Stan’s Obligatory Blog

Page 4 of 223« First...«23456»102030...Last »

8/14/2016

Another Downey Tour

Filed under: — stan @ 2:07 pm

Yesterday, I went on a tour of the Columbia Memorial Space Center with Atlas Obscura. During the talk there, they mentioned that one of the original buildings was still standing, dating back to the days when it was Vultee Aircraft in the 1940s. So today’s bike club ride was the route to Downey to see the oldest operating McDonald’s, and also to see the old Vultee office building.

When I rode to our meeting place in Victory Park, the sprinklers were all running. In these drought days, that looks odd. But the city is using recycled water to keep the playing fields in the park green. And thanks to Atlas Obscura again, I know where ‘recycled water’ comes from…

The route was pretty much straight out and back. We went directly south all the way to Downey, where we stopped briefly at the old McDonald’s so John could get a classic fried apple pie. Then we continued on the mile or so farther to get to the site of the old Vultee/North American/Rockwell plant. I stopped for a moment to take pictures of the building that used to be the main entrance to the Vultee offices. Then we headed back north to downtown Downey and 3rd St Coffee.

The route back went up the Rio Hondo bike path, and we had a nice tailwind, so we were able to go pretty fast. The rest of the route back was just retracing our route out from the morning.

40 miles.

Route map and elevation profile

8/13/2016

A Bit of History

Filed under: — stan @ 6:07 pm

Today I took a tour of the Columbia Memorial Space Center in Downey with Atlas Obscura. We got a nice treat when they brought in an engineer who worked at North American Aviation, later Rockwell, from the early days of Apollo all the way through the Space Shuttle program. He had some good stories about the early days there.

Later on, we went upstairs, where there was a long conference table in the room. Remember this scene from “Apollo 13″?

This was the table the actual North American engineers used back in 1970 when they had to figure out how to piece junk together to get Apollo 13 home.


8/7/2016

LA Current: Prime

Filed under: — stan @ 2:46 pm

Last week, I found an article about Current: LA, which is sponsoring a set of art installations around the city, all intended to have a water theme. So today, we rode to Studio City to see one of them. And to go for gelato, too.

It was a prefect morning for riding. Cool, with the marine layer keeping the sun hidden. We rode out across Eagle Rock and Glendale to Studio City. The entrance to the park was right across the street from Universal Studios, and the actual art installation was all the way at the back of the park. Three fiberglass horses embedded in the ground. “…the horses are empty slates onto which viewers can project meaning.”

As I always say, anything can be art if you say it is and can get other people to agree that it’s art.

Leaving the park, we made a brief stop at the little park with the foundations of Campo de Cahuenga. This is a little piece of history that was unearthed during construction of the Red Line Universal subway station. Then we took some little side streets to make our way over to Tujunga Ave and the gelato place.

The route home went down the L.A. River bike path, and then up the Arroyo Seco path to take us back to Pasadena.

46 miles.

Route map and elevation profile

8/6/2016

Pangolin

Filed under: — stan @ 9:36 pm

We went to San Diego this weekend to visit my father, and since it’s summer, we also went to the zoo to see the pangolin. The San Diego Zoo is the only place in the western hemisphere to see a pangolin, and they only bring Baba our for 15 minutes a day, and only in summer. I’d taken Lucinda there to see the pangolin last summer, but Kathleen wasn’t able to go that time. So this was her chance to see one of the oddest animals ever.

We got to the zoo a little early, so we walked around and looked at some other animals while we waited for it to be pangolin time. Then we headed over to the children’s zoo. At 1:30 one of the keepers came out with Baba the pangolin. She put him on the little tree and platform they made for him so he could eat. She said that they feed him a slurry of cat food and ground-up insects, all mixed with vanilla-flavored Ensure. Yum. He seemed to like it all right, and it gave us a chance to see his famously-long tongue. After his 15 minutes were up, Baba climbed down off the platform and just started walking back to the building where he lives. This was interesting, since it’s the first time we got to see how he walks on the ground.

After pangolin time, we headed over to the Australia exhibit to see the Tasmanian Devils. As usual, they were all sleeping.

Finally, we walked down the hill to go see the hippos. A few years ago, we got to see a baby hippo there, so we wanted to go back again. And while we were there, we got to see fresh hippo poop. That always makes my day…


7/31/2016

Pyramid Scheme

Filed under: — stan @ 3:17 pm

A few years ago, the Sunday bike club group rode the Ciclavia to Venice. On the way back, we passed by the back side of Angelus-Rosedale cemetery, and I noticed a 10-12 foot high pyramid in the cemetery. I was curious, and I found out that there were two pyramids in that cemetery, and only three in the Los Angeles area. We rode down there to see the two pyramids, and today’s ride was to Brand Park in Glendale to see the third one and complete the trilogy.

The pyramid is in the small Brand family cemetery, which is all the way in the back of Brand Park. We had to walk our bikes past a gate, and then we had to walk up a flight of steps at the end of the road to see it. It was about the same size as the other two pyramids, but it did not have a door like the others.

After seeing the pyramid, we went to Paradise Bakery for eclairs. I’ve always said that their eclairs are the best, although they seem to have altered the recipe a bit. The filling was more whipped-cream-like than it used to be, and the eclairs were about 50% larger. But it was still good. Then we headed home by way of La Cañada. In the end, when I got home I realized I’d made a mistake, and the route was not quite as long as I thought it would be. But we got to see the pyramid.

32 miles

Route map and elevation profile

7/24/2016

Dome Day

Filed under: — stan @ 2:51 pm

Today’s bike club ride was a dome-themed ride. First, we went to see the “Domestead” in Glassell Park. This is a three-level house in a geodesic dome built into a hillside. And on the way back, we went to see the ‘Bubble House‘ in Pasadena, which has the distinction of being the only such house still standing in the U.S.

The Domestead is just one street below the “Big and Small House” that we went to see a couple years ago. And they’re both at the top of a pretty steep hill. Not quite as terrifyingly steep as the one we rode up last week in Echo Park, but still pretty steep. You can see it on the elevation profile. It’s the spike at about the 12 mile mark.

After we saw the Domestead, we continued on, picking up the L.A. River bike path. Our snack stop was at Spoke in Frogtown. I saw that they were selling vintage vinyl records for $5 there. Which is about what records cost back in the day. But $5 was a lot to me when I was 14 years old.

The route back was kind of roundabout, which was by design. Along the way, I had a laugh at the laundromat with the sign that read “LAUNDY”. Then we ended up in South Pasadena for the ride up Los Robles to the bubble house.

41 miles.

Route map and elevation profile

7/17/2016

Doheny Library at USC

Filed under: — stan @ 2:09 pm

Today’s bike club ride was a mishmash sightseeing ride.

The first bit of sightseeing was the closed bit of the 210 freeway in Pasadena. This didn’t have a catchy name, like “Carmageddon” did, but seeing a freeway with no cars on it is strange no matter what. There was even a news truck parked on the overpass. But when we looked, it was really only the ramps that feed into the northbound 210 that were closed. It was really pretty anticlimactic.

Continuing on, we headed south into downtown Los Angeles. We took a short detour to go see the old Fire Station 23 on 5th St. This was the location used for all the firehouse interior scenes from the 1984 “Ghostbusters”.

The main bit of sightseeing for the day was Doheny Library at USC. I had recently been to a talk at Caltech where the retiring Vice President of Finance told us a story about the library building. Apparently, when Rice University was starting up, they had their architect design the main administration building, as well as the library. The two buildings were meant to form the ends of the main academic quad on campus. But due to some financial trouble, the library was never built. In the meantime, Edward Doheny gave USC a donation to build a new library. They contacted their architect, who was the same one who had designed the buildings for Rice, and he told them that he had a library already designed and ready to build, so that’s what they did. So in the end, the building that was designed to be a companion to Lovett Hall ended up being built on the USC campus. When I heard this story, I figured it would make a good sightseeing destination, both for the architectural interest, and because Amiee and I are both Rice alumni. And sure enough, it looked a lot like Lovett Hall.

Riding back up Hill and Olive, we went back into downtown, and then turned west. The plan was to try a new route to get to Echo Park and Chango Coffee. I’d looked up a way to get there from Benton Way in Silverlake. And as it turned out, that way involved riding up and over a short, but terrifyingly-steep hill. It’s pretty rare that I have to use may lowest gear, but it came out today.

Once we made it over that hill, we were in Echo Park. But we had one more bit of sightseeing. I’d read an article in Atlas Obscura about Randyland, which is a big art project in front of the artist’s house. And as it turned out, he saw us on the street and came down to tell us about it. That was nice, like the time we got the special tour of the backyard boat in Sun Valley.

Our snack stop was at Chango Coffee. Then we rode around Dodger Stadium to Chinatown, and then back to Pasadena by was of the Arroyo Seco bike path. It was a pretty entertaining ride.

45 miles.

Route map and elevation profile

7/11/2016

A Weekend in Las Vegas

Filed under: — stan @ 9:34 pm

Last February, when we were in Las Vegas so I could climb the Stratosphere Tower, my old friend Gordon came out from New Jersey to visit. We used to go to Las Vegas a lot back in the ’80s to play blackjack. So this was a fun little excursion to remember the Old Days. In the process, we went looking for prime rib, and ended up at the Orleans, which turned out to also have a pretty good low-key blackjack game. While we were there, Kathleen signed up for their players club, and they sent her an offer for two free nights at the hotel. So that was our adventure for this weekend.

We drove out there on Saturday. When we arrived, we checked in to the hotel, and then I went downstairs to play some blackjack. I’d resurrected the practice program I wrote back in 1990 and played with it a bit this past week, so I was able to remember Basic Strategy this time. I had two losing sessions, took a short break, and then I got lucky and ended Saturday up by a little bit.

After dinner on Saturday, we headed downtown to go to Atomic Liquors. I stopped to take a picture of the big neon sign across the street that announces, “Llamas stay for free!”. Atomic is a little dive bar where people used to sit on the roof to watch the nuclear tests back in the 1950s. Now it’s a bit of a hipster hangout. Apparently, living downtown seems to be an up-and-coming thing in Las Vegas, just like it is here in L.A.

Sunday, I spent almost the whole day playing blackjack, and ended up down by almost $100. But that’s not bad for as much time as I spent at the tables.

On Monday, I went down to the casino before breakfast and quickly got cleaned out of a further $100. At that point, I took a short break before trying again. And this time, the magic worked. I had three good sessions, and in the end, I basically broke even for the weekend.

Before heading home, we went to see the Atomic Testing Museum. We’d gone there before, and it’s an interesting place, so I wanted to go again. It turns out that the place I was born, Dugway Proving Ground in Utah, was one of the four finalists when the AEC was first deciding on where to do nuclear testing. Yikes.

After the museum, we headed home. And in the end, I got to come home a winner. I had brought $500.00 to gamble with, and when it was all done, I came home with $500.50. Yay!

6/26/2016

Be vewy, vewy quiet…

Filed under: — stan @ 2:31 pm

Today’s bike club ride was yet another celebrity grave tour. In this case, we went to see Arthur Bryan, who created the voice of Elmer Fudd in the Warner Brothers cartoons of yore.

We rode out across Eagle Rock and Glendale to Burbank. We took the short side trip to see the tortoises, but they were gone. One of the neighbors told us that the man’s wife wanted to have a front lawn again, so the big tortoises had to go.

When we got to the cemetery, we rode in and found Mr Bryan. As it turned out, he was fairly close to where Oliver Hardy is buried. After that, we stopped by the Portal of the Folded Wings to see the space shuttle memorial.

Our snack stop was at Priscilla’s, and after that, we headed home by way of Glendale and up and over Linda Vista and Lida St.

43 miles.

6/25/2016

Strawberry Peak At Last

Filed under: — stan @ 5:46 pm

There is a tendency of people in Los Angeles to regard the San Gabriel mountains as being like sort of a painted backdrop to the city. I know that I tended to think of them that way when I first moved here in 1982. But one day, my friend Gordon mentioned going hiking in the mountains, and I realized that these mountains were a real place where we could go and actually get out in actual nature.

My first-ever hike in the San Gabriels was Strawberry Peak via the Colby Canyon trail, which I climbed with Gordon in January, 1983. I liked it a lot. The trail was interesting and entertaining, and the view from the top was pretty amazing. I went back there again by a different trail in the summer of ‘83. In the summer of 1986, I hiked up Colby Canyon to Strawberry Peak with my mother and my cousins Irene and David. And that was the last time I was at the top of the mountain. I made an attempt in the summer of 2007. And I made two attempts with my hiking partner Karina in January and April of 2015. None of those trips made it to the top. But today, I finally made it back up there again.

Today’s trip was with Jen, who is the new Staff Seismologist at Caltech. She came into that position after Kate Hutton retired. I told her about the trail, and she was game to try it. So we headed up into the mountains and hit the trail. The first two miles were pretty easy, just walking up the trail to the saddle between Strawberry Peak and Josephine Peak. We stopped there to sit in the shade for a bit before striking out for the summit. The trail went up the crest of the ridge, and it included two sections of steep rock climbing.

We got to the first rock section and climbed up it. Then we followed the ridge for a while before reaching the second section of rock. The second was much longer and harder than the first. My memory of this trail was that it was interesting and entertaining, but this time, I was just marveling that the climb was about ten times harder than I remembered it being. I think that this is effect of 30 years passing since the last time I did it. We made it to the top, but I was the laggard here. Jen just scrambled up the rocks and left me behind. I was carefully picking my way, and moving very slowly. I think that was largely why in the end, the hike was a bit over six miles, but it took us seven hours.

At the top, we sat down and had lunch while looking at the view. We were up there for about a half-hour before heading back down. And the climb down the rocks was an exercise of carefully picking hand and foot holds. Again, I was the slow one, and I blame old age for my perhaps excessive caution. But we made it down the rocks all right, and made it back to the saddle and the water tank where we got to sit in the shade for a few minutes before heading back down the canyon trail. The last two miles down the canyon went pretty fast. I kept thinking about the bottle of ice water that was in the cooler in the trunk of the car. But when we finally got there, the formerly-iced water was warm. I guess it really was that hot today. Despite that, it was a fun time. And I finally made it up to the top of that damn mountain again, for the first time in 30 years.

Route map and elevation profile

Page 4 of 223« First...«23456»102030...Last »

Powered by WordPress