Stan’s Obligatory Blog

6/26/2015

The Miniature Engineering and Craftsmanship Museum

Filed under: — stan @ 6:32 pm

A few weeks ago, my friend Bruce sent me a link about a museum in Carlsbad that exhibits working models of airplanes, boats, trains, and so forth, with miniature working engines. Since I was headed to San Diego this weekend for the Towerthon, I thought this might be a good side trip.

The museum is in an unassuming industrial-looking building kind of off the beaten path. Fortunately, I had Waze to tell me how to get there, or I would have had trouble finding it. When I got there, I went inside, and immediately saw the featured exhibit. A tiny scale model of a supercharged V-8 engine. Apparently, it’s fully functional. Yikes. I wandered around the museum, looking at all the tiny engines. There was a board with some tubes attached to it that said it was three miniature steam engines. They were so small I had to look carefully to see them at all. At the back of the museum, they had a model of the Wright Flyer, and a working model of a P-38 fighter. Then, along the back wall, they had a display of miniature steam engines, all hooked up to a compressed air supply, and the sign said that they would run the engines and give a tour of the machine shop at 2:00. Since that was just a few minutes away, I decided to stay and see it. When the time came, they turned on the air, and all the little steam engines started running:

After looking at the tiny model of the Titanic’s engine, we went into the machine shop. The first stop was the “Do-Nothing Machine”, which was featured on Roadside America last year. Our guide described it as “a cat toy for humans”. It was pretty funny:

Next, they showed us four different tiny working engines. There were two different gasoline engines, one Stirling engine, and a fourth of a type that I didn’t recognize at all. Here is the first gasoline engine running:

The last part of the tour showed us another radial airplane engine that they are building there. They even had a model of the model to show us how the inside of the crankcase worked. I’d always wondered how cylinders in a circle could turn a crank, and now I know.

This was one entertaining little museum. At least for anyone with a mechanical and geek bent.


6/21/2015

“Can we all get along”

Filed under: — stan @ 5:39 pm

Whenever police misconduct is in the news, the story of Rodney King comes up. He was really the first high-profile case of the modern era where police doing bad things were caught on video. At the time, that was a first, but now, we’re seeing it over and over, and it’s shining a light on something that the police really don’t want people to see. Because of that, and the L.A. riots in 1992, Rodney King became an icon. I’m sure he never wanted to be a household name. After that, he lived his life in a fishbowl, which must have been very unpleasant. Still, the ordeal he went through led to some positive changes for society.

I recently found out that, after several years of being unmarked, Rodney King has a proper headstone. So today’s ride was to go see it, and to remember the reluctant icon.

It was a good day for riding, and we had a pretty big group this time. Apparently, Father’s Day is a big occasion at Forest Lawn, and the place was packed. When we got there, we rode all the way to the back. It’s about a mile from the front gate to the back section where Rodney King is buried. His new marker is nice, and it’s kind of fitting that it features the one line he’s remembered for. In all his time in the media spotlight, he never said much. Maybe he didn’t want to say anything, and maybe nobody ever asked him what he thought. But there is still the one line he is remembered for, and apparently, most people remember it wrong. I looked up on Youtube and found the video clip, and he did in fact say, “Can we all get along”. So there it is. Like the headline on an obituary, to have one’s entire life summed up in one line.

Continuing on, we stopped for snacks at Priscilla’s. Then we headed home, across Glendale. GT’s friend Lura got a flat, so I doubled back for a quick picture for the Flat Tire Gallery. Then we rode up Verdugo and home through La Cañada. It was a nice ride.

45 miles.

Route map and elevation profile

6/20/2015

Icehouse Canyon

Filed under: — stan @ 4:53 pm

Today was time for another hike. The plan was to climb Lookout Mountain. I was curious to see the remains of Michelson’s 1924 experiment to measure the speed of light. I’d done that same experiment in physics lab in college back in 1981, so I thought it would be an interesting piece of history.

We’d both read the writeup, and we paid close attention to the instructions of how to get to the start, but neither of us really paid close attention to the part about how to find the trail. Usually, it’s pretty obvious, and we didn’t expect that this would be any different. But when we got there, there were just two fire roads, and we walked some distance down both and didn’t see anything that looked like a trail going where we needed to go. So, after 2 1/2 miles of walking in different directions, and also seeing a cute little baby skunk, we gave up and went to Icehouse Canyon.

Icehouse Canyon was the starting point for the hike up Cucamonga Peak that we did last fall. This time, we just planned to go to the saddle and back, so it wasn’t going to be as long and as hard as Cucamonga was. But today was a hot day in June, rather than a cool day in November. There was no snow on the ground. There was water running in the creek, and there were millions of bugs.

At the top of the saddle, we sat for a bit and had lunch. There were a lot of people on the trail. That’s a good thing. Having the nice mountains in our back yard is one of the great things about Los Angeles, and I like seeing more people coming out to enjoy them.

On the way down, we walked into a huge cloud of bugs, which turned out to be some sort of ladybug convention. I’ve never seen so many ladybugs in one place. And near the bottom, people who were heading up were telling us that there was a rattlesnake next to the trail, so we paid attention. The rattlesnake was a relatively small one, probably only 2-3 feet long. It was coiled up on a rock next to the trail. We gave it an appropriately wide berth and continued on down. At the bottom, there was a big tour bus in the parking lot from a Korean hiking club in L.A. I guess that explains why there were so many big groups of Koreans on the trail today. Despite the heat and the bugs, it was a fun hike.

Route map and elevation profile

6/7/2015

Burger Tourism

Filed under: — stan @ 1:54 pm

Last fall, we rode out to Baldwin Park to see the replica of the original In-N-Out Burger stand that they built down the street from their In-N-Out University and company store. This past week, I realized that if we did that same route in the other direction, we’d get to the In-N-Out museum right around 11:00, and it’s open from 11-2 Thursdays through Sundays.

We started out from Victory Park and headed east. We rode through Monrovia and Duarte to get on the San Gabriel River bike path. We took that to Irwindale, where we rode past the Huy Fong Foods sriracha hot sauce factory, and then south into West Covina.

We stopped for snacks and such at Panera in West Covina. Then we continued south to La Puente, making a big loop that brought us back to Baldwin Park. Unfortunately, our timing was a little off, and we got to In-N-Out at 10:45. Since we had a few minutes to wait, and it was pretty hot by then, I went and rode through the regular In-N-Out drive-through and got some iced tea. The drive-through is a big part of the total In-N-Out experience, and just because I was on a bike wasn’t going to stop me from experiencing it.

By then, it was 11:00, so we rode back under the freeway to the In-N-Out museum. Karen was our docent, as it were. She said that she is a regular In-N-Out crew member, but she spends three hours of her shift working at the replica of the original stand, greeting visitors, answering questions, and generally telling the story of how In-N-Out got started. She took our picture in the drive-through at the replica, and she showed us the washing machine that they used in the old days to wash and spin-dry the french fries before they cooked them. She also showed us a picture of the guy whose job it was to sit out back and peel potatoes by hand. After the potatoes were peeled, they cut them into fries by hand with the same machines they use today. It was all an interesting piece of history.

The ride home from Baldwin Park was mostly uphill, but not unpleasant. It was a warm day, and summer is definitely on its way.

43 miles.

Route map and elevation profile

5/31/2015

Ciclavia Pasadena

Filed under: — stan @ 1:41 pm

Today was the day that they had the first Ciclavia in Pasadena. We occasionally go to these on the Sunday morning bike ride, and since it’s right here, I figured we could go to it on the way home today. Our route was the old Mt Washington ride, just modified to come back by way of Old Town Pasadena to pick up the Ciclavia route. And as a special treat, I’d gotten a message that my old bike friend from college was going to be there. I haven’t seen Aaron since I graduated in 1982.

It was a perfect day for riding. We started out by heading up to La Cañada, and then down Hospital Hill and the long downhill through Glendale. It’s pretty amazing when you think about it. It’s something like eight miles downhill and about 1,000 vertical feel. When we got down to Cypress Park and the L.A. River, we turned north and then took the short side trip up and over Mt Washington. Then we continued on through Highland Park and South Pasadena to get back to Pasadena and the start of the Ciclavia route.

I found Aaron and Sharon by a little bakery near Lake Avenue. It’s hard to believe that 33 years have gone by. But I’d like to think that we’re both holding up pretty well for being in our 50s.

It was a nice ride, and it was good to see Aaron again.

33 miles.

Route map and elevation profile

5/30/2015

Dapper Cadaver for Obscura Day

Filed under: — stan @ 5:10 pm

Today is Obscura Day, and the Atlas Obscura people are putting on about 20 events all around the Los Angeles area. And one of them is a visit to Dapper Cadaver, which is one of the premier places for supplying horror movie props. Since Lucinda and I went on the Dearly Departed tour of Hollywood, as well as the Helter Skelter tour, and we also visited the Museum of Death. So I figured this would be right up her alley.

There was a pretty big group there for the tour. We were shown around the different rooms where they showcase the things they make there. There were lifelike animals, and deathlike humans. There was a an entire room dedicated to body parts and bodies in various stages of dismemberment.

Another room was dedicated to ‘things in jars’. Lucinda perked up when he showed us the baby skull in a jar that was used on an episode of “American Horror Story“.

In the end, there weren’t any props that we just had to have for our house, but we did pick up a catalog to take home. I got Lucinda one of their shirts, and everyone on the tour got a Dapper Cadaver shot glass for a souvenir. It was a fun, albeit horrifying experience. But that was the idea.

5/29/2015

Flying Machines

Filed under: — stan @ 6:28 pm

For twenty years, I’ve been getting the little catalog of PCC Extension’s courses in the mail, and I never paid any attention to it. But this time, Kathleen was looking through it, and she said, “Hey, they have some day trips and tours in here that you might like.” I picked it up, and had a look, and then I went online and signed up for the day trip and tour of Edwards Air Force Base. I’d gone there about 30 years ago to see the Space Shuttle land, but never went for a tour. I thought it could be interesting.

So I rode my bike over to PCC in the morning to meet up with the tour bus. I figured that it’s 1/2 mile closer than riding to work, so there really was no reason to take the car. And I figured that since PCC is a college, finding bike parking would be easy. I certainly had no idea how hard it was going to be. In the end, I found a fence on the edge of the parking lot and put it there. I’m still a bit dumbfounded that there was not one bike rack anywhere near that parking lot.

It’s a long ride up to Edwards, but we finally got to the gate. We had to wait at the entrance for the public relations guy to come out to meet us. While we were waiting, we had a look at the airplanes they had parked outside the gate. They told us later that they will eventually have a museum at that location.

When the public relations guy got there, he introduced himself and made the arrangements with the guards to let us in. Then he escorted our bus to the NASA flight research center. It used to be Dryden, but it was renamed after Neil Armstrong. We had lunch at the little food court there. Then we had a little time to visit the NASA gift shop, and to look at still more airplanes on display out front.

Then an Air Force bus came to take us on the actual tour of the base. They had a P-59 on display outside. They said it was the first jet-powered fighter for the U.S., but that it didn’t see combat. They said that the German jet fighters didn’t turn out to be decisive in the war, largely due to lack of suitable fuel for them to run on. So that was why our combat planes remained propeller-driven until after the war.

Then it was time for our tour of the flightline. We passed the headquarters building that they said was built in the shape of the B-2 bomber, and then we passed through the gate. They said that we had to put our cameras away at that point. The bus took us around to see airplanes in hangars being repaired, tankers parked outside, and lots of F-22 and F-35 fighters, each one parked under a tent-like canopy. We got to see a pair of F-22s taxi by after returning from a flight. They may be invisible to radar, but they were very loud.

At the start of the tour, they had promised us something extra, and we got that in the middle of the flightline tour. We stopped at a hangar where they have airplanes being restored for display in the museum there. The highlight of that was getting to see the F-117 up close. The guides said that it had had its radar-absorbing coatings removed, and the engine exhaust outlets were covered, since they said that some aspect of the design of the outlets is still classified.

After seeing the restoration hangar, we headed back outside. They took us on a tour of the rest of the base, including the base housing and schools, and even a Starbucks. I guess Starbucks really is everywhere. At the end, they dropped us off at the base museum. We had about 45 minutes there before it was time to head for home. It was all interesting in a nerdy way.

5/24/2015

Eleven

Filed under: — stan @ 5:51 pm

Last September, I saw an article that Mel Brooks had put his hand prints in concrete for the Chinese Theater in Hollywood. We took a ride out there to see, but when we got there, they said that the concrete blocks are kept inside for a few months to harden properly before they are put outside. So this week, I’d emailed the manager of the Chinese Theater, and he said that Mel Brooks was now out on the Forecourt of the Stars. So this Sunday’s ride was another visit to Hollywood.

We rode out by our usual route across Eagle Rock, across the L.A. River, and then through Silver Lake into Hollywood. When we got there, I saw that the dinosaur on the roof of the Ripley’s Odditorium was dressed up for summer tourist season. Then we got to the Chinese Theater and had a look around. I noticed for the first time that the block with the “Harry Potter” series cast had their wand-prints in the concrete. Then I found Mel Brooks. His block is toward the back on the east end. I tried out the six-fingered hand print for size.

Leaving the Chinese Theater, we headed up Outpost Dr. About halfway up, we saw some skid marks, a broken wall, and the bumper of a car. But the license plate was not attached to it. I guess whoever it belonged to had enough presence of mind to take the plate before running away.

At the top of the hill, we paused for a few minutes before heading down Mulholland Dr into Cahuenga Pass. We stopped for a few minutes at the Hollywood Bowl overlook. I thought it was funny that the little coin-operated telescope at the overlook had an ad on it to try and recruit more people for the coin-operated telescope business. It’s not like coin-operated telescopes are Amway or anything… Then we rode down the hill into Burbank, and our snack stop at Priscilla’s.

Heading home, we rode back across Glendale, and then up Chevy Chase and Linda Vista, coming down the other side by the Rose Bowl. It was a nice ride.

39 miles.

Route map and elevation information

5/23/2015

Train of Thought

Filed under: — stan @ 1:57 pm

Today was the dedication and open house at the new Gold Line Operations Campus in Monrovia. So Carla and I took a short bike ride out there to go see it. We figured it’s our one chance to get to see inside and close-up.

It’s not all that far away, so we rode a little extra on the way there, and we arrived just about when the politicians were starting their speeches. While they were talking, we walked around and looked at things. They had one of the new-style trains parked there, sticking out of the train wash building. It had a nice little steel platform on top of the coupler on the front of the train, so I wanted to get my picture taken sitting on it. I figure that I’ll probably never get another chance to sit there on the train again.

After the outdoor speeches, the herded everyone into the shop building for more speeches. They had a couple of trains parked inside for us to see, and we got to see the maintenance area where they had catwalks to get on top of the trains, and the tracks were elevated to get underneath.

After all that, we headed back, stopping in the parking lot on the way out to look at the Messerschmitt KR200 someone had driven there. That was one weird little car.

This was a short ride, but interesting sights to see.

21 miles.

5/17/2015

Urban Light

Filed under: — stan @ 4:53 pm

Today’s bike club ride was a trip to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art to see the “Urban Light” installation in front of the main building. We’ve been out there before, but it seemed appropriate to go there again this week, since I’d heard earlier in the week that Chris Burden had died. So I dug out the route from last year when we rode out there to see the construction site for the new Purple Line subway station. And as it turned out, we had a special bonus today. The final stage of the Tour of California was starting downtown, right about when we would be passing through there. So we planned on stopping to see a bit of the race before heading out to LACMA.

We rode downtown by our usual route. The bad thing is that they have been doing construction where we pick up Mission Road off of Huntington Drive. We need to find a different way through there now, since they’ve made our old route impossible. So that was annoying. I think I may be feeling a letter coming on about it.

On the final bit into downtown, we saw a Metrolink train going by. This is the first time we’ve ever had to stop for a train at that particular crossing, so that was novel. Then we finished riding into downtown, and we set up at the corner of Main and Temple to watch the race go by. After that, we moved to Main and 1st to watch them go by again. That was a good corner to watch, since it was at the bottom of a small hill, so the pack was going very fast as it went by. Then we moved up to Olive and 1st, which was an even better place to watch from, since the course went both ways down Olive, so we got to see them go by twice on each lap. We watched them go by for each of the next three laps, and then they took off for Pasadena and the finish at the Rose Bowl. And we continued on our way.

It’s always kind of novel to see a bike race now. Watching the peleton go flying by, it’s hard to believe that I used to do that. And riding in a pack was just another day for me. Now I think it looks terrifying, and I can’t believe I used to go that fast. But fortunately, I have photographic evidence.

Using 9th St and later 4th St, we rode all the way out to Hancock Park and LACMA. We had to walk through the museum courtyard, but then, when we got to Wilshire Blvd, there were the streetlights. We read the little plaque in front of the installation and just sort of admired the arrangement of the lights. And on the way back, we stopped to look at “Levitated Mass”, otherwise known as the Big Rock. As I said, anything can be art, as long as the artist can convince other people to agree with him that it’s art.

Coming back, we stopped for bagels at Noah’s in Larchmont Village. Then we took our usual route home through Silver Lake, and then up to York Blvd and home through South Pasadena. It was a nice ride.

45 miles.

Route map and elevation profile.

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