Stan’s Obligatory Blog

1/17/2016

Visting the point of impact

Filed under: — stan @ 1:40 pm

I’ve recently been binge-watching the airplane disaster series “Mayday“. One of the episodes told the story of Hughes Airwest Flight 706 which crashed in the mountains just north of Duarte in 1971, after colliding with a Marine Corps fighter jet. In the process of reading more about that incident, I fell down the Wikipedia Rabbit Hole, and discovered that there had been another crash involving a mid-air collision near here, and it occurred just a few blocks off of one of our regular bike ride routes. Since it happened 41 years ago, I knew that there would be no trace of it now, but I still thought it might be interesting to visit the site.

The accident in question was Golden West Airlines Flight 261, which was a short hop from Ontario to LAX. They were heading west toward LAX, directly into the setting sun, when they were hit from the side by the second airplane, and the debris fell in Whittier.

We took our usual route down the Rio Hondo bike path to Whittier Narrows. Then we tried a little experiment, taking Durfee Rd to Peck, and then Rooks Rd down the west side of the 605 freeway. Then we resumed our regular route into Whittier. A second experiment was to take the Whittier Greenway Trail, which is an old railroad right-of-way that has been converted into a bike path and walking trail. That turned out to be very pleasant, and I think we will have to go back and see some more of it another day.

A short side trip brought us to Katherine Edwards Middle School, where the fuselage of Flight 261 fell on the playing field behind the school. Other parts fell on the neighborhood surrounding the school.

Leaving the crash site, we headed back up the San Gabriel River bike path to Whittier Narrows. Then we took a short side trip to Legg Lake to see a bit of a cyclocross race that was being held there. We also ran across a small military museum just on the north side of the 60 freeway. Then we continued north on Tyler Ave, heading for Arcadia.

We stopped briefly at the El Monte Metrolink station to see the station artwork, which recalled the days when El Monte was known as the home of Gay’s Lion Farm. Continuing north, we got to Arcadia, and then headed home from there. It was very cold when we started out this morning, but it warmed up nicely, and in the end it was a very pleasant ride.

45 miles.

Route map and elevation profile

12/22/2015

Last stairs of 2015

Filed under: — stan @ 5:46 pm

About the middle of November, I was curious, and I added up how many times I’ve climbed the 10-story staircase at Millikan from the basement to the landing at the roof door. At the time, it was something like 1,240 times, so I decided to set a goal of making it to 1,500 climbs by the end of the year. When I go over there with Nick to climb, we generally do a set of 12 climbs each time. So I figured that doing 260 climbs over six weeks was possible. That’s not quite 22 sessions over 42 days. So the clock was ticking.

Today was the finish. And not a moment too soon, since the building is closed from Christmas day through the end of the year, so I had to finish by the 23rd. And I wanted to space out the sessions so I wouldn’t have to do a marathon session at the end. A few years ago, I went and climbed it 18 times on the last day it was open, and that got grim the last four or five times.

So here it is. 1,500 climbs up Millikan. That makes 63km vertical in this building alone. And with the 21,640 meters of climbs in other buildings, my total stair climbing for the year stands at almost 85km, which is just a bit over 52 vertical miles. That means I averaged a vertical mile of stairs every week this year.


12/13/2015

More Urban Archaeology

Filed under: — stan @ 2:28 pm

Two weeks ago, we rode into downtown Los Angeles to see the 6th Street bridge, and also to see some fossilized tracks from the former Pacific Electric Air Line. The same web site where I found out about those tracks also had a note about the old bridge over Ballona Creek in Culver City. Apparently, the bridge and old tracks are still there, and Metro just built the new Expo Line elevated tracks above it. So today’s ride was a trip out there to see the old bridge.

We started out heading into downtown L.A. bu our usual route. There was some sort of lowrider car show going on in front of City Hall. Continuing south, we picked up West Adams Blvd and took that out to just past Crenshaw. Then we went south a few blocks and got on the bike lane that parallels the new Metro Expo Line. That brought us to just past the La Cienega station, where the bike lane becomes a bike path, and crosses Ballona Creek right next to the old Air Line bridge. It’s kind of remarkable that the bridge is still there, and still in pretty good condition.

After looking at the bridge a bit, we continued west on the bike path, and then turned off on Helms Ave to go up to the old Helms Bakery complex, which has been turned into stores and restaurants. We went to a little cafe there called La Dijonnaise. The food was pretty good, and it was pleasant sitting out on the patio there.

The route home took us back into downtown by way of Venice Blvd, 9th St, and 7th St. Then we took the Arroyo Seco bike path from just east of downtown all the way to South Pasadena. It was a good way to come home, since the Arroyo bike path is essentially flat all the way.

47 miles.

Route map and elevation profile

11/29/2015

The 6th Street Bridge

Filed under: — stan @ 5:40 pm

Today’s bike club ride was a trip through downtown Los Angeles to see the soon-to-be-demolished 6th Street bridge, and also to see some remnants of the former Pacific Electric Air Line tracks.

We rode into downtown Los Angeles by our regular route down Huntington Drive. But just before Alameda St, we turned left and made our way south parallel to the river and railroad tracks. At 4th St, we took a side trip up onto the bridge there to get a view of the 6th St bridge from the north. Then we continued south a bit more, passing under the 6th St bridge. I never knew there was a ramp under the bridge leading to a tunnel under the railroad tracks and out to the river. So that’s how they got cars down the riverbed for all the movies that had car chases and races in the L.A. River.

From just south of 6th St, we got a good view of the arches on the bridge. Then we continued south on Santa Fe St to see the building that Robert’s great-grandfather built to house their family business in 1910. And the business is still there, 105 years later.

Turning west, we crossed over to Grand Ave going south. At about 35th St, there were some rails embedded in the sidewalk. They are remains of the old Pacific Electric Air Line to Santa Monica. Most of the Air Line right-of-way is now being occupied by the Metro Expo Line. But the part east of Flower St is not. We rode around to the DMV office at 37th St. There were some more rails embedded in the parking lot there. Then we headed north on Figueroa to continue our ride.

The rest of the ride was a loop through Hancock Park, and then home by way of Silverlake. And we got to see the Silverlake reservoir drained. Then we crossed the river and headed north. That was where I got a flat. But even with that, it was a pleasant ride.

49 miles.

Route map and elevation profile

11/22/2015

Atlas Still Survives

Filed under: — stan @ 2:07 pm

A few years ago, we took a ride to see Atlas Survival Shelters in Montebello. There had been an article about them in the L.A. Times, and we wanted to see the model shelter they had parked out in front of the building. With all the new angst about terrorism in the wake of what happened last week in Paris, I was curious to see how the survival shelter business was doing, so we rode back there to see today.

On the way through San Gabriel, we came across a road closure at the railroad tracks. We’d seen this before, and I remembered that there was a makeshift sidewalk to get across, so we took that, and we got a good look at the trench they are building to put the railroad tracks below grade.

After a short trip down the Rio Hondo bike path, we off in Montebello. We took a wrong turn there, and ended up having to carry our bikes down a short flight of stairs to get back on track. I’d forgotten about that, but back when I was in college, I learned to ride my bike down steps like that. And that made for my favorite college yearbook photo ever.

When we got there, we saw that they don’t have a model shelter on display in front of the factory any more. They still have one banner on the side of the building advertising the survival shelter business. But everything else was just about their regular ironworking business. And while we were there, Michael sat down to fix his leaking tire.

The ride back was pleasant enough. It was a very nice day, although we had a headwind all the way up the bike path, and all the way to Merengue in Monrovia. We had some snacks and then headed for home.

39 miles.

Route map and elevation profile

11/14/2015

Working Wildlife

Filed under: — stan @ 9:53 pm

Today was a tour of Working Wildlife, which is a ranch in Frazier Park where they train animals for movies and TV. This was yet another Atlas Obscura adventure. As it turned out, it was the same day as the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation’s stair climb, so I had to leave right after climbing the building in order to have the requisite 90 minutes to make it all the way out there. But I made it just in time, and it was a fun time talking to the animals.

At the beginning, we got a little history of the ranch, and got to meet a few of the smaller animals. Our host and guide was Jeff, who is one of the trainers, and the nephew of the owner. The lemur, porcupine, and the binturong got to just walk up and down the table and meet us directly. And after that, it was time to meet some larger animals. We saw a few foxes before heading over to the lions. We saw a couple of mountain lions, and then some African lions. They all seemed to have a good relationship with Jeff, since they all came over to him and wanted to be petted and scratched just like very large cats. I seem to recall he said that the pumas are the largest cats that purr.

The last stop was to see the bears. They also came over to be petted, although, like with the lions, the petting did not involve us, since the bears and lions don’t know us. The only other part of the operation we didn’t see was the wolves. Apparently, they trained the wolves that were used in “True Blood” and other TV shows, but the trainers were working with the animals and didn’t want them to be distracted by visitors. Still, it was all very interesting to see.

Well, I’m still slightly faster than the Average Bear…

Filed under: — stan @ 4:37 pm

Today was the last race of the year. 54 stories from the sidewalk on 6th St up to the rooftop helipad on top of the Wilshire Figureroa building in downtown Los Angeles. That’s 1,245 steps and 706 vertical feet. This is the building that I climbed 101 times in 2013.

I’m not seriously trying to compete at these things any more, but I still wanted to do a semi-respectable time on it. And I figured that to be anything under 11 minutes, since that would represent averaging 5 floors per minute. It’s also an easy pace to keep up with. The staircase in this building is an average of 23 steps per floor, and from 1 up to 6 is exactly 115 steps, even though the first few floors are weird. And then it’s just 23 steps per floor the whole way up. So I planned on checking my watch every five floors to be sure I was maintaining my pace.

The first 10 floors or so were hard, but by then I was warmed up, and it got a little easier. I just counted off the floors in blocks of five, all the way up to 49. From 49 to the roof the stairs get weird again, so I didn’t have any landmarks to measure my pace by. But when I turned the last corner and saw light coming in the door from the roof, I looked at my watch. It said something like 10:47 or so, and I realized I had only ten seconds to do the last 27 steps up to the roof to make it in under my goal time. So I had to run the last three flights, and I came out on top at 10:57. I hadn’t realized it, but Norman Schwartz was there taking pictures, and he got what is probably my most dramatic finsh-line picture ever. And only four people my age or older went faster, so I really can’t complain.

At the top, I rested for a few minutes, took a few pictures, and then I went back down and left. I had a ticket for an Atlas Obscura tour of Working Wildlife in Frazier Park. I knew I had to get going to make it there by 11:00, so I couldn’t stay around and socialize much. Still, I was reasonably pleased with this climb.

Full results are here.

11/8/2015

Barris Kustom

Filed under: — stan @ 2:40 pm

In the L.A. Times obituary column this week, I saw that George Barris had died. He had a long career building cars for movies and TV shows, and his work is seen everywhere. So I thought this week’s bike ride should be a visit to the Barris Kustom showroom in Studio City.

The route out there started by going through South Pasadena and Highland Park to get to the new bridge over the L.A. River. From there, we planned on taking the L.A. River bike path all the way to where it ends at Riverside Drive. But when we got on it, we found out that part of the path was being used as a portion of the course for a 10k run. Where we were was the turn-around point for the run, so there were a lot of people. So we just went back to regular streets for a couple of miles. We got back on the path at Fletcher. There were still people running there, but traffic wasn’t so heavy. So we rode up the path to the end at Riverside.

The Barris Kustom showroom is a small storefront on Riverside Drive in Studio City. It wasn’t open, and there was nobody there on Sunday morning. But we were still able to look inside and see the Batmobile and a couple of other show cars on display. There were also posters on the wall for movies featuring cars that he made.

We rode a bit farther west in the Valley before looping back to our snack stop at Panera in North Hollywood. Then we headed back across Burbank and Glendale. Along the way, I saw that the “Not a Burger Stand” has now truly become Not a Burger Stand. No more Magritte-style surrealism for them. It was a nice ride, although the route turned out to be a bit longer than I thought it would be.

49 miles.

Route map and elevation profile

11/1/2015

Old oil wells in Echo Park

Filed under: — stan @ 5:01 pm

A few weeks ago, I’d planned for us to go to Echo Park to see a small lot with some old oil wells on it. As it turned out, it started raining that day, so we changed the ride to go to the downtown L.A. CicLAvia. So I thought we’d try again this week. And as an added bonus, I thought we might be able to see the new freeway sign announcing “Los Fezil

We started off by riding to downtown Los Angeles. That’s where we saw some filming going on. Something that involves a whole fleet of white Dodge cars and SUVs. We headed west on 7th St almost to MacArthur Park, where we turned and headed up Bonnie Brae to get to Echo Park. We go close to where the oil wells were, and we had to change the route slightly when we realized that the street we were going to take was actually an alley, and was actually about a 20% uphill grade. So we took the next street over, which was nice and flat.

The lot with the oil wells had a fair bit of activity going on. There were two guys there doing some work, and one of the wells was even pumping. Some time ago, I’d read that there was only one producing well left on the City Oil Field, and we went to visit it once. But apparently, they’ve turned at least one of the pump jacks here back on.

Continuing on, Silvio got a flat right near Echo Park and the lake with the fountains. We fixed that, and rode the short distance to Chango Coffee. After some snacks and drinks there, we headed up across Elysian Park and down to the river. We rode the L.A. River bike path all the way to its northern end, and along the way, we were completely unable to see the “Los Fezil” sign. So either they fixed it already, like they did with Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, or maybe it was behind some trees.

So that was our sightseeing for the day. The route home was across Glendale and over the hill to the Rose Bowl. I was a pleasant ride.

42 miles.

Route map and elevation profile

10/25/2015

Down for the Count – 2015

Filed under: — stan @ 2:46 pm

It’s the end of October, and that means it’s time for our Halloween ride. Out to Culver City and Holy Cross Cemetery to pay respects to The Count – Bela Lugosi. And I also wore my “Star Trek” bike jersey today, in case we wanted to take a side trip to Hillside Memorial Park to pay respects to Leonard Nimoy.

It was a nice day for riding. We headed downtown by way of Huntington Drive and Main St. Coming down Spring St downtown, we saw a big display in Grand Park for the Day of the Dead, so that was a photo-op. Then we had to cross the course of the Rock-n-Roll Half Marathon, which was in progress. Then we continued on south all the way to Pico, where we turned west to get to Flower St. There wasn’t an Expo Line train going down Flower St at the time, which was too bad. I like to race the train when there’s one there, since it goes just fast enough to chase, but not so fast that I can’t keep up.

We had to stop for a minute at La Cienega for a quick bike adjustment. That was where we saw the VW Micr -er- “Mico Bus”. Heh.

When we got to the cemetery, we rode up and over the hill to The Grotto. It took us a couple minutes to find Bela Lugosi. Usually, his grave is decorated for Halloween, but I think that maybe they haven’t done that yet, since it’s not until next Saturday. While we were there, Carla showed us her Halloween-themed nails.

Continuing on, we went to Hillside Memorial. In the past, we’d been able to go in the back gate, but it was closed today. So we rode around to the main gate. We asked directions, and the guy gave us a little map and showed us where to go. When we got there, we wandered around a bit until one of the maintenance guys saw us and pointed us to the right spot. Apparently, there are a lot of people stopping by to visit Leonard Nimoy. And deservedly so. I’m not the only one whose childhood hero was Mr Spock.

On the way home, we stopped for bagels at Noah’s. Our route home was supposed to be through Silverlake, but we decided to alter that and go home by way of downtown L.A. So I stopped there for a minute to get a photo of the little junkyard underneath the elevated Metro tracks that’s filled with wrecked police cars. And I wonder what’s the story of the gray car with “Do Not Shoot” painted on it. And by taking Griffin Ave, we passed by the giant dragonfly again for the first time in years.

59 miles.

Route map and elevation profile

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