Stan’s Obligatory Blog

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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.


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.


In-N-Out Museum

Filed under: — stan @ 2:34 pm

Today’s bike club ride was a trip to Huntington Park to see the world headquarters of In-N-Out Burger, as well as the site of the original In-N-Out. We’ve been to see it before, back when I read that the original location was being demolished. At the time, they didn’t say what was going to happen with the site, but today, we found out that they built an exact replica of the original In-N-Out Burger on the site. So we can see what it looked like when they first opened in 1948.

It was a nice day for riding. We headed out from the park, first with a little jog to the west to pass by the Pasadena In-N-Out, which has the distinction of being the oldest In-N-Out Burger location still operating. Then we headed south and east, going through a bit of West Covina to get to Huntington Park, and the location of the original In-N-Out. The replica is pretty small. I guess that when they first opened, they had no idea just how much business they’d be doing. But the little booth-style building looks a lot like the one in Pasadena, although it looks like the Pasadena one has added more building behind the booth, I guess to be able to sling more burgers.

Our snack stop was at Panera in West Covina. Inside, I saw that they’d installed little touch-screen kiosks to order from. The sign said that if I ordered there, I’d get a free cookie with my order. So I used the little screen to order, and then I took the table locator back outside. And when I got my order, I got a cookie! So that was nice.

The route home went through Santa Fe Dam and up the bike path. Then back across Monrovia. That was where I saw the three women out walking three llamas on leashes. These were the first llamas I’ve seen since we went to see Lorenzo the Llama, back in 2009. And I certainly didn’t know that llamas could be walked like big dogs. But there they were, and one of them was even lying down and rolling in the dirt like a big dog. So that was a novel thing to see on a Sunday morning.

46 miles.


CFF Climb, 2014 Edition

Filed under: — stan @ 3:00 pm

It’s time for the last race of the year here in Los Angeles. The 54-story climb up the Wilshire-Figueroa building. It’s 1,245 steps to the roof. I know, because I counted them. This year marks the fifth time the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation has held this event, and the fifth time I’ve done it.

I’ve not been going especially fast on the stair this year. But after the sciatica and other issues I had last winter, I’m glad to be able to do stairs at all. So my goal for the day was to try and do a decent pace, and I was hoping to make it to the roof in under 10 minutes. My target pace was 5 1/2 floors per minute. The staircase is very consistent all the way up to 49, so my plan was to check my watch at 12, 23, 34, and 45. At each of those points, I should be at 2, 4, 6, and 8 minutes. Last year, when I was in somewhat better shape, I did it in 9:29.

I went up in the first group. I went behind the really fast guys, and I was alone for most of the climb. I think one person passed me. The first photo was taken by a photographer in the stairwell. I don’t know what floor it is, but because of where my feet are, I know it’s above the 21st floor. And because I have no memory of seeing a photographer, I’m guessing it was probably above the 40th floor. At the roof, I stumbled out of the stairs and collapsed as soon as I’d crossed the timing mat. And as it turned out, I was perfectly placed to photobomb Mark and Lisa’s picture. After a few minutes, I was recovered and able to stand up for a picture before heading back down.

At the bottom, I found Kathleen, and we got in line for her climb. I was going to climb with her to keep her company. While we were waiting in line, Madeleine came up and took a picture of my knee. I’d gotten a bloody scrape from the concrete helipad on the roof, and I hadn’t even noticed it.

Kathleen and I walked up the building. At the top, we took a picture, and then we came back down for the post-race party. It was a fun little outing.


Last practice

Filed under: — stan @ 9:44 pm

Tonight was the last practice on the stairs before Saturday’s CFF Climb. I was sick last weekend, so I missed the practice on Monday. I’m only just now recovered, so wanted to go tonight, but not to try and go fast.

I ended up going up three times tonight. For some unknown reason that I won’t complain about, my knee that has been giving me problems has decided to go back to feeling normal. So I was able to climb the 51 floors three times tonight, and I didn’t even take any ibuprofen or anything else beforehand. So I guess that means I’m as ready as I’m going to be for the race Saturday.

Field Trip!

Filed under: — stan @ 8:50 pm

A few weeks ago, Sue Hough sent an email out to the office to see who would be interested in a field trip to tour the San Andreas Fault in the Antelope Valley, a bit north of Los Angeles. The sights would be taken from her book, Finding Fault in California. As it turned out, there was quite a bit of interest. In the end, it was enough interest that we rented a 24-passenger bus and driver for the day so we could take the trip.

We met at the office early Wednesday morning, and then we headed out. We went past JPL, which is located right on the trace of the Sierra Madre Fault, and has a very nice, steep scarp right behind it. Our first real stop was the small fault scarp next to the McDonald’s at 1955 Glenoaks Blvd in San Fernando. This scarp was formed in the 1971 San Fernando Earthquake. I took the bike club there to see the scarp last June.

Continuing on up the freeway, we went through the 5/14 freeway interchange. This interchange fell down in the 1971 earthquake. It was rebuilt, and then fell down again in the 1994 Northridge Earthquake. Then we went up the 14 freeway, through the mountains, coming out in Palmdale. We went one exit farther up the freeway than we needed to, since that let us go through a somewhat-famous road cut on the freeway. It’s where the freeway crosses the trace of the San Andreas Fault, and in that cut, the rock layers look particularly jumbled and twisted from the motion of the fault.

Heading east out of Palmdale, we went along the northern edge of the San Gabriel Mountains. We stopped for a photo-op at a place where some people put up signs on the road to mark the trace of the fault. Makes it really easy to find, when there’s a big sign pointing it out. This site was very near where Kerry Sieh did his first trenching studies on the fault, back in the ’70s.

A little while later, the road started to climb into the mountains, still following the trace of the fault. We stopped at another road cut where the cut went right through the fault gouge. The side of the cut was basically packed sand and pulverized rock. Digging into it with our hands, there were some solid pieces of rock buried in there, but as Sue showed us, those solid pieces were actually shattered, and we could crumble them to sand in our hands. We also saw a tree there that was kind of bent at the top. There has been some research done on trees in that area that grow along the fault line. There are trees that show signs of having been broken off in past earthquakes.

In Wrightwood, we took one small side trip to look at some recent debris flows, and how the town has attempted to guide future debris flows to minimize damage to the town.

Coming down the east side of the mountain from Wrightwood, we ended up coming out by the 15 freeway in Cajon Pass. We took one more side trip to see Lost Lake, which is a small sag pond on the fault there.

This made for an interesting day of sightseeing. Have I mentioned lately that I really like my job?


Last few practice climbs

Filed under: — stan @ 9:36 pm

There are only a few more practice sessions on the stairs before the CFF Climb on November 15th. And now that we’re back from Chicago, I don’t have to think about that any more. Now it’s just a matter of trying to see how fast I can get the the building one time. So tonight, I thought I’d try an experiment.

I’ve been aiming for five floors per minute as my target pace for the Sears Willis Tower, but for this, event, only 54 stories, I want to aim higher. So tonight I went for 5 1/2 floors per minute. That’s easy to calculate, and easy to follow. My two-minute goals would be floors 12, 23, 34, and 45. I hoped to get to 51 in just about nine minutes.

The first five minutes or so were fine, and I kept on pace. Nearer the top, I slowed down a bit, losing a few seconds each minute on the floors above 35 or so. So I got to 51 in 9:13. Not too bad, but nowhere near my personal record of 8:33 for the climb to 51. Still, considering that I’m not in the same shape I was last year or the year before, and I’ve been having knee problems the last few weeks, I’m not going to complain. I guess my goal for race day will be to try to make the finish line on the roof in less than 10 minutes.

I went up a second time, just because I could. I timed it, but didn’t push for speed. And by the end of the second climb, my knee was feeling a bit swollen, so I stopped there.


Chicago 2014

Filed under: — stan @ 11:08 pm

This weekend was our yearly trip to Chicago to visit, play tourist, and to climb the stairs up the Sears Willis Tower. After the ordeal we had last year on this trip, we were hoping that things would go smoother this time. Last time, our trip out was delayed a day by the shootings at LAX, so the odds seemed to be in our favor this time. We got to the airport at about 9:45 for our 11:05 flight, and everything seemed all right. But almost immediately, they said that the flight was delayed to 12:15. And a little while later, that was pushed back to 1:20. So we had some lunch and waited some more.

The next time I checked, our flight was listed as ‘Canceled’. It was about this time that we started to hear talk of bad weather in Chicago, and that air traffic bound there from all over the country was being delayed. I went to one of the check-in kiosks to see what I could find out. It told me that we’d been rescheduled for a new flight at 3:41. So that didn’t seem too bad. It was about this time that I finished reading the book I’d brought along. And since we weren’t going anywhere any time soon, I went looking for something else to read. I picked up a copy of The Martian and started reading it.

When it came time to get on the airplane, as soon as we were all aboard, they said that we were going to be delayed another hour, and that if we wanted to, we could get off and walk around some. But soon after that, they announced that we were going to push back from the gate. We weren’t leaving. But they needed the gate for another flight coming in. So we got to sit in the airplane for about an our, parked out on the taxiway. I was glad that I’d found an entertaining book to read, otherwise the waiting would have been even worse.

We finally got under way at about 5:30. The flight was pretty uneventful, and we got to Chicago at about 11:45 Friday night. By now, it was far too late to go for dinner, and almost everything in the airport was closed. So we walked over to the Airport Hilton, where they had a bar and restaurant still open. We stayed there for a short time, and then rode the train to our hotel.

Saturday morning, we went downstairs and got breakfast. Then we rode the train downtown to pick up our race packets at the Sears Willis Tower. And after that, we had to immediately head over to the Weird Chicago tour we’d signed up for. It was three hours on a bus, traveling around the city, visiting sites significant to the city’s Mob history. It made a nice companion piece to the time we went to the Mob Museum in Las Vegas. After the tour, we got on the train and headed over to the West Loop neighborhood to meet up with all our stair climbing friends for dinner.

On Sunday morning, we got up bright and early and headed downtown. We got to the building at about 8:15, and I got right in line to climb. There was kind of a lot of traffic in the stairwell. On several occasions, I had to push through groups of people. There were a few people who were climbing who were obviously handicapped, using canes and such. For them, I went around the outside. But they were going slow enough that going around wasn’t a big problem. For everyone else, I just pushed through, up the inside railing.

I managed to maintain my target pace of five floors per minute up to about 65 or so. Then I started to slow down a bit. In the end, I made it to the top in 23:10. Not blazing fast, but not bad, either. That works out to something like 4.6 floors per minutes average. It was pretty close. I was originally planning on going back down and walking up with Kathleen, but my knee was not feeling good, so I just sent her a message that I’d just stay at the top until she got there. I took a guess at when she’d get there, and I made a point to go over near the door then. And when she came out, she started crying. It was a hard climb. The stairs there are steeper than most normal office building stairs, and psychologically, that’s hard. But she perked up pretty fast. We went around and looked at the view, and we got our picture taken on the south side of the building, where the sun came in. That way, we could get a picture of us with the view, but without us being just silhouettes against the window. Most of the time, when people try and take those pictures, it ends up looking like Witness Protection climbed the tower.

After the climb, we went back to our hotel and got cleaned up. After that, we went back downtown to meet up with my old friend Laura. She’s in the restaurant business and recently moved to Chicago to oversee the setup and opening of the restaurants in the soon-to-be-opened Virgin Hotel there. We had a nice lunch, and after that, we went to Union Station to get the train to Libertyville to visit Kathleen’s aunt and uncle there. We spent the night at their house, and we all went to the Chicago Botanic Garden the next day. And after that, they dropped us off at O’Hare for our flight home.

Our flight home was not delayed like Friday’s flight out. In fact, the delay coming back was only about an hour or so. Still delayed, but nowhere near as much as on Friday. So all told, it was a fun trip, aside from the actual traveling part. And yes, I liked The Martian. It’s not that often I chew through a 350+ page book in under 24 hours.


Last practice before Chicago

Filed under: — stan @ 9:11 pm

Once again, I missed Monday stair practice, since we had gone to San Diego on Sunday night to visit my father. But I came out for Wednesday practice, since it’s the last one before next weekend’s trip to Chicago to climb the Sears Willis Tower. Once again, my goal was two climbs at a consistent pace. I did all right on the first, but the second time up, my knee started to hurt, and I kind of fell apart. And when it was over, I didn’t even do a third climb.


Down for the Count – 2014 Edition

Filed under: — stan @ 3:46 pm

It’s the Sunday before Halloween, and time for our annual “Down for the Count” ride, where we ride out to Culver City to visit Bela Lugosi’s grave. Weather was perfect for riding.

We started out heading into downtown L.A. We passed the site of the former state office building that was condemned and torn down after the 1971 San Fernando Earthquake. We visited this site a while back, when I read that they were finally going to tear down the foundation and put a park in its place.

A few blocks south of there, we ran across the route of the Rock-n-Roll Half Marathon. They have it every year on this weekend, but for some reason, we never can remember about it when we’re planning this ride. This time, we didn’t see anyone we knew running by, unlike in 2012.

I got a flat on West Adams. It turned out to be from a small thorn that got stuck in my tire. That was the first flat I’ve had on the new bike. I fixed it, and we soldiered on. We saw the train at the Farmdale station when we passed there. I was paying attention to it this time, since I needed to get back early, and I was planning on bailing out and taking the train home to save some time.

When we got to the cemetery, we went straight to the Grotto, where Bela Lugosi is buried. As always, someone had stopped by and decorated for Halloween.

On the way back, I only rode as far as the Culver City Metro station. Then I got on the train and rode that back to Pasadena. This saved about an hour or so compared to riding home from there, and I still got in about 34 miles of riding.

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