Ride-a-Roni – A San Francisco Geek

If you live in San Francisco (or as the locals call it, “Sani DiFranco”) you know the signs for the 49 Mile Scenic Drive, but you’ve probably never done it.

Everyone enjoys a paraphrased Wikipedia page

The first scenic drive didn’t have an official name. It was a car tour of the city set up for FDR. After that the San Francisco Down Town Association came up with a 50 mile drive, but that quickly switched to the current 49 Mile Scenic Drive name. Why 49? To link it to the Forty-Niners.

The miners, not the football team.

Just make it more confusing, the 49-instead-of-50 Mile Scenic Drive is 46.9 miles long, because that’s the approximate square mileage of the city, and everyone enjoys a casual link between measurements of distance and area.

The original 49 mile route looked like this:

Map not to scale (or legible).

It started at City Hall, but ended at Treasure Island for the Golden Gate International Exhibition. When the exhibition closed in 1940 and the navy took over Treasure Island, the drive was rerouted to end where it started. It’s been modified a few times since then.

The original signs marking the route were pretty plain. The seagull design showed up in the fifties. If you’re planning to navigate the path purely by following the signs, good luck- they get stolen a lot.

City Hall

City Hall was completed in 1899, after nearly thirty years of planning and construction. Eight years later, it was destroyed by the 1906 Earthquake. That’s not a great ratio of construction to function. They should have waited to build it until after they decided to have the quake. Poor planning, really. The current City Hall was designed and built by 1915 so it could be ready for the 1915 Pan Pacific International Exposition.

If you’d been there in January 1954, you might have seen Marilyn Monroe & Joe DiMaggio stopping by to get married.

And if you were there in fictional 1936, you might have seen Indiana Jones hanging around with Marion Ravenwood.

Don’t look too closely into their ages unless you want to get creeped out.

Forget it, Jake. This is a different Chinatown.

When Grant Avenue was still Dupont Street, it was not exactly a fun tourist location, unless you were really into opium dens, brothels, and Tong Wars. After the 1906 earthquake it was rebuilt and renamed after Ulysses S. Grant.

Chinatown is the setting of the 1986 Kurt Russell action-fantasy movie Big Trouble in Little China. The biggest fantasy of the film? Someone driving a big rig through Chinatown.

Not buying it, Jack Burton.

Fisherman Worf

Yeah, I know this is dumb.

The most important thing about Fisherman’s Wharf is that it was where James Bond met CIA agent Chuck Lee in the 1985 smash hit film A VIEW TO A KILL!

This guy’s undercover gig: work all day at a fish shop. Spies have boring jobs.

Okay, this post is getting long, and I’d like to get it posted before I die, so I’m going to stop for now. Maybe I’ll do a Part II later. Don’t bet the ranch on that.

…but if you’d like to read about how Katherine & I got back together, you can read this ancient block of stuff I wrote for a creative writing class a couple of decades ago. It’s how I remembered it then, though I remember some of it differently now. Brains are weird.

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Failure and donuts

First, the failure

Every semester I tell my students the same thing: “I want you to fail.” Then I explain that I don’t mean that I want them to always fail. What I hope is that they will try things they don’t know how to do, things they might not have any idea how to accomplish. If they do that, they are pretty much guaranteed to not always succeed. But they will learn how to accept and deal with things going wrong. This is an important skill. Things always go wrong, and failure is normal. And they’ll learn some things that don’t work, so the next time they try to do a similar project they’ll already have made progress toward the solution.

Another thing: my students often get frustrated when things don’t work and abandon projects without turning in their attempts. I always tell them to turn in their challenging projects, even if they are incomplete. The failures are important. Something that a student labored over and could not get to work is much more impressive than something a student knocked out without a struggle.

Now I’m staring at a personal failure. Even worse: because the challenge goes until June 30th, t won’t officially be a failure for three weeks. I technically could still do the final 1400 or so miles, if I rode around 65 miles a day, every day until the end of the month.

That’s not going to happen.

So: failure is coming. What am I learning? What benefits were there? What skills did I get for other projects?

I learned that I can raise money for a good cause, a valuable skill. I learned that if I set a goal for a project I should build in more time to work on it than I think I’ll need to complete it. I definitely got better at riding, particularly hills. And I reconfirmed my knowledge that people are awesome. My failure is the foundation of my next success.

Man, I’m deep.

Now, the donuts…

Donut Time was the location of Tangerine, a film by Sean Baker. It was shot completely on iPhones. It received a ton of awards and nominations. I’ve never watched it, and I’m not sure why. Baker’s follow-up, The Florida Project, was probably my favorite film of 2017.

I never had a donut from Donut Time, and I’ve never had one from Magee’s. I’ve had Trejo’s, but it was near closing time when I went and the donuts weren’t fresh, so I can’t accurately judge them.

…and the ice cream

I’m not surprised that I couldn’t get ice cream at the drive through. Most places won’t serve a bike, even though they’ll serve a motorcycle. However, I was a bit surprised that I could bring my bike into the store, even though it’s no dirtier than walking. I’m guessing if it had been crowded I would have had more resistance, but there were only two other people in the giant store.

That particular store is the one closest to Baskin-Robbin’s corporate office, so it’s bigger and fancier than most shops. It also gets fun promotions. A couple of years ago, it was turned into Scoops Ahoy as a Stranger Things promotion.

Great. Now I want MORE ice cream.

Ol’ 55

I know how to party

I didn’t realize until I got home that my fun birthday ride featured two different cemeteries. I know how to party.

But technically, Forest Lawn doesn’t call itself a cemetery; it’s a memorial park. A traditional cemetery only has things directly related to dead body stuff. Graves, markers, maybe a chapel or a mortuary. A memorial park actually downplays a lot of the “dead people” aspect of death. It features things like lush lawns and pieces of art (both originals and copies). The memorial park style of graveyard has been mocked since it was created. In 1965, The Loved One was a popular movie based on a book about a barely disguised Forest Lawn.

Evergreen Cemetery, on the other hand, is a cemetery. I promised I’d talk about Biddy Mason and name some important people buried there, so:

  • Biddy Mason has a story that’s way too interesting to cram into a sentence or two in a silly blog post. The National Park Service has a biography that gives an outline of the most significant parts of her life. It’s well worth reading.
  • Mary Foy was the first female head of the Los Angeles Public Library
  • Eddie Anderson, who played Rochester on the Jack Benny Show
  • Matthew Beard, AKA Stymie from the Little Rascals

Also: A Chinese potter’s field that was found on First Street was moved there when the city was expanding, and THOUSANDS of unclaimed bodies have been cremated and interred there.

A Bridge Once Too Far

Alex Baum, who the Baum Bicycle Bridge is named after, was a concentration camp survivor who became the head of LA’s Bicycling Advisory Committee.

1019 Foot Queenie

The LA Times posted about The Queen Mary’s struggles on June 1st. On my birthday the city of Long Beach announced that they have taken control of the ship and will fully restore it.

I’ve been on the Queen Mary exactly once. I officiated a wedding there for two friends on Halloween. Yes, I can officiate your wedding. My price: you have to feed me.

Tubey, or Not Tubey

I probably could have patched that tube and made it home, but my brain was too fried to think of that. Today’s plan: An exciting trip to buy more tubes! I KNOW HOW TO PARTY (as stated above).

Mulva?

Renaming Jordan Middle School was a good idea. Not only was Jordan a eugenicist, he also once helped to cover up a murder of a colleague. Yeah, he was a peach.

Dolores Huerta, on the other hand, is awesome. She turned 91 in April and she’s still at it! Here’s a link to the Dolores Huerta Foundation for Community Organizing.

I did have one tiny issue with the school being named after her. There are three middle schools in Burbank, and they we’re all originally named after naturalists; the other two are John Muir and Luther Burbank. It would have been cool if they could have found another naturalist for the new name. But as I said this is a tiny issue, roughly on the level of “you gave me this awesome mansion but this one closet still has some stuff hanging in it.”

Tomorrow: a big ride. WHEEEEE!

I do the rock, myself.

Okay, I might be able to do this crazy 350 miles a week thing if I keep my rides slow and flat. I did a bit over 50 today, and it wasn’t horrible. I could have gone farther, but I have a really long ride coming up and I didn’t want to fry myself. It’s going to be a challenge, but I’m going to try!

Total mileage so far: 3,596.82 miles. Only 1,403.18 to go! Easy peasy.

There’s talk of adding bike and bus lanes to Colorado in Eagle Rock. I hope it happens. Here’s one set of plans.

There sure have been a lot of bad movies about Area 51.

I almost feel sorry for Ellen. Not quite, but almost.

28 days left!

I should watch this to prepare.

Or maybe this.

Title source:

Two of many rides

I rode a bunch this month, but hardly shot anything, so you get footage from about one tenth of the last month’s rides and a bonus talking head thing at the end.

I learned most of what I know about Richie Valens the same way everyone else my age did: by watching La Bamba. Years later when I saw an actual picture of the guy I thought “That can’t be right- that guy doesn’t look anything like Lou Diamond Phillips.”

Donna’s not any closer in appearance, but at least they managed to hire an actress born in the San Fernando Valley.

In addition to being a film location, apparently The Pink Motel has hosted multiple skateboarding events. I’m not surprised that it’s used so much as a film/tv/event location, because there is nothing anywhere near the place that would make you want to stay there.

The place looked a lot greeners when I took this picture 13 years ago.

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Twenty-nine days to go!

Man, that was a long video

Eight minutes? Crazy.

Some stuff that wasn’t in the video:

  • When I worked at Germain the mascot was a Viking with a sword. After I left they decided a cute little guy stabbing things was not the best idea for an elementary school mascot. They are now the Mustangs. They also changed from an elementary school to an “Academy for Academic Achievement.”
  • There are many versions of The Oregon Trail, but the iconic one (and the one my students played) was a black and white (well, black and green) version of this version. It was supposed to teach you about the difficulty of a wagon trip across the United States, but most kids would just buy a bunch of bullets and shoot stuff for the whole class.
  • The Apple IIc Plus was an impressive computer for its time. It had an internal 3.5″ drive when most computers still ran off 5.25″ floppies. It plugged in to any TV if you had an adapter (or a TV with RCA jacks) and a carrying handle, so it was very portable. PCs at the time were usually giant boxes with dedicated monitors.
  • The name for hitting something to make it work is percussive maintenance.
  • I forgot to say what the Howard Colonial had to do with the Red Car. It was an electrical substation for the line. An article about the urban legend that automakers (not Judge Doom) conspired to kill the Red Car. Also, Militant Angeleno has created a map of Red Car information.
  • There’s a short history of the Idle Hour on Atlas Obscura, one of my favorite sites to find weird places to visit.
  • Eddie Brandt’s Saturday Matinee is fighting to survive. Their Facebook page says that most of the business is “in limbo,” but you can still get old movie stills and photos through mail order.
  • I wonder if Arturo still owns my old apartment building.
  • Iliad Bookshop is a great place to nose around for odd books. I don’t know how it works in COVID times, but pre-pandemic you could grab a stack of books, sit in a comfy chair, and poke through them to find something you wanted to read. Support your local bookstore!
  • I have no idea what the model of that classic car is, but it is a glory to behold. Pictures do not do it justice.

BRB. BBQ.

Brisket

Dr. Hogly Wogly’s Tyler Texas BBQ has been in the same spot in Panorama City since they opened in 1969. They’d probably be huge if they were in a more accessible part of the Valley, but they can’t (easily) move because they wouldn’t be able to get a permit elsewhere for a barbeque pit.

Dr. Hogly Wogly was an actual person. “Doc” Johnny Greene was a pharmacist from Tyler who worked for Piggly Wiggly, a Southern supermarket chain. He was a big guy, so they called him Hogly Wogly.

Seriously, you want to get the brisket.

Valley Relics

There are actually TWO museums dedicated to the San Fernando Valley. Valley Relics was founded in 2013 by Tommy Gelinas, and it’s his personal attempt to collect as much of the pop culture of the San Fernando Valley possible. It’s a little loose about what constitutes “The Valley.” It’s more like “mostly from the Valley, but if there’s somewhere close that Valley kids used to visit we’ll take stuff from there, too.” When a business with a distinct sign closes, they try to swoop in and grab it before it disappears. I hope they got the sign from Four ‘N 20, the place where I used to get banana fudge pie. I miss you, banana fudge pie.

The other museum has the much more formal title of The Museum of the San Fernando Valley. It was founded in 2005 at Los Angeles Valley College. With the more formal title comes more formal exhibits. Lots of photographs and carefully researched articles, very few physical bits of pop culture from the past. It’s also been around about eight years longer.

Legends of the Fall

I fell on my bike. It was dumb. I wasn’t going fast. I was on a bit of dirt, but it was hard packed. I should have been fine, but instead decided to tear up my knee and forearm, and apparently thrash my back as well. That’s okay- it’s not like I’m planning to ride 230 miles a week or something.

FIVE K!

The thing I was most worried about when I signed up for the TogetheRide was the fundraising. I hate fundraising. Even when I know it’s for a good cause, I have a very hard time asking people for money. I set my goal at their suggested low end – $3000 – and started riding. When I passed that I didn’t officially change my goal, but I secretly hoped I’d get to $5000.

Yesterday it happened. I’ve now raised five thousand dollars and ninety-five cents. Some of that is me, some of that is matching donations (which is why I threw in money- those had limits on time and available funds), but most of that is you. Thanks for being awesome.

…and remember: you can still donate! Together we can raise even more cash for these organizations. Go here now and put in a couple of bucks! IT FEELS GOOD.

One more thing: I pointed out the “polka-dot neck thing” like it was somehow directly related to TogetheRide. It’s not. It just happened to match the jersey, so I decided that Fate wanted me to wear it.

Sweep the leg

I can’t believe I forgot to stop at the LaRusso’s apartment. It’s probably the most recognizable location from the movie.

Almost four decades later and it looks almost the same. Probably got a bit of fixing up thanks to the Cobra Kai series.

I almost stopped at Mr. Miyagi’s house, but they didn’t shoot the part you see from the street. It just looks like a house surrounded by a wood fence that could use a little “paint fence up down.”

Another thing to notice about Ali’s house: listen to the ambient noise. Down in The Valley everywhere is surrounded by cars. Up in the hills it’s quiet. So quiet that I’m practically using my “library voice.”

If you’re wondering why I didn’t include any Cobra Kai locations, it’s because they shoot most of the show in Georgia. That’s also why I didn’t go to the Golf ‘n’ Stuff, which is not even close to the San Fernando Valley. My guess: the script originally had them go to Castle Park in Sherman Oaks, but it was easier/cheaper to film in Downey. And a trip to Leo Carrillo Beach would have added more than sixty miles and 3000 feet of climb to my ride.

I should do more “SFV as a film location” videos. I could do a bunch just on the movies of Paul Thomas Anderson.