Stan’s Obligatory Blog

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10/3/2013

Furlough-cation

Filed under: — stan @ 5:42 pm

Today, I’d made plans to go hiking with my friend Karina from work. Since our office has turned into a pumpkin, we don’t have anything to do. She hikes a fair amount, but I haven’t been up in the mountains since 4th of July last year. So we arranged to meet up a the trailhead a the top of Lake Ave. We figured we’d start out by going up Echo Mountain, and then just see what we had time for after that.

The trail up to Echo Mountain is about 2 1/2 miles, and it’s not hard. At the top, we turned left and headed up the old Mt. Lowe Railway roadbed. Most of it is still passable. The bridges have all been taken out, and there are signs along the way, indicating points of interest, and with photos showing how it looked when it was still operating. We ended up walking the entire length of the former railroad, all the way to the Mt. Lowe Trail Camp, which is at the location for the former Alpine Tavern that was at the end of the line. We stopped there for lunch, since they have some picnic tables there.

After lunch, we continued on up the trail to Inspiration Point, which is on top of the ridge behind Echo Mountain. There is a little shelter built up there, along with a sign telling the story of the One Man and a Mule Railroad, which used to bring people up to Inspiration Point from the Alpine Tavern. After that, we headed back by way of the Upper Sam Merrill Trail, which took us back to Echo Mountain. Then we headed back down the way we’d started. All together, it was about 12 1/2 miles, which is easily the longest hike I’ve done in many years. But it was a good time, and a good thing to do on a day when we have nothing else useful to do.

10/2/2013

Furlough adventures

Filed under: — stan @ 10:16 pm

For the first full day of government furlough, Kathleen and I had planned on going to Disneyland. But first, I’d gotten a call last night from Rebecca, the organizer of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation’s charity stair-climb. She said that we had a chance to change the race this year and run it all the way to the helipad on the roof of the building, and she wanted to see if I could meet with her at the building in the morning to survey the final few floors up to the roof. And since I’m on indefinite furlough, of course I could do that.

I rode the train downtown with all the morning commuters, and when I got to the building, I went up to the main office so we could meet with the guy in charge of building security. I’d brought along a batch of my award-winning blueberry muffins. I asked them to give them to the evening shift guards, since they were very nice to us the last two months when we were training on the staircase there for the YMCA stair climb.

We took the freight elevator up to 51, which is where the race traditionally ended. After climbing that staircase 68 times over the last two months, there was no need to survey anything below 51. Then I got out my camera and notepad and we checked out the stairs up to the roof. The final count came to 1,245 steps from the ground-level door on 6th St up to the roof. That’s the equivalent of a bit over 54 normal floors in that building.

After surveying the stairs, I got back on the train, and I took Metro Rail to the Norwalk station on the Green Line. That’s right off the 605 freeway, which is how we get to Disneyland, so I met up with Kathleen there, and we headed on to Disneyland.

We did all the usual things there. We even rode the new Radiator Springs Racers ride for the first time. The line for that thing has been insanely long ever since it opened. But today, the line was only a bit over an hour, and the single-rider line was very short. So we went in as two single riders, and we were on it in under 10 minutes. It was entertaining, but I’m not sure it’s an-hour-in-line entertaining.

On the way over to Disneyland, I saw that there’s a commemorative paving stone with my name on it. Even spelled the ‘right’ way. I wonder who it is, since I’ve never met anyone with my same name, spelled the same way.

Disneyland was decorated for Halloween. And the Haunted Mansion was decorated for Christmas. Saves them a lot of work that way. I was able to pretty much forget about the government shutdown. And we ended with the traditional dinner at Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen in Downtown Disney. We had a nice day.

10/1/2013

Here we go again

Filed under: — stan @ 3:50 pm

Back in 1995, the first year I was at my job, we had two government shutdowns that lasted a total of almost four weeks. And now, here we go again. So I’m at home, sitting on the back porch, reading. While I was sitting there, I noticed the hummingbirds coming and going around the feeder, so I got my camera and set it up on a tripod with the remote shutter release. I held the control while I was reading, and whenever I heard a hummingbird come by, I snapped a few pictures. And 118 pictures later, I got a good one.

9/30/2013

Off Vine

Filed under: — stan @ 9:44 pm

I recently rediscovered my old favorite restaurant from the late ’80s in Hollywood. Off Vine is in a little house on Leland Way, just – wait for it – off Vine St. When I saw that they have regular half-off special on Mondays, we made plans to go.

This was my first time there since 1996 or so. And it was every bit as good as it ever was. So now that we’re well-fed and had a nice evening out, I’m ready for the government and my job to turn into a pumpkin.

9/29/2013

Dead Man’s Curve

Filed under: — stan @ 4:32 pm

About a week ago, I saw an article and photo set where a photographer had climbed down into Fryman Canyon, below Mulholland Drive, and photographed the rusting hulks of cars that had crashed there and never recovered. The article made it sound like these are not visible from up on the road, but I wanted to go see anyway.

It was a nice day for rriding. We headed out by the usual route through Eagle Rock to get to Hollywood. We rode almost the full length of Hollywood Blvd, and then headed up Nichols Canyon. This is a nice, quiet little canyon road with very little traffic. That took us up to Mulholland, where we headed west. We passed Wonderland Center, which was the subject of another sightseeing ride some years ago. Then we got to the Fryman Canyon Overlook. Looking over at the terrain below the infamous curve in the road, I could see how things could go bad there. We couldn’t see anything down below on that side, so we headed on over to the actual spot in the road to have a closer look. On the west side of the curve, there was very dense brush growing just down the hillside from the road. And I could see how that could easily hide all manner of things. I supposed maybe some day I’ll have to put on my hiking shoes and go down into the canyon for a look.

Our stop was at the gelato place in Studio City. They have apparently gotten on the ‘gluten-free’ bandwagon. Sheesh. And on the way home, we saw what was apparently a despondent plush stuffed monkey who hung himself from a truck bumper. Well, at least that’s more tasteful than the ‘truck nuts‘ that we thankfully don’t see much here in L.A.

50 miles.

9/27/2013

Battling my inner demons

Filed under: — stan @ 10:23 pm

So it’s the end of September, and time to climb the U.S. Bank Tower in downtown Los Angeles again. And oddly enough, it never gets any easier. After all the practice sessions, climbing the Wilshire-Figueroa building 68 times, I was as ready as I was going to ever be. I’d worked out split times based on a pace of 5 1/2 floors per minute, which felt reasonable in practice. I thought I had a chance of being able to maintain that pace all the way up the 75 floors.

I got a phone call in the afternoon from George. He had run early, with the elite group, and he’d turned in a very respectable 13:49. That’s about seven seconds faster than my best time in that building. He also told me that I’d made a couple of errors in my stair chart. George has a great eye for detail. So based on what he told me, I went back and adjusted my split times.

I rode the train downtown just like every other time, and I walked over the YMCA to get changed and ready to climb. And when 4:00 rolled around, I was in line and ready to go.

The first 30 or so floors were fine. I kept to my pace, and I didn’t have trouble passing people. For the most part, the message is finally getting out to allow faster climbers to pass on the inside. But the hardest part was still to come. About the 55th floor or so, I was suddenly overcome by a crippling wave of “What the HELL am I trying to prove here?!?!?” And that’s something that makes it very hard to go on. I managed to keep moving, but I must have slowed down quite a bit. My schedule was to get to the top in about 13:45, and it ended up being 14:47. That’s my second-slowest time ever for this building. Still, I can’t complain too much. I’m still quite a bit faster than the Average Bear. I was something like 120th out of about 2,900 people. But I know that if I could just maintain focus, I’m sure I could go a lot faster.

After hanging around the bottom, visiting with everyone and handing out samples of my award-winning blueberry muffins, I saw Morgan from my office. I’d told her I’d walk up with her when she got there, so we went down and got in line. I told the people at the starting line that I was going to walk up with her, since I felt sort of responsible for the fact that she got talked into doing this crazy sport in the first place. So we walked up, making it to the top in just under 18 minutes. That was a new best time for her, and I thought it was reasonably leisurely. I stopped for water a few times, and I talked a lot. She later told me that telling her, “This is the floor where I lost the will to live” wasn’t particularly motivating. Oh well. Still, it was a good time, and it was interesting to see the stairway at a moderate pace.

So all told, it wasn’t one of my better outings on the stairs, but it was still a fun evening.

Full results are here: http://www.hallucinationsports.com/event/show/39511880#/results::1380915635626

9/23/2013

Last call…

Filed under: — stan @ 9:12 pm

Tonight was the last practice session before the U.S. Bank Tower stair race on Friday. And I went with a plan in mind. When I did the 51-story practice staircase in about 9:15, it was a pace I described as “brisk, but not punishing”. So I’m thinking that that will be my pace for the 75-story bank tower race, since it’s a pace I can do for 50 floors and still be able to go on some more. That works out to about 5 1/2 floors per minute.

I rode the train downtown and got ready to climb. I didn’t stand around at the bottom much. As I always say, the stairs don’t get any easier if we wait around. And my first climb up was right on schedule, getting to the top in 9:21. And for the second climb, my plan was to maintain the same pace for at least the first half of the climb. That was kind of difficult, but I made it that far before slowing down. And I still did a reasonable time the second time.

The third time, I was slowing down some. But that was all right. And the fourth time I didn’t bother to time. So I guess I’m as ready as I’m going to be for the race this Friday.

9/22/2013

The Glendora Bougainvillea

Filed under: — stan @ 4:02 pm

Today’s bike club ride was the route out to Glendora to see the Glendora Bougainvillea. The weather is nice, so we can ride inland now without it being too hot, so this seemed like a good choice for today’s ride.

The bougainvillea had more flowers on it than we’ve seen the other times we’ve gone to see it. That was nice. We also saw a big new development of townhouses right by where the Metro Gold Line light rail station is going to be in 2018 or so. And on the way home, we got to see some of the progress in building the initial Gold Line extension to Azusa.

It was a perfect day for riding.

40 miles.

9/21/2013

County Fair time again!

Filed under: — stan @ 10:45 pm

It’s time for the 2013 Los Angeles County Fair, and time to go visit my award-winning blueberry muffins in the display case there. We got lucky this time, and it was a very pleasant day. Usually, it’s blazing hot out there in Pomona, but today was very nice. Warm in the sun, cool in the shade, and with a pleasant breeze.

We went to see my muffins first. The ribbon came in the mail last week, and I’m quite pleased that these are my first non-cookie prize winners. We spent a bit of time looking around at everything else there. I’m hoping they come out with a cookbook of the winning recipes this year, so I can try making the muffins that beat mine. I want to know what’s in them.

After lunch, we got some Dr. Bob’s ice cream, and then went and saw a show with dogs leaping in the air catching frisbees. That was entertaining. We also got to pet a hedgehog. Then we walked over to the old train exhibit. I’ve wanted to see that for a long time. And we saw a display case with some bent and broken rails from the 1971 San Fernando Earthquake.

We took a turn through the buildings where they have all the booths selling random stuff. I thought the teeth-whitening booth looked kind of creepy. Like something from “Alien”. And then it was time for the pig races. The pig races are entertaining, and we get a coupon good for a free pound of bacon. What’s not to like about that?

It was a fun afternoon.

9/18/2013

When I’m sixty-four…

Filed under: — stan @ 9:22 pm

It’s stair practice again tonight, and I climbed the building four times tonight. Which means that since practice started last July, I’ve now climbed this building 64 times. That’s a bit over 8 miles vertical.

Tonight was a pretty good outing. I managed to get under 9 minutes on my first climb, so that was good. It’s still not the 8:32 I did in practice last year, but it’s still reasonable. And after that, I climbed the building three more times. The last time was a bit of a Death March, so I didn’t bother timing it.

One more practice, and then it’s going to be time for the race up the U.S. Bank Tower.

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