Stan’s Obligatory Blog

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5/11/2014

Overtaken by events

Filed under: — stan @ 4:56 pm

This week, I saw an article about an old house here in Pasadena with a swastika-shaped pond in front. Of course, being that I like going to see odd things, I immediately looked up where it is, and made a route to ride there.

We made our way up the hill on Sierra Madre Villa. And the house was pretty high up the hill. But when we got there, it was very obvious. The swastika is big, and right off the street. The article said that the house was built at least 20 years before the rise of the Nazis, and the swastika was taken from an Indian design. The article implies that the swastika, being Indian, is backwards from the Nazi symbol. But a quick image search shows that this swastika is oriented the same as the Nazi one. In any event, the front-lawn decor of this very old house has obviously been overtaken by events.

From there, we went back down the hill. The route I’d made just made a big loop, not really going anywhere, since the two sightseeing stops were at the beginning and the end of the ride.

When we got to Encanto Park in Duarte, John got a flat. We stopped and fixed it, and the continued on. We made it about two or three miles before it went flat again. This time, Jeff had a close look at the tire, and found a small chip of glass embedded in the tire tread. After taking that out, we fixed the tire again, and we were off.

We skipped our usual snack stop, since we’d had a lot of stopped time fixing the flats. The final sightseeing stop was something odd I’d found on Atlas Obscura. It is an old milestone dating back to the early 1900s from the first Foothill Boulevard that was built from downtown Los Angeles to the San Gabriel Valley. It’s just standing by the curb on present-day Colorado Boulevard, in front of a McDonald’s. It’s just very odd that it’s still there.

After that last stop, we headed home. It was a pleasant ride.

39 miles.

Route Map

5/4/2014

The Back-Yard Boat

Filed under: — stan @ 1:45 pm

Last Sunday, there was an article in the L.A. Time about a guy who’s building a 64-foot boat in his back yard in Sun Valley. Since 1977. And of course, I thought we should go see it. I figured that 64 feet is about three times the size of a car, so it should be pretty easy to spot in the Google Maps aerial view. I had a look, and it turned out to be very near Elmer Ave, the “green” street we went to see recently.

We headed out by basically the same route as usual to get to Burbank. In Eagle Rock, we saw that someone had placed a giant baby bird in a nest on top of one of the tall concrete posts at a construction site. It looked impossible, but I’d guess they probably were able to reach it with a pole from up on the hillside behind the post.

In Burbank, we took a few minutes to stop and see the tortoises again. They were very active today.

After passing the airport, we arrived at Arminta St in Sun Valley, and the boat was right there. We looked at it from the street for a few minutes. Then Mr Griffith came out to talk to us, and he offered us a tour of the boat. This was a real treat, and we all walked in and up the ladder to see the inside. He showed us the two big motors below decks, as well as the sleeping quarters. Up on the deck, there was a hatch to a refrigerated hold that he said would hold 10 tons of fish. He told us that he thought it would be finished by August or September this year. We all thanked him for the tour, and then we headed back down into Burbank and our snack stop at Priscilla’s.

It was a very nice day, and not terribly hot. On the way back, we went through Glendale, and then up and over the Chevy Chase and Linda Vista hill, coming down by the Rose Bowl. Not the easiest way back, but it’s something different from our usual route back up the Colorado hill in Eagle Rock.

44 miles.
Route map

4/27/2014

Turnbull Canyon again

Filed under: — stan @ 10:00 pm

Today’s bike club ride was our old route up Turnbull Canyon in Whittier. We’ve done this one many time before, so there’s not really anything new along the way. Just a few odd sight’s.

At the park where we meet, I picked up a potato chip bag that was on the ground. I took it over to a trash can, and I noticed a prescription bottle on the picnic table next to the trash can. I thought that was bit odd, so I had a look at it, and it was a medical marijuana prescription bottle. That was a bit odd, and it was certainly something I never would have thought I’d see just a few years ago. But it was empty, so I tossed it.

The ride was pleasant enough, although it was kind of hazy, so the view of downtown Los Angeles wasn’t very good from the top of Turnbull Canyon. I couldn’t even point out the Wilshire-Figueroa building and tell everyone how I’d climbed that building 101 times!

We headed down the other side, and then rode back home by way of Monrovia and Merengue. And then back to Pasadena, where we saw some guys cruising the neighborhood in an antique car.

As always, this route is longer than I think it is. But it’s a nice ride.

49 miles.

4/20/2014

Earthquakes, old and new

Filed under: — stan @ 9:47 pm

This week, I saw an article about how the city is finally going to demolish the remains of the former state office building that stood on 1st St between Broadway and Spring St in downtown Los Angeles. The building was heavily damaged and later torn down after the 1971 San Fernando earthquake. The site has been sitting unused ever since, but now they say they are going to turn it into a park. Why that took over 40 years is a mystery, but whatever…

The route was almost exactly the same as the Metro Rail Tour we did a few weeks ago. The only difference was that we weren’t doing it this time with the intention of bailing out and taking the train home, since the weather was really quite nice, and there was no chance of rain.

We rode into downtown and stopped to look at the foundation of the former building. The article had said they’d started demolition on it, but it looked about the same as it’s looked for the last 30-mumble years since I first saw it. Still, there was a new sign about how it was going to become a park, so I guess that’s a good thing.

After that, we rode over to the site of the new Wilshire Grand hotel. We’d stopped by there recently to see the foundation that they’d made for the new building, so we were curious to see what it looked like now. The building is supposed to be very tall. Almost as tall as the tallest building in Los Angeles. (They keep saying it’s taller, but that’s just because the architect put a spire on the roof. It really doesn’t count unless you can stand on it.) They say it’s supposed to be engineered to withstand the strongest earthquakes here. I suppose we will see. Someday, it will be tested.

The rest of the ride was just our normal route through Koreatown, Larchmont Village, and then home through Chinatown and Lincoln Heights. It was a nice ride.

Route map

43 miles.

4/19/2014

The Corriganville Movie Ranch

Filed under: — stan @ 9:23 pm

Today, we went on a tour of the former Corriganville Movie Ranch, which is a place in Simi Valley where a lot of western movies were filmed in the 1930s and ’40s. It was later made into an amusement park, and now isThis was another adventure we found through the Los Angeles Obscura Society.

It was a nice day for being outside, which was good, since that part of L.A.-adjacent can be pretty unpleasant when it gets hot around here. We headed up there and met up with the group at the entrance to the park. We were joined by our guides, and we headed off to see the ruins of the former movie sets. The landscape, and particularly, the rocks, are pretty distinctive, and they showed us photos from the movies where we could see the rocks around the actors,and from that, we could see that John Wayne had been standing on this very spot.

We also saw the concrete pool, where they filmed some of the early Tarzan movies, as well as some Robin Hood movies. The holes in the little dam at the end of the pool were for filming the underwater scenes. They said that that was where they filmed Tarzan fighting a rubber hippopotamus in one of the movies.

All around, this was a very entertaining little side trip. The Obscura Society is great for finding odd little things around the city.

4/13/2014

The Public Nuisance

Filed under: — stan @ 1:54 pm

Today’s bike club ride is our old route out to Glendora. Nothing special, but a chance to look in on the construction of the Metro Gold Line extension in Azusa, and also to go by the Huy Fong Foods hot-sauce factory in Irwindale. The city council in Irwindale is thinking of declaring the factory to be a public nuisance, since a few of the people in the neighborhood don’t like the smell of the factory.

It was a cool spring morning, just about perfect for riding. We headed out to the east. When we got to Azusa, we took a short detour to go see the construction of the new Metro station. They are making good progress since we went to see this in February.

We stopped for coffee and snacks in Glendora, and we had a look at the chalk art drawn on the sidewalks there. Then we headed back, passing by some giant inflatable rabbits in front of the the same house that had the giant candy canes and Christmas ornaments in the past. Then we rode by the enormous Huy Fong Foods hot-sauce plant. Then we took in some more of the Gold Line construction in Duarte and Monrovia. All told, it was a pleasant ride.

42 miles.

4/12/2014

It only took me 19 years to get around to this

Filed under: — stan @ 7:20 pm

This weekend, Kathleen wanted to go to Tomatomania. We’d missed their events in Encino and La Cañada when we were away in Seattle and San Diego. So what was left was the stop in Fillmore. At first, I thought going to Fillmore for tomato seedlings seemed absurd. But then I thought about the clipping I have from the L.A. Times from March, 1995 about the Fillmore and Western Railway. Going there and riding the train has been on my list of things to do for 19 years now, so we decided to go and make a day of it.

We went up relatively early so that we could pick out some tomatoes before going to ride the train. We brought a cooler along to put the plants in so that they wouldn’t get baked in the hot car while we were on the train.

The train ride is about 10 miles from Fillmore to Santa Paula. It was pretty scenic, with the train cruising by endless citrus and avocado orchards. Some of them had beehives to pollinate the trees, and the train passed through big clouds of bees there. We were riding in the open-air car, but the bees ignored us.

When we got to Santa Paula, the train let us off for about an hour, so we walked into downtown and had some lunch. Then we took a walk back to the train station, stopping off to look at the memorial for the Saint Francis Dam disaster. While we were there, we found out that the restored WWII bombers that we went to see in Burbank were doing an airshow in Oxnard. We saw the B-17 fly by a couple of times during the afternoon.

On the way back, the train stopped off at The Loose Caboose, which was a very weird grab bag of stuff. Kathleen stopped to feed the goats, and we had a look at the koi ponds and turtles. It was a strange, but very entertaining place.

The trip to Fillmore made for a long day, but it was a fun time.

4/7/2014

400,000 (!)

Filed under: — stan @ 9:52 am

The Earthquake Notification Service, also known as My Pet Project, passed 400,000 subscribers over the weekend. It’s still hard to believe that something I built is being used by so many people.
400 thousand

4/6/2014

The “Green” Street

Filed under: — stan @ 1:42 pm

Last month, when Kathleen and I took the tour of “The Crappiest Place on Earth“, there was a display in the visitor center about the Los Angeles “Green Streets” program, with some photos of their demonstration project on Elmer Ave in Sun Valley. And of course, my first thought was that we were going to get a bike ride out of this. I looked it up, and it’s just a bit northwest of Burbank Airport. And we’ve ridden there before to see the World War II bombers, among other things.

On the way out there, we stopped by to see the desert tortoises in Burbank. The guy who owns the house came out to feed them and talk to us. He was feeding them some small squashes and a head of cauliflower, and they seemed pretty excited by that. Sort of like when I saw the slow-motion feeding frenzy at the Caltech turtle pond. He also said that the tortoises sometimes mate, and that’s apparently a sight to see.

Continuing on, we went by Burbank Airport and on into Sun Valley to Elmer Ave. And yes, it looks like a demonstration project. Solar-powered street lights, basins to catch runoff, permeable driveways, and barrels to catch rainwater. I made me want to join up for the Pasadena Turf Removal Program.

After that, we headed down to Priscilla’s for snacks. The route home went across Glendale. We were going to take the pedestrian bridge over the Glendale Freeway, but at the last minute, we decided to try going across the freeway on Round Top Ave. I thought it might be a bit shorter, and that it might avoid the hill that we have to ride up after crossing the freeway. It did avoid that hill, but only at the cost of us having to ride up an even bigger hill. So that route experiment was kind of a dud. But at least it was a nice day for riding.

45 miles.

Route Map

4/5/2014

I can still see my house from up here

Filed under: — stan @ 4:42 pm

Today was time for the Los Angeles edition of the Lung Association’s Fight for Air Climb. 63 stories up the stairs at the Aon building downtown. This was the first stair climb I ever did, back in 2009. At the time, I had no idea what I was getting into, and certainly no idea I’d still be doing it five years later, or that I’d end up making an actual contribution to this insane little sport.

Since I’ve been having major back issues since November, I went into this with the idea that I wanted to have no expectations. And that was my intention. But since I’ve been doing a little bit of faster stair climbing in practice, I thought I’d maybe try for at least a little bit of speed. But when we got there, I realized that I’d forgotten to bring my watch. So even if I wanted to go for speed, there was no way to really do that without a watch. So that made it easy to go into this event with no expectations.

When we got there, Lisa was warming up in the lobby of the building, wearing an altitude-training mask. She said it’s supposed to restrict breathing just a bit to simulate the lower oxygen levels at high altitudes. Well, mostly, it made her look a bit like a Hannibal Lecter of the stairwell. Which I guess is a good thing.

When it was time to go, we all lined up, roughly in numeric order, and roughly in the order we thought we’d finish in. My only goal at that time was that wanted to not have anyone pass me. And that worked out all right. I didn’t pass anyone, and nobody passed me. So that was all right. And in the end, my time was 12:41. Not especially fast, at least by my standards, but it was all right. It was faster than my time the first time I did this, and even though I was just taking it easy and not trying to go fast, there were only four people my age or older who went faster than me. So I really can’t complain too much about that.

When I got to the top, I took the obligatory picture with the view. and then I headed back down. I knew that Morgan was on her way downtown, and I’d told her I’d walk up with her to pace her. So we met up at the bottom and got in line for the stairs.

Meanwhile, Kathleen had started up the stairs just a bit behind me the first time, and she walked most of the way up with a group of firemen in their full regalia. She also got a picture with the view on top before heading back down.

The second time up, I walked with Morgan. I tried to be an encouraging coach, and she did very well. She maintained a steady pace all the way up. We passed lots of people, and nobody passed us. A few times, we ran up against big groups of people who were hard to get through, and at least once, I had to go ahead to sort of plow a path through them so we could pass. And when we made it to the roof, Morgan realized she should have brought her sunglasses. Who thinks of bringing sunglasses along for a stair-climbing race? But that’s the difference between a Saturday morning in April and a Friday evening in September.

When they started posting the results, I saw that they’d made a typo, and they had me listed as being 14 years old. Hmm. I had to email the timing company after we got home to get that corrected.

All told, it was a pretty good time.

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