Stan’s Obligatory Blog

4/9/2005

Picnic Valley

Filed under: — stan @ 5:48 pm

Since I can’t go riding on Sunday, I met Newton today and we went out to Frank G. Bonelli Regional Park in San Dimas. It was a perfect spring day, aside from being a little bit windy.

We started at Live Oak Park in Temple City and rode up to Irwindale and the Santa Fe Dam bike path. That was where Newton got the chance to be the latest entry in the Flat Tire Gallery. His tire was one of the ones that has some goop inside it that is supposed to seal punctures, but instead, the goop just sprayed out of the tire and got all over him. Yick. And that’s why I’ve always been skeptical of that goop.

After putting on a new tire, we continued east through Glendora. We took Sierra Madre Blvd until it ended, then we went south a bit and continued east on the old Route 66. In San Dimas, we went south, passing by several stables. Then we continued on into La Verne, where we passed Brackett Field and the drag strip at the Los Angeles County Fairgrounds.

From the Fairplex, we went west up the hill through Picnic Valley. Back in 1978 when I used to ride with the Claremont Colleges cycling team, we used to ride around there. We always called it the “Picnic Valley ride”, although I never knew why. It was only today that I saw the “Picnic Valley” sign, so yet another of the Mysteries of the Ages has been resolved.

We rode up Via Verde, over a fairly large hill, coming down the other side into Covina. We were going to stop at a little cafe there, but it was closed. But that was where I saw the Proposition 65-ish warning sign about the building being unreinforced masonry that is unsafe in an earthquake.

After that, we got back into Azusa, passing the old Drive-in there. It was just after that that we were cut off by a guy in a car who wasn’t paying attention. He cut in front of Newton and immediately turned into a parking lot. So I took out my camera and took his picture. Now, what he did was most likely an honest mistake. He wasn’t paying attention, but if he’d owned up to that, it would have been fine. But no. He got belligerent and started yelling and cursing at us. So we just left. But then he caught up to us a few miles down the road and started harassing us. This was truly the tipping point between an honest mistake and Active Stupidity. He got out of his car and tried to challenge us to a fight. But we just ignored him, and he finally went away.

The last part of the ride was through Monrovia, where I got into one more fight with a car. A couple in a car pulled up next to me at a stop sign and started turning right across me. So I yelled at them. And they started yelling back. Now I realize that there are lots of bike riders who don’t follow the rules of the road, but I’m not one of them. But while I was presenting what I think is a valid complaint – you don’t turn right through another vehicle – they just kept yelling at me about how bike riders don’t stop for stop signs. So whatever.

Anyway, when it was all said and done, it was actually a pretty pleasant ride.

57 miles.
cycling

For the record, the CVC sections that they violated are:

21750. The driver of a vehicle overtaking another vehicle or a bicycle proceeding in the same direction shall pass to the left at a safe distance without interfering with the safe operation of the overtaken vehicle or bicycle.

22107. No person shall turn a vehicle from a direct course or move right or left upon a roadway until such movement can be made with reasonable safety and then only after the giving of an appropriate signal in the manner provided in this chapter in the event any other vehicle may be affected by the movement.

22108. Any signal of intention to turn right or left shall be given continuously during the last 100 feet traveled by the vehicle before turning.

22109. No person shall stop or suddenly decrease the speed of a vehicle on a highway without first giving an appropriate signal to the driver of any vehicle immediately to the rear when there is opportunity to give the signal.


4/3/2005

Rambling around the San Gabriel Valley

Filed under: — stan @ 1:53 pm

Today’s ride was a pleasant ramble with no mountain climbing or anything extreme.

We started out going east through Sierra Madre, Arcadia, and Monrovia. We took the rolling-hills route, since it has less traffic. We ened up going through Duarte to the San Gabriel River and Santa Fe Dam area. It was a perfect warm spring day, but we could see the snow up on Mt. Baldy off the distance.

We went south on the San Gabriel River bike path down to South El Monte, and then headed back west through Temple City. We passed the old Driftwood Dairy there. It’s a bit of a throwback to an earlier era here.

After passing Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, we took Huntington Drive through San Marino. From there, we went north, climbing the scarp of the Raymond Fault to get back into Pasadena. We stopped for a snack at Corner Bakery on South Lake Avenue.

Next, we headed east, across the Caltech campus. We stopped at one of the pools there to look at the egret. Then we continued on, back across Pasadena.

When we got back to the park, we only had about 37 miles, so Kevin and I continued on up Altadena Drive. We went and looked at the massive landslide that has buried the old Mt. Wilson toll road. It was pretty impressive. Then we continued on across Altadena to the top of Lake Ave and Alta Loma. Just below Rubio Canyon, we saw the historical marker for the old right-of-way from the Mt. Lowe Railway.

At the top of the hill, we continued on Alta Loma to Lincoln Ave, and then down to Mendocino. We took Mendocino back across Altadena, and then back to the park.

It was a very pleasant spring ride.

50 miles.

cycling

3/26/2005

The other Hollywood Blvd

Filed under: — stan @ 6:48 pm

Who knew? The Boulevard of Broken Dreams is also a place to go bike riding. Since tomorrow is Easter, I can’t go on the regular Sunday ride. So I convinced Gene, Newton, and Matt to go on a ride today in the Hollywood Hills.

We started out on the standard route out of Pasadena and across Eagle Rock, and then into Los Feliz. After crossing the Shakespeare Bridge, we went south and got onto Hollywood Blvd. On the east end, it’s Little Armenia for a bit, and then it becomes Thai Town. That was where we saw the Thai food place with a big hot dog on the roof. We also passed the infamous Jumbo’s Clown Room. Legend has it that several now-famous women did turns stripping there.

After Thai Town faded away, we were on the part of Hollywood Blvd that every tourist sees. The Walk of Fame. We just passed most of it by, but we did make a point to stop and see the star for Godzilla, since he is one of only a few completely fictitious characters who have stars there.

Most tourists think that Hollywood Blvd ends at La Brea Ave. The locals know that it goes on to Laurel Canyon, but I know that it goes even farther than that. On the other side of Laurel Canyon, there is a little street that goes up the hill. That is the continuation of Hollywood Blvd. It’s a little residential street in the hills, the kind that looks like a noodle on the map.

We rode up the hill, stopping to look at one house with a weird chimney. We only took one wrong turn on the way up, which was surprising, since a lot of the intersections up there are not well-marked. A lot of times, it’s hard to tell which way is the continuation of the street and which is the cross street. We continued on until the Boulevard of Broken Dreams merged into Sunset Plaza on top of the hill. From there, we went down the other side on Lookout Mountain Road, down into Laurel Canyon.

At the bottom of the hill we did a quick left and right on Laurel Canyon Blvd, passing by Houdini’s old house, and then up Willow Glen. This is a very narrow and steep street that climbs up the side of Laurel Canyon to the Mt Olympus area. I always remember reading about Mt Olympus in the October 1969 issue of National Geographic. The article was about the floods and mudslides that year in Los Angeles, and it had a photo of Mt. Olympus, which was a new development at the time. Part of the caption read:

To protect Mount Olympus in Hollywood, right, developers graded slopes and moated lots with storm drains. Sites near the summit sell for as much as $85,000.

Needless to say, $85,000 sounded like a staggering sum back in 1969, but it seems ludicrously cheap by today’s standards.

After passing the faux-greek temples on Mt Olympus, we went down into Nichols Canyon. Turning left on Nichols Canyon Road, we then climbed up out of the canyon to the top of the ridge at Mulholland Drive. Crossing Mulholland, we took Woodrow Wilson down to the freeway.

Crossing the freeway, we were back in the city, but we took one more detour, going up Wonder View to Lake Hollywood. This was one more climb, but it was worth it to avoid the traffic in Cahenga Pass.

After all that excitement, we headed home across Burbank, Glendale and Eagle Rock. For some reason, I was pretty tired from all that climbing, so I was actually quite glad to be taking the relatively non-hilly way home.

52 miles.

cycling

3/21/2005

P.S.

Filed under: — stan @ 7:09 pm

Just a postscript to the story about Fargo Street from yesterday. I guess I really did give it maximum effort, because I’m sore today. My legs, arms, and back are all sore from the exertion. I really can’t remember another time when I got sore arms from a bike ride. So it’s just one more reason why Fargo Street is something special. And of course, why I’ll have to try it again in the future.

3/20/2005

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.

cycling

3/15/2005

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.

cycling

3/14/2005

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.

3/13/2005

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.

cycling

3/6/2005

Glendora

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.

cycling

2/27/2005

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.

cycling

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