Stan’s Obligatory Blog

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7/18/2014

A stairway interlude

Filed under: — stan @ 10:42 am

The Grand Hyatt is probably the swankiest hotel we’ve stayed at. When we were checking in, they were telling us about the amenities, including that there was a gym on the 35th floor. So on Friday morning, I went to the gym. Three times. I didn’t use any of the equipment. I just climbed the stairs to get there. The hotel stairs were just regular steel stairs, 17 steps per floor in a 9/8 configuration. Hotels have shorter floors than office buildings, so my times were pretty fast, even though I wasn’t really trying to go especially fast. But I was still pretty sweaty, and it was nice that they had towels at the gym.

For future reference, stairway 2B was the best one to take to the gym. I had to enter the stairs on 3, and they skipped 13. Stay fit at Hyatt!

7/17/2014

Heading to San Francisco

Filed under: — stan @ 10:29 pm

On Thursday, it was time to leave Monterey and head to San Francisco. But before we left, I did a little sightseeing while Kathleen got ready to go.

I took a walk to the ATM to get some cash, and on the way back, I stopped in at the Cooper-Molera Adobe. We’d walked by it last night on the way back from dinner, so I wanted to see inside. There is a little museum attached to it, and a volunteer who told me the story of the house and how the family fit into the early history of Monterey. She also told me about how the remains of Hartnell Creek were visible behind the parking lot at Trader Joe’s, next to the adobe. That creek was the original reason the adobe was built where it was.

Leaving Monterey, we headed up the 101 toward San Francisco. We stopped for lunch in Gilroy. The idea of an entirely garlic-themed town was just too entertaining to pass up. And yes, they get into it. I had the garlic soup, we saw the garlic murals and banners, and we stopped in at Garlic World.

Continuing north, we took the 280 into San Francisco, passing the two big reservoirs there that began life as sag ponds on the San Andreas Fault. Then we found our way into the city and our hotel. When we got there, they told us that they were overbooked, so they asked if it was all right to move us to a higher floor, which was all right with us. We ended up on the 31st floor. So I asked them if I could take the stairs to get there. They said that that was all right, as long as I entered the stairwell at the third floor, since the doors on 1 are in the alley behind the building and are generally locked, and the second floor was mostly offices and meeting rooms.

We got checked in to our room and spent a little time looking at the views from our window before we headed out for dinner. Our plan was to ride BART across the bay to Berkeley to have dinner with my old friend Jim Ward. Jim is retired now, but back in 1979, he was the owner of Gauntlet, the first body-piercing shop in the world, in West Hollywood. Not many people have had a hand in creating an entirely new industry in our culture. We met up at his favorite Thai place and we had a nice dinner. He has a lot of interesting stories to tell.

7/16/2014

Visiting Monterey

Filed under: — stan @ 11:44 pm

After traveling through Big Sur, we arrived in Monterey. We headed to Cannery Row and the Monterey Bay Aquarium. We were hoping to see some sea otters there, among other things. As it turned out, we got there just in time to see the sea otters get fed, which drew a big crowd. And after that, we went outside, and we saw a couple of wild otters floating in the kelp just offshore.

Next, we went to see the “Tentacles” exhibit. Check out the colors on this cuttlefish:

There was also a big exhibit of jellyfish, and a lot of history of the sardine canneries that used to be there.

When we went to check in to our hotel, we stopped for a photo-op with the bell across the street. We’ve been seeing these bells all the way up the 101 since before we left L.A. And when we got in our room, we had a laugh about the evacuation map and instructions. Then we headed out for yet another fancy dinner, and later on, we settled in by the fire pit back at the hotel. All told, it was a fun day.

Traveling up the coast

Filed under: — stan @ 2:08 pm

On Wednesday morning, we headed back up the coast. The plan was to stop and see the elephant seal colony at Piedras Blancas, and then continue on up to Monterey. We left Moonstone Beach and headed north. When we were close to the visitor center at Hearst Castle, we saw some zebras running on the hills next to the road. The tour guides at the castle had said that there were still some feral zebras on the ranch there, descended from the ones that were in the Hearst private zoo. Then, a few miles north of the castle, we saw the sign for the elephant seals. There were quite a few of them lounging on the beach. The volunteer from Friends of the Elephant Seal told us that most of the seals there were males, and that the females were out at sea feeding at the time. There were several pairs of males out in the waves, jousting with each other. She said they do that when they’re young as practice for later on, when it becomes a serious business for mating.

Here’s a short video clip of a pair of seals jousting:

After the seals, we continued north, through Big Sur, where we saw a new type of animal crossing sign that I can add to my collection.

Hearst Castle and Moonstone Beach

Filed under: — stan @ 10:39 am

Our second day plan was to travel from Santa Barbara to San Simeon. We’d signed up for two tours of Hearst Castle for the afternoon, and then we were spending the night in Cambria.

The castle was impressive in an absurd way. Completely over-the-top excess. The tours we took were the “Upstairs Suites Tour” and the “Designing the Dream”. I was pretty much dumbfounded and left speechless by this.

After the castle, we headed down to Cambria and Moonstone Beach. When we checked in, they told us they were going to move us to one of the ocean-view rooms. We didn’t complain about that. The view from the front porch was nice. We walked down the street and had dinner at the only restaurant right on the beach. Then we went back to our room and opened the windows. We listened to the waves all night. In the morning, I took a walk down the beach, hoping to see an otter or two. I didn’t see any, but I did see seals and some dolphins.

7/14/2014

Overnight in Santa Barbara

Filed under: — stan @ 11:02 pm

Our plan for this week is to take a trip up the coast, playing tourist along the way. I’ve only been living in California since 1982, and I’ve never done this before. But first, we had one more piece of cleanup from the wedding. We’d rented a deluxe portable restroom to put in Carla’s back yard for the party. It was one that had a sink and a flush toilet in it. Because of that, it had a big water tank in it, and it weighed something like 1,000 pounds. And we needed to move it out of her back yard and into the alley so that the company could come and pick it up later today. They said that they would pick it up by 5:00. but we wanted to leave before then, so we had to figure out how to move it.

Our first attempt to just push it failed miserably. it was just too heavy. So I went back to my tool shed and thought about it for a bit. Then I saw the old wooden curtain rod. I got a 2×6 for a lever, some 2×4 scraps for a fulcrum, and cut four pieces of curtain rod for rollers. We went back to Carla’s and lifted the unit with the lever and put the rollers under it. And with that, it was pretty easy to move. We rolled it out the gate and into the alley. And then turned it and rolled it up against the wall to wait to be picked up. And with that, it meant we were ready to go.

We ended up getting a later start than we’d hoped, and we didn’t get to Santa Barbara until close to 6:00. We checked in there, and then took a walk down State St to look for somewhere to have dinner. One of the first places we passed was Opal. It looked good, but we kept walking, almost all the way to the ocean, looking at menus along the way. Then we decided that nothing else we’d seen looked as good as the menu at Opal, and we headed back there. And it was good.

7/13/2014

The Frog Spot

Filed under: — stan @ 5:49 pm

I’d read this week that the Friends of the L.A. River have put up a little visitor center along the river, next to the southern end of the bike path. So this Sunday’s bike club ride was a trip there to visit it.

It was a nice day for riding. We headed through South Pasadena and Highland Park, where we passed the one and only Chicken Boy. Then we crossed the river and got on the bike path. About a mile or so up the river, we came to the Frog Spot. We stopped there in the shade for a bit before continuing on. At Fletcher, we saw kayakers going in to the river. While I think that’s a nice use of the river for recreation, it’s just not the same since we took the sewage treatment plant tour last March and found out why there is now water in the L.A. River year-round. The river used to be almost completely dry in the summer, but after they opened the relatively-new Donald C. Tillman sewage treatment plant in Van Nuys that discharges enough treated water into the river to make it run like a real river all the time now.

We continued on to the end of the bike path, and then rode Riverside and Moorpark out to Studio City and the gelato place we like. We stopped for snacks there before heading back.

44 miles.

7/12/2014

We’re a family now!

Filed under: — stan @ 11:19 pm

Today was Kathleen’s and my wedding. We’ve been planning this for some time, but the planning process was put on hold over the winter when my back went to hell. But now that it’s back to normal, we decided to forge ahead, and we’ve spent the last two months planning this day. The event was held in Carla’s back yard. After two years of Sunday bike rides, I’ve heard lots about the tribulations Carla experienced with getting the yard redone, and so when she volunteered it for our wedding, we were very happy. We spent a lot of time working out the decorations, and all of yesterday putting them up. And along the way, we arranged for tables, chairs, a DJ, and professional bartenders. So by the time the actual day came along, we were pretty tired, but still excited.

We consulted with a Unitarian minister for our ceremony. She pointed us in the right direction, and we wrote it ourselves. We thought it would be appropriate if Kathleen and I both walked in with our respective kids along, since they’re part of the new family we’re forming here. I’d asked the minister if there were particular sides for the bride and groom to stand on. She said that there is some traditional way it’s done, but she’s been doing all same-sex weddings lately and can’t remember what the traditional arrangement is. I thought that was a nice sign of the times, and we decided to just wing it. The actual ceremony was only about five minutes or so. We wanted to keep it concise and to the point.

Afterward, it was time to eat. We’d arranged to have the Lobos Truck do the food. We’ve seen them at ArtWalk and other events, but we’d never eaten there, owing to their always having a long line. We took that to be a recommendation, and the food turned out to be pretty good. The only downside to it was that it took a fairly long time to serve everyone, since they cooked each one to order. But it was good.

The bartenders came from Goose on the Rocks, and they did a very good job. They kept track of everything, mixed and served, and they were just good to have there to keep an eye on everything. They’d given us a shopping list of supplies to get, and it turned out to be pretty conservative. We’ve got a lot of booze and such left over. But that’s all right.

Music was by DJ Oda, and he played music the whole time, including making some impromptu mashups later in the evening.

Our cake was my by our friend Karina from my office. She’s become quite a good baker, and knows how to make a cake that looks great and also tastes great. And the cake she made for us was a winner all around.

So it turned out to be a good party.

7/9/2014

First time out for the new season

Filed under: — stan @ 9:05 pm

Stair practice started this week. It’s at 400 S. Hope St in downtown Los Angeles. That’s the building formerly known as Mellon Bank. Now is has a new name, and we’re in a different stairwell, so my old chart doesn’t quite apply. It’s still the same number of steps, but things are slightly different. It appears that the new ownership also renumbered the floors, since the building didn’t have a 13th floor before, and now it does. But it’s still 22 steps per floor, and from lobby to 2 is 49 steps. So that means that climbing to the 25th floor is in fact an honest 25 floors of climbing.

I climbed the building five times tonight. The first two, I went up to 25. The door to the elevators to go back down was on 20, so those times, I had to walk back down from 25 to 20 to get out. So after that, I figured I wanted to give my knees a break, so the next three times, I only went up to 20. I was pretty much just taking it easy, aiming for 12 seconds per floor, or five floors per minute. That’s my ‘brisk, but not punishing’ pace. Good for the first time out. The last time up, I was talking with some new-to-the-sport climbers, and I took some time to try and explain techniques for not wasting steps on the landings, and ways to balance the load between the legs. All in all, it was not bad for the first time out.

7/6/2014

Glendora Mountain for the 4th of July

Filed under: — stan @ 1:21 pm

It’s become traditional that they close Glendora Mountain Road for the 4th of July weekend. I guess that’s to keep people from driving up there and setting the mountain on fire with fireworks. But in any event, it makes for a nice place for bike riding on that weekend. So we were going to take advantage of it.

We rode out the Glendora and headed up the road. At the gate, we just lifted our bikes over and started up the hill. The ‘hill’ in this case is about 8-9 miles of about a 5% grade. Not terrible, but enough that we gain a lot of elevation by the time we reach the top. It was pretty hot today, and for the first time in a long time, I ran out of water. Fortunately, Pat knew where there was a park with a drinking fountain at the bottom of the hill. So we all stopped there and refilled our bottles before heading home.

It was a nice ride, and we weren’t the only ones taking advantage of it. We met one guy on the road who had ridden his bike from Huntington Beach just to ride the mountain while the road was closed.

55 miles.

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