Stan’s Obligatory Blog

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8/18/2014

Dragging

Filed under: — stan @ 9:31 pm

I just couldn’t muster up much enthusiasm today for trying to go fast. So I just went up the stairs, trying to maintain a brisk pace, but not really trying to push hard. Still, I managed to get in three climbs, which is pretty remarkable, given the way they make us wait in line and only let a few in at a time at the Wells Fargo building. I still fail to see what bad thing they think they are preventing by making us wait outside. But whatever it is, they seem quite adamant about it. Anyway, it was a so-so outing on the stairs.

8/11/2014

Up we go…

Filed under: — stan @ 9:50 pm

It’s Monday, and time for yet another installment of climbing the Wells Fargo building staircase. Once again, I rode the train downtown and got checked in at the YMCA, and then headed over to the building to wait in line to get in. But this time, it wasn’t so bad. Sure, I had to wait a long time, but I got to see Michael there for the first time in several years. So we got to spend our time in line talking and catching up.

When it was time to climb, I resolved to try and do a somewhat-brisk pace, but I also resolved not to be checking my watch all the time. I just wanted to see that I made it to 6 1/2 by one minute, and then I wasn’t going to look at it again. So I made 6 1/2 on schedule, and then I just kept going. Mentally, I like to break the climb down into five-floor segments. That helps to distract from just how many floors we are climbing. And I was very pleasantly surprised on 55 when I got there in 9:53. Sure, two years ago I did 8:49, but this is still my fastest so far this year.

After a very slow elevator ride back down, we had to wait in line for another 15 minutes before we could get back in. The second time up, I was aiming for my ‘cruising’ pace of 4 1/2 floors per minute. That would get me to 55 in 11:50 or so. And I was pleased that I managed to go a wee bit faster than that.

After yet another slow elevator ride back down, there was no more line, so we headed up a third time. I didn’t bother timing it. I just wanted to go up at a relaxed pace. And at 43, I stopped to look at the mural on the landing. I’d never noticed before that someone from Gibson, Dunn, & Crutcher had added a bit to the mural. I gather that they occupy a couple of the higher floors in the building, so I guess they just went in there one day and did it.

All in all, it wasn’t a bad stair outing. I still wish it didn’t involve so much standing in line, but we take what we can get in this insane little sport.

8/10/2014

The Kingdom of Rubelia

Filed under: — stan @ 4:15 pm

Today’s bike club ride was our old route out to Glendora. But there was a twist. The Obscura Society had arranged for a tour of Rubel’s Castle. We’ve been by there many times before, but we never had the chance to go inside. So today was the day. And in the end, I was the only one who bought a ticket to take the tour, but Kathleen drove out and met us there, and the two of us went on the tour. Everyone else just went to Classic Coffee and rode home.

Our guide for the tour was from the Glendora Historical Society, which inherited the castle from Michael Rubel when he died in 2007. We started out at the front gate and the entrance courtyard. There was a small barn and a couple of horses there. And chickens. Several chickens just running around the grounds.

The first major stop was the cemetery. Our guide said that nobody was actually buried there, but Michael just thought that a castle should have a cemetery on the grounds. He got the rejects from a local headstone maker, and later on, had some made for himself and other friends who were important in the story of the castle.

At the back of the property, there were some smaller buildings. They had garage space underneath where they had a variety of old cars, tractors, and so forth. Above were apartments, and our guide said that something like seven people live there full-time, and they help with the upkeep.

There was a barbecue pit back there, and a bird bath. The bird bath was run by an enormous engine inside a shed. There was a whole story of how they got the engine and moved it there. The story involved a truck, some dynamite, and gouging the new pavement on Route 66 on the way back to the castle. It was a pretty funny story.

Back outside, we walked under the big water tower next to the windmill that pumped water up from the well to fill it. Then we took a turn through the caboose. There was a lot of train memorabilia all around the grounds, but the caboose was the single biggest piece of it. And then it was time to go into the castle itself.

The castle is built on what remains of a giant concrete reservoir that used to store water for the citrus orchards. In the middle of the castle courtyard, there is a small house that Michael build out of rocks, bottles, and cement. He lived there for many years while building the rest of the castle around it. It was amazing to see just how much went into building the castle. There were weird objects embedded in the walls, and the walls themselves are something like six feet thick, so there are more weird objects embedded inside them that we can’t see. It’s just incredible to see such a monumental structure built out of junk. Just look at the stairs. They are made out of broken pieces of stone that they just scrounged from somewhere or other.

The clock in the big tower struck eleven while we were there. We got to look inside the tower and see the big clock mechanism working. Then we walked around and into the machine shop building that is in the center of the castle courtyard.

The last stop on the tour was the Tin Palace, where Michael’s mother held her big parties. There were more trains in there, and some memorabilia about Sally Rand, since she was one of the famous people who came to the parties there. That room also had the stained-glass painting depicting the story of bring the big engine to the castle.

The castle is a monument to Michael Rubel’s personal obsession, and it’s truly one of a kind. So it was a real treat to finally get to see inside after all these years. And on top of all that, I had a nice bike ride out there and back.

38 miles.

8/6/2014

More fun and frolic

Filed under: — stan @ 9:36 pm

Tonight was the second time on the Wells Fargo building stairs, and I was feeling the dread on the train down there. As a result of that, I decided that I was going to take it easy, and not worry too much about my time.

When I got there, they told us that they were going to make us go back outside and get back in line to climb again. For some reason, the guards at that building have this idea that they only want to let in 10 people at a time, and only one group every five minutes. They say it’s something about not getting too crowded, but then they send all 10 off at once, so the traffic in the stairwell is still pretty congested at first. I have no idea what bad thing they thing they’re preventing by insisting on doing things this way. But I do know that, based on this, I won’t be baking them any of my award-winning cookies or muffins like I did for the guards at the Wilshire-Figueroa and Aon buildings.

The first time up, I decided I was going to try for a brisk pace, but that I wasn’t going to pay much attention to my watch while I was doing it. I just focused on doing five floors at a time, and at every floor ending in a “5″ or a “0″, I switched which leg was leading on the 11-step flight. Because 11 is an odd number, there has to be at least one single step on that flight, and so I alternate taking the single step at the beginning or the end of the flight. This evens out the load between the right and left legs. Also, by only thinking about five floors at a time, it cuts down on the “OMG… I’m only on 25, I’m wiped out, and I still have 30 more to go” feeling.

At the top, I stopped my watch, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that I’d gone six seconds faster than on Monday. I think taking a more relaxed attitude sometimes helps.

I went back down, and I had to stand in line for something like 15 minutes before getting back in. While we were standing there, Whitney from the YMCA came by. She was the one I did the original survey of the U.S. Bank staircase with. She was just there to see how things were going, and she said she would try and see if the YMCA could get the building security people to lighten up a bit.

The second time up, there were two guys who decided they wanted to shadow me up the stairs. I was planning on aiming for 4 1/2 floors per minute, which would get me to the top in just under 12 minutes. That’s my ‘take it easy’ pace. But then with those two on my tail, I just had to turn up the heat a bit. They said they didn’t want to go ahead of me, but I was determined to shake them by the time we got to the top. I maintained a steady pace, and one guy fell off the train at about 40. The second hung on up to 50, and I managed to make 55 with him about 1/2 floor behind. I managed to average just a hair under five floors per minute on that climb, which was as fast as I went in my first two races, and back then, I felt like I was gonna die! So that’s still progress.

After the second time, the crowd that thinned out considerably, and we were able to just turn around and head up a third time without waiting. I really took it easy this time. I started my watch, and then I turned it off at about 5, because there was no point even timing it. I just kind of meandered up the stairs. I stopped a couple of times to answer text messages from Lucinda. And I thought about what I wanted for dinner. I got to the top, and then headed back down, got changed, and went home. Fun times in the stairwell.


8/4/2014

Back to the Wells Fargo stairs

Filed under: — stan @ 10:18 pm

Today was the first practice session at the Wells Fargo building. 1,125 steps to go from the lobby to the 55th floor. It averages 21 tall steps per floor, and that’s the equivalent of climbing 53 1/2 floors in that building. My best time ever on that staircase was 8:49. I didn’t think I could even come close to that today, but I was hoping to maybe get around 10, or perhaps a bit under.

I aimed for a pace of 5 1/2 floors per minute. The main staircase flights are 10/11, so I worked out a stepping pattern to efficiently make the turns without wasting steps, and to balance the load on each leg. My gloves were washed and sticky for gripping the railing. It was about as good as it was going to get.

I managed to stay on pace for about the first 30 floors. Then I started falling behind. Not by a lot, but some. And when I got to the 55th floor, my watch said 10:13. I took the requisite ’sweaty arm with stopwatch’ picture to record it, and then I went back down. I went up two more times, but they were a lot slower.

When I went home, I got cleaned up and started my laundry. And after a few minutes of not being able to find my phone, I realized it was still in my pants pocket. In the washer. So the sweaty arm photo is lost to the ages, and I had to simulate it here. But such is my dedication to my craft…


8/3/2014

Fried Apple Pie!

Filed under: — stan @ 1:10 pm

This week, I saw some talk on the Net about the old-fashioned fried apple pie that McDonald’s used to serve. Apparently, they did away with it some years ago, and only a few locations still serve it. And one of them is the oldest operating McDonald’s, which we’ve visited before in Downey. So today, we headed to Downey just to see it again.

We took the direct route there, straight down Del Mar Ave through San Gabriel, and then down Rosemead to Downey. Along the way, I got a flat, and when I was inspecting the tire to find the sliver of glass that caused it, I noticed that the tire was worn out and on the brink of failure. I was ready to turn back at that point, but Amiee pulled out her phone and looked up where there were bike shops near us. There was one very near the old McDonald’s, and a couple others nearby, and they were supposed to be opening soon. So we ended up continuing on the ride.

We stopped at the McDonald’s. They had a sign in the window saying that they serve the original fried apple pies, with a small hand-written sign below it saying they were out until Monday. But that was all right, since I don’t think any of us were actually planning one getting one.

The first bike shop turned out to not open until 11, so that didn’t help, so we continued on the the snack stop at 3rd St Coffee. While we were there, Amiee called the other two bike shops, and by then, both said they could help us. Leaving the coffee shop, we rode to the first one, only to find a sign in the window that they had moved. So then we rode to the third shop, J & M Bike Shop in Bell Gardens. It’s not a pro shop by any stretch, but they were nice, and they did have a suitable tire for a reasonable price. So I bought it and put it on my bike, and we were ready for the ride home.

Going back up the Rio Hondo river trail, we had a nice tail wind all the way back to Arcadia. That made up for the swampy and hot monsoon weather we’ve been having. So, even with the tire troubles, it was a fun ride.

47 miles.

7/30/2014

This was supposed to be “The Vertical Kilometer”

Filed under: — stan @ 9:30 pm

Tonight was the last time at the Bank Formerly Known as Mellon building. So wanted to try something different. I did the math, and it turned out that climbing up to the 20th floor twelve times would total 990 meters of climbing. So if I did that, and then just continued up three more floors on the last time, that would make a vertical kilometer. I haven’t done anything like that since the Towerthon.

I started out doing my regular relaxed pace of 4 1/2 floors per minute. That got me to 20 in about 4:20 – 4:30 each time, and I was able to maintain that pace for the first five climbs. The next two, I slowed down slightly, but then, on the eight time up, I kind of fell apart. Climbs 8-11 were very hard.

They close the door to the stairway at 7:15. I think that’s kind of silly, since they advertise the practice session as lasting until 7:30. So I was racing that deadline when I headed up for the 11th time at 7:08. I made it to the top, took the elevator ride back down, and ran back to the start just in time to hear the click of the latch as they closed the door. So the Vertical Kilometer was not to be tonight.

And that wraps it up for stair practice at the Bank Formerly Known as Mellon building. Next week, we start at Wells Fargo.

7/28/2014

Here we go again, again

Filed under: — stan @ 9:08 pm

It’s Monday, and time for another installment of, “who thought this was a good idea?” So I got on the train and headed downtown to join in the fun. As with last week, the plan was to aim for 11 seconds per floor for the first three climbs, and then just keep going, but taking it easy for three or four more times.

I was a little tired from yesterday’s bike ride, so I wasn’t feeling terribly energetic at the start. I managed to come in pretty much on schedule, but just a fraction over 11 seconds each time. But that’s all right. And I ended up doing the staircase seven times total.

On the way home, I had a pleasant surprise. For years now, when we get back to Union Station, we have to walk up out of the subway to get to the Gold Line back to Pasadena. And for years, I’ve said that the monitor at the top of the stairs coming out of the subway doesn’t need to be telling us when the next train to North Hollywood is. If we’re coming out of the subway, that means we’re not going to be taking the subway, and the information about when the next subway train leaves is completely useless. So for years, I’ve said that it would be useful to know when the next Gold Line train is, since it would be good to know if we have to run for it, or if we can take our time, since it’s a bit of a walk to the Gold Line platform. And this evening, I came up the stairs out of the subway, and there it was. The monitor was telling me when the next Gold Line trains left. Finally, Metro did something that makes good sense. Something that’s non-moronic. This almost makes up for them putting Big Belly solar-powered trash compactors underground in a tunnel at Union Station.

7/27/2014

The George Harrison Stump

Filed under: — stan @ 1:50 pm

This week, there was an item all over the news about how the George Harrison Memorial Tree in Griffith Park had been killed by an infestation of beetles. So of course we had to go see this.

It was an overcast day, which was nice, since that meant it probably wouldn’t get too hot. We rode out by our standard route to get to Hollywood and Griffith Park. Then we rode up the hill to the observatory. Once we got there, we took a short rest, and then I started looking for the stump of the tree. It was at the far end of the parking lot, right by the start of the short trail up to the top of Mt Hollywood. In all the times we’ve been up there, I’d never noticed it before. But it was in a separate planter, with a plaque on a rock marking it. So it’s kind of sad, but also kind of funny.

Continuing on, we rode up Mt Hollywood Dr. We passed the spot where the sightseeing shuttle bus brings people for a sideways view of the Hollywood sign. Then, we rode down the other side, into Burbank. We stopped for snacks at Priscilla’s, and then we headed home by way of the L.A. River bike path, and then up Figueroa St. In Highland Park, it actually started raining a bit. That was odd, considering the season, but it wasn’t enough to require us implementing our exit strategy. So overall, it was a nice ride.

47 miles.

7/23/2014

Turning up the heat slightly

Filed under: — stan @ 9:24 pm

Time for another stair practice on the 20-story building downtown. Tonight’s plan was to turn up the pace slightly, and aim for 11 seconds per floor for the first three times up the building. That pace is about equal to my best climb at the U.S. Bank event. I just wanted to see how that pace felt, and see if I could maintain it three times up the short building.

My times for the first three climbs were right on target, so I can’t complain. And then I did it three more times, just because it was there. Good fun.

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