Pasadena and Highland Park. We passed Flor y Canto, which is a little art gallery, bookstore and community center. We went there once to see Keith Knight, the creator of the K Chronicles.

When we got to Echo Park, there was already a big crowd at the bottom of the hill. Looking up at it I had my first “oh shit” moment. I’ve been practicing on Nolden St. in Eagle Rock, but Fargo really did look a lot steeper. I went and did a little practice run part-way up the street one block over just to see if I could turn the pedals and keep the bike moving.

When my turn came, I tried to just apply the same formula that’s worked for me many times before: just knuckle down and power straight up the hill. As programmers know, there’s often nothing better than sheer brute force to get something done. I got about half-way up the hill before the intensity of the effort caught up to me. That’s the problem with trying to apply brute strength at age 45. It was truly a struggle for survival just to turn the pedals. I knew there was no way to maintain that level of exertion, so I started to tack back and forth across the street. Then, on one of the turns, my back tire slipped. That was the end of that run. I didn’t fall, but I was forced to dismount. After a few minutes rest in someone’s driveway, I managed to get moving again and made it the rest of the way to the top. But I needed to make it non-stop to get the official patch.

After coming back down, I rested a bit and then tried again. This time I went a bit slower and tacked across the street from the start. This helped, and I made it a little farther than the first time. But still, when I was doing one of the turns, my front wheel came up off the pavement, and this time I did fall. Plop! Right down on the pavement.

I sat on the pavement for a couple minutes thinking about what a Revolting Development this was. I pulled out my camera and snapped a picture of the view from up there. It was clear, and I could see the Hollywood sign. Then I walked down, pausing for a moment to get a picture of John making his attempt at the hill. He made it about as far as I did before he slipped and fell too.

Wow. In over 30 years of riding my bike everywhere, I’ve met my match. Fargo St. is the only hill I’ve ever met that I couldn’t just grit my teeth and power up. It was humbling. On the way back, John and I were comparing notes and marveling at just how tired we were after just a few minutes of truly maximum effort. I think part of it also has to do with the ‘agony of defeat’ effect. When I used to race, whenever I won or placed highly in a race, I always felt good afterward. No matter how hard the race was, if I did well I had energy to do a little dance, spike the bike, or whatever. But defeat always left me exhausted.

So after the hill experience, we rode back by way of Griffith Park. We passed the Mulholland fountain just outside the park. A fountain seems the most fitting tribute to William Mulholland, since he brought water to L.A. and thereby made the Owens Valley what it is today. No problem of urban sprawl there, nope.

From there we went into Glendale, passing a man in a chicken suit outside El Pollo Loco. Then we went up the hill into La Crescenta. We sort of noodled around in the hills there a bit before heading into Montrose and stopping at a bakery there. Then we headed home up “Hospital Hill” and back down the hill into Pasadena.

44 miles.



The biggest hill I ever rode up…

Filed under: — stan @ 11:27 pm

I like riding up hills. It’s fun, largely for the sense of accomplishment I get at the top. I’ve always been this way. When I was a kid, we used to go to the White Mountains in New Hampshire for vacation every year. We hiked up and down lots of the mountains there, and it was great fun.

When I first got interesting in serious cycling, I remember that one of the first things I thought of was, “I’m going to ride my bike up the Mount Washington Auto Road“. The thought just came naturally, since it was the biggest hill I knew of. Everyone I told about this thought I was crazy, which I guess is pretty normal, since I get that reaction about lots of things.

I didn’t get to do it until 1976, when I was sixteen, but it was as much fun as I thought it would be. I rode up to the toll gates at the bottom of the road and they waved me through. I rode across the meadow, and then started up the hill. And it was steep. It was steeper than I’d thought it would be. Steeper than it felt when we’d hiked on parts of it before. In those days the road was about half paved and half dirt. But it was all right. I just kept going, up and up. My parents drove the car up and stopped along the way to watch me ride by. Sadly, we didn’t have a camera, so I don’t have any pictures.

When I got to the top, I parked my bike along the wall where hikers put their packs. I rested a bit and then headed down. I had to stop a couple of times to let my brakes cool off. They were getting really hot, and I was worried that this might make my tires blow out from the pressure, or melt the rim glue, since I was riding the old-fashioned sew-up tires. But when I got down I was elated. I’d ridden up the biggest hill I knew, and had fun doing it.

I rode the Mt. Washington Valley bike race in 1977. The second part of the race was a hillclimb up the auto road, but the weather was bad that day and they only ran it to the Halfway House.

I rode up Mt. Washington one more time in 1981. It was also fun. I even saw two other riders on the road that day.

Sadly, I see that they no longer allow bike riders on the road. They hold a bike ride once a year, and that’s it. I guess that a lot of people want to do it, since the registration fee is something like $300. So I’m glad that I got to do it back in the days when it was just an oddity. I still remember watching all the people gawking at me from their cars when I was riding up the first time.

And I still like riding up hills. Next Sunday is the Fargo Street Hillclimb. This isn’t a particularly big hill, but it’s reputed to be the steepest hill in Los Angeles. I tried it once before, back in 1990, but I didn’t get very far. I didn’t have the right gears. This time I think I can do it. I’ve been practicing on Nolden St, which is almost as steep as Fargo, so I think I’m ready. And I’m looking forward to it. Riding up ridiculous hills is fun.



Do the Right Thing…

Filed under: — stan @ 8:21 pm

A few months ago, there was a story posted in Slashdot about how to hack Kryptonite bike locks. Apparently someone discovered a very easy method to pick the tubular cylinders on them. For 30 years, the Kryptonite has been the gold standard of bike locks, so this was a Big Deal.

I went to their web site and put in the serial number of my lock. They then sent me a prepaid UPS shipping label to send it back to them. My lock was 10 years old. Most companies balk at standing behind any product that old. I thought they might send me a coupon for $2 off a new lock or something like that. But today, exactly two weeks later, I got a new lock in the mail. I’m sure that this whole replacement campaign must be costing the company a fair bit of money, but it’s really refreshing to see them pony up and stand behind their products. They did the Right Thing.


It’s not raining, it’s just…ummm….heavy fog

Filed under: — stan @ 1:41 pm

Six of us showed up for the ride today, even though it was cold and wet and drizzling at the park. Since our usual leader Gene wasn’t there, we just decided where to go. I suggested going south or west to get away from the mountains. A lot of times we get weather like this in Pasadena when it’s perfectly nice everywhere else. So we headed west.

We went past the big Federal Court building on Grand Ave. I recently read that that building used to be the support center for the Los Angeles area Nike anti-aircraft missiles.

As we crossed into South Pasadena, the drizzle stopped and from then on it was dry, although still gray and dreary. But we still got a laugh from the bus ad for Spay and Neuter Month. Sort of reminiscent of the Ron Jeremy PSA for the same cause.

We went south through Glassell Park, passing the old Van de Kamp’s bakery. Then we crossed the L.A. River and got on the bike path. We took the bike path all the way up around Griffith Park to Riverside Dr. Along the way, we could see that the trees in the river bed were all bent over and covered with debris. It’s just more of the effects of all the rain we’ve been having this winter. Then, after the bike path ended, we took streets the rest of the way to Priscilla’s in Toluca Lake.

After the stop at Priscilla’s, we were all complaining about being cold. It took a few miles to warm up. We came back by the southern route, since we thought that it was probably still raining up closer to the mountains. We came back across Glendale and Eagle Rock on Yosemite Dr.

We took a short detour in Eagle Rock to make an attempt at climbing Nolden St. I thought it would be good practice for Fargo St. next week. Four of us made the attempt. Matt, James, and I all ended up slipping on the damp pavement and had to stop. But John made it all the way to the top and was therefore the Hero of the Day.

After that bit of fun, we headed back into Pasadena, whereupon it began to rain again. On the last street we saw someone trying to give away a treadmill. I guess that’s just one of those New Year’s resolutions gone bad. But maybe he thought that giving away the barbecue with it would somehow make up for it.

When it was all done, it was actually a pretty good ride.

42 miles.




Filed under: — stan @ 4:08 pm

Today’s ride was to Glendora. Gene found a new bakery out there and he wanted to get a loaf of olive bread, so off we went.

The first part of the ride was a bit of a blur to me, since there was a problem at work, and my phone was ringing. There was a M5.4 earthquake in Quebec this morning, and the computer that does the Community Internet Intensity Maps (a.k.a. the “Did you feel it?” maps) was having a problem. It’s a bit of a challenge to talk on the phone while riding.

Today’s new entry in the Flat Tire Gallery is Matt.

After that excitement, we continued on through Irwindale, passing the low-rent Irwindale Speedway. I always refer to it as the ‘low-rent racetrack’ because while a lot of racetracks might have events like the “Purolator 400″ or some such, I’ve seen the sign at Irwindale trumpeting the “Food-4-Less 150″, which just sounds a whole lot more downscale.

Continuing on, we passed a place to take a leak and the hot rod mailbox before heading into Old Town Glendora. We stopped there for a little snack at the bakery. Gene pulled out a backpack and stuffed an enormous loaf of olive bread into it for the trip home.

After the stop, we headed home across the San Gabriel River and then back through Monrovia and Sierra Madre. I snapped one picture of the town square in Sierra Madre, since it was a major filming location for the 1956 “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”.

Gene carried that olive bread all the way back, and the extra weight and wind resistance didn’t seem to slow him down too much.

40 miles.



Larchmont Village and The Ramones

Filed under: — stan @ 2:58 pm

Today’s ride was to Larchmont Village. This is a small-town-like shopping district just south of Hollywood in the Hancock Park area of Los Angeles. We were also very happy to have Matt along on the ride for the first time in months. Matt is in the Navy, and is just back from Iraq, so we were glad to see him back in one piece.

We started out going through Pasadena and Highland Park, where we passed the LAPD Historical Museum. This is definitely on our list of things to see one of these days. From there we took Eagle Rock Blvd and Fletcher across the L.A. River in to Los Feliz. Then we went past the Silver Lake reservoir. This was where we got into the ‘gritty urban cycling’ part of the ride. We rode through Koreatown, where we saw the ‘98 Cent Discount Store’. Glad to see that the 99 Cent Store has some competition. We also saw the LAPD in action near there.

After we crossed Western Ave, we went into the mansion district of Hancock Park. When we got to Larchmont Blvd, we saw the house where Adriana Caselotti lived. She was the voice of the original Disney Snow White, back in the days when voice actors in cartoons were not the big deal they are today.

We stopped for a bagel at Noah’s Bagels on Larchmont. That was where we saw the ‘Party in a Box’. We all had different ideas of what should be in the box.

After the stop, we went north past Paramount Studios to the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. The recent rains made the pond there overflow, so there were squished crayfish all over the roads there. We stopped to see the statue of Johnny Ramone, as well as Dee Dee Ramone’s grave, which are both in the same area of the cemetery. We also saw another monument that looks like an Atlas rocket. We don’t know who is buried there, but we were all curious, since it was a unique monument.

Continuing north, we passed the somewhat creepy Scientology Celebrity Center, and then took Franklin Ave east to the Shakespeare bridge. From there it was the standard route home through Highland Park and Eagle Rock.

44 miles.



It was 27 years ago today…

Filed under: — stan @ 8:31 pm

It was February 19th, 1978. I got up at some ungodly hour like 3:30AM to go down to Bud’s Bike Shop in Claremont to meet the guys who were going to give me a ride to the Malibu Time Trial. This was a little 10-mile time trial that used to be the first event of the Southern California racing season. The race started at something like 06:00. The course was out-and-back twice. They sent us off the line at 30-second intervals. This was good, since it meant that the guy who started before me was still in sight when I started. So I just concentrated on trying to catch him. When I did, I just chased the next guy in line. I passed at least two other riders that day. The photo is when I was turning for the second out-and-back. When it was all done, I was in second place for Category 2, and tied for third place overall with a time of 23:19. There were no prizes. It was just an opportunity to see how fast everyone was riding. And it was great fun.



Whitter Narrows

Filed under: — stan @ 2:02 pm

Today’s ride was down to Whittier Narrows and back. It was cloudy, but not raining, so conditions were adequate. We went east through Sierra Madre and then straight south on Santa Anita all the way down past the 60 freeway. Along the way, we felt a few little sprinkles, but actual rain never quite happened.

One road we went on was marked closed, apparently due to flooding during the recent rains. It was passable, and it was a nice treat to have the road to ourselves for a bit.

After we passed the Whittier Narrows dam, we turned west and then north, heading back through Montebello and into Monterey Park. There were a few small hills there, but nothing spectacular.

In Alhambra, we saw a car with a license plate frame that said “Nothing’s Fucked”. I’m not sure if that is an expression of optimism or what, but we all thought it was funny. We also got to see how to write “Washington Mutual Bank” in Chinese, in case anyone was wondering.

Heading north through San Marino, we passed Lacy Park and then climbed up the scarp of the Raymond Fault. Then we continued on into Pasadena, where we stopped at Noah’s Bagels on South Lake. That was where we met the little white dog who was sitting outside waiting while his owner got coffee. He was very friendly.

From there, we went south again and went through San Marino some more before heading home.

39 miles.




Filed under: — stan @ 3:32 pm

I’ve been playing around a bit with This site will do route mapping like Mapquest, but for bikes. And they include information about hills and such.

So I decided to look up Fargo St. They say it’s 0.13 miles and 151 vertical feet. Then I looked up Nolden St in Eagle Rock. This is the ridiculously steep hill that I like to ride up. I figure it’s good practice for Fargo St. They say it’s 0.11 miles and 134 feet up. So they are pretty comparable.

Just for comparison, I went to to get the maps for both places. Looking at the contours on the map for Fargo St and the map for Nolden St indicates agreement with the bikemetro elevation data.

But we know what’s really important here: It’s fun to ride up ridiculous hills.



Johnny Ramone and Lake Hollywood

Filed under: — stan @ 1:41 pm

I went riding today, since we’re going to be busy tomorrow. Since I’d heard about the new statue of Johnny Ramone at the Hollywood Forever cemetery, I thought I’d go over and have a look.

I took the fairly standard route through Eagle Rock to get there, pausing only briefly to ride up and over the ridiculously steep hill. I figure it’s good practice for Fargo Street next month.

When I got into Hollywood, I went straight down Hollywood Blvd. I passed Cheetah’s, which Cathy and I have been to and enjoyed. Then it was on into Thai Town, where I saw a Thai food place with a big hot dog on the roof. What’s up with that?

Then I turned south on Bronson and got to the cemetery. The girl at the information booth gave me directions to Johnny’s statue. It’s a nice setting. And they had a sign up telling us not to disturb the goose, since he is guarding his nest nearby.

After leaving the cemetery, I went west a bit into West Hollywood to visit Guitar Center and the Rock Walk, since the Ramones are there.

Next up was the big hill. I went back east through Hollywood to Beachwood Dr, which is the street up to the Hollywoodland neighborhood, right below the Sign. The ride up Beachwood wasn’t bad. They don’t want people to be climbing up to the sign, so they put up signs all over saying “No access to the Hollywood sign”. But I think people do it anyway.

When I was just below the sign, it was time to turn. I went up Belden St, which goes up a pretty scary hill up the side of Beachwood Canyon. Then when I got to the top, I took a wrong turn. I rode for a while down into another canyon before I realized that I’d made a mistake. At that point, I had to turn around and climb back up that big hill. Near the top, I asked some people who were walking their dog. They said, “just keep going on this street until you pass the castle, then take every left turn until you get to the dog park.” Simple enough. I rode a bit until I came to the house that looked like a castle, then I had to climb some more to reach the top of the ridge. Then it was screaming downhill past the dog park, and I was at the shores of Lake Hollywood. I followed the road around the lake and then up and over one more hill and then down into Burbank.

By this time, it was getting late, since that wrong turn had eaten up a lot of time. So I took the most direct route home, going straight across Glendale and Eagle Rock and then back into Pasadena.

50 miles.

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