Stan’s Obligatory Blog


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.


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.


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’.


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


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???”


A new look at the Wells Fargo building

Filed under: — stan @ 9:16 pm

It’s summer, and time to start stair practice for the U.S. Bank building stair climb in September. In previous years, they had us start off in a smaller building, and then work up to a larger one. But this time, they decided that we would just practice in the Wells Fargo building from the start. And just to shake things up, they moved us from Stair 1 to Stair 2. This meant that we were starting from the door on 3rd St, and starting one floor below the lobby. But that’s all right. That means that even though the building skips the 13th floor, it’s still an honest 54 stories to the top. And it turns out that Stair 2 also has three murals painted on the landings near the top, but different ones than the murals in Stair 1. (Murals in Stair 1: First | Second and Third )

I got there a little late, and started my first climb at about 6:15 or so. I was hoping to make it to the top in under 11 minutes, but that didn’t happen. Still, at least my time meant that I maintained just over 1 foot per second vertical on the climb. If I was under that, I’d be pretty embarrassed. The second time up, I slowed down a lot. And the third time up, I didn’t even bother to time it. I just wanted to try and make it to the top without stopping. And even that didn’t work. They had ventilation fans blowing air on some of the landings, so on the upper floors, I stopped by fans to cool off a little bit before continuing up. And in the end, I finished my third climb and got back down just a few minutes after they’d closed the door. So three was my limit tonight. Next time I’ll try and get there on time.

George was there with his tape measure and a notebook. So i was able to make a second stair chart for this new staircase. And we know now that it’s 1,147 steps to get to 55. That’s 709 feet and 216 meters vertical, which is pretty good. So I did 2,127 feet and 648 meters of climbing this evening. It was a good outing.



Filed under: — stan @ 7:03 pm

About two years ago, when I was riding the train downtown for stair-climbing practice, I read a short article in National Geographic about the pangolin. The pangolin is an odd little animal that looks like a cross between an armadillo and an anteater, but apparently is not related to either of them. The electronic edition of the article also had a short video of a pangolin walking through the forest. I was immediately fascinated, and I wanted to see one of these animals. Doing some research, I discovered that there is only one zoo in the United States that has a pangolin. That would be the San Diego Zoo, and the animal in not on regular exhibit. They only bring it out with a keeper once a day in the summer for about fifteen minutes. When we went to the zoo last year, we missed it by just a few minutes. Back in June when we were here, I called the zoo to ask about it, and they said that they were not on the summer schedule yet, and so the pangolin would not be making an appearance. So this time, I checked that they are indeed on the summer schedule now, and that the pangolin would be coming out at 1:30.

We got to the zoo at about 1:15, and we set off to look for the place where the keeper would have the pangolin. It turned out to be in a remote corner of the zoo. It was a place we had never been to before. We had to ask directions, and one of the zoo employees took us over there, since he said that he couldn’t describe how to get there. But we made it there, and we waited just a few minutes by the sign before the keeper and the pangolin came out.

The zoo’s pangolin is a tree pangolin, which is the smallest of the pangolin species. It has a long prehensile tail so that it can hang from branches. The tail is covered by scales, and the tip of the tail looks like a finger, complete with a fingernail. All in all, it is one weird little animal, and I’m glad we finally got to see it up close.

The pangolin was the main attraction of the day. After seeing it, we went down the canyon to see the giant pandas. One was taking a break off-exhibit, but the second was sitting out and eating bamboo. The keeper said that the pandas have massive jaw muscles, since the bamboo they crack open to eat is tough like bones, so they need very strong jaws and teeth.

After the pandas, we took a walk to the Australia exhibit to see the koalas. They were all sleeping in their trees. We only could see one baby koala this time. Then we went over to see the Tasmanian Devils. They were all sleeping, too. They’re kind of cute in a ferocious way. Just look at those fangs. And that made our day complete. We’d seen the fabled pangolin, so we headed for home.


Visiting San Diego – Again

Filed under: — stan @ 8:40 pm

This weekend, we headed down to San Diego to visit my father. We drove down, and I got Lucinda to drive about half of it. I like that, since I don’t really enjoy driving.

When we got there, we went up to visit Grandpa for a bit before dinner. We usually go to dinner at the Prado in Balboa Park, but this time, when I called them to adjust our reservation from four people to six, they said they couldn’t do it. It’s summer, and they’re just really busy. So we got on OpenTable and went looking. And the Marine Room in La Jolla could take us. We’ve been there before, but not for a few years now. But it was as nice as we remember. The only thing missing was the Chocolate Bomb. That was the thing that had a little bit of gold leaf on top of it. It was very good, but they don’t have it on the menu any more. But everything else was very good. And it was nice to visit.


Taco Bell

Filed under: — stan @ 1:53 pm

I recently read that the building that was the world’s first Taco Bell is going to probably be torn down soon. I looked it up, and it’s in Downey, not far from the old Johnie’s Broiler that we visited recently. Between that and the oldest operating McDonald’s in Downey, there’s a lot of fast-food history there.

We rode straight down Del Mar through San Gabriel, and then when we got to Whittier Narrows, we turned down Rosemead and took that all the way to Downey. We passed the old McDonald’s and then turned on 5th St. That took us past the apartment buildings The Carpenters owned. Then, when we got to downtown Downey, we stopped for coffee and snacks at 3rd St Coffee.

After the snack stop, we continued west for a bit, and then south to Firestone Blvd. We went a couple of streets beyond Firestone, turned right, and came back out on Firestone through a sidewalk at the end of a cul-de-sac. That brought us out right by the former Taco Bell. The building, as well as the building next to it, and their parking lot were all fenced off. I had to hold the camera up over the fence to see anything. It looks like the preservationists may not have succeeded, since the site looked like it was ready to knock down. I guess we will have to stop by again in the future and see.

Continuing south for a bit, we came out by the Rio Hondo. We got on the Rio Hondo bike trail and took that all the way back to Whittier Narrows. Then we took Walnut Grove back home. It was a pleasant ride.

40 miles.

Route map and elevation profile

That’s an even bigger telescope…

Filed under: — stan @ 1:26 pm

Last September, we went to Mt. Wilson for an evening with the 60-inch telescope. But last spring, I got a notice from the Atlas Obscura people that they were going to be doing an evening with the 100-inch telescope. That telescope is the one that Edwin Hubble used to discover Cepheid variable stars in the Andromeda nebula, which enabled him to establish that it was in fact another galaxy. This was a major discovery, since it proved that the universe consisted of far more than just our galaxy. It was also the telescope he used to discover the expansion of the universe. All told, it’s a big piece of astronomical history.

Our group met up in La Cañada before heading up Mt. Wilson. At the top, our session director, Shelly Bonus met us and led us back to the telescope. Inside, we got a tour of the dome while we were waiting for nightfall. As it started to get dark, they pointed the telescope at the moon so that we could have a look. The magnification on such a big telescope is pretty large, and we could only see a few craters in the small field of view. After that, they moved the telescope just a bit to have a look at Saturn. The Cassini Division was clearly visible, and this was the first time I’ve ever seen the C-ring. The planet also showed some nice color, and bands in the clouds.

Next up was M13, the big globular cluster in Hercules. I didn’t recognize it in the big telescope. In my little telescope, it looks like a ball of fuzz. But here it was big, and it was resolved into stars. Many, many stars. Then we moved just a short distance away to M92, which is a smaller globular cluster. It didn’t fill the field of view, so it was more easily recognized as a globular. We looked at a few double stars just to admire the resolution of the big telescope. Then we looked at Campbell’s Hydrogen Star. The nebula around the star was a deep red color, and it looked good. All in all, it was a fun time in a geeky way.

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