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1/10/2015

The Marine Mammal Care Center

Filed under: — stan @ 2:58 pm

Today’s adventure was yet another tour arranged by the Obscura Society. This time, it was a visit to the Marine Mammal Care Center in San Pedro. This is sort of a companion to our visit to the Marine Mammal Center near San Francisco last summer.

The Marine Mammal Care Center is the place to go for treatment and rehabilitation of rescued seals and sea lions in Los Angeles. It’s a relatively small place, with just a handful of pens with small pools for the animals. There’s also an office/lab/classroom building there, where the director of the center told us about the place, and about the animals they treat. He passed around a sea lion skull for us to look at. Apparently, the takeaway from all this is that sea lions have sharp teeth. That, and that harbor seals may look cute, but they also bite. So don’t get too near them.

After the talk inside, we went outside to see the animals. There were mostly sea lions there. He had said that they get a lot of malnourished and dehydrated animals there, and he described the procedure for tube-feeding sick animals. And when we were outside, we got to see three people wrestling a small sea lion to hold it down for tube-feeding. Afterward, the little pup looked like he’d just endured an alien abduction.

There was another pen that had several sea lions in it. They said that they were all nearly healthy enough to be released back into the ocean. They were being fed, but they were feeling good enough that they were playing with the fish. Which was fine with the very large bird sitting and watching them. Whenever they would toss a fish out of the water, the bird would come down and steal it.

It was an interesting morning. And since were were already in San Pedro, we took a short side trip to see the Korean Friendship Bell in the park down the street. Then we went home by way of Dim Sum in Chinatown. All together, that made a for a fun time.

1/4/2015

Checking in on the Metro Gold Line

Filed under: — stan @ 1:49 pm

This Sunday’s bike club ride is yet another installment of checking out the progress that Metro is making on building the Gold Line extension to Azusa. We first did this tour almost a year ago, when construction was under way, but not all that far along yet. And we’ve been looking in on it every few months since then. Since the completion of the track last October, work has shifted to finishing up the stations and putting up the overhead wires.

In Monrovia, we saw that the station looks almost complete, and they’ve made a lot of progress on the maintenance yard. The downtown station in Azusa looks more complete, and the station at the end by Citrus College is even starting to look like a station. Even the Irwindale station is making visible progress. When we first did this ride, it was just bare dirt and piles of rails and ties waiting to be assembled into track. Now, they’re starting to run test trains along the tracks to check clearances and such.

Maybe by next winter, we’ll be able to have a Metro Tour East ride that we can do on days when it might rain, since the train will be available as a bail-out option all the way out to Glendora.

43 miles.

1/3/2015

Another attempt at Strawberry Peak

Filed under: — stan @ 4:26 pm

The trail up Colby Canyon to Strawberry Peak was the first hike I ever did in the San Gabriels, back in 1983. I’ve been back a couple of times since then, most recently in 2007, when we didn’t make the summit because we had Lucinda with us, and she was only 8 years old at the time. Since then, Colby Canyon was within the burn area of the 2009 Station Fire, and the trail has been closed until just recently. So I wanted to try it again.

The trail up the canyon is fairly steep, but it was easy to follow. It looked as if some maintenance had been done on it recently. The canyon itself looked quite a bit worse for wear. Places that used to be groves of big trees were bare, with just a few blackened stumps. But it was a pleasant hike up to the saddle between Strawberry and Josephine Peak.

The trail from the saddle up to the peak basically follows the top of the ridge, and there are two short sections where it is necessary to scramble up the rocks. This was what I’d always liked about this mountain, since it made it more interesting. Also, it reminded me of when I was a kid and we climbed Mt Washington in New Hampshire by the Huntington Ravine Trail. When we got to the first rock section, I had a look to pick a route, and I started up, with Karina just a bit behind me. We got about 2/3 of the way up the section when she decided that she was not going to do this. She just sat down on a rock and wouldn’t move. There was another group coming up behind us, so I suggested we see how they went up. The leader, Bob, came up to where we were, and the rest of his group looked at the rocks and said they weren’t going to do this, either. At that point, Bob volunteered to help guide Karina back down. He went down ahead of her and guided her feet to the footholds and generally tried to keep her calm. We made it back down off the rocks, and we walked back to the saddle. We had lunch there, and then we headed back down. Even though we didn’t make the summit, it was still a good hike and a pleasant day to be outside.

1/1/2015

New Year’s Day, 2015

Filed under: — stan @ 7:18 pm

Here we go again. We woke up on Thursday morning to bright sunshine and cold air. At least cold by our SoCal standards. It was 32 degrees, and that’s pretty cold for a Rose Parade. Of course, we never actually walk over to see the actual parade. We just go outside at 8:00 to watch the B-2 bomber fly over. Then we go back inside and make breakfast. A little later on, the horses from the parade all walk past our house, so that’s our little Rose Parade.

In the afternoon, we took a walk over to see the floats, since they’re parked right down the street. There was a float for the 442nd Infantry, which was the theme for one of our bike club rides a few years ago. Other than that, it was just a nice afternoon to walk around in the sunshine and look at the flowers. It made for a pleasant day.

12/28/2014

The Crapi Apartments

Filed under: — stan @ 2:53 pm

A few months ago, I saw an article about housing in Los Angeles that was illustrated with a picture of the “Crapi Apartments“. Like many people, I figured the picture was a photoshop gag, but Debbie from my office said that it’s a real building, and right across the street from where she lives in West L.A. So I knew we’d have to take a ride out there to see it. As a bonus, she also said that the Chee Zee Apartments are right around the corner. And then last week, I found out about the Hobbit House in Culver City, and we had a trifecta of oddness to go see. So today was the day.

It was kind of chilly starting out. And it’s 14 miles of steady downhill to get to downtown Los Angeles, so the first hour or so of the ride was pretty cold. But it got better, and by the time we were cruising on West Adams, it was pretty pleasant. When we got to Culver City, we turned north and took Venice Blvd west to Motor Ave. Then we headed north into the Palms section of L.A. The Crapi Apartments are on Overland Ave, just off Woodbine. So we had quick photo-ops at the Crapi and Chee Zee Apartments. Then we headed back to Venice, and turned east to head for home. The Hobbit House was about 100 feet off Venice on Dunn Ave.

We stopped at Noah’s Bagels for snacks. Then we continued on home by way of Venice Blvd and 4th St. We ended up on Benton Way in Silver Lake, and then crossed the L.A. River and headed up to Eagle Rock. We took York Blvd across to South Pasadena. There was some sort of old-car-meetup going on, and there were several restored old cars out on the road. By then, it had turned into a very nice and sunny day. Perfect for riding.

53 miles.

12/7/2014

Another Neutra Tour

Filed under: — stan @ 2:03 pm

A few weeks ago, the L.A. Times Saturday section had an article about the Kun House in Hollywood. It’s a 1936 Neutra design, being restored to its original look. We’ve been on other architecture tours with Neutra houses, so I was curious to see this one, too. And the clincher for this one was that the house is now owned by Gerry Casale from DEVO.

We rode over to Hollywood by our usual route, coming out on Hollywood Boulevard. We stopped off at the Chinese Theater to see if they’d put Mel Brooks’ handprints out yet, but they had not. So we kept going for another mile or so to just past Nicholls Canyon. We turned and went up one block into the hills, to a cul-de-sac just below the house. We looked up, but it was hard to see. We could only see a little bit of the house. So Jeff and I decided to ride up the hill another block to see it from the street up there. And wow, that was an adventure. According to Jeff’s Garmin thingy, it was a 23% grade:


We made it up the hill, and we got to see the front, and bit of the side of the house. So it was worth the effort.

Coming back down, we rode back across Hollywood and down to Larchmont Village. We stopped at the Noah’s Bagels there, and just in time. A sign on the counter said they were closing for renovation at 2:00 that afternoon.

Leaving Noah’s, we headed east across Hancock Park and Koreatown. Then north through Silver Lake on Benton Way. And finally, home by way of Eagle Rock. Along the way, I was telling Jeff about Nolden St in Eagle Rock, so we took a one-block side trip to go see it. Of course, Jeff had to have a go at riding it. As I guessed, he was able to ride up the hill, but he said it was very hard. I didn’t try this time, since the last time I tried that particular street, I slipped and fell on some wet pavement.

It was a nice ride.

44 miles.

11/30/2014

Rail transit – Old and new

Filed under: — stan @ 1:59 pm

Today’s bike club ride was a trip to Silver Lake to see the Corralitas Red Car Property, which is a little strip of vacant land where the old Pacific Electric Glendale Line used to run. The line was shut down in the mid ’50s, and the Glendale Freeway was built on part of the old right-of-way, but there is a little piece of it running from next to the freeway over to Fletcher Dr that has been sitting empty for decades.

We rode down there across Glendale, and then back down the L.A. River bike path. Then we took a short side trip off Riverside Dr to get to the old right-of-way. At that point, Carla turned off, since she didn’t want to ride up the steep hill, and she also thought it looked like it was about to rain. The rest of us rode up India St to where the old India St stop was. Here’s a photo from 1952 that shows a train passing right by where we were standing.

Leaving there, we headed south on Riverside. The plan was to go up through Elysian Park to go to Chango Coffee in Echo Park. At that point, Michael turned off. He had to go to work. The rest of us turned up Stadium Way. And then it started to rain. We stopped for a moment to consider what to do next. Robert and Pat wanted to just head home by the shortest route. I looked at the map, and I decided that my shortest route home was about 1 1/2 miles away at the Lincoln/Cypress Metro station. So I headed that way.

On the way there, I got a message from Michael. It said, “Got screwed on Fig” and had a picture of his tire with a screw head sticking out of it. I rode across the river, and there he was, standing on the sidewalk fixing the tire. The screw was so long that it went through both sides of the tube, and the point broke off in there. And then green tire-sealing goop leaked out all over it. Yick. But he managed to get the tire back together, and he continued on to work. I went around the corner and found the Metro station. They had a handicap ramp there, so I was able to ride all the way up to the platform. Then I took the train home. I got off at Allen, and I saw what looked like wet-bike-tire tracks going in to the elevator. I found out later that Carla had been on the train just a few minutes ahead of me, so those were her tracks. At that point, it was still raining lightly, and I rode the two miles home from the station. So yick. We got rained out. But at least the modern Metro Rail system allows us to have a bail-out plan for times like these.

25 miles.

11/29/2014

Sightseeing downtown San Diego

Filed under: — stan @ 9:17 pm

On Friday and Saturday this week, Lucinda and I went to San Diego to visit my father. He was sick for a while recently, and it’s only in the last month that he’s been feeling better. Since it’s a holiday weekend, the only Residence Inn that had suites available was the one in downtown San Diego. So we stayed there on Friday night, and on Saturday morning, I went out for a little sightseeing walk.

I’d seen the Star of India there before, but I hadn’t realized that it’s part of a larger maritime museum, and that they have both a Russian and a U.S. submarine on display there. All that, and an exhibit about sailors and tattoos. I think we will have to go there the next time we go.

A little farther down, I passed the Midway Museum. We went to see that some years ago. Next to that was the “Unconditional Surrender” statue. I’d heard about this, but not been to see it before.

Heading back to the hotel, I went through part of downtown to see the buildings I’ve climbed in past stair races. The One America Plaza building is the tallest in San Diego, and we all climbed it last March. The 550 Corporate Center building is only 20 stories, but it was the location for the 2014 Towerthon. I climbed that building 20 times in two hours that day.

I walked through the San Diego Trolley station, where I saw the Orange and Green Line trains. Again, I think that San Diego MTS is channeling Magritte. The trains say Orange and Green on them, but they are clearly Red.

The last building I looked at was Columbia Center. This was the setting for the 2012 and 2013 Towerthon. Both times, I climbed the building 17 times in two hours.

Back at the hotel, I got Lucinda up for breakfast, and afterward, we took a walk through Little Italy. They had a big farmer’s market going there. We got some fresh juices, looked around, and we were both a bit disturbed by the fresh sea urchins. Still, it was a fun time. And afterward, we went to visit with Grandpa.

11/23/2014

Update on the backyard boat

Filed under: — stan @ 1:15 pm

I’m still kind of tired and a little sore from yesterday’s hike up Cucamonga Peak, so today’s bike club ride is a relatively flat one, riding out to Sun Valley to get an update on the backyard boat.

It was kind of windy when we got out to The Valley. They were running Burbank Airport backwards, taking off to the north instead of the south, so that meant we had a headwind for the last part of the trip up Tujunga Blvd to Sun Valley. And when we got there, we were all a bit sad to see that the boat was still in the back yard. When we visited in May, Mr Griffith said that he thought it would be finished and launched by September of this year. But here it is November, and the boat is still on the rack in the back yard.

Heading back south into Burbank, we came to the weird five-way intersection on Whitnall. This is always a problem, since the detectors there never could pick up bikes, and there is no crosswalk, so there’s no button to push for a walk signal. But the city has installed a button for bikes to change the light. So that was nice.

Our snack stop was at Priscilla’s. And from there, we headed back across Glendale, and then up and over the Chevy Chase and Linda Vista hill to come out by the Rose Bowl. All in all, it was a nice ride.

46 miles.

11/22/2014

Cucamonga Peak

Filed under: — stan @ 10:38 pm

Last month, when we climbed Mt Baldy, Karina had mentioned that she thought that the hike up Cucamonga Peak was actually a bit harder than the Baldy hike. Given how hard Baldy is, I was a bit skeptical. Still, I’d always wanted to try Cucamonga Peak, since it’s one of the highest mountains in the front part of the San Gabriels.

We started up the trail at 9:23 in the morning. It was promising to be a nice day, although we thought that there might be a bit of snow up high, since it had rained a tiny bit a couple nights ago. Starting out up Ice House Canyon, we passed by several cabins, and several more ruins of former cabins. Judging by the size of the boulders in the canyon that had pretty obviously fallen from high up, it was not surprising to see that some of the cabins had been destroyed. As we got a little higher up the canyon, we could see that there was a thin layer of snow on the south wall of the canyon. The north wall was in sunlight, and the snow there had melted. There were just some small patches in the shade of trees or rocks.

At that point, the trail got steep, and we went up a series of big switchbacks to climb up out of the canyon. And then we came out in Ice house Saddle. At that point, there were trails going off in different directions to climb various nearby peaks. It was here that I realized how cold it really was, and I put on my sweatshirt and sweatpants.

The trail to Cucamonga Peak goes around the side of Bighorn Peak, and the first part of the trail is across the north side of the mountain. There was quite a bit of snow there. The side of the mountain there is very steep, and the trail is just a narrow path carved into the steep slope. With snow on it, it was really kind of scary. I got out both my poles to use for balance and stability.

As we came around to the saddle between Bighorn Peak and Cucamonga Peak, the snow went away, although the trail was still crossing some intimidatingly-steep slopes. When we got to the saddle, we stopped and had lunch. From the sounds we were hearing, it sounded like the wind was blowing pretty hard higher up, so we figured that it was probably better to stop in the relatively-sheltered saddle for lunch. While we were there, another group of three hikers passed us. We had passed them on the way up Ice House Canyon, so I said we should make it our goal to catch them before the summit.

Leaving the saddle, the trail started up some more steep switchbacks, including a couple of crossings across a big scree slope that kind of gave me the willies. Fortunately, it was on the west side of the peak, so there was no snow there. There was more snow farther up the trail, but the north-facing slopes there had a fair number of big trees on them, so it didn’t feel so exposed. We caught up with the other group just a short distance below the summit.

At the top, I made a point to climb up and stand on top of the highest rock, just, you know, because. We had a look at the view down into Cajon Pass, where we’d been on the office field trip last week. I was particularly impressed by how steep and rugged the south face of Etiwanda Peak was. After a few minutes, the other group came up to the summit, and we got them to take our souvenir picture with the view. I also gave them some of my water, since I wasn’t going to use all that I’d brought along.

When we started back down, we made much better time than on the way up. It first, I thought we’d make it back before sundown, but we really missed that extra hour of sunlight that we had for Baldy last month. And sunset came when we were still about a mile from the end. At that point, i was glad that I’d thought to put a flashlight in my pack. It wasn’t a particularly bright one, but it helped. And we made it back to the end. On the way home, we wondered what had become of the group we’d seen at the top, since we didn’t see them at all on the way down, so they must have come down much later than us. Anyway, it was a fun hike, and yes, I agree now that it’s harder than Mt Baldy. I also think that a hike this long was perhaps a bit over-ambitious for this time of year. We really didn’t like walking that last mile in the dark. Still, it was a good time.

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