Saturday, June 9, 2012

A Week in Metropolis

Descending back to sea-level we had a panoramic view of the greater Los Angeles metropolitan area, and we were dumbfounded by sight of the thick brown layer of smog coating the entire area. Disgusting.

We went there to be near an airport that wasn't charging an arm and two legs for me to fly back to Indiana for business. We found that at the John Wayne Airport in Orange County. In retrospect, I'd have anteed-up some cash for a more remote airstrip to avoid having to live in this "paradise" for the week.

Arriving as we did on a Saturday the traffic was merely heavy, not completely ludicrous. We arrived at the campground in Corona, nestled on the east side of the Santa Ana Mountains, hoping for the best but expecting the worst. It was, indeed, a sketchy campground, nearly 100% long-term residents - those for whom this was the only affordable housing in the area. But this is what we get for picking based on price, and the options were luxury sea-side campgrounds which were two or three times the cost and largely booked solid anyway. Welcome to Southern California. But, we made the best of it. No one bothered us, folks were quiet and mostly friendly, and during the work-week most everyone was gone until evening.

I actually only spent one full day there, during which we rode down the road to check out a lively cluster of buildings, Tom's Farms, which included country stores, restaurants, a narrow gauge train, pools, a gazebo with a live band, and a fruitstand:

I drove to a nearby trail head for what turned out to be a very memorable mountain bike ride. The Skyline Trail climbed up into the Santa Ana mountains in a series of switchbacks, leveling out after about 4 miles. This I did solely for the purpose of riding back down on the single-track trails. It was a gruelling climb, but the views were great despite the fog/smog layer below. I attempted to photograph this view, but the haze rendered the results to be very unimpressive. Hence, no photo between here and the next paragraph...

When I pointed the bike downhill the character of the ride couldn't have changed more. The pull of gravity seemed like that of the planet Jupiter, which I know because me and the guys rode there a few years back after taking a wrong turn in northern New Jersey. Anyway, the trail surface ranged between cement-hard packed earth and loose, deep sand. Steering and braking was impossible when things got loose, and it felt like I skidded down more than half of the trail. When I wasn't skidding I was squeezing the front brake like grim death. The rear brake was as about as useful as a solar powered foghorn, but my arse was planted on the rear wheel the whole time anyway.

The trail threads down the east side of the Santa Ana mountains, with the city of Corona in the background:

At one point as I contemplated my next hair-raising descent I heard voices calling out to me from the trail across the gully from me. I was getting encouragement to make my plunge, and I couldn't disappoint my fans, so plunge I did. Thankfully, despite its sketchy nature, I cleaned the section, raised my arm to acknowledge the applause, and dropped into the next section. I should have groupies cheering me on every ride!

The last 100 yards of trail were the steepest, but thankfully were free of loose gravel. I took it in four pieces, stopping when the laws of physics would allow to get my heart to start beating again. Several folks watched in disbelief. Apparently most riders avoid this prominently displayed piece of trail, where a tumble would be as hurtful to the ego as to the flesh.

Here's the bottom of the trail as three hikers struggle upwards:

So, I spent the week in Indiana, to finish building the first batch of prototypes of the new Mark Levinson No52 Reference Preamplifier. It was a good week. The build went well, and it was fun to sit with my colleagues both at the bench and at each day's meals.

I landed back in OC on Friday afternoon, just in time for LA's stoopid extra special commuter traffic extravaganza. After Nancy picked me up we drove just a few miles to a trail system along a back bay, where we had a nice walk with Toby before going to our favorite Sushi restaurant, Kitayama. There, at the sushi bar, our chef "Sho" took good care of us, providing a variety of sushis and sashimi's for me, and some tasty shrimp tempura maki for Nancy. The quality of the food at Kitayama was as impressive as ever, and its position at the top of our restaurant list is further solidified.

So, that was our week in L.A., and we were eager to leave the traffic and smog, heading north to where the highway narrows to two lanes, and the seagulls outnumber us humans. Full report, coming soon...

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