Mountain Biking Detoured In Redwood

This summer, you will have to plan ahead for your Redwood Regional Park biking trips – especially if you are a novice rider or are bringing your kids to the trails.

The most popular route for bicyclists, East Ridge, will be closed at Skyline Gate, from 8am – 5pm weekdays.  The good news is you can go mountain biking on weekends or after 5pm weekdays.

From now through September, the East Bay Regional Park District is cutting down old trees for fire prevention purposes.  While no one can argue with the importance of this “hazardous tree and fuel mitigation project,” the summer trail restrictions are a bummer.

What’s closed? The East Ridge Trail will be blocked between Skyline Gate and Prince Road, along with closures on Phillips Loop and Eucalyptus as well.

If you want to cycle from Skyline, then you would drop down to Stream Trail and ride up Prince Road to gain access to East Ridge traveling south.  This route’s challenging for novice riders, including steep and narrow terrain (see detailed map).

As Bay Area denizens, there are a few opportunities to protest the closures and detours.  The Bicycle Trails Council of the East Bay (BTCEB) and East Bay Bicycle Coalition (EBBC) encourage all interested riders to show up and make their views known:

  • July 22 at 2 pm – Attend the Executive Committee meeting of the East Bay Regional Park District, where there’s scheduled time for public comments (map).
  • July 29 at 7 pm – Attend a special meeting arranged for bicyclists and Park District staff, which will be held at the Trudeau Center (map).

My two cents?  It’s restrictive but not worth the protest.  While open access would be ideal, it’s just more important for the Park to deal with fire prevention measures.  I’m not fully informed on these matters, and welcome comments and debate here.

2009 Update: Starting September 8th, the East Ridge Trail will be closed from 8am – 5pm weekdays.  The closed portion runs between Skyline Gate and Prince Trail, where East Bay Parks says they are removing hazardous tree debris and diseased Monterey Pines.  This work is expected to wrap up by December, and you can read more here.

Faded Memories Back At Yoshi’s

Back in the 1980s, I remember thinking that Spyro Gyra was so cool.  At least their brand of jazz seemed to stand out, as bland pop-rock played all around.  I’m no music snob, but what happened?

Listen to these MP3 tracks available on the group’s website, like Harbor Nights and Breakfast at Igor’s.  They are still nice enough, but start to sound the same.  The music doesn’t seem special anymore.

Based in NYC now, Spyro Gyra continues hitting the road.  They will be performing at Yoshi’s in Jack London Square, over the next three nights.  Tickets are completely reasonable, for the six scheduled shows.

Anyway, am I alone with these faded memories?

Creative Crooks Fit In

What happens when you mix Montclair homes-for-sale with a few creative crooks?  A new heist that seems to pay dividends through furniture sales.

These smart guys take advantage of realtors’ open houses.  They can tell if the sellers have moved, and also make sure there’s “staged” furniture worth stealing.

Witnesses have spotted an innocuous, white moving van driving up to homes.  Of course, the crooks are loading up the furniture and neighbors don’t think anything is amiss.

According to police reports, the furniture movers have robbed at least four homes successfully.  One home on Colton was hit for $50k alone, which is quite a pay day.

Local realtors say the attempts are even higher.  At one home, Mary Dresser noticed her lock-box was missing and discovered furniture moved into the garage.  As if on queue, she also saw that white van driving by.

Mary’s advice to us:  “Please keep an eye on your neighbors homes if they are for sale. These thieves are brazen… even saying hi to the neighbors. They look like they belong, but they could easily be thieves.”

Yoga Is A Competitive Sport (True or False)

When you live in Montclair, yoga’s one of those things you might do – like taking a long walk or going over to the coffee shop.  Some folks are more devoted or competitive than others, and that seems fine.

Classes always feel like a calm oasis.  Our local spot is Mountain Yoga (map), which welcomes real yogis and forever-amateurs like me.  If you want to drive a little, another nice studio is Piedmont Yoga (map).

Yet all is not calm in yoga paradise.  There’s tension brewing among yoga practitioners, who are arguing about whether yoga should be a competitive sport.  You can see all the chi or life force getting used up.

Why debate this now?  Yoga will be a demonstration sport during the Beijing Olympics.  The idea is that agility, stamina, strength and other physical skills can be rewarded through several asanas or poses that are practiced in Bikram-style hot yoga studios around the world.

Many yogis feel torn apart.  Over at Yoga Journal, one person declared: “To take the inner work of yoga and place judgment in the hands of something external seems to be the opposite of what yoga is. This competition simply illustrates the growing chasm between Bikram and traditional yogic practice. I can’t say I support it.”

At least Ashhtangas could joke they were the best competitive style:  “We felt Ashtanga was a natural choice, with its predetermined sequence and various series of practice. Iyengar was too slow for TV, Bikram yoga too revealing, Anusara yoga too touchy-feely, and Vinyasa, well, too free-form” said an official.

The reactions depend on which Yoga you practice – a lot like how religions declare “their world views” to the exclusion of others.  This strikes me as the ultimate irony, since yoga’s about acceptance!

Catch Chicks-n-Chickens On Tour

Attention new moms!  Catch the summer tour of the Chicks-n-Chickens class, today in Montclair.  This is a mixed class with toning exercises and lullabies, developed by Alamedan Darcy Novo Albrecht.

Darcy’s leading two free 35-minute demo classes at 11:30am and 1:00pm today, at The Tulip Grove (map here).  Bring yourself and your baby, along with a good carrier.

The hipster site Daily Candy says these are great lullaby exercises:  “Hush, little baby, don’t say a word. Mama’s going to burn a few lbs. while she rocks you to sleep.”  It sounds like a nice multitasking routine for moms.

If you miss the classes today, then there will be more in Berkeley and Walnut Creek soon (schedule here).  Keep in mind there could be some sales pressure for the $30 DVD/CD, similar to a book reading.

Still if you’re a new mom, there are so few welcoming places and this is one – if your child is between eight weeks and a year old.

Survey Says: We Travel For Asian Dining

Montclarions have spoken, and we travel for our Asian meals.  In fact, we drive to places throughout Oakland, Piedmont, Alameda, Berkeley, Albany and San Francisco for our evening repasts.

These and other findings came from Today in Montclair’s recent survey.  The goal was to understand how much we depend on Montclair Village for either dine-in or take-out options.

Previously, I thought Montclarions were basically lazy, because our four Asian restaurants have been open for years.  That theory was shot down by you.

What happened?  On a monthly basis, at least 75% of you supported Pagarung Thai, Silver Palace, Thai Bai or Toshi Sushi.   However only 25% were loyal (or lazy) and ate all your Chinese and Thai here.  No one reported eating all their Sushi in town.

Perhaps this survey attracted Montclarions who dine out often.  Nearly half of respondents consumed Chinese food five-plus times per month!  Your Thai and Sushi meals were less frequent, with half eaten once or twice a month.

Different patterns emerged among folks with the strongest yen (sorry) for Asian food.  Half ate Chinese locally up to four times monthly, and drove elsewhere for the other meals.  Ardent sushi eaters didn’t stick around much at all.  Thai diners stayed put more often, by comparison.

Survey participants shared all sorts of interesting restaurants outside Montclair, yet none stood out as clear winners to report here.  So that calls for another survey (later) which uncovers your definitive top spots, Asian or otherwise.

Anyway, thanks for  participating – and proving that we do, in fact, venture outside the burg for our Asian meals.  You are a more energetic bunch than I ever expected.

How Walkable Is Montclair?

Well, it depends on exactly where you stand.  This question is typically raised by people considering a move to Montclair, as they wander around the confusing topography.

Here’s one tool that delivers a walk score related to nearby shopping, schools and parks.  These calculations are supposed to measure how “easy it is to live a car-lite lifestyle.”  When you achieve 70/100, then it’s possible to go car-free.

Of course, Montclair scores depend the delta between you and the Village.  If you live next to the coffee shops, then you’re in luck:  Thornhill Coffee Shop rates a 69/100, while Peets jumps to 88/100.

When you live higher up, it’s not practical to shop on foot.  Redwood Regional Park (Skyline) rates a paltry 8/100, surrounded by nature and a few ridge line homes.

As you move through the hills, the walk scores don’t improve much.  Places like Farallon Way (26), Robin Hood Way (35) and Ascot Drive (also 35) are far from stores or other services.

Still there are walkers out there.  We have an Oakland walking map that marks ideal streets and staircases, and use it frequently.  Yet most folks are exercising their dogs or themselves, rather than shopping.

The upshot?  Cars remain a way of life around these parts.  We’re dependent on guzzlers for work commutes and daily errands too.