Hiking to the Hollywood Sign


It’s become a thing with me to not make a big deal about my birthday – I just don’t. In fact up until a few years ago, I worked on my birthday because I felt like it.

But with this job giving me Personal Days and whatnot, I decided last year to take the day off and hit all the local eateries that were offering free birthday foods (I started signing up in November 2016 for every one I could find). It was fun but still just…meh.

So about a month before The Big 49, I had decided to do something different and something I had always wanted to do: hike to the Hollywood sign. It used to be pretty easy to access but over the years, the locals got tired of tourists and adventurers parking on the street and the sign was an easy target for vandals as well.

That’s no longer the case. It’s clean, guarded 24/7, and there is no longer parking on Beechwood Drive. Things have definitely changed.

Knowing this, I had to figure out a few things before I made my way up there, like parking and, you know, which trails to take. But once I did I was pretty excited to start my local adventure.

It took about an hour – typical drive time – to get to Canyon Drive, the place where the trails begin. And because it was the middle of the week I had no trouble finding a parking spot. On the weekend? Forget it.

So with my backpack strapped on my back, GoPro* mounted to a stick in hand, I locked up the car and made my way.

Before you venture in, there’s a map of all of the trails you can take in the area. It’s hard to believe this is in Los Angeles, right?

Photo Feb 14, 9 44 55 AM
(Click to embiggen)

Photo Feb 14, 12 34 58 PM
The fire danger is always high around here

As part of my pre-hike preparation I had already looked up all the trails and marked my intended route on my Endomondo fitness tracking app so I wouldn’t get lost. Naturally, I took the longest route which is a little over 5k (3.22 miles). Because I’m a fool.

Need proof? Look at the picture below. This is near the start of the trail and you can barely see the sign or the radio/TV towers on top of Mt. Lee.

Photo Feb 14, 9 53 20 AM
(Click to embiggen)

I would get there eventually but oh, there are hills to climb. This was maybe just under a mile into the hike.

Photo Feb 14, 10 09 58 AM

It was about here when I learned something: hiking is not walking. I normally walk at a brisk pace and I started out that way but it sure didn’t last. I toned it down a bit for the rest of my trek.

The trails are clearly marked and that’s a good thing. A bunch of hills and valleys later, I came across this sign and took a little break for air and water. Just under a mile to go!

Photo Feb 14, 10 12 24 AM

While on the way up, I passed a few groups of tourists riding horseback on the trail. From what I could gather, they only stay on the dirt trails and don’t ride up to the sign – it’s much to steep for them. But wow, they are such majestic creatures, aren’t they?

Photo Feb 14, 10 15 16 AM

Here’s a little something you may not know. From a distance, the Hollywood sign looks all nice and straight but if you look closer at the image below, you’ll see just how misaligned it really it. In fact, the first O looks to be the farthest out of them all.

And hey, I’m getting closer!

Photo Feb 14, 10 27 17 AM
(Click to embiggen)

This is the final trail: Mt. Lee Drive. This wraps around and ends at the Hollywood sign.

Photo Feb 14, 10 43 28 AM

If you look to the right, you get a spectacular view of the valley. In the dead center of this image are a few studios including Walt Disney Studios, Walt Disney Animation, Warner Bros. Studios, etc.

Photo Feb 14, 10 50 22 AM
(Click to embiggen)

This plaque is sitting just before you turn the corner and reach the sign. The donor list includes Hugh Hefner and a handful of studios.

Photo Feb 14, 10 54 29 AM
(Click to embiggen)

Finally, just over an hour from when I started, I had reached my destination. And was it ever worth it.

Photo Feb 14, 11 01 52 AM
(Click to embiggen)

And did you know there was a lake up here? That would be Lake Hollywood (duh) and the Hollywood Reservoir.

Photo Feb 14, 11 02 56 AM

Here’s what all those towers look like up close.

Photo Feb 14, 10 58 44 AM

Life’s little moments are worth celebrating.

Photo Feb 14, 11 20 44 AM

Just after this picture was taken, I decided to have a seat and snack on the banana and protein bar I had packed. That’s when my phone rang. It was Mom calling to wish me a happy birthday.

“Are you at work?”

“Um. No. But you’ll never guess where I am,” I told her.

“Oh no. Where are you,” she asked, slightly concerned.

“I’m on top of Mt. Lee. I just hiked up to the Hollywood sign.” There was a moment of silence.

“Oh my…the Hollywood sign?” Her concern turned into a little bit of excitement once she realized I had made it and everything was fine. We talked for a little bit – definitely a surreal moment – before she let me go so that she could tell my brother to call me.

I finished my conversations and noshing on whatever snacks I had and made my way back down the trail. But if you think that’s it, you’re wrong! There was one more stop: to the Batcave (aka Bronson Canyon)!

Photo Feb 14, 12 48 13 PM

This is it, the one that Batmobile drove out of in the original Batman TV series. You can see a then-and-now on this Instagram post. The cave is manmade and aside from Batman, has been used in a slew of TV shows and movies.

Me, unkempt, in a cave. Because why not.

Photo Feb 14, 12 55 03 PM

But just because it’s manmade doesn’t mean you won’t find anything interesting in there. While I was walking through, a couple was pointing a flashlight into a small hole – there was a baby bat inside.

Photo Feb 14, 12 53 58 PM

The video I shot gives you a better idea of what we were looking at. I maxed out my zoom since I didn’t want to frighten the little guy.

So with that being my final stop, I was done. And in case you’re wondering what all the meandering looks like, here you go:

Photo Feb 20, 10 40 59 PM

The green line is speed; the gray line indicates elevation which started out at 646 ft. and ended at 1,696 ft. for a gain of 1,050 ft.

Here are the stats Apple Health gave me for the entire day:

Photo Feb 20, 10 45 20 PM

94 floors? Holy moly. No wonder I was sore the rest of the week.

If you’re ever in the area, by all means take some time and do this. The trails to the sign aren’t terribly rugged but I wouldn’t recommend wearing flimsy shoes, either. A good pair of running shoes ought to do the trick as would a few bottles of water and some snacks.

Oh, and definitely bring your phone for pictures (and a portable charger). The view from the top is worth every step you take.

All in all, it was a good time and something I would definitely do again. Next time I’d like to take a trail in to Griffith Park or Griffith Observatory, one of my favorite places in L.A.

The question is: what will I do next year for my 50th?

I have no idea, but there’s time to start planning.

—-

*I’m still in the process of editing the video on my phone. Steven Spielberg I ain’t.

Advertisements

The Weekend, Plus A Late Friday Five: Rockit


First off, it seems blogging is becoming more difficult as my computer is taking much too long to respond to just about anything. But the stupid thing is pretty old and considering we didn’t pay a dime for it, I guess I can’t complain.

No. Wrong. I can complain. It sucks. Come on, it’s a Gateway. Remember those big boxes with cow print on them? Yeah, it’s that old.

Second, I went for a run yesterday for the first time on a long time, taking a break from my usual Saturday morning walk. It happened for two reasons: 1) we had things to do that day so I needed to get home sooner and 2) I needed to kick things up a notch. My time wasn’t impressive but overall it was a great run. Oh, and getting a little runner’s high near the end of Mile 4 was pretty awesome. Yes, it was only five miles total but that endorphin release felt good and helped carry me home.

Then today I rode 20 miles to the beach and back. I see weird things sometimes and have to document them, because that’s just how I am.

Photo Feb 11, 7 53 50 AM

And I also played some baseball with the kid in the afternoon. I know one thing: tomorrow at work, my legs are going to be ridiculously sore but it will be ridiculously worth it.

So with my weekend out of the way, let’s jump into the Friday Five: Rockit

What’s your favorite instrumental hit song?

Let’s start with this. Are you old enough to remember when instrumentals were a thing? Songs like Chariots of Fire, Love’s Theme, Music Box Dancer, Rainforest, Nadia’s Theme and Joy? Older folk like me lived in great times when instrumentals were indeed a thing as were “disco versions” of popular movie themes (Star Wars and CE3K) which were, for all intents and purposes, pretty horrible. That’s not to mention all those TV themes by Mike Post that got radio play. Those days are definitely gone.

Anyway, to answer the question, mine is really a tie between two songs:

“Chase” by Giorgio Moroder and Harold Faltermyer (from the movie Midnight Express)

“Crockett’s Theme” by Jan Hammer

Both are quintessential synthesizer songs. Both way too cool for me to handle. And in a secret life, I’m surrounded by keyboards like Tony Banks can play them perfectly.

Tony-Banks-Genesis-Keyboards-Birthday-March-27

What’s a good movie with rockets in in it?

Oh, a movie question. Dang it. I don’t watch many, let alone any featuring rockets. But for the sake of answering the question let’s go with The Rocketeer. The ‘30s setting is fantastic, I like the plot, and you gotta love how the Griffith Observatory looks exactly the same to this day (with the exception of their recent – we’re talking years ago – expansion).

In 1977, Voyager I took off on its very long journey, loaded with two golden records containing sounds meant “to portray the diversity of life and culture on Earth, and are intended for any intelligent extraterrestrial life form, or for future humans, who may find them,” according to Wikipedia.  The contents were chosen by a committee chaired by Carl Sagan, but if Dr. Sagan called you today (you know, from beyond) and said there was room for ten more minutes of music and he was letting you choose it, what would you fill the ten minutes with?

I would ask him for an extra 41 second to accommodate Genesis’ “Duke’s Travels/Duke’s End” from their Duke album, one of my all-time favorites. It’s just brilliant.

What’s something you know about constellations?

I know that if you have never seen Saturn (746 million miles from earth) or Jupiter (356-601 million miles from earth) through a telescope with your own eyes, you are missing out on something special. It’s a very humbling experience. Also, if you sit and stare up at the night sky, letting your eyes adjust to the darkness, you will see a lot of things floating around up there which can be anything from space junk to small meteors.

When did you last spend time in a rocking chair?

Our house has no rocking chairs and for the sake of staying young, it probably never will. But I did sit in one a few weekends ago at the in-laws’ house, which has one in every room if I’m not mistaken.

Well, that’s it. I have a ton of pictures to transfer from my phone but I don’t feel doing it tonight, especially with the way the computer has been acting.

And by the way, no, “Chariots of Fire” is not on any of my Spotify playlists for when I go running. Just had to point that out.

“Eye of the Tiger” on the other hand…

Fifty Shades of Dave


Photo Jan 29, 3 06 29 PMI don’t know what things are like in your state but in California, a trip to the DMV – Department of Motor Vehicles – is always an adventure.

And after taking my motorcycle exam a few times over the last few years, I thought I was through with my DMV visits. How wrong I was.

Here’s what happened. Ann’s birthday is in March and she got her driver’s license renewal letter in the mail well in advance. With my birthday only weeks away, I had yet to receive anything and time was running out so a call to the DMV was in order. And if you’ve ever tried calling the California DMV you know it’s a real pain to get anywhere. So what did I do?

Got on the Tweeter and asked @CA_DMV my question, naturally. I had an answer and phone number in a matter of hours. Ain’t technology grand?

I called and got through right away – this was their main office in Sacramento, I believe. I told the clerk my situation and she asked for my information so she could see what was going on.

It turns out that there was a hold on my regular Class C license after I failed to convert my motorcycle permit into a full-blown endorsement, meaning I didn’t renew or take the skills exam. And because of that hold, the renewal forms weren’t sent to me.

I told the clerk I wasn’t riding anymore and I wasn’t interested in the endorsement. She then cancelled the hold so that I could go to the DMV and fill out the forms to renew my license.

The problem there: getting an appointment. Ann tried for days to get one at our local office in Long Beach and couldn’t. She’s going to one in Orange County later in the month. She has time still. Me? Not so much.

After the call, I headed back to my work desk and immediately went to the DMV website in the hopes of snagging an appointment before my birthday/expiration date. No chance, I figured.

I ended up getting one a few days later – in Long Beach, no less. I had to text Ann and gloat about it. She replied with nasty Bitmojis.

Monday comes around and I leave work for a bit to take care of this business. I managed to find a parking spot no problem and since I had an appointment, didn’t have to wait with the garlic-eating masses outside who didn’t have an appointment.

When I was called I told the clerk the nature of my business. She gave me the form and I filled it out with only one notable change: my weight. I added a few pounds to it. Hell, I’m honest.

I went back and she double-checked it, then issued me a number to see another clerk. I waited maybe 10 minutes before I was called to another booth.

The clerk who helped me was a younger guy and rather affable, more than most others at the DMV. We chit-chatted as he went over my renewal form. All was going well until he spoke up about one detail.

“Hmm. On the computer, it has your hair listed as gray,” he said, pointing at his monitor with a black Paper Mate pen.

Strange. My current license has my hair as black. Then again when I renewed it I still had black hair. Then it occurred to me that when I went for my motorcycle permit, I must have written in “gray” for my hair color. He continued.

“So which one do you want me to use?” I was writing out a check for the renewal fee at the time. I put the pen down.

“Well, being I plan on letting nature take its course, let’s go with gray. I’m not bald and I’ve no plans to dye it. In fact I just had an inch-and-a-half trimmed off. Shit was past my shoulders.”

He was cool. Casual profanity didn’t phase him.

“Really? No way!”

We then chatted a bit more, mostly about aging, as he continued to process my information. He had to be in his early 30s and I gave him a little advice (as if my being nearly 49 qualifies me to be an expert on growing old).

“Man, just enjoy yourself. Stay young at heart. That alone will keep you going. And when your hair starts turning gray, embrace it and be glad you have it.”

And with that, he thanked me and sent me to the photo booth for my picture. Oh, and I had to take the written exam – again – and then wait about 10 days for my new license.

It arrived a few days ago. And although I’m thinner than I was in my previous license photo, the adjusted weight is definitely closer to reality.

And the hair? Proudly abbreviated as GRY.

Because this head will never see a drop of Just For Men.

Friday Five – Groundhog Day


27332728_10155534282559118_3082583756623170160_nHeadphones on. White noise playing. Candle burning. Flux capacitor…fluxing. Time for another Friday Five – on time this week!

The topic for today is Groundhog Day and before I get to the list, I’d just like to say that I think this is one of the dumbest traditions still going. Come on, a bunch of guys in silly hats and gloves waiting for a rodent to emerge from his home in the hopes he’ll predict the length of winter.

Don’t be silly. The whole thing smacks of stupidity. Even meteorologists with satellite maps can’t get things right most of the time. This is why aliens don’t visit us, and the fucker probably just wants a carrot for being awakened so damn early.

Oh. And it takes place in Gobbler’s Knob. I’ll just leave things there.

Ahem. So…

Friday Five: Groundhog Day

What’s your favorite Bill Murray performance?

I’ve only seen a handful of Bill Murray movies, not including Groundhog Day. There’s Stripes, Ghostbusters, Lost in Translation, Caddyshack, and I even saw Meatballs for crying out loud. While I thought he had an interesting role in Lost in Translation, my vote would have to go Caddyshack when he played Carl Spackler. Classic, quotable role.

IT'S IN THE HOLE!

What’s been a highlight of your winter so far?

Win…ter? I don’t know what you’re talking about. We had a few days of very light rain but as for the rest of our so-called winter, let this image sum things up for you. This is First Street in downtown Long Beach, a transit mall reserved for buses and the Metro train.

File Feb 02, 9 29 12 PM

Aside from the warm weather, I’d say the two photo excursions to Los Angeles – one solo and one with the kid – were definitely fun. I didn’t blog about them; all the pics are on Instagram. It was just easier that way.

What’s there to look forward to in the next six weeks?

There are a lot of birthdays this time of year. The wife and kid are both in March and mine is somewhere between February 1-28. As a big communal celebration, we’ll pick a place we all want to eat and go there for dinner. Last year was Benihana which we thought was fun but definitely not worth the price. In 2016 we went to a Korean BBQ which was also fun but much more affordable. This year? I’m thinking Mongolian. There’s a killer place nearby.

Too early for flapjacks?

NEVAH! I will eat them any time of day. But flapjacks are one of those things that always seem like a good idea and once you get them, you never finish them. You can go a week without eating and have two plates of them shoved in front of you, and you’ll only finish one. Diabolical bastards. Speaking of flapjacks, I’m looking forward to my free Denny’s birthday Grand Slam breakfast, too. (Last year I took the day off work and went to every single place that was offering free birthday food — and it was fuuuuun!)

If someone in a bar asks to buy you a drink (and let’s just say for the sake of the question you are amenable), what do you order?

The only time I’m in a bar is for my monthly karaoke gathering with my former coworkers. In the odd instance that this would happen to me in the first place (HA!), my choice would be easy: White Russian. Because The Dude, and because I can’t name any others. Maybe a raspberry Smirnoff Ice because nobody carries Bartles & James.

084ebd899c41023a9a94ca8709b70280--the-big-lebowski-beverages

Okay then. That’s two blog posts since I decided to take a break. I’ve been getting better but it comes and goes, and right now it’s coming back. Time to go relax the eyes again.

I’m out!

Friday Five (Late Edition) – Returns


I was on Facebook for a bit today and noticed that one of the humor pages I follow had sold out and was starting to post clickbait and crap stories, the latter with the formulaic, millennial-appealing headlines of  “[noun] [verb] [something potentially outlandish], and [group reacts].”

Gag. That’s the last act of someone who cares more about the revenue those stories might generate as opposed to having a human element tied to their page. For me, it’s easier to unfollow those pages than them getting anything from my clicks. And while I may have ads on here, believe me when I say that I’ve earned zero from them. You’re free to ignore them or not click on them – don’t care either way!

Anyway, I can promise you that as long as I’m around to keep this dog-and-pony show alive that there is indeed a human behind it, one who just lit a fruity scented candle on his desk and is using that and the illumination from the monitor as his only light sources. I like it this way.

Now that that little diatribe is done, I thought I’d use the old Friday Five standby to get myself blogging again. And I thought the topic would be fun so let’s get to it.

Friday Five: Returns

What was the last item you returned or exchanged at a store?

I am a notorious non-gift-returner because I just think it’s rude (even if the giver never finds out). The only time I will return something is when it’s an article of clothing that looked better on the mannequin or just didn’t fit right. Other than that, I don’t care how bad the gift is, I will not part with it and most likely end up giving it away years later. That was until one of our White Elephant gift exchanges at work last Christmas (oh, George!) when I “won” this:

Saved-by-the-Bell

I have never been more pissed off about a gift in my life – seriously, I was not happy. Yes, I understand the purpose of the White Elephant. Yes, I should be grateful. But fucking hell! A Saved By the Bell fucking board game? I was not “so excited” to play it because I didn’t and since it had a “Target exclusive” label on it, took it right back the next day. I didn’t get full credit since I didn’t have the receipt but it’s a small price to pay for not having the likeness of Screech in my home. I ended up buying an exercise ball with the gift card credit. Lesson learned: always steal at White Elephants. At least you might end up with something good.

When did you last leave the house and then turn right back around and go back inside?

Sadly, I almost do this on a daily basis. It’s like I have OCD about checking to make sure the doors are locked and the toaster unplugged, even if nobody used it that day. Wanna know what’s weird about the toaster thing? I have no problem with Ann leaving the crock pot on all day while we’re at work. Go figure that shit out. I’ll go back inside if I’ve forgotten something (rare occasion) but I do go back to check the doors.

What’s the latest you’ve ever returned a library book?

Li…brar…y? Oh. I’ve got it. I visit them so infrequently that I’ve forgotten how it’s pronounced. But when I have I can assure you that I returned the books on time, all the time, and sometimes sooner than their return date – like a week sooner. I’m such a solid reader [insert strong arm emoji here]. Besides, punctuality is one thing I’m a stickler about.

What location among places you’ve traveled would you most like to see again?

Having flown a grand total of two times in my life, I’m anything but a jet-set traveler. In fact, outside of the the states I’ve driven to (Arizona and Nevada), the only other two states I’ve visited have been Arkansas and Missouri, and Missouri was only hours at St. Louis Airport. But I have taken a cruise to that beautiful shithole country of Mexico and I would love to go back and explore a little deeper than our cruise destination of Ensenada. It’s where my heritage lies and visiting would mean a lot.

What’s an unlikely movie sequel you’d like to see?

One of my all-time favorite movies is The Big Lebowski so regardless of how horrible the trailer for its unlikely sequel might be, I’d more than likely catch it first-run. This Dude would abide.

And that Friday 5 is done.

Oh! I can’t believe it’s here already but February 1st marks my second anniversary at NR (or Not Ralphs as I referred to it in this post). It’s my official hire date although if you count my freelance time, I’ve been there for closer to 2.5 years. Either way, I’m still incredibly happy, fortunate, and thankful to be there.

Alright. Time to hit the exercise ball. Or nap…maybe on the exercise ball…