Archive for February, 2013


Yeah, so early this afternoon I took a crappy iPhone cam snap of this parkway tree backed by a church in Echo Park and ran it through the fauxtograph cycle wherein it emerged as this somewhat stylized shot (click it for the bigger picture), all to represent what an absolutely gawd-beautiful day it is here in the lovely 90026 and perhaps to brighten anyone it mighten.

My weather app is telling me it’s only 75 degrees, but it feels like nothing less than 80 and and something more than perfect.

PS. I used to know what tree this was, but it has since escaped me.


The marker in the top left of the image (click it for the bigger picture) is the bottom of what’s referred to as Nike Hill in Whittier and the marker in the bottom right is the top. In between those two point, it’s 1.81 miles at an average grade of 9%. To put that grade percentage into context, it’s usually at the start of a 7% descent on a highway that signage will be found warning motorists to “Watch Downhill Speed.” In other words, while it ain’t anywhere close to the hellacious steepness of the 32%-33% grades found nearby to me on Echo Park’s Baxter and Fargo streets, Nike Hill’s incline is one worthy of respect, especially if you are tasked with running from the bottom to the top, which I had to do yesterday afternoon at the end of a long day of training.

If you want me to get technical, Nike Hill doesn’t really begin until the top of that distinct outward bend you see in the first segment of the route. From there it’s 1.5 miles at an overall 8.5% grade. But for me as a student at Rio Hondo College in its public safety training program, the runs we do up it start just outside the campus’ Administration of Justice Building, adding about a third of a mile and a couple hundred more feet of elevation gain.

Nike Hill is not so known because of some naming rights agreement entered into with the shoe company. It is called what it is because at that end point is what once was Nike Missile Site LA-14, in operation between 1956-1961, one of hundreds built across the country and 16 active in Los Angeles during the Cold War era.

The Fort MacArthur Museum website states:

Nike missiles were launched from a self-contained launch area. Each site was equipped with two or three launching platforms each with an underground storage magazine, an elevator and four missile erectors. The missiles were stored underground on rails and were brought to the surface by an elevator. Once on the surface, they were pushed on rails to an erector and with the proper electrical and hydraulic connections completed, raised to an angle of about 85 degrees for firing. The Nike missiles employed the “command guidance” system in which the major control equipment was ground-based and not part of the expendable missile. The missiles were guided from a control area located at least 1000 yards from the launch area. It contained the radar equipment for acquiring and tracking the target and missile. Separate radars simultaneously located and tracked both the target and the Nike missile. Data from these radars was fed to the electronic computer which sent “commands” to the missile in flight to guide it to the target.

The installations were designed in the 1950s to defend against the primary strategic attack threat of the time, large formations of long-range bombers. Initially, the missiles onhand were the Nike-Ajax, supersonic anti-aircraft variety.

From “The Missiles of Los Angeles,” via Los Angeles Almanac:

In 1958, the Army began upgrading its Nike missile sites in the Los Angeles area from the Nike-Ajax missile to the more powerful and longer-range Nike-Hercules missile. The new missile could also be armed with a nuclear warhead.

Today the site hosts a set of radio relay towers, and one helluva view on a clear day. And it’s interesting to me that the control area mentioned above was located on the grounds of what eventually became Rio Hondo College, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. On a side note, being about 15 months away from my 50th anniversary, it’s some consolation that I’m not physically older than the institution I’m attending.

But speaking of physically older, I surprise myself by doing all right with this asskicker of a run. It wasn’t at all pretty or noble, but I managed to drag and trudge and flail my 48-year-old butt to the top in 19:57, finishing fourth among my fellow cadets. This with an ongoing aggravated sciatic nerve issue down my left leg and some sort of newly realized mobility limiter in my right ankle.

It’s a stretch, but perhaps my relative success with this run can be traced genetically back to a Scottish ancestry well-acclimated and conditioned to traversing up and down the Scottish highlands. More than likely, I’m simply driven by the knowledge that the sooner I get to the top, the sooner the agony stops.


photoCan’t say the meteorologists didn’t warn me. They certainly didn’t up-play the potential rainfall yesterday’s very cold storm might drop. Still, given how it was a-brewing aaaaaall day long and how our backyard for whatever reason tends to be the beneficiary of rainfall totals greater than the average, I harbored hopes there might be a drenching, up until I dashed them in the late afternoon when nary more than the occasional sprinkle had sprunkled. Or is it sprankled?

By this morning the distant San Gabriel ridges visible from our Silver Lake bedroom were dusted nicely with the white stuff, but as for the wet stuff closer to home, our precipitometer tabulated less than one-third of an inch — officially: 0.30″ — not near close to the minimal amount needed to move us upward into the next inch mark.

February 19: 0.30″Season Total: 16.87″

With a rare Friday off from my public safety training schedule, I decided to schedule my third outing since the Glendale Trail Safety Patrol started two weeks ago. I was joined by fellow volunteer Mark Kobayashi and we traversed the distance up Las Flores Motorway, making a stop at Tongva Peak before continuing on to check out the uppermost section of the pretty much abandoned Skyline Motorway. Once there we headed back down the way we came.

The route was 8.55 miles total under absolutely fantastic summer conditions on such a winter’s day.

I was saddened to learn today from LA Observed that master burrito maker Manuel Rojas, owner of the famed El Tepeyac restaurant in Boyle Heights, has died. Susan and I were introduced to the legendary eatery by our friends Arnold and Martha Ontes, who took us there back in 2005, under the stipulation that I promise to eat what they ordered for me.

When our server showed up, Arnold quickly ordered a “Manuel’s Special.” But wouldn’t divulge what the catch was. Did it arrive flaming? Was it the spiciest burrito ever? There lips were sealed. In a show of solidarity, Susan decided to get the same thing and both Arnold and Martha and our server chuckled knowingly.

In a nutshell, the Manuel’s Special is basically two square feet of burrito. It is just about the biggest thing to occupy a plate that I’ve ever seen. When it arrived, the sight of such ginormosity alone was almost enough to take away the intense hunger pangs I was experiencing, but I dug in as best I could. Susan took a few bites of hers, and gave up. I managed to put away about 1/15th of the delicious burrito later before quitting. Ambitiously we got to-go containers and hefted the leftovers home thinking we’d have some more for dinner, but we were just kidding ourselves.

I went there next in 2006. I organized a Boyle Heights bike ride from Echo Park whose midway point was El Tepeyac. This time I ordered the still gargantuan (but markedly smaller) Hollenbeck Burrito — another of Rojas’ creations — for the price of $6.65, pictured below:


As you can see from that quarter I added for scale next to the plate, the Hollenbeck is still a monster, but far less intimidating than the Manuel’s Special.

I made the mistake of eating pretty much the whole dang thing — nd I say “mistake,” not because it wasn’t delicious, but because I then had to ride all the gut-busted way home from Boyle Heights to Silver Lake, and parts of that roll were pretty painful.

I haven’t been back since because I think I’m still digesting parts of it.

Rest in peace, Señor Rojas. Maker of the best burritos ever.



Yeah, I know… I know. The east side of the country is digging out from massive amounts of snow dropped  by the latest monster winter storm, so this outdoor encounter doesn’t hold a 1000th of a drop of candlewax, but since fleeting hail is about the only organic frozen stuff I ever get rare occasion to encounter around these here Southern California parts, you’ll have to pardon me being fascinated with this singular patch of what’s called “graupel” I found below this magnificently mossy north-facing rock while about 2,400 feet up in the Verdugos between the Brand and Whiting Woods motorways as part of my latest Glendale Trail Safety Patrol yesterday.

Graupel (graw-pull) is the ungainly and term that seems to be just about the last thing meteorologist types would call the stage of precipitation that basically exists between hail and snow. I prefer to refer to the mixture via a mash-up of the words snow and hail to make “snail.”

Regardless of what it’s called, the one thing that can hopefully be agreed upon is that it was freakin’ cold enough up there at such a relatively low elevation to produce this stuff. I know that at the end of the patrol my nearly frost-bitten fingers wouldn’t argue that in the slightest.

Back last September, I was apparently the only one in the world who DIDN’T know of the existence of resistance bands and how they can aid those such as myself who are pull-up challenged (meaning with my long-ass arms, weak upperbody strength and my 200-plus pound bulk I could barely do one).

Since then, I’ve made some progress, but not much. I’ve gotten pretty good at doing assisted pull-ups but if I’m lucky I’m only able to do two without the bands (and the second one isn’t pretty).

So now I’ve turned it up a notch. Instead of occasionally cranking out one, two or three sets of 10, I’ve raised the bar so to speak and now do 10 sets daily of what’s shown in this clip: 10 pull-ups with the last one followed by a 10-second hold at the top. Then two more and a five-second hold. Basically I do this once every hour from the time I get up until I have to leave in the afternoon. With this extra dedication, determination and effort (which will eventually be doubled to twice an hour) I’m looking forward to finally weaning myself off the resistance band and getting to the point where I can count off five of the suckers completely on my own.

Equipment used:
Iron Gym
Workoutz Heavy Duty Resistance Band