Stan’s Obligatory Blog

8/23/2015

The Spheres of MacArthur Park

Filed under: — stan @ 1:14 pm

A few months ago, I read about how an artist was planning on having some 3,000 plastic spheres painted with flowers, fish, birds, and so forth, and then was going to float them all on the lake in MacArthur Park. I made a note that we should go see this when it was done, and this was the weekend. This is our first art tour bike ride since we went to see “Urban Light” back in May.

We rode down Huntington Drive into downtown L.A., and then down Spring St through downtown, and then Flower down to Adams, near USC. On the way out on Adams, there is a place with some sharp humps in the pavement, and Carla’s pedal hit the peak of one of them. This knocked her foot out of the pedal, and it snapped off one of the little stops that hold the spring-loaded back of the pedal. We were able to lever it back into place well enough to continue the ride, but that was today’s installment of the long-running series, “I’ve never seen one of these break before“.

We stopped for bagels at Noah’s in Larchmont. After that, we headed back toward downtown, taking 7th St in, since it goes right by the park. When we got to the park, we stopped off to have a look at the balls floating on the lake.

The route home went through Echo Park and Silverlake, and then home by way of York Blvd and South Pasadena. It was kind of hot at the end, but a pleasant ride.

43 miles.

Route map and elevation profile

8/22/2015

Gyoza!

Filed under: — stan @ 3:33 pm

Today was the gyoza eating contest, which is one of the events in Little Tokyo for Nisei Week. We’ve been to see it in 2011 and 2012, and it was both hilarious and horrifying. That makes it a “must-see” in my book. So we took the train down to Little Tokyo to go see it.

As always, the announcer from the IFOCE was great. He knew all the statistics, the rankings of the eaters, what contests they’d each won. And he introduced each one with enthusiasm and stomach-turning stories about how much they could eat. Each eater who had competed in this event before had a number on the back of their shirt signifying how many gyoza they had eaten before. Joey Chestnut was there, and he holds the record with 384 gyoza in ten minutes. At the same time, the tables were prepared with stacks of plates, each plate carrying 25 gyoza. The announcer had the audience count down from ten, and they were off and eating. It’s really amazing to watch. The intense concentration, the heads bobbing up and down, swigs of water to wash it down, and occasionally jumps and shimmies to try and pack the food down in the stomach. The contest was ten minutes. And nobody stopped eating. They were stuffing their mouths as fast as they could swallow, and nobody suffered the dreaded “Reversal of Fortune“. When the countdown to the finish came, they all stuffed their cheeks like chipmunks, since any gyoza that are already in their mouth at the finish count as long as they swallow them.

In the end, they tallied up the results, and Matt ‘Megatoad’ Stonie won with 343 gyoza. He didn’t set a new record, but it was enough to win. Joey Chestnut came in second with 339. Miki Sudo came in 3rd with 178. Full results are on the Major League Eating web site. As I said, watching this contest is both hilarious and horrifying. I recommend it highly.

8/20/2015

Steady…

Filed under: — stan @ 9:26 pm

Tonight’s stair session was another attempt at maintaining a consistent pace over multiple climbs. And this time, the magic worked better than it did on Tuesday. Still not as good as it was two years ago, but better than I’ve done in a while.

On the first climb, I held back a lot. I was aiming to get to the top right about 12 minutes, and 11:56 was nicely close. The second time up, I had to hold back a little bit, and I made the top in 11:59. The third time, I was feeling it. But I managed to maintain the pace, although I fell behind by a few seconds in the mid-40s. But I still had enough in the tank to be able to speed up a little bit and make up the time, and I came out on 55 with another 11:59. So that was pretty good.

After doing the three climbs, I still had plenty of time for a fourth, and my reward for hitting my goal on the three was that I was going to take it easy the fourth time. I didn’t time it, and I just plodded slowly up the stairs. I stopped in front of each of the four fans that blow cool air into the stairwell. Taking a minute to cool off at the fans was a nice treat.

I guess the next step will be to do this a few more times and see if I can get to a place where the first three climbs won’t be too much of a strain. When I can get to that, I’ll try for the fourth.

8/18/2015

Trying for a steady pace

Filed under: — stan @ 9:35 pm

Tonight, there was some sort of problem with the freight elevator at the Wells Fargo building, so they told us we would only be climbing to 44 this time. I did some quick math, and worked out that climbing to 44 five times would be 215 floors, which compares favorably to the 216 that going to 55 four times totals. So my goal for the evening was to do five climbs, and try to do them at as close to a steady pace as I could. I worked out that my target pace would get me to 44 in about 9:35, so that was the goal.

The first time up, I was holding back a lot, but I still got there quite a bit faster than planned. The second time was slightly faster than planned, but close. The third time, I made it up right on schedule, but I was feeling the strain. I had to push a little bit to keep on pace the last 20 floors or so. After that, I knew the fourth climb was going to be hard. I managed to stay on target up to about the 20th floor, and then I kind of started to fall apart. I managed to keep moving, but I was losing time at each checkpoint, and in the end, I came out about a minute behind schedule.

Still, I’d made four climbs from the street up to 44, and there was still time for a fifth. I figured there was no point in timing it. I went in the door at about 7:08, and as long as I made it to the top before 7:30, everything was good. And since it was only 43 floors, even though it felt like snail’s pace, I made it up in about fifteen minutes. So I guess I can’t complain too much.

So my goal for Thursday is to try the same thing, but to go slower at first and see if that will leave enough in the tank to keep up the pace longer later on. We shall see.

8/16/2015

Spoke

Filed under: — stan @ 10:53 pm

Today’s bike club ride was a visit to Spoke Bicycle Cafe, on the L.A. River in Frogtown. We’ve been down that way before to visit The Frog Spot last summer.

We started out from Victory Park and headed west. And we didn’t get too far before GT got a flat right in front of the Gamble House. (The Gamble House is a landmark in Pasadena, and it also was Doc Brown’s house in 1955 in the “Back to the Future” movies)

We rode across Eagle Rock and Glendale all the way into Burbank. Then we turned west to go on the Chandler Bikeway. We took a short side trip to see the desert tortoises along the way. Then we headed south to pick up the L.A. River bike trail, which took us all the way to Frogtown and Spoke.

It was pretty hot today, and we pretty much all wanted cold drinks and maybe some small snacks. But Spoke was nice. It was a good place to stop along the river trail, and I think we’ll go back there again. I got a big iced tea, and after I finished that, they gave me another cup of ice to put in my water bottle for the ride back to Pasadena.

We started out up Figueroa, and then turned off at Avenue 43 to get on the Arroyo Seco bike trail. We’ve been on part of that before, but this was the first time we rode the entire length of it. And it was pretty nice. At the end, it let us out into South Pasadena, and at that point, our group kind of broke up. It was very hot, and everyone just wanted to head for home, and only a few of us live near the park where we start. So in the end, it was just a few of us who went all the way back to Victory Park. But it was a nice ride.

43 miles.

Route map and elevation profile

8/15/2015

Getting close…

Filed under: — stan @ 12:25 pm

Back in May, Carla and I rode to Monrovia for the dedication of the Metro Operations Campus. And today was the first of the dedications of the new stations that they are finishing up on the Foothill Extension of the Metro Gold Line. Since I’m not going to be able to make the other ones, I made a point to ride out to Duarte for this one.

It was very hot today, but the ride out there is only about 10 miles, so it’s not bad, even in the heat. They had a short stretch of Duarte Road closed for the event. There were tents set up for shade, and the dignitaries were making their speeches. The station itself looks like it’s basically complete, although they had it roped off. They had a train parked there, which I guess means that the track from Pasadena to Duarte is passable by train now.

They had a table set up to tell the story of the artwork in the station. Every Metro station has some sort of art in it. The art at the Duarte station has steel pillars with carved limestone at the top. The carvings are supposed to evoke something of the history of the area near the San Gabriel River. Or at least that’s what they told me. In contrast, I passed the Arcadia station on the way out there, and it had a big peacock on it. That seemed appropriate, since Arcadia is known for its large collection of feral peafowl.

They had some cakes there, but I didn’t want to stay out there in the heat until they served them. I did manage to bum some ice from the caterers, so I filled my water bottle with ice and had cold water for part of the ride home.

21 miles.

8/13/2015

Another attempt…

Filed under: — stan @ 9:17 pm

Today’s goal at the Wells Fargo building was to see if I could do four climbs at a steady pace. I used to be able to do that. One evening at the PWC building, I was able to do four climbs with the times varying by only about a second from the fastest to the slowest. I worked out that that pace at the Wells Fargo buildling would be just about 12 minutes for each climb. So that was the goal for the evening. To climb it four times, and try to come as close as I could to 12 minutes per climb.

The first time up, I had to hold back a little bit to stay on the target pace. That’s always a good sign. And I got to the top in 10:56, which was right on target. The second time, I wasn’t holding back, but maintaining the pace wasn’t too hard. And that time, I made the top in 12:06. Again, right on target.

The third time, I was having to push to try and maintain the target pace. And I fell behind a bit. My time of 12:40 was a bit of a disappointment, but at the same time, this was the first time that my time didn’t fall off a cliff on the third climb. But I knew I was pretty much toast for the fourth climb. I made it back down, had some water, and headed up. I didn’t bother to time it. I stopped to rest and cool off in front of the fans. And in the end, I made it up in about 17 minutes or so.

At least I was able to make three climbs at something approximating a steady pace. And I guess I’ll try again next week.

8/11/2015

More stair climbing fun and frolic at Wells Fargo

Filed under: — stan @ 9:48 pm

It’s Tuesday, and time for yet another installment of pain and suffering on the Wells Fargo building staircase. I’m still trying to remember how to push the pace on the first ascent. I used to be able to do it. The other staircase we used to practice in is one floor shorter than this one, but at the speed I was going back in 2012, I would have been able to climb this one in just about 9 minutes. But I’ve forgotten how to push that hard. And I suspect that I’m not in quite as good shape now as I was then. So my times are correspondingly slower.

The first time up, I was trying to do five floors per minute. That used to be my ‘relaxed’ pace. For this staircase, that would get me to the top in 10:55. And it appears that I was able to make that. So I guess the trick for next time will be to see if I can improve on that just a bit. And I was glad to see that I didn’t slow down quite as much as last time on the second ascent. The third time up was grim, though. I was lucky to make it up the third time without stopping. And the fourth, I didn’t even bother timing. I didn’t particularly try to go fast, or even maintain a steady pace. I stopped several times at the fans to cool off. I’d gone into the stairs at 7:04, and as long as I got to the top by 7:30, I was good. And even then, I made it up with some time to spare. So I guess this counts as a good outing. And I’ll be back on Thursday for more ‘fun’.

8/9/2015

Checking in with the Big Donut

Filed under: — stan @ 2:30 pm

This Sunday’s bike club ride was a visit to the Donut Hole in La Puente. Along with the Idle Hour cafe, the giant tamale, and other odd sights we’ve gone to see over the years, it’s a prime example of programmatic architecture. And we haven’t been to see the donut in a while.

On the way there, we stopped by the new Metro Rail station under construction in Arcadia. It looks like it’s almost done, and they’re having an official dedication for it in two weeks. A little farther south, we noticed one intersection that had big, round skid marks right in the middle. Apparently, we were not the only ones thinking of big donuts recently. We went by the replica of the original In-N-Out Burger in Baldwin Park. And then we got to the big donut. There was a line of cars back out to the street. This is they busiest we’ve ever seen them on a Sunday morning. Maybe this means the economy is picking up or something. It’s never been that busy when we visited before.

Continuing on, we made a big loop through West Covina and back to Irwindale. We passed the Huy Fong Foods hot sauce factory there. We rode into Santa Fe Dam and up the bike path to Duarte, and then back on Royal Oaks to Monrovia. We found Merengue, and it has finally reopened in their new location. The last time we looked in on them, they weren’t quite ready to open yet. I got an empanada, Carla got a Refugee, and all was right with the world.

When we got ready to leave Merengue, I discovered that I’d gotten a flat. It’s been a while since I got into the Flat Tire Gallery.

Even with the flat tire, it was a good ride.

43 miles.

Route map and elevation profile

8/6/2015

Second time at Wells Fargo

Filed under: — stan @ 9:34 pm

Tonight was our second stair session at the Wells Fargo building. I was hoping to go a little bit faster on the first climb, and also hoping to get in four climbs. I borrowed a water bottle, so I was going to be able to drink some water between climbs. I figured that might help, since I forgot to bring water on Tuesday.

The first climb started off all right. I’d worked out some informal split time goals, and I managed to stay close to them for the first five minutes or so. After that, I started to fall a little bit behind. If I’d made my goal pace, I would have made the top in about 11 minutes. But instead, I had 11:24. Oh well. After an elevator ride down and some water, I started up a second time. This time, the goal was to just try and maintain about the same pace as the first time. It used to be that kind of pace was just loafing for me. But these days, I’m just not going as fast any more. And the second time up was considerably slower than the first. But at least it was faster than my second on Tuesday.

After another elevator ride and some more water, I headed up for a third time. I didn’t even bother timing it. I just wanted to see if I could make it to the top fast enough to get back down before they close the door to the stairwell at 7:10. And I did. It was probably about 15 minutes or so, and I made it back down with four minutes to spare before the door closed.

Heading up for the fourth time, I had 26 minutes to get to the top before the official end of practice at 7:30. I just took it easy. Well, as easy as it can be when each step takes a conscious act of will, and it’s nearly all I can do just to keep moving. There are fans blowing cool air into the stairs about every ten floors, and when I got to those flights, I stopped and laid down on the steps to feel the breeze and cool off. And in the end, I made it to the top in about 18 minutes, which was before the end of practice. So it was a good outing. I just want to work on trying to get more consistent times in. After all, I did reasonably well at the Towerthon in June.

So I’ll be back next week to do it again. And again, I’ll be asking, “Who thought this was a good idea???”

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