Stan’s Obligatory Blog

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4/24/2016

Update on the Glendora Bougainvillea

Filed under: — stan @ 3:18 pm

Riding around L.A. recently, we’ve been noticing that the bougainvilleas seem to be blooming more than usual this spring. So it seemed that it might be time to ride to Glendora to see the Glendora Bougainvillea. It’s the single largest bougainvillea in the U.S., but in the past when we’ve gone to see it, it never had many flowers on it. So we were hoping it might have perked up a bit now.

The ride out was straightforward, and when we got there, we saw that it did indeed have a lot more flowers on it. Compare the photos with the previous best flower display we ever saw on it, in 2013. So we looked at the flowers for a few minutes, and then we headed over to downtown Glendora and our snack stop at Classic Coffee. Apparently, this weekend was also the chalk festival in Glendora, so we saw some chalk artwork on the sidewalk outside the coffee shop.

The route back took us down Cypress St, which one of the many streets out that way that have a slight downhill grade when going west. Not really enough to see, but enough that we end up riding pretty fast along there. Looking at the elevation data from my GPS, it looks like it drops something like 200 feet over about four miles, which means it’s just a little bit under a 1% grade.

When we got back to Duarte, we stopped for a quick photo-op with the suit of armor we’ve seen standing outside one of the houses we pass there. Getting up close, I realized that the whole suit is just made of duct tape. Still, it’s a funny thing to have standing outside the house. And the last odd thing we saw on the ride was the guy who passed us riding a recumbent with a partial fairing. I guess the fairing worked, since I had to work fairly hard to catch up to him to take his picture.

42 miles

Route map and elevation profile

4/17/2016

Yet Another “We Gotta Go See This…”

Filed under: — stan @ 1:38 pm

Last week, I saw an article in the L.A. Times about how people have discovered that Donald Drumpf has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and that some are visiting in order to deface it. So of course, I thought we should go see this. It’s on the north side of Hollywood Boulevard, just about 50 feet west of the entrance to the Hollywood and Highland Metro subway station. As the Walk of Fame goes, that’s prime real estate. Sadly (I guess), the star did not appear to have been recently defaced when we visited. Still, it was entertaining to see.

We took our standard route through South Pasadena and Highland Park to get to Hollywood. After seeing the star, we turned south and went to Noah’s Bagels in Larchmont Village. The route home took us through downtown L.A. and back up the Arroyo Seco bike trail. It was a warm day, and in fact, it was my first ride of the year where I didn’t need to start out with a Hoover Blanket under my jersey to keep warm in the morning.

42 miles.

Route map and elevation profile

4/16/2016

The Wende Museum

Filed under: — stan @ 7:52 pm

Today was Obscura Day, when Atlas Obscura puts on events in many cities to showcase odd and interesting things to see and do. We first attended Obscura Day in 2012 to see The Bunny Museum. Last year, Lucinda and I went to Dapper Cadaver. And this time, it was a visit to the Wende Museum. They are a museum dedicated to the Cold War, and they are the reason why there is a section of the Berlin Wall on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles.

The tour was in the afternoon, and I was going to be spending at least part of the morning climbing the Aon building in downtown L.A. So I brought my bike along, so I could ride the Metro out to Culver City and ride to the museum for the tour.

The museum didn’t have a lot on display. They are in a little building, and it’s pretty much crammed full. So the tour was mostly being shown around inside, while they pulled out various things for us to look at. It was an odd grab bag of stuff. They had the entire print run of the East German newspaper, Nueue Duetschland, the sign from Checkpoint Charlie, uniforms and parade flags from Soviet and other Eastern Bloc countries, not to mention about 100 busts and statues of Lenin. It was a weird and somewhat overwhelming collection of odd stuff. And of course, that meant that I enjoyed seeing it tremendously.

4/15/2016

Harry Potter World

Filed under: — stan @ 9:41 pm

Today was a special treat. Kathleen and I went to Universal Studios to see the new “Wizarding World of Harry Potter” there. Just for the experience of it, she sprang for the full “VIP Experience” tickets. We got there about 8:45 or so and checked in. Then we went up to the room where they had breakfast for us. While we were there, our tour guide came and found us, and at 9:15, we set out on our tour.

Our first stop was the “Harry Potter” area. As part of the “VIP Experience”, we got to to the front of every line, which was kind of fun. Our first stop was the “Flight of the Hippogriff” ride. This was a small roller coaster, and not terribly exciting. It was about like the “Gadget’s Go Coaster” at Disneyland. But there was nothing wrong with it.

After that, we headed into the main Harry Potter ride. And on the way in to the ride, we got to walk through parts of Hogwart’s, and to see Dumbledore’s office and the Potions classroom along the way. The ride itself kind of defies description. It’s sort of a combination of a real ride and a motion simulator ride. To put it in Disneyland terms, it’s sort of like if you mashed up “The Haunted Mansion” with “Soarin’ Over California” and “Star Tours“. It was very well done.

Next was a visit to Ollivander’s to shop for wands. Which was apparently a very popular thing to do. The shop had a long line to get in. But the little show was entertaining. Then we moved on to our next stop, which was the “Despicable Me” ride. The trophy over the door going in to the ride was funny. This was another motion simulator ride. I’m usually not impressed by motion simulators where just the seats move, and the movie screen is fixed. But this one was good. Even with the screen fixed, it was a convincing effect.

Next, we headed down the hill to the lower lot for the “Jurassic Park”, “Transformers”, and “Revenge of the Mummy” rides. The Mummy ride was the one that Lucinda and I rode eight times on the cold and rainy day we spent there back in 2010. The “Transformers” ride was pretty good, but amazingly loud. I had to make some makeshift earplugs before I could stand it.

Then it was time for lunch, which was included in the VIP package. And the lunch was actually quite good. Considering that you’d probably have to spend $20 for a burger at a theme park, this lunch probably would have cost upwards of $50 each. It was really quite good. And after that, we headed down for the studio tram tour. But instead of waiting in line for the regular tram ride, they had a small tram for just two of our groups, which was about 24 people total. They took us around to see all the regular tour sites, as well as a few that aren’t on the regular tour. They took us inside one of the sound stages to see the hospital lobby set that they built for the TV show “Heartbeat”. It was pretty big, and had a lot of detail. I asked them if they had to take more time building TV sets now that TV has gone HD, and they said that they did. I’d gone to see some sets from “Star Trek: The Next Generation” back in the ’90s, and they looked pretty rough. But this set looked real enough that it looked good even up close.

We saw their collection of movie cars, and the flood set. Then they took us to Wisteria Lane, where we go to get out and go inside Bree’s house from “Desperate Housewives”. They said that most of the houses there were just exteriors, although a few had interiors. The one we went in had just a little bit of inside decoration. Just enough that they can open the front door and it looks like there’s an interior. But on a practical level, it had a bathroom, which was useful.

The next stop was the prop warehouse, where we got to see an enormous collection of all manner of props, most of which were used in any number of movies and TV shows. The only one they pointed out specially was the Evil Queen’s throne from “Snow White and the Huntsman”, which everyone wanted to get their picture sitting in. After that, they took us up the hill to the “Psycho” house and the airplane crash set from “War of the Worlds”. We got to get out there for pictures with the house, as well as the crashed airplane. Getting up close, it was obvious that the airplane was not a prop made of styrofoam and plastic. Looking into the tail section, I could see the aft pressure bulkhead, so it looked like they’d made this set out of a real airplane. They told us it was an actual junked 747 that they bought and had hauled there, and then cut up into pieces to make the crash set. And while we were looking around there, I saw a small pond and building behind the plane crash set that they said was the “Site B” raptor breeding facility from “Jurassic Park”.

After the tour, we all headed back up with our group and saw the special effects show. At that point, it was about 4:30, and we were turned loose to go do whatever we wanted for the rest of the day. Kathleen and I went back to Hogwart’s and rode the Harry Potter ride again, and I rode the Hippogriff roller coaster a couple more times. Then we did the Simpsons ride, and the Mummy one more time. Being able to just walk right up to the ride without waiting in line makes the whole theme park experience much more fun.

Overall, it was a fun day.

4/4/2016

Well, this was an amusing afternoon

Filed under: — stan @ 10:04 pm

Over the weekend, I got a message from Mark that he had been contacted by an Australian TV show called The Living Room that was here in L.A. doing some segments about various things here. And they wanted to do a piece about competitive stair climbing. So we agreed to meet with them at the Culver City stairs. I thought this might be amusing, although I’d never actually climbed those stairs before.

I rode Metro Rail out there, which was really easy, although it feels a bit subversive to be riding the train around Los Angeles. But I brought my bike, and the park with the stairs was only about a mile from the Metro station. So it was only a matter of five minutes or so to ride there.

Once we were all there, we met up with the TV crew. They had their correspondent, Chris, the producer, Leisa, and a camera guy and sound guy, along with a producer’s assistant and a person from the L.A. tourism office. They put microphones on us to record everything we said, I suppose just in case we said anything amusing. Offhand, I’d hope they can find some way to use when I was saying, “you know you’ve paced yourself right in a stair climb when you get to the top and have no memory of the last ten floors.” We ran up the stairs, one segment at a time. We’d do one short segment, and then the camera and sound guys would walk ahead of us to set up before we ran up the stairs to where they were. And at the top, we set it up where Mark was telling Chris that we had to run the last bit, and then Veronica came up behind us and passed all of us to beat us to the top.

At the top, Mark gave Chris a West Coast Labels team shirt, and we all posed for pictures and a final shot for the segment. The word is that it will be ready and air in July, so we’ll be looking forward to that. All in all, it was a fun afternoon.

4/3/2016

More antique streetlights

Filed under: — stan @ 2:30 pm

A few weeks ago, we saw some antique street lights in Glendale that were decorated with swastikas around the base. This past week, I’d heard that there were also lights like that in downtown Whittier, so that was the sightseeing for today.

We rode down to the Rio Hondo bike path and took that down to Whittier Narrows. Then we crossed over the river and the freeway to get to Pioneer Blvd, which took us into Whittier, where we picked up the Whittier Greenway Trail. This is a former railroad right-of-way that took us all the way into downtown Whittier. And there we saw the old streetlights with the swastikas around the base. Then we stopped for snacks at Mimo’s Cafe before heading over to the San Gabriel River bike path for the trip back.

In the end, the ride turned out to be a bit longer than I’d anticipated, but it was a flat route, so it was all right. And it was a nice day, so we had a nice time.

50 miles.

Route map and elevation profile

3/20/2016

Hogwart’s

Filed under: — stan @ 1:21 pm

This weekend, Kathleen was going to get a haircut, and she said she could see the towers of Hogwart’s at Universal Studios from the road. So I thought that this should be the Sunday Morning Ride’s sightseeing for this weekend. The route was our old “Toluca Lake” ride, with a brief stop at the intersection of Forest Lawn Drive and Barham Boulevard to look up and see the back side of Hogwart’s. As it turned out, it was kind of foggy this morning, and when we got there, it was still kind of misty, but then again, Hogwart’s is the sort of place that is perhaps best viewed through the mist.

On the way out, Carla got a flat. I volunteered to help fix it, since my years of working in bike shops, although being almost 40 years ago, still make me one of the fastest tire-changers in our Sunday morning group. So after just a few minutes, we continued on our way. We crossed over into Highland Park, where we saw a billboard advertising a street fair celebrating Figueroa Street, complete with Chicken Boy. And the billboard was right next to the actual Chicken Boy, so I had to stop and get a photo.

The plan had been to take the LA River bike path, but the city had closed most of it in anticipation of big El Niño rains that have not yet come. So we ended up taking Riverside Drive all the way up to Griffith Park, and then through the park to Forest Lawn Drive. We were still pretty far from Barham when I first saw the towers of the castle. And when we got to Barham, it was pretty plainly visible, even with the mist. I took a quick picture before continuing on to our snack stop at Priscilla’s.

The route home went across Glendale and then up Verdugo all the way to Hospital Hill, and then home by way of La Cañada. When we got back to Pasadena, Silvio, Carla, and I took a short side trip to see a fault scarp in Altadena. I’d read about trenching studies that were done there in the lat ’90s, and I was thinking about possibly including it on the next version of the Earthquake Tour for Atlas Obscura. The scarp was fairly big and obvious, but I’m not sure it’s quite worth making the side trip with the big group. Still, it was a nice ride.

44 miles.

Route map and elevation profile

3/13/2016

The Little Brown Church of the Valley

Filed under: — stan @ 2:31 pm

With all the talk about Nancy Reagan dying this week, the L.A. Times ran a short article about the Little Brown Church of the Valley in Studio City. This is where Ron and Nancy Reagan were married in 1952. So I thought this might make a good bit of sightseeing for the Sunday Morning Ride.

The route was basically the same as our Studio City for Gelato ride. Pretty much a straight shot west across Glendale and Burbank into the Valley,and west on Moorpark St to Coldwater Canyon. The church is just a few hundred feet north of Moorpark St. And it’s little all right. It’s a quaint little church.

Heading back, we stopped at the Gelato Bar in Studio City. I don’t remember how we found that place, but we stop there whenever we’re out that way.

To get home, we rode back across Glendale and up and over Chevy Chase and Linda Vista back into Pasadena. In the middle of Glendale, I noticed a street with some 1920s-vintage antique street lights. It was pretty obvious that they dated to before the ’30s, since the bases of the poles were decorated with a band of swastikas. So they clearly had to date from a time before the swastika was co-opted into a symbol of evil. The final bit of weirdness we saw was when we got back to Pasadena. There was a house on Orange Grove that had two little chihuahuas in the yard. The odd bit was they both had no front legs. But this didn’t slow them down much. They were both hopping around the yard like little kangaroos, guarding their yard just like dogs do. That was a very strange sight. But even though it was a bit weird, it was a pleasant ride.

43 miles.

3/8/2016

ME72 2016

Filed under: — stan @ 6:29 pm

Today was the ME72 contest at Caltech. This is the engineering class where the students get a box of junk and have to use it to make one or more machines to compete in a contest. I’ve been going to see this for as long as long as I’ve been at the USGS office at Caltech, and it’s always great fun. This year’s contest was the Tridroid Cup, where each team was supposed to build three robots to compete as a team to score points by putting small soccer balls through goals at the far end of the playing field. The two floor-level goals were worth one point, and the single raised goal was worth three points.

All the teams get the same junk to start with, but they all come up with different approaches to the problem. Most of them had machines with sort of a scoop on the front to be able to push the balls through the floor-level goals. The Caltech Armored Division team’s machines were very fast and manouverable, and they were able to score lots of points by just pushing lots of balls through the goals. But then one of them got stuck trying to drive over the divider down the middle of the field, which was a limitation of their low-to-the floor design.

Today’s contest was special in that it was the first time in 20 years of coming to see these things that I saw one of the machines catch fire during a match. Their machine was just driving across the floor when a small circuit board on it just suddenly caught fire. They smothered the fire with a wadded-up T-shirt, and the match continued.

In the end, it came down to the Blitzkrieg Bots against TBD. The TBD team had machines that could pick up several balls at a time and fling them through the high goal. At three points for each ball, they won lots of matches by just parking their machine in front of the goal and shooting balls through it. But the Bots had a low-slung ball-pusher machine, and a tall machine that they used to block the balls being flung at the high goal, and in the end, that divided strategy worked, and they were the winners. And the whole thing was very entertaining to watch.

2/13/2016

Animal Tracks with Atlas Obscura

Filed under: — stan @ 5:31 pm

Today’s adventure was a visit to Animal Tracks in Agua Dulce with Atlas Obscura. Like the Working Wildlife tour last fall, this was another exotic animal tour. The tour started out with some smaller animals, including a tarantula, a scorpion, an African bullfrog, and a large albino Burmese python. After that, we walked up the hill to the main compound, where we met the other animals.

There was a fat little armadillo, some sugar gliders, a pair of ferrets, a serval, a kinkajou, and an enclosure with a wallaby and red kangaroo in it. The kangaroo had the softest fur I’ve ever felt on any animal. We also saw a pair of emus, and got to hold an emu egg, which looked a lot like a giant avocado. The last animal encounter was when they brought out a baboon, and the baboon walked up and down the long picnic table, letting us take turns grooming her.

It was a fun and entertaining morning.

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