Stan’s Obligatory Blog


2013 Year-end Wrap-up

Filed under: — stan @ 6:47 pm

It’s the end of the year, and time for my annual wrap-up of the year’s adventures. And yes, being old-fashioned, I still print copies of this and mail them tucked inside physical cards. My personal rule is that the letter must fit on one side of one sheet of paper. So here it is, complete with links:


It’s Still a Wonderful Ride

Filed under: — stan @ 6:11 pm

Yes, it’s the Sunday before Christmas, so it was time once again for the “It’s a Wonderful Life” ride. This one is a bit shorter than what we usually do, but it has some sightseeing.

First stop was at Forest Lawn in Glendale. Jimmy Stewart is buried high up on the hill there, and we stopped to pay our respects. Then it was onward to our snack stop at Paradise Bakery. They apparently just had a fire in the upstairs area above the regular bakery shop, so they were running everything out of their small annex next door.

After that, we rode up the hill into La Cañada to see the Martini House. There are only a couple of scenes in the movie that were not filmed at the old studio backlot in Encino. And the Martini House in Bailey Park scene was one of them. The house still looks the same. Last year, I got some screenshots from the movie to compare. You can see them in last year’s writeup.

By the end, it had turned into a very nice day for riding.

37 miles.


The Relatively Flat Ride

Filed under: — stan @ 6:00 pm

I didn’t have any major inspiration for a destination for this Sunday’s bike ride, so I got out the ‘Relatively Flat Ride’ that I made up some years ago. It’s 43 miles of the flattest roads I could find around here. There are a few hills along the way, but only when they’re completely unavoidable.

There was some sort of lowrider car group meeting in the park when we were leaving. That was an odd sight. And somewhere out in West Covina, we passed the house that has the two giant candy canes on it every year. But it’s been some years since they put up the basketball-sized ornaments in the tree next to the house.

We passed the Huy Fong Foods factory in Irwindale. They are having some trouble with the neighbors, who say that making their sriracha hot sauce is causing problems for them. They’re fighting back with a small banner in front of the factory while the whole thing goes to court.

We stopped at Merengue in Monrovia. That’s where I saw the bear statue with the sign saying he was an official Old Town Monrovia guide.

All told, it was a pleasant ride.

43 miles.


Hey – check out the view from up here…

Filed under: — stan @ 2:32 pm

Today’s bike club ride was the old “Glendale Vistas” route. This is a ride that doesn’t go anywhere in particular, but in the process of doing that, it goes up some seriously steep hills. This is the route where I broke my cassette back in 2007.

It was pretty chilly today, so we had to wear lots of layers, and even then it was cold. On the way across Glendale, we discovered a new way to cross the freeway on a pedestrian bridge. That was kind of novel, and along with a few other such bridges on other routes, it got us thinking about a possibly theme ride centered around The (Pedestrian) Bridges of Los Angeles County. Hmm. Have to think about that one some more.

Adding to the tribulations, when we got to Paradise Bakery, they had no chocolate eclairs. That’s the one thing they make that it truly outstanding, and I’d been looking forward to it.

After the snack stop, it warmed up a bit got a little less cold. And then it was time to climb the hills. At the highest point of the ride, we get a nice view of downtown Los Angeles in the distance. And I had to stop and once again point out the building that I climbed 101 times this year.

On the way home, it started to get colder again. So we cut off a little bit of the route to go home by a more direct way. Still, it wasn’t a bad ride.

39 miles.


A Metro Rail and grave tour

Filed under: — stan @ 2:03 pm

Rain was forecast for today, so we did the route that I made up that travels around the city, never going more than 2 miles from the nearest Metro Rail station. That way, if the sky opens up and rains on us, we have a quick exit strategy at all times.

The route starts out going downtown, and then south along the Blue/Expo lines to near USC. From there, we head west, riding about mid-way between the Expo Line on the south, and the Red/Purple subway line to the north. At that point, we were passing the Angelus Rosedale cemetery on Washington Blvd. We’d been there before to visit the grave of Dooley Wilson, who is known for playing Sam in “Casablanca”. We stopped in there because last April, when we were riding in the Ciclavia to the Sea, we rode by the back side of that cemetery, and I saw a large pyramid there. I’d done some looking, and apparently there are three known pyramid crypts in Los Angeles County. One is in Brand Park in Glendale, and is not accessible to the public. The other two are in Angeleus Rosedale. So we stopped off to see the two pyramids.

After that, we headed up through the Harvard Heights neighborhood to Larchmont Village and Noah’s Bagels. We had some snacks, and then headed for home. By now, the weather was looking quite fine, with no threat of rain. But we stuck to the route, heading back on 7th St, roughly parallel to the subway line under Wilshire, and then through Chinatown and home by way of Lincoln Heights and South Pasadena, along the Metro Gold Line route. All told, it was a pleasant day, and we were glad not to have to use our exit strategy.

44 miles.


Code Name: Dalmatian

Filed under: — stan @ 4:27 pm

Today was the last race of the year here in Los Angeles. The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation’s climb up the Wilshire-Figueroa building in downtown L.A. This year was the first time that we were going to race all the way to the roof, making the total climb 1,245 steps, or the equivalent of 54.1 ‘regular’ floors in this building.

We’ve been climbing this building since July, since it was the site for our practice climbs before the YMCA’s climb up the U.S. Bank Tower. And just last Monday, I reached my 100th climb up the staircase. In honor of this occasion, I emailed Rebecca, the event organizer, and I asked if I could get bib number 101 for today, since the race would be my 101st climb up the building for the year. She wrote back that she had planned on assigning the first 20 numbers in the order we’d finished last year, and I’d been 7th overall last year, so I was slated to be ‘007′. Hmmm. That was a tough one. But in the end, I told her that I thought ‘101′ was still funnier and more appropriate for the day, so she agreed to give it to me.

In the morning, we headed downtown to the building. Kathleen was going to do the climb, too, so we got checked in and ready to go. Being in the ‘fast’ group, I went up near the front of the line. We all know each other up there, and we sorted ourselves out by how fast we expected to be. Besides my 101st climb, my only other goal for the day was to beat George. So I started a few places ahead of him. I was maybe the 8th or so person off the line, and that worked out well. I didn’t pass anyone, and nobody passed me. I was even able to maintain focus the whole way up. I did have one small wave of ‘what-the-HELL-are-you-trying-to-prove-here’ at about the 35th floor, but I was able to press on through it by just concentrating on my goal of beating George. I knew that he was coming up the staircase behind me, so I knew that I had to stay ahead of him.

I was aiming for a pace of 6 floors per minute, and I was able to keep to that up to about 30. After that, I came up about 3 steps short on each 1-minute block. Still, I went faster than I’d gone all year in practice, so that was a good thing. I tried to sprint up the last two floors, and when I saw the light from the roof door, I was able to sort of run up the last bit to the roof. I don’t think I need to describe just how painful that was. But I made it to the roof, and my reward: collapsing on the concrete helipad there. I spent a minute or so lying down, and when I looked up, I saw George lying on the concrete a few feet away. After we’d both caught our breath, we took a picture together on the roof before heading back down.

When they posted the results, I saw that I’d done 9:29. This was reasonably good. I could have possibly gone faster, but it was still faster than I’d gone in any of the practices or other races this year. And more importantly, I beat George by 4 seconds. Not much, but enough. I ended up being 12th overall, which I can’t complain about, since there were something like 200+ people doing the climb. So overall, I was satisfied, even if I didn’t make the top three in my age group this time.

Now I get about six weeks off from stair climbing before practice starts up again in January for the Lung Association’s climb up the Aon building. Fun times.

Full results are here:


One Hundred!

Filed under: — stan @ 9:17 pm

Tonight was the one special added stair practice session, and because it was a holiday, Kathleen and I were both off work, and we could go downtown together to do it.

I went in with a plan of just doing two climbs, so that my total would be 99 going in to the race on Saturday. Since I was not going to a lot of times up the building, I thought I’d try the first time for speed. Specifically, to see if I could do 6 floors per minute, which is the fastest I’ve ever gone up this building.

The first time up, I was able to maintain my pace up to about the 20th floor. After that, I started to lose a few seconds each minute. I was doing about 5 3/4 floors per minute. Oh well, It’s just very hard to get in the right frame of mind to do this sport. In any event, i made it to 51 and headed back down to do it again.

I thought I might catch up with Kathleen on my second time up the building, and I did, right around the 25th floor. So I turned off my watch and we walked the rest of the way up together. At that point, I had climbed the building 99 times.

Since it was still early, I decided to go ahead and go up one more time to make my 100. That way, I’ve got my 100 no matter what happens on Saturday, and 101 is a good number, too. So I headed up one more time. I didn’t bother to time it, and I just went up at a nice easy pace. The whole point was just to get to the 51st floor and know that I’d climbed that staircase 100 times since we started in this building back in July.

So now I’ve got my goal for the fall. The only thing left to do is to try and beat George in the race this Saturday.


Big Donut again!

Filed under: — stan @ 2:40 pm

Today’s bike club ride was the route to La Puente to see the giant drive-through donut. We’ve been there before, but it’s been a while.

It was a pretty nice day for riding. Cool, but promising to warm up a bit. And no forecast of rain. So we headed out, south and east. We stopped for a photo opportunity at the In-n-Out Burger headquarters and In-n-Out University. Then we continued on to the Donut Hole. We stopped for pictures, and Carla even rode through to get a donut.

After that, we continued on, out to West Covina, and then back north to Monrovia and our snack stop at Merengue. It was a pleasant and pretty uneventful ride.

44 miles.


Closing in on the goal

Filed under: — stan @ 9:00 pm

When we got back from Chicago on Monday, we got word that the Monday night stair practice had been cancelled, but that an extra one had been added for next Monday, the 11th. Between tonight and Monday, I should have no problem getting my 100 climbs in.

Tonight, my goal was to start off doing the 4 3/4 floors per minute pace, and to maintain that as long as I could. I was able to do it for the first two climbs, but on the third, I had to scale it back to 4 1/2 per minute. On the 4th time up, I slowed down to 4 1/4 per minute, and on the last one, I just wanted to get to the top before the end of practice at 7:00. So with these five climbs in, I now have climbed this building 97 times. If I do two next Monday, then on race day I can do the 100th climb.

Kathleen got me a Fitbit One for my birthday last week, and I brought it along for tonight’s fun and frolic on the stairs. I was curious how it works out how many floors it thinks I’ve climbed, so I looked it up on their web site. It says that the device has an altimeter built in to it, and it counts every 10 feet of elevation gain as one floor. So by that measure, climbing this building should count for about 64-67 floors, depending on how accurate the air pressure sensor is. In any event, Fitbit says I’m an overachiever today.


Time to play tourist, finally

Filed under: — stan @ 10:25 pm

Since we missed playing tourist in Chicago on Saturday, Monday was the day. We went to the Field Museum to see the exhibit about the 1893 World’s Fair. Since I’d been reading about that last year when we were here, it all fit together nicely.

We saw Sue the T-Rex in the main hall of the museum. Then we went to see the World’s Fair exhibit. It was interesting to see how the attitude of the fair seemed quite foreign to us. It seems that back then, nature, animals, and the world itself were all regarded as things to be used, rather than things to be studied or understood just for themselves. After that, Kathleen wanted to go see the Hall of Gems. And along the way there, we stopped in to see an exhibit about fracking for oil in the Bakken Shale in North Dakota, followed by an exhibit of Nazi Propaganda. It was interesting, although it was a bit far afield from ‘Natural History’. But it did make a nice companion piece to the exhibit we went to see a few years ago about Nazi medicine. And parts of it were uncomfortably close to things we’re hearing and reading about today.

After all that, we went to the airport for the trip home. Despite the unpleasant beginning, this turned out to be a pretty good, if short, trip.

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