Stan’s Obligatory Blog


Well, we tried…

Filed under: — stan @ 10:30 pm

It’s another Wednesday evening, and time for more stairs. I went downtown with two goals for the evening. One was to do my first climb at a slightly faster pace than I’ve been doing lately, and the second was to get in five climbs for a vertical kilometer. I should have made a third goal, just so I could start this with, “well, two out of three ain’t bad.”

At the last two practices, I’ve been doing my climbs at a modest pace. Basically, that’s the pace I used for when I did the vertical mile. That’s nine floors every two minutes. In this building, that gets me to the top in 11:22. Last week, I’d gone a bit faster on the first climb, and just by accident, I did the first climb in 9:56. So today, I decided to aim for 9:30 for the first climb. On the one hand, that’s almost a minute faster than I’ve been doing, but on the other hand, it’s also a minute slower than my best time for this building. So I worked out splits so I could figure exactly where I should be at each minute boundary. In this case, the plan was to do 16 floors every three minutes. So 5 1/3 per minute.

I went into the stairs at 6:02, and I started up. I was able to maintain the pace pretty well. It was definitely faster than I’ve been doing, but it was nowhere near maximum effort. At each minute boundary I managed to stay right on target. When I hit the 49th floor right at 9 minutes, I knew I had it down. I kept going at the same speed for the last two big floors, and I came out on 51 with a time of 9:29. Right on target.

The elevator ride down seemed to take forever. Looking at the EXIF information in my pictures, I can tell that it took about 6 minutes to get back down.

The plan was to do the rest of the climbs at my regular ‘modest’ pace. So I headed up the second time, aiming to be at the top in 11:22. But I guess I was warmed up or something, and I found myself getting ahead of schedule. When I got to 49, I was almost 40 seconds up, and I didn’t want to crawl up the last two floors just for the sake of stubbornly staying on schedule. So I just kept going and came out on 51 at 10:43.

Again, the elevator ride down took a bit over 6 minutes. Seemed like forever.

The third and fourth times up, I managed to keep to my schedule, getting up to 51 in 11:18 and 11:22. That was good, since I’ve never been able to maintain that pace on the fourth climb after doing a fast first climb. So that’s good. The bad news was that in between climbs three and four, the elevator ride down took a full nine minutes. That meant that I started the fourth climb at 6:55, and the way things were going, I pretty much knew that there was no chance of making it up and back down before the closed the door at 7:10. And that’s what happened. The ride back down took forever once again, and I got back to the start at 7:12. They were just closing the door, and they wouldn’t let any of us go up again. So that was the end of the vertical kilometer.

Still, it was a good outing.


Climbing the artificial mountain

Filed under: — stan @ 9:00 pm

It’s Monday, and time for more fun and frolic on the staircase. Today’s goal was to try and help my friend Morgan do a vertical kilometer. In this case, that’s five times up the 51 stories of the Figueroa-Wilshire building. Each time is 1,181 steps and 210 meters of climbing.

We had a good group going downtown today. We met up on the Metro and rode the train there. Walking up to the building, we saw that it has a new logo on top. It said ‘pwc’. I suppose that stands for something boring like Pricewaterhouse Coopers, but we thought it was funnier to think it stood for ‘Puking While Climbing’.

We got signed in and headed up the stairs. I did a moderate pace, aiming at climbing the 51 stories in about 11:15-11:32. That meant that we’d do nine floors every two minutes. Chris stayed with me, and I watched the time to see that we stayed on pace. We made it up in 11:21 the first time, and Morgan wasn’t too far behind. We hit the button to call the elevator for the trip down.

Last week I did the vertical kilometer at practice, and that time the elevator trips back down averaged about 5:30 each time. So I figured that if we could get up the stairs in less than 12 minutes each time, we’d have a chance of doing four climbs before they closed the door at 7:10. And as long as we could get back in the door by 7:10, we’d be good for a fifth time up.

The next three times, Chris and I went up together, and I kept the pace pretty precisely. This is the first time I’ve ever done multiple climbs at almost exactly the same pace every time. Sadly, Morgan fell off the pace on the third and fourth times up, and when we got to the top of the fourth climb it was already 7:15. So we’d missed the cutoff. But we still did four climbs, and that adds up to 1/2 mile vertical, which is still quite a bit.

The final tally was: 204 floors, 2.756 feet, 840 meters. My total climbing time for that was 45:21. That works out that I was making 230 watts of useful power for 45 minutes. I really can’t complain too much about that.


Oil, Part Two – Edward Doheny and the City Oil Field

Filed under: — stan @ 5:34 pm

Last month, we did a bike tour of the oil fields of Los Angeles. Today’s ride is the second part of our tour of the history of oil in L.A. Today, we visited sites related to Edward Doheny and the Los Angeles City Oil Field.

The route took us downtown to start. We rode through downtown and then headed west on Adams. Then we turned into the Mt. Saint Mary’s Doheny Campus, which is the site of Doheny’s mansion. The guard at the gate didn’t want to let us ride onto the campus to see it. A college campus where bicycles are not allowed? Really? I think that’s absurd. We duly noted his warning, and rode in anyway. The mansion was quite impressive. Apparently, this tract of land used to be a gated community with lots of mansions, but over time, Doheny bought the whole thing, and in the end, he willed it to the college.

The campus is also the site of another oil drilling island, this one the easternmost of the Las Cienegas’ oil field. It had a high wall around it, so it wasn’t obvious, aside from the mechanical sounds and slight oil smell coming from it.

Heading west, we rode to Hancock Park and our snack stop at Noah’s Bagels in Larchmont Village. We saw the puppy we’d met last month there again. He’d grown considerably. After that, we started for home.

We rode east, back toward downtown Los Angeles. Then we headed up to our second stop, which is the last producing oil well in the L.A. City Oil Field. It’s one block east of Alvarado St, in a little fenced-off lot. Word is it produces something like 3.5 barrels of oil a day.

Continuing north into Echo Park, we arrived at the Echo Park Pool. The parking lot there was the site of Edward Doheny’s original well on the City Oil Field. This was the first well dug that produced significant oil from that field, and it set off an oil rush that lasted for many years.

From there, we headed north, passing through Angelino Heights and all the old Victorian mansions there. Then we rode past Dodger Stadium. They had just opened the gates for a game that afternoon. But the traffic wasn’t too bad. We rode through Elysian Park and then home by way of Figueroa St.

It was a nice ride, with some interesting sights.

48 miles.


More in metal fatigue

Filed under: — stan @ 7:14 am

Here’s the latest installment in my ongoing series, “I’ve never seen one of these break before!”

Yesterday, when I was riding in to work, I noticed that my bike seat felt weird. Like the seatpost was loose. So when I got to the office, I had a look, and I saw that one of the saddle rails had broken. At which point I said, “I’ve never seen one of these break before!”

So when I got home, I replaced the saddle with a spare one I had lying around. So everything is good.

Part one of the series is here:

Part two is here:

And part three here:


Back to the Stairwell

Filed under: — stan @ 9:39 pm

It’s summer, and time to start practice for the U.S. Bank Tower stair climb in September. This year, the YMCA people arranged for us to practice in the Wilshire-Figueroa building downtown. This is the same building where they hold the Cystic Fibrosis stair climb in December. It’s a nice stairway. 51 stories, 1,181 steps to the 51st floor. Of course, I made a chart of it.

The practice sessions are on Monday and Wednesday evenings, from 6 to 7:30. I took the train there, walked to the building, signed the waivers, and then I was ready to go. Ready to go, that is, aside from the feeling of dread one gets before walking up the stairs for more than 50 stories. For some reason, the feeling of dread was stronger tonight than usual. So I decided to take it easy for this first time out. I figured I’d do a moderate pace, and maybe be able to do five climbs, which would add up to a vertical kilometer. I did a vertical kilometer in practice at the Aon building last winter. So even though the practice time is an hour and a half instead of two hours, I thought it was possible.

The first three were pretty easy. I started to slow down noticeably on the fourth climb. They had said that they would close the door at 7:10, so I had to start my final climb before then. But when I started the fourth, it was only 6:45, so I knew I’d be able to get in five. I got in the stairwell at 7:05 for my final climb. As could be expected, the fifth time up was a bit of an ordeal. But I made it.

Afterward, I changed into a dry shirt for the ride home. I didn’t have any place to change pants, though. So I just put my shorts on over my sweat-soaked running shorts. On the train home, I sat on the floor, since I didn’t want to make a wet sweat spot on the cloth seats on the trains. And when I got off the train in Pasadena, I was treated to a view of a very nice sunset.

The final tally was five ascents, 255 floors, 5,905 steps, 3,445 feet, 1,050 meters. Yikes. Of course, I’ll be back on Monday to do it again.


Still more stuff I see while riding my bike

Filed under: — stan @ 10:53 pm

A couple years ago, I saw a guy riding a large tricycle with a tall mast on it across campus. It had Google all over it, and the guy was taking pictures for Street View.

Of course, I stopped and took some pictures. And now we can see the picture from both sides.

Here’s the link:,-118.126652&spn=0.002229,0.007446&t=m&z=17&layer=c&cbll=34.137825,-118.126648&panoid=Ahxi8zkIsxoo6tI_fNgqbg&cbp=12,352.65,,0,11.93


The Chandelier Tree

Filed under: — stan @ 2:36 pm

Last week, I ran across a story about a tree in Silver Lake that is decorated with vintage chandeliers. So of course, I thought we should go see it. I looked up where it is, and it’s just a block off our regular route into Hollywood. So with a little modification, our Fern Dell route would take us there. It was a nice day for riding. And as an extra bonus, on the way back, we would go down the L.A. River bike path, and maybe get to see where flaming gasoline poured into the river from the tanker truck crash on the Glendale Freeway last night.

The ride down to Silver Lake went by pretty fast. We got there and turned up the side street off Rowena Ave, and there was the tree. It would be nice to see it at night some time. I brought along some quarters to put in the parking meter out front to contribute to the electric bill for lighting the tree.

After seeing the tree, we rode up into Griffith Park. We went by the Greek Theater and up to the observatory. And after a few minutes rest up there, we went down the hill to Fern Dell. When we got to The Trails cafe, there was a long line. This is a nice place, but they’re not particularly fast in their service, and with that long of a line, we thought it might take a very long time. So we turned around and rode back up over the hill to Toluca Lake and Priscilla’s.

After snacks, we headed back, down the L.A. River bike path. Just past Fletcher, the path was cordoned off, and there was a police car there to keep people from going on the section of the path where it goes under the freeway. I presume that was because that was the portion of the freeway that was potentially damaged by the fire last night. So we took the detour, which went by Rattlesnake Park. That was good for a photo-op on the rattlesnake. Then we got back on the path below the area where the fire was, and we continued on our way.

We rode back by way of Highland Park. It was a pleasant ride.

51 miles.


Turnbull Canyon

Filed under: — stan @ 5:20 pm

Today’s bike club ride was the old Turnbull Canyon route. No particular sightseeing along the way this time. It was a nice day for riding, and on the way up the canyon, we met up with a big group from Long Beach. I guess that the ride to Whittier from Long Beach is pretty comparable to the ride from Pasadena. On the way back, we stopped off at Merengue in Monrovia for snacks.

48 miles.



Filed under: — stan @ 5:12 pm

This week, I heard that there is talk of fracking in the Inglewood oil field here in Los Angeles. I used to go through that oil field every day on my way to and from work back in my Hughes Aircraft days in the late ’80s. That got me to remember how I’d done a bike tour a few years ago to see some of the disguised oil wells that are scattered around Los Angeles. And just to add to that, my friend at work made up a map of all the oil drilling spots that he knew of in L.A., overlaid with all of the earthquakes in the basin for the last 30 years. It was interesting to see how there were some obvious clusters of small earthquakes around some of the oil fields. We’re having a heat wave this weekend, and heading west towards the coast meant it would be somewhat less hot for us. So I thought it was time to take the bike club on an oil field tour.

That is, of course, different from “a three-hour tour”. That’s a different 1960s TV show. This one is about the guy who struck oil and got rich. The funny thing is, Jed Clampett struck oil and got rich, so he moved to Beverly Hills, which sits on top of large oil field. Go figure.

Back in the 1960s, Standard Oil put out a brochure for homeowners in the west Los Angeles area to explain how they could be living on top of an active oil field. And through the magic of the Internet, we can read it today:

We started off by riding to downtown Los Angeles. Passing City Hall, we saw the preparations for Mayor Garcetti’s inauguration later in the day. Our first stop was the St. James Oil Company’s drilling yard just south of downtown. This is the only drilling island for the downtown oil field. We had visited this place once before, on the Tour de Oozing Oil in 2006.

We continued south out of downtown, and then headed west on Adams Blvd. Along the way, we passed a wall that we all thought looked like another oil island. I looked it up when I got home, and it was indeed one. It was the Adams and Gramercy drilling island, which is one of four on the Las Cienegas Oil Field, which goes roughly from about USC to somewhere west of Crenshaw. There are three other islands that work this field, so I see another oil field tour in our future.

The second official stop was the Pico and Genessee drilling island. This is the easternmost drilling site that taps the Beverly Hills Oil Field. The building looks like it could be a county administration building, complete with a big glass lobby in front, but it’s enclosed by a locked fence.

Continuing west, we came to the Cardiff well site at Pico and Doheny. This is a two-part site, with one building having a tall tower to enclose the drilling rig, and then a second building across the street that looks like a 1960s-style bank, where the storage tanks and so forth are kept.

It was about this time that I was talking to the group. We were talking about oil, thinking about oil, smelling oil. And I said, “this whole ride is about oil, so whose chain is squeaking?!?”

Our next sightseeing stop was the drilling center next to the Beverly Center. This one taps the Salt Lake Oil Field and the smaller San Vicente Oil Field. It’s so unobtrusive that most people who go to that mall don’t even notice that it’s there.

Heading east again, we passed Fairfax Ave and the exploding Ross Dress For Less store. Then we rode up the back side of The Grove to see one more drilling site that was recently shut down. That concluded our oil field tour, and we headed east to Hancock Park and bagels at Noah’s in Larchmont.

The trip home was pretty uneventful. Both John and GT got flats. By this time, it was pretty hot. and the last part of the ride began to resemble the Retreat from Moscow, but hot instead of cold. In Eagle Rock, Stewart took a detour on the sidewalk just to ride through some sprinklers. Still, we made it home all right. And it was a fun time.

52 miles.


A day with the animals

Filed under: — stan @ 8:48 pm

On Sunday after the Towerthon, we spent the day playing tourist in San Diego. In our case, that meant having breakfast with my father, and then going to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park in Escondido. It was a perfect day to be outside, so that worked out well. Lucinda asked if she could do the zipline this time, so we got tickets for her and London to do that.

It was a fun and entertaining day. Highlights included feeding time for the meerkats, the new lemur exhibit, where Kathleen got closely inspected by one of the residents, and the baby antelope running around it its enclosure. Pictures of the zipline adventure are in Lucinda’s album. And the best of the animal pictures I took that day are here.

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